I had this notion of a swallow, the image of love and sacrifice, winging through a little arched door, such as might give on to The Secret Garden or Wonderland or perhaps even the forgotten rose bed in Burnt Norton. I thought immediately of Jean “Davy” Vanuaken, my real-life heroine of A Severe Mercy, and her chosen “low door” of obscurity and service for the love of Christ. I thought of all the beauty that has ever gone unlauded by the world, and the love that breathes life into it and the joy that rises from it like the incense of a thank offering — and I knew not only what I wanted to do, but why.
I hate that I don’t play the violin regularly anymore, but I know I will pick it up again. Sooner rather than later if our son will start his scratching at the same age when I started mine. But my joy in the listening has increased during my sabbatical. At some point, without my noticing a shift, patronizing the local symphony orchestra became a privilege rather than a presumption, much to my glad surprise.
Something within us — though we seek to give an impression of total control — wants an adventure. I’m beginning to understand that this adventure we end up experiencing is different from the one we seek in childhood or in our youth as twenty-somethings. It is not solely world travel, fame, or even the chase of seemingly impossible dreams. The adventure is in community, in sharing life together, and in the natural chaos it brings.
Just behind me, all of the sprouts for our garden lean towards the sunlight and serve as yet another reminder of new life. Surrounded by gifts of life, light, growth, beauty, feast, story, and love, I sit down. I pause. I wait and I color these tiny Lenten pictures. When I steal away for a few minutes to color, I feel myself wanting to savor the project, and I work with a purposeful slowness, hoping the exercise will be one that lasts much longer than I know it will.