"..And something tells me
that there must be something
better than all this..."
I love listening to the Wailin' Jennys' "Heaven When We're Home,"* for all the obvious reasons...and then, for some reasons that may not be so nakedly clear.
I've realized recently that, in the past, I've had a tendency towards dragging my baggage around searching for the perfect place to drop it. But more often than I want to admit, the baggage I've been dragging around, close behind me, is not filled with the precious artifacts of a life well-lived...as I've always thought. No, as much as I'd like to think I'm toting around time-softened antique quilts and hand-rubbed leather-bound first edition volumes of the classics, what I've really got in there is a mixture of metaphorical pulp fiction and a tattered old chenille bedspread stained with tears and ink.
So what is this piece all about? Not sure yet. But, I think what I heard in my heart while listening to this song again this morning, were the first strains of a travelin' song...the kind of song that moves you forward when you are really just shuffling your feet.
It all started as I loaded my heavier-than-I'd-like carry on bag, and tote bag (filled with books, knitting, journal and, yes, a Chocolove's Sea Salt and Almonds in dark chocolate bar for the road) into the rental car after a wonderful weekend at camp. A weekend teeming with over 250 teens and adult volunteers together for the Discovery Bound Leadership Conference gathered to explore the real qualities of a spiritual leader. It was dark as I left in the wee small in between hours of a hushed crowd. And I watched the soft violet dawning of a brand new day, as I headed east towards Denver International Airport. Yup, just me and my baggage on a quiet drive through the Rockies, and across the Front Range.
After dropping off the rental car, I pulled the darned things into, and out of, the shuttle van, across the vast travertine of the main terminal, through the security checkpoints (at which time I unloaded little bits and pieces for scrutiny and re-packing), and down the concourse where I searched for a place to rest my weary head...and body...until it was time to board.
I located a long row of seats that, thanks to my less than statuesque frame, would serve as a makeshift couch for napping (as long as I could twist myself into a pretzel-like shape...grateful for years of dance and yoga.) Hmmm, I think, this is all looking quite promising, until I notice the luggage and totebag I've been dragging behind me.
And, in light of the constant reminders about the heightened holiday travel security...warnings pouring through the airport's sound system...I realize that "leaving my baggage unattended" could result in untoward consequences. So, I am pretty sure that falling asleep in front of your bags would be considered leaving them unattended. In that case, I decide to put my suitcase on the seat next to me as a pillow of sorts...a very uncomfortable pillow I might add...and use my tote as something I can wrap my arms around like a child's teddy bear, and in this very uncomfortable position, I try to rest.
But I am resting on my baggage. In fact, I am embracing my baggage. I want to fall sleep on my baggage. That's just one, too perfect, a metaphor! But I can't. At first I am pretty cranky about the situation. And then, since I am clearly awake and not going to drift off into dreamland, I start to unpack the metaphor...with the help of the Jennys' song, now playing in my head.
I realize that in order to stop dragging around my life's baggage, I have to leave it "unattended." I have to unzip it, take out what is purposeful in helping others, and let the true source of my security, God, confiscate and destroy the rest.
But to begin, I do have to leave it unattended.
The word "attend" comes from the Latin root "attento" to wait for or expectation of, and is a cousin of the French "attendre" which means "to listen to, to pay attention, or give ear to." Well, I have been attending to...paying attention to...my scuffed up baggage for way too long. I've been dragging it around behind me, taking out little bits and pieces only long enough...and in small enough portions...to barely get me through to the next level of security clearance. I am so focused on my journey...towards finding the "right" place to finally unpack it all and hang it on the walls of the next perfect home. An imagined place where, I believe, what is my old junk, will somehow be transformed into the precious artifacts and antiques I imagine they could become...precious and worthy of hanging on to. Ahh, if only I could put them in the right setting.
But, a tattered and ink-stained bedspread will never be a hand-crafted quilt stitched together from vintage fabrics, once pieced together by a loving hand. And a dog-eared copy of hastily written pulp fiction, will never be a gold-leafed volume of love sonnets wrapped calfskin.
Trying to rest on my old, carefully attended to baggage, has only given me a sore neck and made me want to get up and wander the concourse, looking for the next perfect place to try and rest again.
I can't help but think of Mary Baker Eddy's "An Allegory" about a a traveler and his "baggage" which can be found in in her Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896 (starting on page 323). I chuckle to think how often I have read this with book in one hand while dragging my baggage with the other. Especially the part that reads:
"Despairing of gaining the summit, loaded as they are, they conclude to stop and lay down a few of the heavy weights, -- but only to take them up again, more than ever determined not to part with their baggage."
It is time for me to leave my baggage un-attended...period. To first salvage all that is good and useful from within, to responsibly report it to security myself, to let Love confiscate its no-longer-useful contents, to trust that they will be properly discarded, and finally, with Love's blessings, to walk away unscathed, unfettered, unscarred, and unburdened by what I would never find the right setting for anyway. Realizing then, and there, that I was already happily, gratefully, wonderfully at home...within.
"It's a long and rugged road,
and we don't now where it's headed,
but we know it's going to get us where we're going.
And when we find what we're looking for,
we'll drop these bags, and search no more,
'cause it's going to feel like heaven when we're home..."
So, these were the thoughts that kept me company...poking, probing, sometimes less-than-comfortable company in Terminal A this morning. I will be unpacking these thoughts for a while I think.
But tonight as I actually unpacked my suitcase and tote, I realized that I had not used even 80% of what I'd taken with me. I'd spent four days dragging around "stuff" that had never been worn, read, written in, or used...and I'd had a most wonderfully purposeful and inspiring weekend. Just sayin'....
Thanks Sam, for getting me to listen "Heaven When We're Home"...over and over again...I love that it makes me think...
Kate Robertson, CS
*I know that some of this song's lyrics may not be across-the-board consistent with what I believe to be true...but the core message of letting go and moving forward is giving me so much to think about...and I love that.