Yesterday morning I left the Abbey at about 10:00 a.m. A part of me was sad to end such a significant chapter of my fully amazing life. A larger part of me was excited for what lies ahead. After a quick stop at the gift shop to gather a few mementos from the trip I set my next destination point on my GPS. My next stop was Lexington, Kentucky where I would have the distinct pleasure of sitting in conversation and repast with my friends Craig and Anella in their stunning, vintage Kentucky bungalow. The drive was predicted to take about 75 minutes as I traveled northeast across the heart of Kentucky.
I caught a little traffic coming through downtown Lexington so I arrived 90 minutes after I departed. Fortunately none of us were tethered to any particular schedule on this day so my arrival time made no matter at all. It’s the moments of life when we are not tethered to time that the magic truly happens. Magic was about to happen!
When I arrived at their downtown Lexington bungalow home, Craig was finishing up a conversation on the phone with his father. Early on when I first met Craig I remembered he had asked for prayers in a post online because of a health scare his father was experiencing. I thought about how nice it was that that time must have passed and that the two men were sharing conversation in the middle of the day on a perfect Friday summer morning. Anella gave me a quick tour of their circa 1920s home. I had just left a perfect sanctuary at the Abbey of Gethsemani. How lucky was I to have found another just 75 miles east?
After the tour and Craig’s phone call, we sat at their kitchen island and enjoyed delicious treats from their favorite local restaurant. I savored each bite of quiche, focaccia bread and muffins and finished with the most perfect macaroon. All the while we conversed about life, the nature of reality, the awakenings we find in our challenges and many other subjects that did NOT include politics or weather or other trivial things. We told stories that inspired laughter and even a few tears. To me the mark of a divine friendship is when you can pick up and converse about intimate things without any need to make small talk to start the process. Humanity in general is craving this realness. Once again I thought about how grateful I am to have people like Craig and Anella and so many others who step fully in to that space right away.
After about two hours I realized that it was time for me to continue my journey. I could have sat in the peace and tranquility of their home for eternity every bit as much as I could have stayed at Gethsemani for lifetimes, but there was more road to travel and more work yet to be done. When I left they gave me a box of macaroons to take home to Christiana and a pair of deep, heart to heart hugs. I left them with a Merton book I had gathered at the monastery for them and a kiss on the cheek. Mementos of the moment in time that we shared that would carry on as ripples into our lives going forward.
As I walked away from their front porch towards my car Craig said, “Thank you so much Jim for taking the time to drive out of your way for the stop in our home…safe travels my brother!” I replied without turning back by saying, “I’d have driven ten hours to have shared this experience…”
I started up the car, looked back at the home I had just been received in for conversation and other forms of sustenance and I drove away with an extremely full heart. At the first stop light in town I programed my GPS for my new destination. I was headed to my home. It looked like I had about a six hour drive ahead of me give or take based on how many times I decided to stop along the way. I am not typically a long drive person. In fact I have had the limiting belief that I can’t stand more than five hours in the car per day and at the most 2 hour stretches without a break. On this day though I was at peace and even a bit excited for the time in the car. I had many thoughts to process and many words buzzing in my brain.
In the last couple of years as I have stepped more fully into my role as a writer and a speaker I tend to look at every moment in life as a potential story – which they always are. I am also a believer in the infinite power of the the human mind and the fact that the thoughts we form become the things that happen in our lives. As a result I try to choose my words and my thoughts with precision and a mind for detail. In short I usually choose my words carefully.
About an hour into my drive I ran into a slight delay. It was caused by an accident that I was grateful to not have been a part of. As I drove past the crash site, I touched the St. Christopher medal that belonged to my father which I have clipped to the sun visor of my car and gave thanks and prayed for good health of those that had been less fortunate on this day. A bit further up the road there was a road closure that required me to drive south east for about 10 minutes on an alternate route. If you know even a little bit about geography you will know that the trip from Kentucky to Chicago should not include any time driving southeast. I trusted the process and followed my GPS.
After some slow going through Louisville and a few more construction zones on the path I eventually found myself just a bit south of Indianapolis after four hours in the car. I had only covered about half of the distance I had to travel thus far, but I needed to stop and get gas and use the facilities. When I stopped near Indy I realized that this had likely been the longest amount of time I had spent behind the wheel without a break in the last twenty years at least. Perhaps it was time to erase some of my limiting beliefs. I was grateful for the awakening.
After grabbing a latte at Starbucks I was back on the road. It was about 5:00 p.m. and I could still make Chicago by nightfall. The route on I-65 north was a bit of a challenge for the rest of the way. Numerous construction sites and a number of accidents had me stopping and starting for the next couple of hours. When I finally approached the turn off to Chicago I had to decide if I wanted to take I-94 and approach Chicago on the Dan Ryan expressway or if I wanted to catch the Indiana Toll Road, which is a more direct route but includes tolls and a potential back up on Lake Shore Drive when I did finally get downtown. I chose the I-94 route since it was the first to appear.
Shortly after the turn off onto I-94 my GPS said “Accident ahead…You can save six minutes by choosing alternate route…” I figured six minutes was not worth the change in plans and I stuck to my route instead of turning off. For the next hour I sat between Cline Avenue outside of Gary, Indiana and the Illinois State Line. Under normal circumstances this trip would take about 10 minutes.
I continued to make progress and by 9:00 pm as the sun was setting over the western suburbs I passed through my beloved Chicago. I watched the sun streams dance off the high-rises over my right shoulder and said goodnight to the sun over my left. It was the same sun that I said goodnight to the night before as it set over the Kentucky hills. The geography of where I was on this planet had shifted, but the sun was still fixed like it always is as one brilliant lights in our glorious Universe. I decided I best head straight to one of my favorite local eateries and grab some food before heading home. I pulled into the parking lot at L Woods Pine Tap and Lodge just minutes before they closed at 9:30 p.m. I had just driven another four and a half hour stretch without a break. I felt a sense of triumph in the completion of my journey.
As walked into L Woods I realized that had spent 90 minutes driving from New Haven to Lexington. I had spent four fours driving from Lexington to Indianapolis. I had spent four and a half hours driving from Indianapolis to L Woods which is within a mile of my home. In total I had just spent 10 hours behind the wheel in one day! And then instantaneously I recalled what I said to Craig as I walked away from their stunning, vintage Kentucky bungalow, “I’d have drive ten hours to have shared this experience….”
And that is exactly what I just did!
When I got home I brought my things up to our second floor two flat. I sat on the porch and looked at the moon as it sat low in the sky and danced in and out of the clouds. I thought about the multitude of words that have come through me over the last four days. Some 20,000 of them in the form of journal entries, blogs and writing on my larger project which is back on the table in full force. Many more words are stored in my heart for unveiling in the days and weeks ahead. I will choose them all carefully. They leave an indelible mark that will become a permanent account of the story of our lives.
And so it continues…