As some of you know, last year I traveled cross county by train—not once, but twice. The first time was to Washington DC, in September, to work with a team of United Methodists from around the world on updating the “Natural World” section of our denomination’s Social Principles. The second time, I got a one-month rail pass and presented my book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, at several East Coast venues. I spent Thanksgiving with my sister in Asheville, North Carolina, where I also presented my book.
One of the benefits of traveling by train is a sense of “freedom from the bondage of time.” There are none of the usual demands of life while going long distance by train. I eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired, visit with a fellow passenger now and then, meditate as I gaze out at the scenery, and get out for occasional “fresh air breaks” at various stations. I settle in to the rhythm and am comforted by the sound of the train’s whistle up ahead. I trust that I am being carried to my destination. And in between, I write, write, write, listening for the inspiration of the Spirit.
Long-distance train trips function as writing retreats for me. On both trips, as I was traveling with my newly-released book, I was also working on a Second Edition to Shaking the Gates of Hell, my first book. I was working under deadline, and sure enough, I got the draft of updates and edits submitted to my publisher in mid-December, two weeks before the end-of-year deadline.
Now it’s in their hands, and eventually I’ll get their suggestions back, then typeset pages for me to proof, and finally, the book itself. The Second Edition of Shaking the Gates of Hell is scheduled to be released later this year.
My challenge in these days is to continue living free from the bondage of time, amidst the many demands and opportunities that each day presents. I know that especially as an activist, it’s easy to take on too much, trying to fill whatever need I see. There have been times when I’ve taken on so much that I feel like I’m on a train that’s taking me further and further from where I want to be, so that I can hardly remember why I got on in the first place. I end up running on automatic. Then I crash… and I have to stop, re-evaluate, limit my commitments, and make more realistic (and humble) choices.
I understand that not everyone can cut back on activities, especially if they are supporting their families. That’s why we all need to continue promoting justice (including a living wage), so that everyone will be able to be sustained.
I was at the demonstration today on the bridge in Nevada City, commemorating ongoing resistance to the policies of the Trump Administration. Then I walked home, up the hill from town, enjoying the beauty of the day. Each of us can only do so much, and I want to be a spiritually fit as possible so that I know what I need to do and will be equipped to do it. I choose to be sustained by spiritual practice for the long haul, and I practice trusting in the same way that I trusted while I was on the train, that I am being guided and carried to my destination.
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