Tuesday is another good day. I did a hike all the way to the gate, did my knee exercises, did all my sacred piano pieces, washed the dishes and finished Barron and read more of Exodus. I then went to play golf and played very well, trying to use up my remaining 3 and ½ round credit which will expire on August 31. Some of the greens are really deteriorating but it was still a lot of fun and I hit a few hybrids over 140 yards. I then had a late lunch at Applebees and sent my commentary to the Roanoke paper. I hope they use it. I will head out in a bit to go bike riding.
Here is the text of the commentary:
Handling a serious illness is always a difficult period. However, sometimes illness can occur that can lead to unexpected and positive results. I have lived for over twenty years in Reese Hollow, 140 acres of white and Virginia pines, sugar maples and paw paws, red and white oaks, with the nearest neighbor over a mile away. But he hollow is sold and I am moving into Blacksburg into an apartment where my neighbors will be less than ten feet away. Why did I have to leave? Well, I am 65 and I am being treated for kidney lupus. I fully hoped to live in the hollow till seventy but my lupus and my age made it impossible. Since December when I was diagnosed, my beloved hollow has become an overwhelming place to live.
Years ago I would hike all over the surrounding Pedlar Hills and up Paris Mountain. Out west where I traveled almost every summer I have many, many good memories, of hiking the backcountry of Yellowstone, of climbing to the top of Mount Rundle, of backpacking in the Brooks Range. I have many slides and pictures and I will have to content myself with those, even though I hope to get out West again at some point and at least drive through some of my favorite National Parks and National Forests.
To add to the change, I had my knee replaced over a year ago and I don’t think I want to chance wading again. I still use my spinning gear from the banks of a stream, but wading the streams and rivers I loved, the Ten Sleep, the Poudre, Bear Creek, even closer waters like Wolf and Walker creeks, seems over.
If the lupus had any positive effect—and there are few with chemotherapy and prednisone and the other drugs I am on—it is that it helped me to return to Catholicism, the religion I grew up with. I have confessed my sins, am going to Saturday mass, receive the Eucharist, and have started being active at St. Mary’s. I think my illness has taught me to be more patient and calmer and since I am still an English Professor at Radford University (I will return to teaching in January) I think it will make me a better teacher. More importantly, as Robert Barron writes, an illness like mine may “lead some people to despair, bur the spiritually alert person should see them as a particularly powerful way to come to union with God.” I hope I am becoming this spiritually alert person.
For most of my life my god had been nature, and I wrote hundreds of articles, poems, book reviews, and books about nature, my work almost always focusing on protecting the natural world. The idea of a Christian God rarely occurred to me during my time of environmental activism, teaching, traveling and writing. When I would take a hike in the hollow I prayed to a large white pine tree just off the dirt road and thanked the pine for another night in the hollow and asked for healing for friends who were sick or troubled. For 50 plus years nature seemed enough of a spiritual comfort.
But now, after being diagnosed with kidney lupus in December and having immersed myself in Catholicism, reading authors like Thomas Merton and Barron, I have begun to see the limitations of nature as God. Bishop Barron writes: “God creates earth, sky, stars and planets, the animals that move upon the earth and the fishes that inhabit the ocean depths. All of these natural elements were, at one time or another, worshipped as divine. So even as he celebrates them, the author of Genesis is effectively dethroning them, desacralizing them. Nature is wonderful indeed, he is telling us; but it is not God. And the consistent Biblical message is that this Creator God is not like the arbitrary and capricious gods of the ancient world; rather he is reliable, rock-like in his steadfast love, more dedicated to human beings than a mother is to her child.” I still love nature but I am starting to see the tremendous opportunity I have been given to further a deeper and more lasting faith.