Before you start shouting “spelling”, let me explain. The word “oases” is the plural for the word “oasis”. And just what is an oasis you might ask. Well, the New Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines oasis as “a fertile or green area in an arid region”.
I’m sure you can all conjure up an illustration from some book you have read or a movie you have seen at some time in your past. A vast stretch of yellow desert seeming never to end, unfolding under the scorching midday sun. A straggling line of over-burdened camels plodding through the heat, ridden by dark-skinned men in their long robes and traditional keffiyeh (headdresses). I feel thirsty just thinking about it.
Then, suddenly, there is a splash of vivid green. A half a dozen palm trees and a small patch of luxurious green surrounding a natural waterhole appear on the horizon. There is refreshment, rest, and restoration; a small sanctuary in that land of never-ending parched sand.
The first thirty five years of my life were very arid in many places for long stretches of time, especially the period from age twenty to thirty five. However, as I look back over the years from today’s vantage point, I can see that there were many oases along the way that literally saved my life and refreshed and restored my soul, even though I did not recognize them for what they were at the time.
I am sure if you look back over your life you will be able to recognize similar oases that helped you through the tough times of your journey. Sometimes these oases present themselves as people, special angels that cross your path and help to lighten the load of the burdens you are carrying at that time. People who listen to you, offer you their broad shoulders to cry on, and encourage you to become the person God intended you to be.
In other moments these oases may be in the form of a special place. Somewhere that is full of peace which offers you comfort and solace. A place that allows you to retreat from the world and all its distractions and difficulties. A sanctuary that offers you the opportunity to regroup, to relax, to find solutions. A moment in time to come home to yourself, to grieve, to cry, and then to find the strength to carry on.
I am grateful for the oases that God placed on my path. Those places of peace and restfulness, those people who supported and restored me and offered me a haven of of safety in the midst of trouble, danger, or difficulty. In some measure they have all lead me to the place of joy that is my life today.
So I have been in a Muse-less slump again. Inspiration has not been my companion, days have passed and my fingers have not felt the urge to run eagerly across the keyboard of my computer. There has been no “de-pression” and I have not sighed deeply, mournfully, every time I walked past lap-top.
I no longer struggle with feeling inadequate or as if I “should” be writing, no matter what. I am totally comfortable with the fact that there are periods when inspiration pours down on me and through me like the waters in a continuously gushing fountain. And there are other times when I seem to be walking through an arid desert. But at least I know that the oasis is just a little way across the dunes and I have learned to be patient until it comes into sight. I refuse to accept mirages as excuses just to get on the computer.
At the moment I am on vacation with my husband in Orlando, Florida. It’s become a yearly tradition for us now during the Thanksgiving week. We have a small time-share and we come away from our “normal” routine and just relax together. But that in and of itself always brings some small rearranging within myself. It’s that “change” thing again.
I have to adjust to not having “my stuff” around me, although, not hindered by luggage restriction (we drive here), we do our best to bring whatever we want to have with us. This includes lap-tops, games (in my husband’s case), books (that’s me), and I lug everything I need to do my yearly Christmas mail drop.
I have hundreds of cards, stamps, address labels, silver and gold gel pens, purple pens, etc and while Rich plays games or does his geekie stuff on his Net-book, I attack my list of approximately two hundred friends around the world. Being in the military you either choose not to make friends because you’re constantly moving, or you make lots of friends and stay in touch. I fall into this second category.
So for part of each day I have been writing inside cards, addressing envelopes, attaching stamps and applying Christmas stickers. The weather has not been wonderful so I have only been to the pool twice in four days. But because I have to be outside, my Christmas card project takes place on the balcony overlooking the pool.
When I’m not card writing, I bring my current book out and read with the noise of the pool’s waterfall in the background. The resort is full at the moment and is hosting quite a few families so I am grateful that the overall peacefulness is not broken by shouts and screams and general noise created by many people gathered within a restricted area. I am mostly just grateful to God that we are able to do something like this given today’s economic climate.
Today must have been “breakthrough” day, although I think it started yesterday evening but we had plans to go out. When I got up this morning, I knew I was going to write: wasn’t sure quite what about, but that is often the case. The subject matter was not fully formed in my mind but there was a bubbling sensation in my heart and soul and I knew I needed to sit at my lap-top.
I think that God must have arranged the weather to accommodate this plan too. We had actually thought of going to the Holy Land exhibit today but, upon seeing the steady rain and the general all-over grayness of the day, we changed our minds and chose to “stay home”. I have to admit there was an internal, silent sigh of gratitude and my eyes went straight to my lap-top.
So here I am, words running from my brain, through my fingers, over the keyboard, and onto the screen. It just never ceases to amaze me watching and reading the end result of this process. I hope you, the reader, can share and appreciate the joy that my writing brings to me. Already there are thoughts running around in my head about the great murder mystery dinner theater we enjoyed on Monday evening. Then last night we got to experience the incredible Blue Man Group and I have so much to say about that.
We have been to see the awesome actress Sandra Bullock putting in the performance of a lifetime in Blind Side, and we also visited the quaintly interesting and somewhat Europeanized town of Winter Park. Even our weekly attendance at Mass on Sunday was in the very beautiful and unique “shrine church” of Mary, Queen of the Universe. But these will all be inspiration for other postings. The Muse has been most generous in her gifts again!
I met Georgina at night school. It was one of those courses being offered to people who had been away from school and study for some time and were considering going back to college. She was a few years younger than me and not sure of her path in life. I’d been “lost” for so many years I’m not sure I’d have recognized my path if I saw it! But I was trying; I mean I was at night school, no?
I’m not exactly sure how we came to be friends. There were about twenty five of us in class and we were often paired up or asked to do a project in small groups, so perhaps that was how we first came together. I do remember however that she was pretty focused in her studies and so was I. Maybe that was the first attraction.
One evening in Social Studies the topic of religion came up and I found out that Georgina was Jewish – orthodox. She shared with the class how important her faith was to her and described some of the basic beliefs of the Jewish faith. In talking she mentioned the Sabbath and how she observed it each week, and I was intrigued.
A few weeks later I was having a very stressful time. One of my teenage sons was acting up and causing difficulties at home. I was a divorced single mother and life was never too easy at the best of times. My boss, who was Jewish, noticed that I wasn’t my usual “Miss Sunshine” (my nickname at work), and jokingly said, “what you need is a Sabbath”. A bell went off in my head and I called Georgina immediately.
I arranged for the boys to go straight from school on Friday to my mother’s. With my weekender packed I left work early as I had to be at Georgina’s before sunset. My boss had happily given me a couple of hours off and sent me on my way with a Jewish blessing.
Georgina greeted me and quickly explained the “mechanics” of the weekend. All the lights were on timers. Food for the next twenty four hours was already prepared and kept warm on low settings on the stove. No work of any description was to be undertaken until sunset the next day. The telephone would not be answered, neither radio nor television would be turned on, no money would be handled. This was a time dedicated to the Lord through total relaxation and worship.
I asked about the worship. Georgina led me immediately into the “opening ceremonies”, breaking the sweet bread and sharing it with me along with the sweet wine. (She knew I did not drink alcohol and so she had provided me with special sweet, non alcoholic grape juice.) There were ritual prayers said and Sabbath was officially begun. She said that we would attend synagogue in the morning.
The next day, after breakfast, we walked to synagogue. We could not take the bus because of the “no money” rule, but it was a pleasant day and she lived in a a really lovely neighborhood, so it was very enjoyable. Once arrived, we entered and I couldn’t help but notice that the men went in one door and the women another. I followed Georgina along with the other women.
Nothing could have prepared me for the violent internal reaction that I had when we entered the inner part of the synagogue. It didn’t take me long to realize that the women were on a slightly upper level from the men and that we were barricaded, separated off from them by wrought iron bars.
As the service began it became quickly obvious that the men did everything and the women were completely excluded from any active participation. I was furious. How dare they do this! Who did they think they were? I could feel steam coming out of my ears. And how could my “feminist” friend Georgina put up with this?
In a brief moment of sanity it occurred to me that I had come here to worship God. I took some slow deep breathes and snuck a look at Georgina. She was peaceful and calm, immersed in the ritual, saying the prayers. Then I had the grace to surrender as I realized that this was not MY religion, not My belief system. I was just along for the ride and the experience and I could still pray to the God of my understanding in the same way as I did when I went to my church.
After the service there was fellowship. Everyone was welcoming and kind. The Rabbi was warm and shared his pleasure that I, a Roman Catholic, had wanted to share in my friend’s faith form. He said that was surely a sign of a good friendship. I had the grace to blush internally as I remembered my earlier “moment of madness”.
Georgina and I left after a while and went for a stroll in the park. I couldn’t remember the last time I had walked in a park – perhaps when my boys were still very small. Arriving home we had lunch which was all prepared and the dishes were left on the side until after sunset. The afternoon was so calm and tranquil. We chatted, we read, we relaxed and were content. I was full of an inner peace as never before.
When sunset came around, we closed Sabbath with another set of prayers. Then I helped Georgina clear up and reluctantly packed my over nighter ready to go home. The Sabbath had been a veritable oasis for me, a place, a time, for refreshment and restoration. I spent a few more wonderful Sabbaths with Georgina before leaving the UK. To this day I use the expression “I need a Sabbath” when I recognize the need to pull back from the world and restore and refresh my spirit.