Friday, August 14, 2009

When hope drains out

I think this is my fourth attempt to write this blog post today. It has something to do with the fact that we had to get up early and move our cars this morning -- some neighbors on our one-lane road are building a new home, and today 9 trucks full of concrete were scheduled to pour their foundation.

So we drove out once -- at 6 am -- and walked back. I walked out again at 8 to watch the beginnings of the pour, and again at 10 (walking my husband to his motorcycle, as he was heading into Seattle for a lunch date and a lecture), and I stayed a bit each time to watch the experts at work smoothing the concrete... which is probably why this image called to me: this pipe is about the same width as the pipe through which the cement was pouring into our neighbors' foundation.

At any rate, my normal morning routine of coffee, reading, meditation and blog didn't happen in the usual way -- which means that I'm a little low on God-fuel, and trying to write under my own steam, which just doesn't seem to be working today.

At first, because I love the colors in this image, I tried writing about color, and talked about why I like colored walls so much better than white ones, but that didn't go anywhere. I tried writing about taking this series of ferry images into the Gallery (they liked them; Yay!) but that didn't really work either.

I wrote three introductory paragraphs on some other subject, too -- and those must have been REALLY bad because I don't even remember what they were about! So now I guess I have to venture into the obvious, and talk about things "going down the drain." Or maybe about events and people that leave you feeling drained? It's odd, that all the connotations for drains, draining, being drained, are all so negative. Because a real drain is designed to take away excess, things that are no longer needed, or are waste products. So actually having a drain is a good thing, right?

I guess what gives the word drain its bad connotations is the fact that it implies a resulting emptiness. But can't emptiness be a good thing? There are times -- especially when I'm meditating, or when I'm depressed or worrying -- when I WISH all the extraneous thoughts would drain out, be gone. And emptiness in the context of a tidal basin -- like the three-walled basement they were pouring today, so the tide could roll in and out under the house -- is usually a prelude to a new round of fullness, just part of the cycle...

But of course not all emptiness is good, in which case -- like some of the homeowners here and up in the San Juan Islands -- you might be worried about empty wells and used-up aquifers; or, like the town of Bainbridge and the City of Detroit and any number of other communities across the nation, you might be worried that there's no money in the coffers to pay outstanding bills, or to pay expenses and salaries for city services and personnel. You might be concerned about emptiness when it involves a retirement fund, or a bank; someplace where people placed their money hoping it would continue to accrete to bring comfort in old age.

Or there is the empty nest my friends are experiencing these days as their children head off to college. Or the empty hole left by the death of a loved one -- that emptiness is one that never seems to quite go away.

Perhaps that's why the drain image called out to me: after all, many of us are feeling drained by our current economic circumstances, and/or by recent events in our lives. And when just staying afloat -- whether economically or emotionally -- becomes an all-consuming exercise, that sense of fullness -- even fullness of spirit -- can abandon us, leaving us too drained to keep up our spiritual practice.

But that's exactly when we need to do it most. Because I suspect that those spiritual lows, once the tide reverses, work rather like our own little lagoon: when the tide shifts, when the lagoon is at its lowest, is when the incoming tide is most powerful and determined; as if that emptiness is an extra invitation for a huge rush to flow in. And it seems to me -- has always seemed to me -- that prayer and meditation work to loosen whatever plugs or clogs there are in your system that may be keeping the blessings from pouring in.

Perhaps life is an endless flow of blessings, flowing into us and through us into the lives of others? Which could explain why it is that when we are feeling particularly blessed it is so important to share, to pass those blessings on. Perhaps if we don't, the system gets clogged up? Oh, dear, no -- that would make me like Job's friends and neighbors, saying that all the terrible things that happened to him are the result of some dreadful mistake that he made with his own allotment of blessings. And I frankly don't believe that -- and don't want to be one of those "blame-the-victim" sorts.

So maybe I'll just stop here, and say this: Yes, there are people and events that drain us. But the drain may not be all bad; it may be loosening up something within us so new life can pour in. (For your sake, and for mine, and for all the children of the world who hunger and suffer, I certainly hope so.) And I do believe that if we can still manage to pray, even when things look their blackest, the chances are good that the blessings -- and a renewed sense of hope -- will begin to flow back in again.

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