“I speak French,” she says, enunciating each word as a sentence, “can you speak slower so I can understand you?”
My cheeks turn from pink whisper to siren in about two seconds. I apologize, exhale and slowly explain to the lady behind the glass why I need a Paris train ticket. Several yards away, my family waits for me, leaning against suitcases; awkwardly standing behind a transparent barrier as crowds of commuters pass.
Their tickets worked; mine was rejected.
Once bags are loaded onto the train and we settle into seats around a table, I mentally scroll through the events of the past two days in tandem with rooftops and trees blurring past the window.
Our short time in Paris is surreal, as if my body is frozen in time yet life moves all around me. Standing underneath the Eiffel Tower lit up in the dark, winding our way past the iconic street lamps, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, the Champs Elysée; places I’ve only seen in post cards or read about in books.
We can’t speak a word of French. Well maybe two words: Merci and Bonjour. The lady behind the glass cracked a smile when I spoke them.
Two hours later, a male with a British accent announces we’ve made it to London. Signs are written in English. I no longer have to use Google translator to talk to strangers or decipher menus. As soon as the doors slide open, we commute to the next platform intuitively.
While seated on the tube with suitcases parked in front of kneecaps, a familiar face from our new church appears in the underground. From a seat opposite, an over-sized rucksack beside him, he tells us he is on his way home from a conference.
Three stops later, our brief conversation pulls me back into church culture, shared relationships, and our neighborhood in London.
“I can’t believe I saw you guys,” he says smiling while minding the gap.
As a writer, Mondays are the hardest day I commute each week. And the days following vacation: even harder.
The longer I stay away from the page, the longer the commute to get back.
In Still Writing, Dani Shapiro explains it this way, “We are commuting inward. And on Monday mornings – or after a long holiday, a summer vacation, any time we have been away from the page – we have to be even more vigilant about the commute. We are traveling to that place inside ourselves – so small as to be invisible – where we are free to roam and play.”
As we change focus from the folly of summer to the routines of autumn, a margin of predictable activities cushion the journey. Boarding buses, waiting in carpool lines, pushing our way through crowded tube stations; all these routines help us make the transition from one part of life to the next.
But the longer we travel away from predictable rhythms, the more entangled we become in the minutiae. For me, all the little details become a mountain of distraction away from my inner life. I struggle to know what I need or how the activities I’ve just experienced affect me.
Commuting inward requires intentionality, perseverance and focus.
Really, this is what we are all learning every week in the Sabbath Society. The more enmeshed with the details of work, the less margin for making rest a reality. Preparation makes the commute to Sabbath much shorter and in essence, a rhythm of life.
On Monday, I get back to the page by pushing off housework and answering emails. I postpone making appointments and returning phone calls. I sit at my desk with a steeping cup of tea, engage in conversation with Jesus before my people stir from sleep.
Those of us who write know this little inward commute is like fairy dust for inspiration.
On Sabbath, work is left undone in exchange for a day of rest. Beautiful vistas of truth come to the forefront and I remember why I work in the first place.
Sabbath is a weekly inward commute from a loud world to a still small voice; a rhythm of familiar conversation in a language that speaks deeply of belonging. It is a reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around me.
Commuting inward is a journey I long to take every week, not just on vacation or Monday. Would like to join me?
How do you commute from summer to autumn? From work to rest? From chaos to focus?
Linking with my dear friend Jennifer for #TellHisStory. If you haven’t visited her writing yet, you’re in for a treat.
I absolutely loved this, Shelly. The reality of getting back to the page is so true, and your words at the end about Sabbath were true and lovely. Thanks for sharing today.
Thanks for cheering me on Natalie, I notice and it matters.
Shelly, I was so intrigued by the comment you left on my blog…unwanted to stop by and find out more about your move to London! I love the photos and your personal writing style…many blessings to you ❤️
Thanks so much for stopping by Beth, it was lovely to visit your blog. Glad to find you through Jennifer’s link up!!
Hello Shelly! It’s been a long time since I’ve left a comment, but I’ve still been reading all the way along. It’s been one of those summers. I know I’m not a writer, but I certainly related to the transition from Summer to Autumn. My husband and I still have one more Summer experience to look forward to. We are heading to Prince Edward Island to visit our daughter and son-in-law. It will be my first time to fly, and I’m so excited! I picture the open sea, sitting on green cliffs, tall grasses bending with the wind, Bible & journal in hand, engaging meaningfully with my God. That’s what I picture, but I’m pretty sure a week with my A-Type daughter will not be nearly as quiet and meaningful and spiritually “steeped”–like a good pot of British tea–as I desire it to be. I will probably have no time like that to myself. I desperately NEED it, but it’s not likely to happen. I may have to settle for her back deck overlooking the Northumberland Strait. 🙂
I’m also praying for my dear husband, overworked, overstressed, over-weary. He will have a very difficult time relaxing into his holidays. Making that transition from the here-and-now to the laid-back lifestyle of the Easterners of this country of Canada. I’m hoping he falls in love with the land and the people. I’d love for us to retire there. Coming back to Ontario may open his eyes to the crazy pace of his life here. It seems that life in general is one transition after another. But I like to look at Autumn–which has begun here already with the changing of leaves–as a time of new beginnings and renewed hope. A fresh slate.
I must say also, Shelly, that I have been following your adventure in a new land with great interest. I still love reading your poetic words & viewing your wonderful photos. Can you tell me what the padlocks on the fence is all about, as I am most curious. I have missed you, Shelly.
I was so excited to see you here in the comments Jillie. I was thinking about you the other day and nearly sent you an email to see how you are doing. Flying for the first time? I’m so thrilled you get to have that experience, sounds lovely. Thanks for being here and letting me know you’ve been reading. That means so much. The padlocks are on the famous Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. They are also called love locks to symbolize the love between sweethearts. So popular that the bridge began to collapse under the weight so they had to take part of the bridge down and replace them. It was a sight to behold. I’ve missed you too!!
Thank you for sharing Dani Shapiro’s thoughts on the commute inward to that small secret place, where we roam among ideas and play with words and concepts. i can visualize you with your cup of tea, conversing with Jesus as he brought you back to the page! I find that reading a Christian book guides me back from chaos to focus. An idea off the page often sends me down pathways of related thought but with twists and turns of the Spirit’s making, leading me in a new direction. A number of my posts have come from pushing my thinking about my reading. (P.S. Love the curly hair, Shelly! Very becoming! 🙂 )
I’ve really enjoyed Dani’s book. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly. It’s an inspiring read for writers. And yes, I often commute through reading as well and find inspiration in books. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you though! Thank you for the compliment on my hair, I appreciate that!
” … and I remember why I work in the first place.” We are glad you do. We are glad you make room for work that produces these kinds of words. Love you. Sharing this one as our Featured #TellHisStory of the week. xo
Oh my goodness! I’m so honored, thank you Jennifer! Love you too.
Love this one. A lot. LATE in reading, but still . . . need a bit more inner commuting, I think. Gettin’ there as we settle in.