On Sabbatical

11 Nov

After 365 days of sunshine, it is finally cloudy today in Southern California, giving us a feeling of faux winter. Okay, I’m exaggerating that we’ve had 365 days of sunshine, but I’m not that far off base. Last winter, we were drenched in perpetual Santa Ana conditions, and by May, we experienced scorching hot temperatures and raging wild fires all over the city. With only a few scattered showers here and there, we found ourselves in a drought and endured habitual heat waves. Not only that, we didn’t have our usual May Gray or June Gloom, which would have at least cloaked the town in a marine layer each morning. Instead, by 6:00 a.m., the sun would taunt us to get outside and do something!

Today, I have stayed inside for a bulk of the day. I am on sabbatical – or at least what I am calling my sabbatical. I am not a professor, so I am not using the word in its true context. However, I am off for a considerable amount of time so that I can write and have a respite from nonstop travel teaching.

As I’ve puttered about the house, I keep thinking that every time I sit in my living room chair, Hafiz will jump into my lap. I imagine that when I pull turkey meat off the bone to put into my pot of soup, Rumi will turn the corner, look up at me, and meow. Where are they? Where did they go? How is possible that they are gone?

I remember the first night I had my two cats. The sound of their feet on my hard wood floor made my eyes pop open in fierce alarm. How in the world would I be able to sleep? When I told someone this story, he responded, “And then the sound became comforting.” He was right, but I wondered, “When and how did that happen?”

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Yes, it’s cliche to say, “For everything there is a season…” You know the words. What you might not realize is that the writer of that text was pretty down on life. It’s not a very upbeat read.

How do we stay afloat? How do we move from one season to the next, with or without those we love? How do we bear change, be it a drought in California, or a Polar Vortex just about everywhere else? And how do metabolize all the violence and injustice in the world that we see splayed out before us each day on the television and vis-a-vis the Internet, or the pain in our personal lives?

Last holiday season, to counter the loss of Rumi and Hafiz, I made certain I had a magnificent, live Christmas tree. Each night I fell asleep with it in the backdrop of my sensory awareness, and each morning, I awoke to its presence in my living room. I loved that tree. I dreaded taking it to the recycling lot on January 2nd. After taking it to the tree cemetery, I burst into tears when I returned to my empty house.

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For everything there is a season, and a first. I remember the first Christmas without parent figures, and the first Christmas without my mom. My grandmother is 95, so I know that in a few years, there will be a first Christmas without her as well. Yet not all firsts entail losses. Some firsts entail gains.

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For everything there is a season. To help us make sense of it all, it’s wonderful when we can get a sabbatical.

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