Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Door Into Summer

There is one book I can never forget, but I rarely admit to reading.  It’s time for true confessions.  In the book, the cat—yes, it’s a cat book and it’s not my other favorite cat book:

Millions of Cats (Gift Edition) (Picture Puffin Books) A repetitive story for young children)


The Door into Summer

the cat, in winter, cries and meows at every door of the house, always hoping that one will open into summer.  There’s something in all of us that hopes for that one elusive opportunity/adventure that might be just around the corner, over the hill, around the bend, or through the door.  Especially under the bleak skies of winter, we need that hope. 

In this short novel of my childhood, the protagonist’s life has fallen apart; he needs his own door into summer.  The way he finds it is pure science fiction involving cryogenics and time travel.  We don’t have that technology at our beck and call.  How do we find our door into summer?

By now you’re wondering if I have the answer. . . I could drag this on and let you keep wondering, but I’m not cruel.  Sometimes finding that door requires waiting.  How long?  Minutes, days, weeks, months, years. . .decades?   Scientists may spend decades or a lifetime looking for a breakthrough.  Students spend years in school waiting for that first job that will take them on a new adventure.  Parents spend months awaiting the birth of their child and making preparations for that child’s homecoming.

Our wait is not passive.  Like the cat, we have to check out those doors.  One of them may lead to summer.  But when they don’t, we wait.  The word most non-Americans use to describe a waiting line is “queue,” a word that sprang from the French word for tail.  A cat looking for the door into summer has a tail that drags on the ground in disappointment.  The cat who waits in expectation has a tail held high with a quiver and a shake as thoughts of what might be run through the cat’s mind.

The scientists prepare for that breakthrough every day they study and experiment.  The students study, and search out internships, to narrow their field of interest.  Expectant parents delay their own needs to make the baby’s entrance smooth, even to changing their diet, their transportation, and their abode.  And like the cat, we prepare with tail held high in expectation of what lies through the next door.

That not so easy for we of the complex minds.  Cats have few desires—eat, attention, sleep, play.  My more complex mind is filled with the stuff of business: taxes, marketing, paperwork, and the stuff of life: cooking, cleaning, paying bills, buying groceries, accommodating a dying parent, planning upcoming birthdays, and other mundane activities.  How do we look past these and leave space to prepare and be expectant?

One way is to celebrate the season of Lent, the 40 days (not including Sundays) preceding Easter.  Ash Wednesday, today, is that start of that.  What can we do to prepare room for God and remain expectant?  Sometimes it means letting go of something that deprives us of space and time for deeper thought like television or reading or listening to music or twitter or Facebook or games or radio.  Sometimes it means letting go of something we don’t think we could live without.  Perhaps that means to use public transportation or bum rides instead of using your car.  Or it might mean that you stop eating food that contains calories, but little nutritional value (candy, chips, pop), or food high in fat, or meat, or whatever.  Maybe it means sharing what you have been afraid others might misuse.  What might it mean for you?

Whatever it is, forty days is only a little over a month.  That’s not so long.  Yet, it’s long enough to form a new habit, a new way of life.  Are you, like me, looking for that door into summer this February.  Then join me for Lent and form a new habit of preparation and expectation.  Then you, too, will be able to hold your tail high, knowing that your wait will not be in vain.


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