“Wherever I have been, I am back,” Gandalf replied. That may not be an exact quote. My tattered, brittle paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is not where I remember leaving it for the last several years – I think I must have attempted to clean house before I left town last month, and this is what happens when I do things like that. Anyway, I am back in Maine, back on the blog – at least for the time being.
It has been a long, rich, full few weeks. Experiences and studies layer onto each other like a formational seven-layer taco dip extravaganza with extra guacamole. I spent a lot of time in my Liberal Theology class processing ideas I picked up during the Multicultural Congregations class I took back in November, and then a big chunk of my Digital Media in Ministry class was tangled up in ideas left over from Liberal Theology. This is not a bad thing, actually, though sometimes it makes getting done the particular work for a particular class somewhat complicated and confusing. But in the end, all the bits and pieces are interconnected, a whole beyond the sum of its component parts, and if where to start is important so is which way to go and what to do with all the things as we get them.
Part of my trip was personal – during the week between my two classes, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago down to Louisiana to visit my family. Family is always complicated and mine is no exception; they were very glad to see me, and I still don’t really belong there or to them. I think part of my reason for going was to confirm that. And it was nice to have a break from the cold winter weather, and to gaze out the train window over the marsh and open water.
The landscape is different. First I noticed the palmettos, sharp green fans in the dry undergrowth in the Mississippi hill country; then, the slender round-leaved magnolias in the hollows. And then as the train went south there were live oaks, thick-limbed and sprawling, draped with gray beards of spanish-moss, my archetypal trees, and finally the cypress, standing in dark water with their knobby knees poking up through the surface and more hanging moss in their bare upper branches. These images are imperfect, extracted from video taken out the train window. But the colors – gold, blue, green, gray. I do not really belong to this land, but it stirs my soul. The Lake Pontchartrain basin is as close to a homeland as I will ever have, and I needed to see it again to remember where I come from.