Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Morning Reflections

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

- Ecclesiastes

Yesterday, Saturday, early morning: I head out to an isolated resort on the high desert for my weekly game of water volleyball. This is my "play" time, where I and a pool of co-conspirators have given each other permission to act like five-year olds. In a recent series of blog posts, I observed that taking time out to play - play like the experts, namely kids - is critically important to maintaining good mental health.

It is the end of the week, a time to play.

Part of my play includes chilling out in the hot tub between games and at the picnic table area of the resort. The sight of Frank at one of the tables was always a good sign. This meant that his partner Sandi could be counted on to materialize with a tray of deviled eggs or stuffed mushrooms.

But no more. Eleven or twelve days earlier, Sandi was put on life support following a motor vehicle accident. Last week, her family made the decision to remove her from the life support. She died peacefully very soon after.

10 AM: Time to play water volleyball. Frank is in the pool with us. As always, he is the sneakiest server in the pool. It is a time to play.

Noon: I'm sharing the hot tub with Pat, a water volleyball buddy. A very serious topic comes up: The ultimate hamburger. Hold that thought ...

2 PM: More water volleyball. I had missed the previous week and am exceptionally rusty. I've been blowing easy shots all day and my fellow five-year olds have been showing me no mercy. I've been returning their playful put-downs in full measure. Our final game of the day is into the closing minutes. I'm in the front row. From our back row, the ball floats into my airspace. With perfect coordination, I jump, I spin. My arm sweeps around like the wrathful weapon of an avenging deity and next thing the ball is cleaving in two the water on the other side of the net.

In two years of water volleyball, this is by far my best shot ever. The equal of the best shots of our best players.

Yes! Yes! I did it!

It is a time to dance.

5 PM: We're gathered in the rec room of the resort for Sandi's memorial service. It is a time to mourn, but also a time to celebrate. Frank gets up to speak. His throat catches, his voice cracks. I look around. Eyes are misting up. Lips are quavering.

It is a time to weep.

After the service, I approach Frank. I have been in the pool with him for three hours today, but then was not the time. Now is the time. I offer my condolences.

It is a time to embrace.

6 PM: Pat approaches me. The ultimate burger has been on his mind ever since our hot tub conversation. Improbably, there is a great place not far away, in the middle of nowhere, that knows how to make one. With his wife and another water volleyball buddy we head out.

6:30 PM: We're at the Spa restaurant in the town of Jacumba, on the Mexican border, in the middle of nowhere. The food is always great. I know exactly what I want: Their Spa burger - half-pound of Angus beef, cheddar, bacon, and mushrooms. Michelle, my favorite waitress of all time and occasional water volleyball buddy, announces the choice of sides - fries, onion rings, cottage cheese ...

Suddenly I'm cracking up. Michelle and my dinner mates are looking at me quizzically.

"I'm on a heart-healthy diet," I announce. "I better have the cottage cheese."

It is a time to laugh.

Today, Sunday morning: I am writing this blog piece, contemplating the sharp contradictions of the day before, the sharp contradictions in life. Is there a reason? Who knows. Is there a connection? Yes definitely.

In the words of The Teacher:

The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.

A time to heal ...

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