Portage

“You’re the only one here who isn’t retired,” my brother said to me.

I was with two of my siblings and their spouses at my brother’s cottage in Minnesota. They were planning a trip to France next year and welcomed Fred and me to join them. But travelling abroad doesn’t excite either of us.

However, the question of retirement and how I can best live in this next stage of life remained uncomfortably with me.

I like what I do and I don’t want to stop doing it. But when I took stock of “what is” in my life, I had to admit how tired I am. This led me to examine how much I do as well as what I eat and how this is likely contributing to my fatigue.

Then I thought of Fred–my cycling, camping, and grandparenting buddy–and his health. He needs to rest a lot, and there’s nothing he can do to change that.

Add to this my challenging relationship with silent prayer and my ADHD tendencies that make me wonder sometimes how I can call myself a contemplative. I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life content to just be.

As I thought about how to make the most of the years ahead, I kept stumbling over the realities in my life and what I feel powerless to change.

One morning, still unsettled in prayer, I found this poem by Steve Garnaas-Holmes in my emails. He wrote it after canoeing in the Boundary Waters north of where my brother lives.

Canoe

Curious God,
I will be your little canoe,
just big enough for you
and whatever grace you pack for the journey.
You paddle me where you will.
Surely I will drift,
and slip sideways in the wind,
but that too is your Spirit,
and you will right me as we go.
In still or troubled waters I will trust your touch,
surrender to your leading,
and go where you paddle me.
And when I find myself upside down and out of sorts
I will know you are portaging me to the next passage;
I will trust, and wait, and let you carry me,
until again, by your grace,
it is I who carry you.

When I read this, I recognized I was “upside down and out of sorts.” I understood then that I was being portaged to a new way of being. God was inviting me to trust, wait and be carried.

A few days later, Fred and I went to visit my eighty-five and ninety-year-old parents. As often happens on this four hundred and fifty kilometre drive, we talked about what’s been going on lately and what we’ve noticed.

In the meandering conversation, a new question began to emerge. It took a while for me to verbalize it succinctly, but I was being invited to let go of the question of what my retirement should look like and pick up this one instead: What does it look like to be a contemplative in my own skin?

When I held that question, I realized that God was using what is in my life to shape my passage into who I am becoming.

I see a way forward now. It is light and spacious. That doesn’t mean I won’t need to make some lifestyle changes, but all of a sudden, “what is” has been transformed from stumbling block to gift.

From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you.
They are created now, and not long ago;
    you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
    “Yes, I knew of them.”
–Isaiah 48:6b-7

Note: If you’re having a déjà vu moment, thinking you’ve read this post before, it’s because the draft got prematurely published on Monday. It went out to my email followers and, for a short time, was on Facebook. That was a bit of a shock–like realizing I’ve gone out of the house half-dressed! Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed my fully dressed post. 

* * *

Love Mischief for the World

I subscribe to Unfolding Light and, Monday to Friday, receive a daily poem or reflection from Steve Garnaas-Holmes. When I asked him for permission to use “Canoe” in my post, I let him know that I had passed on one of his poems to a friend who struggles with mental illness. Steve replied giving me permission to use his poems and added that he would pray for my friend. What a gift.

What love mischief are you and God doing to care for the world?
Let me know and I will include it in an upcoming post.

Credits and References:
“Stoplog Canoes” by Martin Cathrae. Used with permission.
“Canoe” by Steve Garanaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light August 27, 2018. Used with permission
“Rocky Portage” by OakleyOriginals. Used with permission.
“Praying” by Tarah. Used with permission.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2018.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013-2018.  http://www.estherhizsa.com

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Aging, Poetry, Prayer, Reflections, Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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