It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since Samuel and I pulled into Tryon on a rainy Monday, June 27th. After we called him upon reaching the agreed-upon landmark, council president Bill Boone met us at the Sunoco station at the junction of state route 108 and US 176, and led us through town, up the steep hill of Chestnut Street, and three more blocks to the parsonage at 186 Melrose Avenue, where Associate Pastor Lance Smith and Trustees chair John Short helped Bill and us unload the 5’x8’ UHaul trailer.
I had read Jan Karon’s novels about Father Tim, an Episcopal priest in a mythical mountain hamlet called Mitford somewhere in the Blue Ridge, and was convinced such towns do not exist. But I’m now LIVING in one, and it’s surrounded by Saluda, and Columbus, and Landrum, SC, each small, friendly, and slightly different from each other. But all of them their own version of Mitford.
Looking back on the past month, I’ve discovered I can handle humidity and heat without wanting to die; the joy of afternoon rain showers (and the occasional torrent), the kind with many more smaller drops per square inch, like the rains in the UK, where we were last year; friendly people, a slower pace than the Front Range of Colorado, cute main streets, and the joys of a good cup of coffee at Tryon Coffeehouse (staffed by volunteer baristas, I’m told); the joys of escaping to Asheville when I need a Boulder-like fix of crunchy, liberal, activist, bohemian, hippie, vegetarian-and-any-ethnic-food-you-might-want-to-consume cuisine; the waterfalls of Dupont State Forest, and Pearson’s Falls, our own local one, 15 minutes away; and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, which is so manageable, I might rediscover I like air travel again.
A month here also gives me the occasion to look back…
…at what I feared:
After taking Eli to the airport on Tuesday, I am alone, solo, by myself: the greatest fear of every not-quite-fully-formed extrovert. Truly, this was the scariest thing to contemplate as I thought of doing an interim pastorate “away”—What would I face when I had to face myself? Loneliness. Not enough conversation partners to talk to in order to find out what I think or feel. Being at loose ends with not enough to do. Overworking. Lonely evenings. A lack of support.
…AND at what I found:
Rediscovering the inner life that led me to ministry in the first place, delving deeply into Centering Prayer, praying the Scriptures, journaling at leisure. I discovered the capacity to connect with and be available to so many people, so fast—balanced by a yearning to have alone time that I never anticipated, to recharge, re-center, and remember who I am as a child of God. And the “lonely” evenings? They’re anything but: Drawn closer to my soul mate Linda, through evening walks together while talking on the phone, texts and calls at various points throughout the day, and a dependable presence in each other’s life—in work, in parenting, in sharing the day’s doings and insights, thoughts of the future, ruminations about the past.