I was born with a “let’s go” gene. I would sit in a chair at my grandparents’ house with a view of the driveway. If I heard my mom’s car or my dad’s pickup start, I was out the door like a shot. I asked the destination only once we were en route. True, the worst place was the electrical store where my dad would buy stuff for his ham radio set up (his call sign was K6JYP – anyone out there remember?) There was nothing there that interested me so I would root through the truck and always found treasures in the back of the seat, loose change included. I mean, what did my dad do? Throw change over his shoulder? He also had a penchant for cherry danish. If I was lucky, they were only a day old upon discovery.
Then I entered the convent, a never-ending journey, smooth, bumpy, stormy and beautiful, that far surpassed family adventures, school field trips, and Girl Scout camping jaunts.
Since then I have taken countless boat rides on the Staten Island ferry, train trips up and down the Bos-Wash corridor, fights long and short and made so many road trips I cannot remember them all (and one four-day film retreat cruise). I do know I have visited all U.S. states, except Iowa and North Dakota – and Guam. In addition, I have had the opportunity and privilege to have visited 17 countries. Except for visits to my family and a pilgrimage to Rome and Lourdes, these were all ministry related. “Join the Daughters of St. Paul and see the world” is my motto. I also figured out that I had driven almost the entire east coast on I-95 from the Canadian border to Jacksonville, Fl. And using trains, buses, cars and a U-Haul, I had actually crossed the country over the years – in segments.
But today I am taking a relatively brief flight from Los Angeles to San Antonio via Dallas to co-teach a weeklong course on media literacy to Catholic school teachers. A man passed me on his way to take his seat and noted how nice it was to see a nun in a habit. I smiled at him as I could feel the perspiration staining my veil in the sweltering time before the A/C was turned up. “So few nuns do these days.” “It means I have to behave myself,” I replied with a smile. I never know what to say a when people say this about nuns and habits. (The story of an older woman approaching two of our nuns in a church a couple of years ago always gets a big laugh among us; in a stage whisper she said from the pew behind, “It’s so nice to see sisters with their clothes on”.)
My community in the USA wears the veil, so I do as well most of the time. Because I have MS I am extra sensitive to the heat, something that can exacerbate symptoms, so my use of the veil depends on the temperature.
This is an early flight; I had to get up at 4:00 A.M., as did the sister who drove me to the airport. I offered to take a cab, but she disapproves of paying for a cab on principle. I think many folks on this full flight probably got up even earlier. The man next to me is already snoring peacefully. Please God, no louder.
Do you read those in-flight magazines? I don’t always, but in these days of Kindle, there is time between take-off and the announcement that it is OK to turn on electrical devices, to browse the catalog selling everything you will never need, to reading what I have always considered the act of a desperate traveler: the magazine.
As we taxied down the runway, I closed my eyes to say my pre-flight prayers. I make the Sign of the Cross at lift-off, and morning prayers, too. If it is a long flight I pray the Rosary. Today I picked up the July 15 “AmericanWay” magazine and much to my surprise, found some interesting articles. One sidebar got my attention: “New Rules for Social Networking”. It listed four points: 1) Nix the close-ups; 2) Mind your manners; 3) Fear commitment (do you really want this person as your friend?) and 4) Think twice (before sending).
The article that stood out for me was, “Activating the Brain” on brain stimuli research for MS patients. Experimental research seems to regenerate brain function for patients with multiple sclerosis, something no one thought possible. The brain is such a marvel to me (though director Tom Shayac’s existential new documentary “I AM” seeks to prove that the heart is more essential.)
I look up; “Diary of a Whimpy Kid” is playing on the monitor but I have already seen it.
There’s an article about sailing in my hometown, San Diego. I skimmed that one; I love the ocean but not sailing.
There seem to be thousands of dense advertisements and annoying postcards. Flip, flip.
Then another sidebar caught my eye – about the contemporary Irish novelist, Tana French. I read her first two books earlier this year. Murder mysteries, the people who solve them and the families and communities affected. Boldly crafted writing and wholly engaging (so, yes, I agreed with the reviewer.)
Neither the Sudoku or crossword puzzles were yet filled out. I am not that good at either, but it makes the time sitting on the runway, waiting for a gate upon landing, pass more quickly.
There are some military personnel on the flights, but other than this, no hint of current events, unpleasantness, or actual problems. Flying can be a respite, though getting through security is a continual reminder that all is not well in the world.
And now a guy sleeping in the seat behind me is roaring but no children are fussing or crying. The flight attendants are helpful and pleasant. I say “thank you” to all the crew, intentionally and sincerely every time they pass by to pick up the trash or offer to sell me expensive snacks. My favorite airline is Southwest, but I am trying to improve the others by affirming the crew and staff whenever I can. It’s a small contribution to the wellbeing of the universe (but it’s been a long journey to develop travel spirituality, and I am not saying I am always as generous as I am today.)
I was born with a “let’s go” gene and I am grateful.