This column appeared in our August 10 issue under the title “Radius.”
There. It was just like that; the sky was a bowl above me, and its rim the horizon in every direction. I’d read that line in a book and which book I couldn’t remember, but I must have liked the image because it stuck in my mind and surfaced in that sudden 12-year-old moment when I saw it was true.
I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car and we were driving west across the prairies, heading for B.C. and a grown-up cousin’s wedding. I was bored and the day was hot, the windows open and noisy only we didn’t hear it anymore because we’d been driving so long. I’d never seen a road so straight. My little brother slept beside me, his mouth open, his cheeks flushed and his feet shoved over on my side of the backseat. I edged closer to the open window and looked out over the endless fields to the round horizon and the ceaseless sky.
That colour. That arc. The edge of the bowl.
That night, I told my mother about it – about the hot afternoon sky and the line I remembered reading – and she smiled and told me that’s what books were for. They showed you the world so that when you saw it yourself, you recognised it. You felt at home.
I don’t recognise the world anymore.
And don’t feel at home.
Since March, time has stretched, shrunk, changed and arced above us. It feels like forever. It feels timeless and out of time. And how much longer will things be strange? Who knows? Maybe we’re only in the middle of things.
Until recently, our local government mandated that we were to control the spread of the virus by staying local. We could go out of our homes to shop and to exercise, but were to stay within five miles of home. So we walked to the park and rode our bikes to the river, slowed down and tried to pay attention to the gentle changes of the seasons. Coming back towards home, our youngest would look for the church spire at the end of our street. He took to calling it our church, even though it isn’t. Our church is further away, and he hasn’t seen it in months. We’ve been spending Sunday mornings around the kitchen table, reading, praying and singing together, so you could say church has become a verb. But for our youngest, our church, with its grey stone tower, tells him he’s nearly home. All spring and summer, it’s been the spired centre of our circle in these smaller days.
Then, last week the rules shifted, and our circle could expand, so we got in the car and went out exploring. Living in Wales means we’re always close to a castle, and we found two we hadn’t visited before, both in exciting states of ruin. We climbed towers, we walked along the walls, peered into dungeons and lay flat on the grass, watching the clouds pass overhead. It was a fabulous day out in the sunshine. Smiles all round. It felt like a holiday and it felt familiar.
That’s going to be the trick going forward, I think. We need to find ways of feeling at home and it’s hard to say how to do this other than to be open. Maybe that’s the best way to push past fear. To be open to the words we read, to the Word living among us, and to our children as they describe their world to us.
We talk about reopening schools and shops, reopening this locked-down world. Maybe this is what we should mean.