When my friends Liz and Linda were in Seattle two weeks ago, I mentioned a few times that the weather was anybody’s guess. June is a transitional month, often referred to as Juneuary, as morning clouds roll in from the west and sometimes stay all day, sometimes not.
And sometimes they never show up, or barely, which is what happened during their visit to the Emerald City. It was spectacular, sunshine blasting through what fog and low clouds dared to venture onshore. It happens sometimes, and it happened then, and it went away.
This is nothing new for us, overcast skies and dark days, but it’s harder to accept after a taste of summer. My mood gets a little mercurial, my inner Arizona child waking up from the gray. I can get a little blue, although not in a serious way. Mercurial, as I said.
I just walked into the kitchen a minute ago to deposit my coffee cup, and then went around the house opening shades on the windows; at slightly past 8am, it was dark enough to be December. That’s what I’m talking about.
I dropped my son off at church yesterday for leadership training, as he’s been elected to serve as a deacon. Deacons are servants in the Presbyterian church, the ones without power or authority, whose mission is to take care of the community. I’ve served as a deacon, although it’s not a good fit. I’ve been on the nominating committee enough to have a feel for these roles, though. John is a perfect match; as I’ve said many times, for all of his neurological challenges and just overall weirdness, I’ve always felt that somehow he was surrounded by an aura of goodness. People love my son, as they should, and he loves everyone. It’s a match.
Church is 30 miles south of here, so I wasn’t about to come back home. John was given an indication that his part of the training might be short, so I didn’t head out for shopping or hiking, both of which I considered but rejected as too complicated, given that he might walk out the door any minute.
He was in there for 2-1/2 hours, as it turned out and as I should have expected. I drove around a little, picking up a snack and wandering around the south end of Lake Washington, but I stayed close and mostly listened to podcasts. By the time he straggled out, overwhelmed and stressed, I was ready to lecture.
It’s an old joke that whenever two or more Presbyterians are gathered, there will soon be eight committees, half of them devoted to potlucks. There is much truth in this, a culture of committees. It works, or seems to work well enough, and nobody seems interested in the fact that it makes me crazy.
But I’ve complained about it before, and enough of that. There’s nothing that needs doing that is being thwarted by too many meetings, as far as I can see. It’s a social thing, too. If I didn’t live so far away, I’d probably enjoy going to more committee meetings and visiting.
That’s all it is, distance and decades of working alone. I’ll stick by my assessment that committees such as these are wildly inefficient, that most of the work could be done via email and other electronic messaging, that it’s kind of insulting to sit in a meeting where someone submits a written report, then proceeds to read that report out loud as the rest of us follow along with the text projected on a screen as this person reads haltingly and stumbles over words we clearly see...
Eh. You know, or understand. It’s me. It’s the gray skies. Mercurial.
This is really good ice cream.
While I was waiting in the parking lot for John yesterday, listening to politicos talking about Elizabeth Warren on a podcast, my phone beeped with a reminder to bake bread.
I’ve been baking bread for communion at various churches for over 20 years. When my wife was ordained and presided at the table, the first loaf she broke was mine. Most of the others have been, too.
Communion is an odd sacrament in mainstream Protestant churches, often either ignored or shunted off to once a month or once a quarter, with some bizarre connotations that make no sense to me. I adore communion, relish it, look forward to it. It grounds me in the world and allows me to wonder at the same time, and remember.
We have communion every Sunday in extraordinary time (church talk for the Advent period, running through Epiphany, and the Lenten season, running through Trinity Sunday), and now twice a month in ordinary time.
Anyway, I’m not going to be doing it again until October, as I join Julie in her sabbatical disengagement, so I turned off my reminder and felt a sense of loss. I understand that it’s a gift to the congregation; I make a soft round of sandwich bread, augmented with extra butter and sugar so that every bite-sized portion has a burst of flavor. In the church I attended when I first took on this task, the kids would flock to the kitchen afterwards to grab the remaining bread. At my current church, it’s not just the kids, and sometimes I suspect it’s breakfast. There’s almost never any left.
But I do it for me, I know. It completes a personal circle, a calling to not only experience but participate in a mystery, and I’m going to miss it. I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, when I’d normally be 30 miles away, imagining what I’m not doing, picturing people I love and usually see at least once a week. I’ll be there next Sunday, as John is being installed as deacon and it’s a big deal, so my loss hasn’t registered yet, and probably won’t hit for a few weeks, but I think I may bake some bread today anyway. I don’t want to forget, which is why I take communion.
Really, really good ice cream.