Every time I am packing for a trip, I have a reoccurring astronomical thought. As I struggle to zip up luggage, black holes taunt me: If the entire mass of a star the size of our sun can be condensed into the size of a pea – albeit with a gravitational force that doesn’t allow even light to escape – why can’t I fit everything I need into a carry-on?
It forces one to decide between what is necessary and what is just wanted.
No blow dryers made the trip to France. But I should have packed another dry erase board and more friendship bracelets to give away. And while later pictures of my hair…styles?…in photos would be humiliating if they weren’t so hilarious, I have – in exchange for my vanity – drawings of sunflowers and penmanship lessons with my name carefully spelled, sometimes with an accent mark for ‘aigu’ or ‘grave’ over a vowel just as a precaution.
No regrets over the blow dryer. But some of us on the trip are struggling with returning home. We are trying to find the answer to a plaguing question:
How do you fit the extraordinary into the ordinary?
It’s a battle to shove everything that has happened into the life that I have right now. The zippers and straps of ‘health benefits’ and ‘grocery money’ keep the important things in the sack of my life, but I think I need to get a bigger bag or I am going to split the seams.
My Mom said once that you can have shadows in your soul. On a good day it can be interesting, but on a bad day it means that you can always find something to complain about.
But I am more prepared this time than I was the first time to come home. It helps to talk with others who have been through marvels, as long as the conversations aren’t all reminiscing. It’s probably the opposite of coming home from war: Rather than working through what has been experienced, peace is already there. It’s what happens next that can be a struggle.
Grudgingly, I can attest that – within reason – the ordinary can be spectacular. One day in Le Gua, we laid down sheets of plywood in a field of dandelions and did reading, writing, music, and art. Through another pair of eyes, everything about it was ordinary. A group of children who are treated like weeds practicing their letters in a field full of weeds…But “weed” is just a pejorative term for a plant that shows up and inconveniences me. From another perspective, a weed is a plant like foxglove or aloe that can be used to heal, or a flower like dandelion that can produce both a pure yellow blossom and, as Ray Bradbury wrote, a wine of liquid sunshine that can fight off the cold of winter.
Living a dream is a good problem to have. But it is a rich meal.
Chew your food. And don’t talk with your mouth full.
NEXT TIME: Seriously, Syria…
Picture of a lesson one afternoon in Le Gua, from my cell phone.