Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Tree on the Hill

I see by the date that it is almost exactly a year later, and what a year it has been. Really that is the story I have to tell, and I will try to reconstruct it over the course of this history. What I saved, what I lost and what I learned.

My friend Andrea told me recently that her husband had resigned from his insufferable film industry job in Nashville, and they are preparing to put their new plan into motion, except that she has become paralyzed with fear and anxiety. She has suffered the ups and downs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for going on four years now, and moved to Nashville from LA when I was still just mulling the idea of escape from the fast (freeway) track.

Two years later, she says the Indian name for Nashville means "poison bowl." One famous doctor in Texas who treats people with her illness says he hates treating people from Nashville because they never get well. Andrea went back to San Diego a month ago and stayed in a monastery by the sea for a week. She felt noticeably better, but her friend who has some experience with this illness insisted that she really needed to give a place at least three months to find out if the climate would improve her condition. So, after a lot of prayer, here's the plan she and Scott have come up with:

1) Rent the house in Nashville for enough to cover the mortgage and the cost of health care
2) Sell the Steinway to pay for an RV trailer
3) Trade both cars for a truck that will pull the camper

They plan to drive cross-country, parking first in Malibu (seaside climate), then going on if necessary to Arizona or New Mexico (desert climate): she is so determined to be well. Their son turns nine tomorrow, and as he is home-schooled, they feel the time is right to make this move. I would venture to guess that very few people in this world would be so flexible, so mobile. Even to me it was a shocking plan at first, but after I thought about it for a minute, it had an integral rightness that made it seem plausible. Scott says he wants nothing more to do with film or video, and if truth be told what he would like to be is a carpenter. Somehow that seems right, too.

The anxiety and fear stem, I think, from the breadth of the vision.
"Guess what, honey? God told me to build an Ark."
"We are going to sail off in this boat, across a bridge of water leading we know not where, and without knowing for sure if the bridge reaches any where at all," as one teacher paraphrased Christopher Columbus's mission to the New World. I remember the anxiety and fear very well, as I set off into my own tunnel without a light at the end, but I also remember the agony of staying put, when I knew I was supposed to go.

Remember in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which we are currently rereading), when Lucy says to Mr. Beaver, "We have to go and try to help Mr. Tumnus!"
And Mr. Beaver says, "Bless you, the best way to help him is to go to Aslan. When you go to Aslan, then things can begin to happen."
That strikes me again and again throughout the day, which is how I know it's true. I've never been able to do a thing for myself; been lost, stuck and in an agony of inaction. Mired. I still am. Even when God clearly laid out the plan for me, and came through on every promise as I inched through it (even the people at All Saints Episcopal, our giant, activist church in Pasadena, said incredulously, "How can God call you to BROOKLYN??"), still I was terrified to cut myself loose, and cried like a baby because I was scared to - to die. And Jesus knew that was coming, too, didn't he? I'm going to paraphrase because I don't know my Bible well enough: Anyone who tries to save his life will lose it, but the one who gives it up for my sake, will have everlasting life. To me that means, you will stay in the flow, surfing on the tides of the universe, rather than stuck like a barnacle, fighting and then turning to stone, trying to hang on. Our delightful preacher at Park Slope Presbyterian said if you are afraid, you have forgotten one of two things: (1) God is all-powerful and (2) God is all good.

Anyway, I just wanted to say what a comfort it is to say to myself over and over, If you go to Aslan first, then things can begin to happen.
I'm putting Andrea up with the tree on the hill that flutters and ruffles and ripples and glitters when the wind hits it.


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