Friday, August 28, 2009

A Carry-On and a Pocketful of Dreamin'

Six weeks ago, I was packing a small, carry-on suitcase more sparsely than any suitcase I've packed in four years. I included only two sets of clothes--comfortable, me, layered (in case the disparity between the air-conditioned university classroom and the often humid Iowa air was too great)--a small bag of only the most essential toiletries, and the items representing the limitless opportunity before me: a laptop, a spiral notebook and pen, and a couple of books. Normally I hate packing, but this time I did it carefully, contentedly, almost tenderly as I thought about and hoped for the hours that were coming.

When Josh got home from work, we played and ate dinner together the way we usually do in the evenings, but just before it was time to put the kids down for bed, I tucked my small, black carry-on neatly into the otherwise empty trunk, set my red book bag--which ordinarily overflows with diapers and pajamas and stuffed animals--on the empty seat next to me, and cheerfully waved goodbye to the most beloved treasures I have on this earth.

Then I took a deep, exhilarating breath, turned the music up to a volume reminiscent of my high school days, and commenced the hour drive to the airport.

The journey itself was every bit as significant as the destination for its unencumbered ease and independence: the drive by myself; the easy bus ride from the remote parking lot to the terminal without the shuttling and hefting of small children and large bags; the additional three hours of reading time before my 9:30 p.m. flight left at its delayed time shortly after midnight during which, despite my exhaustion, I basked in the knowledge that I had no one else to entertain, to persuade to sleep, or to corral; the 3 a.m. taxi ride with the most educated and articulate cab driver I've ever encountered who shared every detail of the Iowa flood and its wreckage while she made our way to the hotel.

And then to wake up less than four hours later to make my way to the orientation for the Summer Writing Festival in this distinguished, historical building standing proudly in the middle of the University of Iowa campus, the academic energy humming in my light, expectant spirit--it was nothing short of magical.

The workshop itself was, unfortunately, an anomaly in the otherwise excellent array of summer courses. Everyone in the small classroom who'd ever attended these workshops, whether the week before or every summer for years before, said so. It didn't matter. It was still sacred time for me.

During our first break, I met a woman who wanted to know more about the blog I hoped to create, who wanted to know more about me. It was a gift from Someone bigger than either of us, her simple question asked curiously but sincerely: "What do you mean by 'spiritual things'?" I had included "spiritual things" in the short list of writing topics I had shared with the class when we were all posed with the question of what we hoped to blog about. Then she told me of her hopes and desires for her own blog. And they share a common soul, I think. Our chance encounter confirmed the stirrings I felt within and gave me the courage to actually begin, this.

Less than forty-eight hours after I left the house, I rolled my little black carry-on through the Iowa airport and flew home again--my mind renewed with the knowledge of myself apart from my blessed but exhausting title of "Mommy," my spirit refreshed by this and other divinely orchestrated introductions within our small band of learners, my heart profoundly grateful to my husband for allowing me this luxurious freedom.

So here we are. And I love it.

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