One of the things I have come to know over eleven years in religious life is that I am a better person because I live in community. The company, the accountability, the sharing of resources, the communal concerns shared and shouldered, the prayer, the polishing of my own edges. It all makes me more able to understand others and I take that understanding with me wherever I go…allowing it to inform whatever work I undertake.
That said, it is human nature to also need and want time alone. That has been my gift these last days. I talked to a friend on Skype last night and he pointed out, “It is a chance to live without self-censoring.” Before this experience of being fuera de la casa–outside the house–for an extended time, I have never before been so aware of the reality of that and the energy it takes when the “casa” is country, culture, and language. But, he is absolutely right.
It is the nature of community living to think about the impact of one´s own behaviors on the group as a whole. Here, that means not speaking in English when others are around who will not understand. It means not speaking one´s mind with fluidity because my way and nature of expression is culturally influenced and does not translate into castellano. There is the need to rethink, to express differently, to find other words for… To speak the truth, yes. But, the point of speaking truth is having it understood, I think, and in order for that to happen, adjustments must be made.
These last days, when others in the house are on retreat or visiting family, I have been listening to NPR news broadcasts and other shows on the computer speakers. I have been working at the table instead of my desk, have prayed there with a candle lit in the open-heart holder, have headed out on wanders without destination and returned to cook when my body tells me it is hungry.
One of those wanders took me to a stationers. Before leaving, two in the house asked me to prepare the community´s “corner” for the upcoming provincial assembly. That required the trip, which, I confess was not a suffering of any sort for me. I love office supply stores!
It was there, in a eraser-crumblies covered bin in a back row, that I found Minerva. There was only one. She was covered in a blop of ink at the tip and dinged up on the back end. But what was perfectly clear was her name. This pencil was Minerva.
I have to say, my writing soul did the dance that surfaces unsummoned at things “right in the world.” To me, a pencil named Minerva seems just about perfect.
What other name could a pencil have that would suit so admirably? Practical, serviceable, loyal, a little retro, classic… Minerva.
Sadly, this Minerva, that someone used as a would be dip-pen, was the only one in the store. Would they be getting more? They did not know. Might they be in another branch of your store? Maybe.
One day, on a wander unpredictable, perhaps our paths will cross again…
Until then, I shall enjoy my alone time, I shall enjoy my community time, and I will continue to write.