Yesterday afternoon I was in a coffee shop in Keene, NH, doing a little reading before I met a friend for dinner. Coffee shops have always been good to me. Thirty-five years ago, my spot was The Pewter Pot in Harvard Square. The post-bicentennial-faux-Americana décor was awful, but the muffins were hot and the 50 cent coffee came with unlimited refills. I’m not sure I would have passed my comprehensive exams at Divinity School if it weren’t for the hours I logged at that circa pre-Starbucks coffee shop. I won’t say that Karl Barth and I fell in love there, but we did come to an understanding.
Yesterday’s stint at a coffee shop (one with a much cooler vibe) was also good to me. There, I checked my email and found a message from Krista Tippett’s senior producer Lily Percy. She apologized that Krista had not used my name on air, but indicated that Krista had quoted a post on this blog in an “On Being” interview with Isabel Wilkerson. The email came out of the blue, but I took it as a word of encouragement, and yes, also as a nudge.
Some things you just have to take as a sign. I am taking yesterday’s email surprise as a sign that it’s time to revisit this blog. As many of you know, I had to let it go fallow when I got sick. It’s hard to believe, but two years ago, I was critically ill. Physically, I didn’t have the strength to hold a book for more than a few minutes and there was even a scary stretch when I couldn’t read. I don’t mean that I couldn’t read War and Peace or The New York Times. I mean I couldn’t read at all. My blood wasn’t carrying enough oxygen to my brain. Letters and words were all a jumble. One day I brushed my teeth with diaper rash cream, having studied the tube for several minutes, and determined that the letters D-E-S-I-T-I-N spelled Colgate.
That was a low point. Needless to say, just surviving and getting from one oncology appointment to the next supplanted blogging and everything else on my To Do list. But then I got a little better. It became apparent that the drugs were working, that my blood chemistries were moving in the right direction, and that a stem cell transplant was going to be possible. As a way of staying in touch during that long spring and summer of treatment and isolation, I started to blog on a Caringbridge site. It was pretty much just medical updates, but I was writing my way back to life. One or two posts seemed to hit the mark and the last one I wrote on the gifts offered by stillness drew some notice.
“Cancer blogging” is a pretty specific genre and for me it came with an expiration date. When I started to feel better, I stopped wanting to write about being sick. I looked forward to blogging again at this site on a broader range of topics. But a year went by. During that time, I wrote sermons (and untold numbers of emails trying to straighten out the billing and insurance problems that still persist), but I didn’t start blogging again. I thought about it. I made notes. I played with a couple of ideas for a brand new blog and even made a pathetically lame “vision board.” But I didn’t write. I just couldn’t.
Up until now. So thank you, Krista and Lily. God knows how you found that old post of mine on this dormant and all-but-defunct blog, but the fact that you did seems like a sign. These last two years have been extraordinary, but now I’m ready to reclaim the ordinary. Faith in the Ordinary will be back soon.