In the Promised Land

Today’s Readings:

(Ya can’t even parse that citation from Samuel in such a way as to make sense. So, I’m not gonna bother trying to post it in RSV and Douay!)

Et ponam locum populo meo Israël, et plantabo eum, et habitabit sub eo, et non turbabitur amplius: nec addent filii iniquitatis ut affligant eum sicut prius.
And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them, and they shall dwell therein, and shall be disturbed no more: neither shall the children of iniquity afflict them any more as they did before.
2 Samuel 7:10 (Douay)

Although I know that my Bible-related blog posts tend to be idiosyncratic and self-referential, I think today I will just go whole hog. Holidays do this to me because – like most people – I come with a load of sentimental baggage about the perfect holiday that never was nor never will be. I can channel that when I write, but it’s really because I’m not with anyone. I’m not with my family. I’m not in community, I’m not “in a relationship”.

In the Knox translation, it’s much more homey, I think:

Henceforth my people are to have a settled home, taking root in it and remaining in undisturbed possession of it, no longer harassed by godless neighbours.

It was hard at the Monastery, to be riding 300 miles, round trip, to Mass. It wasn’t had because of the travel – don’t get me wrong. When I travel somewhere, I learn every nook and corner of the route. It becomes so short in my head because it is so familiar. Only unfamiliar roads are long. Even the 800 mile trip from Asheville, NC, to Hamilton, ON, got to be rather commute-like. I knew where to stop for food, where to go to the bathroom, to stop for cigarettes, to walk. I knew where to sleep and where to do my morning Qi Gong exercises. The trip zipped by and suddenly it was boring. But there was nights on the highway: trucks and me, zooming on the road. I was hypnotized in the passing headlights – all pointing away from me as we drove together in the same direction. The drive across country was even worse: because it was all so long, all so new… and yet I’d get hypnotized and the miles would zip by. I turned a 3 Day Trip into a 15 Day Trip but every day I drove further than I wanted to. And some night I just couldn’t bring myself to stop.

Ditto the trip to Mass. One minute we were in the monastery, and the next, Denver. 300 miles gone.

I think maybe that’s a symptom of my overall sense of rootlessness, that I have no place to call home and no place, really, I want to call home for very long. Growing up in the tiny town of 900 people, I’d go for long walks in the woods in the hopes of getting lost. No worries: my sense of direction just made it really fun trying to get home. In North Carolina any given Saturday could find me taking a sudden turn off the Blue Ridge Parkway and just wondering how to get down the mountain on the dirty roads and back to Asheville. I even carried an extra gallon of gas on my scooter just so I didn’t run out. Could I get lost in the mountains? Nope. You’d be surprised what famous writers you can find in coffee shops in the hinterlands of Appalachia, tho.

Then I got a car and the real journeys began. Yes, San Francisco is home, really – more than any place ever has been. But my feet get itchy. Wandering in the Desert for 40 years seems so much nicer. A product, really, of not being in a relationship, of not having a relationship that would last, of not building stability into my pattern, is that I crave it all at once when I hate it.

So what’s a rootless tumbleweed supposed to do?

Henceforth my people are to have a settled home, taking root in it and remaining in undisturbed possession of it, no longer harassed by godless neighbours.

I found myself asking God yesterday, as I walked down Potrero Hill to get to Mass, if I could stay here this time. Here being “in one place, in one city, in one church, in story arc.” Here being a sense that rootedness = success in a why I’ve never had, nor never been able to get to.

What’s it like there?

Merry Christmas!  I won’t be posting tomorrow (although a post will show up). I wish you the most blessed of feasts!

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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