If you are like us, the season between the overstuffed summer and the barren winter is one reminding us of our own mortality. The dying landscape turns the color of flame, and the chilly foreshadowing of winter embraces us like a cold spectre. Decorations of cartoonish witches and ghosts adorn houses and businesses. People are preparing to remember their deceased and to give thanks for the bounteous harvest of the year. All before we withstand the stark and grim emptiness of the upcoming season.
This is probably Sick Pilgrims’ favorite time of year.
As we bid bonsoir to summer, we reflect on small joys that have comforted us this month.
Meeting Heather King is definitely something keeping me alive this month. The author of many great books such as Shirt of Flame and Stumble (my personal favorite) was witty, wry, and (best of all) a shade eccentric. So affirming to meet a fellow sick pilgrim. I hope that she enjoyed Cajun Country and didn’t get bitten too badly by a mosquito or an alligator.
I hope Sick Pilgrim crosses her path again. (Wink, wink) (Come back October 3 for more on this!)
Swamp Pop soda. I’ve only recently discovered its awesomeness. Six great flavors locally crafted in Louisiana with real cane sugar–these things are bottles of pure joy. Their Noble Cane Soda flavor is the only cola I’ve found as great as the one in the red can, enjoyed by seals, polar bears, and Santa Claus. Also, Swamp Pop is great for mixed drinks.
Jonathan Ryan is a founder of Sick Pilgrim. He is busy gorging on nuts and berries so he can hibernate this winter.
On Trails by Robert Moor: I’m a huge fan of travel books. They’re difficult to write because the temptation to devolve into pseudo-spiritual philosophy is often too much to resist. But Trails nails it on all levels. It’s part travel narrative, part information (history of trails) and part reflection on what it all could mean. Basically, he describes trails as a way to point to the Mystery. So, why aren’t you buying this book right now?
St. Paul and the Broken Bones: So, imagine me, 30,000 feet in the air, descending into Salt Lake City. We still have 45 minutes to the airport and I wanted to rest my brain. I flipped on the free TV offered by Southwest to catch Late Night with Colbert. His musical guests? St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Think old school crooning mixed with jazz, seventies funk, blues and southern gothic thrown into the mix. Themes of sin, redemption, sex, illicit love, repentance and recovering from the morning after. https://youtu.be/q5gaMzGpIPk
Maren Grossman is a sister Sick Pilgrim and a philosophy M.A. who homeschools her children in central Pennsylvania.
In a strange Catholic taking-up-your-cross-daily way, the stress of a homeschooling parent preparing her children’s school-yearis keeping me alive right now. But this September is different from previous ones. This year, my ADHD, dyslexic daughter just can’t. She’s too old for the boring picture books. She’s bursting with ideas and creativity, but she can’t quite deal with that: she can’t write down what’s in her head, and reading is torture. We’ve done scads of interventions. And while adjustments have been made with the other kids and things are humming along nicely, so far no adjustments have helped her. It’s exhausting both for me and for her, coupled with feelings of isolation. In my community, so many homeschooling families have kids doing advanced work. Sixth graders are doing eighth grade work, fifth graders are doing high school math. Friends are winning poetry contests. There are relatively few people who I feel comfortable talking to about these struggles, and even fewer who have anything particularly helpful to say. I read homeschooling blogs and I listen to homeschooling podcasts. I try to fill myself with homeschooling pep talks. Right now, all the pep talks sound hollow and all the blogs feel useless. I find myself asking Christ what I can do to help my daughter become a reader, and I hear Mother Theresa’s voice come echoing back: “Go home, and love your family.”
Seeking an escape from my homeschooling worries, I searched for something different – something having nothing whatsoever to do with kids or learning disabilities or homeschooling. I found a podcast that seemed to fit the bill. “The Counter Position” on Breadbox Media had episode titles like “United Colors of Benetton vs FUBU as a Model for Race Relations” and “Voodoo, Karma, and Communism in the Coffeehouse.” Episode 222 is keeping me alive this September. Host Andrew Whaley talks about his attempts to find an apostolate, and the frustrations and failures involved, about the problem of becoming wedded to the process of trying repeatedly to do something even – perhaps particularly – when it is failing. He compares himself to the cripple beside the healing pool at Bethsaida, who could only complain about how his attempts to enter the pool were being thwarted – even when he had Christ right before him and ready to heal him. I think of his frustration at not being able to get to the water, and I think of Christ asking him what he wants. I ask myself who I am in this picture – am I the cripple, the Angel, Christ?
John Robinson is a tattooed Krav Maga teacher, Red Sox fan, heavy metal connoisseur. So you know–a typical Sick Pilgrim.
The Eucharist. I’ve been haunted by my ghosts for some time now. My ghosts aren’t like skeletons. I can’t just shove them back in the closet, behind the shirts that have become too tight and old paperwork that I need to keep for some reason. Not something I can leave at home and forget about. My ghosts go with me everywhere. The ghosts of my sinful life follow me and remind me that I’ll never be enough, never be worthy. I try to stuff them down and hope they will leave me alone, but they don’t. My ghosts led me far, far away from the Lord, and even further from any sort of righteousness and peace in my life. My ghosts exposed me. And then they left me bruised and bloodied, hopeless, and longing for death. I was naked and ashamed. And for some time, I laid there, feeling bad for myself. Hoping for someone to pity me. I wasn’t going to get pity from the Lord but rather an invitation. An invitation to reconciliation. To the Table of the Lord. To the Eucharist. I’ve been away from the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for over a year now. A year too long. A year with no life in me. Thank you, Jesus for your Body and Precious Blood.
Talk about setting the bar high, John. (Swamp Pop is still good though.)
Help keep us alive. We love hearing from you. Please send me one or two things with 3-5 sentences on each, telling me what’s keeping you alive, and any pictures or links. Email Matt at MFLafleur@gmail.com. Next month, we’ll be looking for the creepy, haunting, scary things in your life that give you small joy.