Friday, September 26, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Twelve


            No sunrise today….we woke up with clouds and a gentle rain falling.  Now the gentle rain has developed into a steady one.  The day has turned lazy for now, not wanting to go anywhere but just staying at the cottage to read and write and talk and enjoy the quietness of the moment.  We do have the radio playing, set on a station from St. John, New Brunswick which is just across the Bay of Fundy from here.  The station is a French station with the words spoken by the announcer in French but the music can be in French or English or just instrumental.  It is actually a good station to listen to if all you are interested in is hearing music and you do not care to understand all the words being sung or spoken.  They play a very good eclectic mix of music from classical to popular to oldies to jazz and even some French rap which is not bad since I cannot understand the words but just know from the cadence of the words being sung or said that it must be some form of rap.  The background music that goes with it is pretty good so I can listen to it and appreciate it. 
            Life in Nova Scotia is a bit like that, not everything matches here.  It certainly does not match what life in the US is like, but even here there are official ways of life and ones that are lived out by its people that may or may not fit what the official status is.  For example, Canada is fully on the metric system.  Weights and measures are done in metric with persons buying a kilogram of something rather than a pound but if you go to the grocery store to buy produce the price is often given for a pound of something.  Then, you may go to the meat department and find out that meat is sold by the kilo, meaning that in order to compare prices you have to look at the grams rather than the pounds of something.  Buying meat at the deli means you buy 100 grams of meat or cheese rather than ¼ of a pound although that is a close measure for the same thing. 
            Driving on the highway means that you drive in kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour.  The sign says you can drive 100 but that is not fast; that is only about 60 mph.  In towns the sign may say 50 and that is only 35 mph.  So, when you drive an American car you have to look at the second set of numbers on your speedometer in order to know how fast you are going or you will be driving 70 mph when you should be only going 40. 
            The Nova Scotians themselves do not always abide by their metric standards.  They sell their produce at the markets by the pound and they drive faster than the speed limit says (the same as we do in Texas).  So, each day you discover similarities and differences with life in the United States as you go here and there. 
            Canadians themselves are folks who typically get along with each other.  Violence is not rampant as it is in the US.  When we listen to the news on the radio in English, the lead story is not usually one about who was murdered overnight, as it is on our Houston, Austin, or San Antonio stations.  It is about rather mundane things, such as government programs to control the deer population or to monitor the sand pipers that migrate from here to South America each year.  Today the story that got closest to something sinister was one about a man who was electrocuted as he attempted to steel wire at an abandoned factory so he could sell it.  The Police were looking into it but since the man was in the hospital recovering they had not been able to talk to him yet. 
            I have been able to have a few conversations with Canadians about their view toward guns and violence and the ones I have talked with have no need for more guns.  They have firearms for hunting and use them for that purpose.  They see no need for handguns or military rifles and do not want them used in their country. 
            Canadians are not as religious in belief or practice as Americans say they are but their national anthem mentions God and asked God to bless their land.  (“God bless our land, so noble and free, Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee…”)  I thought about our two countries and how much we have in common but our common view toward life in general is so vastly different.  How can two countries with common origins be so different in the way we view life in general? 
            Perhaps as Americans we need to re-examine why we hold certain truths to be self-evident, especially when it comes to what we value and why.  We do sing a song that asks God to bless America (two of them in fact) but our national anthem is a song about a war in which our flag can be seen through the smoke and haze resulting from the battles in the war.  Do we see ourselves as violent people because we have always been a warring people founded during a revolution and consider violence to be part of the American way of life? 
            Canada has had their share of wars over their history including the early atrocities of the British sending the French Acadians away to be wanderers or worst to their death on boats as they made their way to France in 1755.  When they decided to become a country, however, they had a meeting in Charlottetown, PEI and discussed confederation and merged the provinces into one country by signing a piece of paper.  Maybe that early beginning of accord and concord set the pattern for resolving differences in a peaceful manner rather than with violence. 
            “How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!  It is like precious oil on the head, running down on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord ordained his blessing, life evermore.”  (Psalm 133)

            We went into town this morning to use the internet at the public library.  Annapolis Royal has a very nice little library.  For a town of less than 500 residents it has most conveniences one needs to be comfortable.  We used the free internet there for about a half hour and then walked up and down the main street looking in a few shops.  Some of them are very old fashioned and some are a bit more modern. 
            We had lunch at the Port Anne Café which was like stepping back in time.  The décor looks as if it is out of the 1960s with little wooden booths along the walls and tables for four in the center.  One very hard working waitress was serving all the tables and doing a very good job of it.  She greeted us and took our order.  The special today was a lobster burger with French fries and cole slaw.  We both had the special and I ordered iced tea which was tea in a bottle.  That is the standard here.  There does not seem to be a place that has actual brewed tea that comes in a glass with ice.  Most places give you a bottle with Nestea iced tea in it. 
            The place was filled with many local people, many of them elderly.  Most were ordering the special as we did.  Some were also having a local delicacy called poutine.  Poutine is French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds.  We have not tried it yet but plan to before going home just to say we did. 
            Our food came and it turned out it was a lobster roll rather than a lobster burger.  The difference is that a lobster roll is simply a salad much like tuna salad except made with lobster instead of tuna.  I was thinking that a lobster burger would be a hot sandwich with hot lobster pieces and lettuce and tomato.  We ate it and it was good even if it was not what we thought we were getting.  The cole slaw was passable and the fries were excellent.  They know how to make good fries in this province, crispy and brown. 
            As we were finishing up our meal, a nice local woman, most likely in her 80s, passed by our table and looked at us and said, “We love eating here.  They make food like we like, don’t they?” I wondered if she was inviting us to comment on her remark but obviously not since she just went her way with no further conversation.  She did love eating there.  We liked eating there today but probably will not return on this trip.  There are a lot of other places to try in town. 

            I just finished reading my third book during my sabbatical—Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor.  She is an Episcopal priest who now teaches at a college in Georgia.  She teaches world religions to undergraduate students.  This is her third book, and now I have read all three of them. 
            This book is about learning to learn from the darkness in life.  It has a lot to say about accepting the fact that darkness exists, both physically and spiritually, and that we can learn about ourselves and our path to God by examining what we think about the darkness we have experienced in life.  Some darkness has happened because of other human beings and our lives have been affected or even changed because of the acts of others.  Some darkness is ever present in our unconscious selves because of early life experiences that we may not even consider regularly but they are always just below the surface level.  Some darkness is blessed by God because it is in the unknowing of God that we find the truth that exists only in God, even as we search and do not always find God present. 
            Rev. Taylor gives many good examples about examining darkness by being plunged into it.  The kind of darkness she examines is actual physical darkness.  She ate at a restaurant where people eat in the dark.  She went to an exhibit called “Dialogue in the Dark” where people can get a sense of what it is like to live as a blind person.  She went with others to a cave in West Virginia where she experienced total darkness in a natural setting.  She spent the night in a house in the woods with no modern sources of light in order to see the day change to night and back again. 
            The reason for all of her experimentation and exploration was to be able to more fully understand the purpose of darkness in the world.  She quotes from Genesis 1 where the Creation story explains that darkness existed at the first in Creation and that God created light to separate the two.  God did not say that darkness was bad; God created light in order to bring about clarity to what was present in the Creation.  The night is as important as the day to us as human beings.  We need the night to provide the rest that allows our bodies to heal and to recover from life’s weariness.  We need darkness so that our bodies know that the time has come for restoration and wholeness. 
            The Creation story teaches that God used six days to bring about what needed to be created.  The days began at sunset and continued until the next sunset, as does the Sabbath in Jewish teaching.  The work of creation began in the darkness and extended into the light.  Today, the Jewish Sabbath begins each Friday night at the time that three stars can be seen in the sky.  When the same thing happens on Saturday night, the Sabbath has ended.  Candles are lit and God is praised for the Sabbath, as the holy night begins and rest is given to the weary. 
            Life is lived both in darkness and in light, in night and in day.  One is not more valuable than the other.  Each has its purpose.  Perhaps the dark experiences are like that also.  Perhaps they teach us things that we could never learn by always walking in the light.  We need the light because we are children of light but if we have never experienced any darkness in life how will we know what the light truly is?  God’s light shines in the darkness and illuminates it so that truth and strength and rest can be grasped. 
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

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