Yesterday I drove back from my parents' place in Williamsburg after a great week-end with them and my sister. It was a holiday week-end, so I was not expecting the level of traffic I encountered. In some ways, I prefer the kind of aggravating traffic I had on Friday--a total stop on the interstate because of a torn apart 18 wheeler and a burned up car--instead of traffic yesterday that zoomed above the speed limit and then 2 minutes later, we were back to stop and go, again and again this cycle.
Eventually I made it back, unloaded the car, and went for a short walk. I did some school work while I ate, and then I went to my 6:30 class on Luke, taught by way of Zoom. After class, I was both hyped up but very tired; it's strange how those two states can co-exist. Deciding that I really needed sleep, I closed the computer.
I had a random thought float across my brain as I was spreading a quilt over the bed: I wish that Kathleen Norris had a new book out. And then I wondered if maybe she did--but instead of turning the computer back on, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, the first book of hers that I read and loved.
I wish I had been keeping a blog back in the earliest years of this century when I first found this book. It was published in 1993, which startled me last night when I opened it up for my bedtime reading. That's 30 years ago! I flipped to the back, where she gives credit to the publications that first published these essays, places like Gettysburg Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and Massachusetts Review. I was happy to realize that those magazines are still publishing.
I thought back to when I first read this book, which expanded my view of what an essay could be. I started trying to write something similar. I started thinking about how essays could create a book length work.
When I pulled the book off my shelf, I wasn't thinking about the fact that the season of Lent is upon us. This morning, I thought, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which means today is Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday--if I'm going to adopt a Lenten discipline, the time is now. And then I turned my attention to this book. I think I will use this book as part of an increased spiritual study/devotion time--what will that look like? Stay tuned.
Here is a quote from the book, which talks about the Dakotas both as a physical location and something larger: "Dakota is a painful reminder of human limits, just as cities and shopping malls are attempts to deny them" (p. 2). As I write these words, I'm thinking that the season of Lent can also be a painful reminder of human limits. Our Lenten disciplines can be a way of helping us think about the ways that we want to avoid thinking about these limits and perhaps a way of helping us embrace these limits.
As we eat our Shrove Tuesday pancakes or our Mardi Gras King Cakes, as we indulge and/or plan for how we will avoid indulging, let us plan for our Lenten disciplines. Or maybe discipline is not the word for our current time--we've had an awful lot of discipline imposed on us for the past few years. Maybe heightened attention would be better--or here's something I like even better: enrichment.
Let us plan our Lenten enrichments!
For a more traditional blog post about Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras, this post on my theology blog might be what you wanted. Or maybe you wanted a recipe for a festive cake/bread that's easy; in this blog post, I give you a recipe and photos.