I have just returned from sabbatical and nearly four months away from work. I am deeply grateful for the Lilly Grant that allowed us to do this and for all the hard work that made this possible.
This Sunday, I will return and look forward to seeing many of you again.
My time away was much needed– it was an opportunity to get a wider perspective and spend some time writing, thinking, and travelling. I feel like there is pressure coming back to name some great revelation or great learning, but what I really learned is how to pace myself and live in the moment. Here are some things that marked my time away:
The effects of Covid: Covid has loomed large over my life during this time. Not just in all the changes to global travel and all the new restrictions for health and safety, but also personally. Both my parents and my aunt contracted covid during the last outbreak and they are dealing with significant health issues in the aftermath. My dad was hospitalized for nearly a week. Get vaccinated if you can, folks! While traveling, it was clear that covid had changed how people interacted all over the world and so many people were affected directly by illness and loss.
Perspective: The last decade and a half have shown the serious fault lines in capitalism for average, working class people. And nothing will highlight how difficult life has become in the United States quite like leaving it.
In Iceland, the 2008 crash damaged their economy deeply, but the silver lining was the serious social safety net they had in place. There was very little visible homelessness, children were well cared for, and it was probably the safest place I have ever visited. It is a small country, but even so, they seem to be deeply committed to some basic level of care for their people.
In Ireland, hit hard by economic downturn, the poverty levels in Dublin were shocking– homelessness, children on the street, addiction, all of it on the rise. Even so, Ireland still has a better social safety net than the U.S. and health care is much more accessible. Ireland is deeply marked by a history of colonization, by the Great Famine and emigration, but it also has a strong history of an organized working class. While we were there, there were huge protests for better housing and a great deal of activism to uncover the abuses of mother and baby homes. Ireland seems ready for some big changes.
Searching for spiritual roots: We were able to visit some incredible places important to Christian and pre-Christian faith. It was clear, everywhere, the harm the church had done in terms of colonization and oppression around the world. But we also found the places where churches met the needs of pilgrims and the people around them. Similarly, we also found traces of pre Christian faith in ancient burial mounds and temples, as even Europe traces back to traditions and ceremony that were once indigenous to that land.
Finding beauty: We were able to see some incredibly beautiful landscapes and art and music and eat some amazing food. Even with all the stress of sick parents and new travel restrictions, we were blessed with so much beauty and we were so grateful to be alive.
Dedication to place: It was amazing to delve into the history and traditions of another place, and places to which I have some ancestral connection, long ago. It reminded me of the beauty and ancient history of the place I live now. It made me think of the grave injustices perpetrated on this land and its indigenous people. And increased my commitment to support indigenous sovereignty and work to be in right relationship to this place and its original stewards.
I ended my sabbatical this week with a visit to Squaxin Island Museum, deepening my understanding of the true history of this place I live.
As I come back, I hope I come back with fresh perspective, a renewed sense of purpose, and more to give the world.