Were the horses troubled by it? I asked Pam. She and Bill keep 200 horses on their Kentucky farm, and I had called to see if the tornado had affected them. It didn't flatten their part of Kentucky but still, it was a bad storm no matter where you where.
Well, they all gather together, she said, and they face each other, with their backsides facing out. They get through it that way.
That sounds like as good a way as any to weather a storm: gather together within nuzzling distance of your sisters and brothers, and keep your backside to the wind. You're too small by yourself, but we're bigger if we all stick together.
Some of us go looking for company when the winds begin to blow. And some of us turn profoundly inward, not wanting anyone else around. This is a matter both of one's personality and of the moment. The same person can need different things at different times.
The hospital was fine in every way, another friend said, except that my roommate was the matriarch of an enormous family, and they were all there all the time! It was lovely to see, but it felt so good to get home to the quiet.
Most of my longing is for solitude. But that's because I see a lot of people for conversation at some depth, and need to regroup from it. I notice this need has become stronger as I've grown older. But we're not all the same. You know, a colleague told me, I was surprised at the reaction of two of my older parishioners to a silent retreat. We always assume that silence is important in a retreat, but one of them said, "I live alone. The last thing I need is more silence. I need to talk about things that matter." So from now on, I'm providing an option for those who wish to talk.
Ah. Be alert to the signs: if the person you're visiting in the hospital seems tired, just ask her if she needs some time alone. Stop and think about the usual lifestyle of the person to whom you wish to relate, and then ask him if quiet or talk would be better right now. A silent, compassionate visitor can be an angel from heaven. So can one who offers a quiet talk. Neither approach is always best.
What do the horses say to each other, when they gather together as a storm builds? Do they talk about the shocking weather? Or do they just inhale the warm smell of one another, touch their velvety noses together lightly, whinny softly as the wind picks up?
This Friday-Sunday, Feb 8-10: Barbara Crafton at St. John's Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, VA. Information and registration at http://www.stjohnslynchburg.org/
Next week: Mon-Fri. Feb 11-15: Barbara Crafton is Lenten preacher at St. Paul's in Richmond, VA at 12.30 every day. To learn more about St. Paul's, visit http://www.stpauls-episcopal.org/
Saturday, Feb 16th: Barbara Crafton at the Community of St. John Baptist for a quiet day on forgiveness. http://www.csjb.org/RetCalendar.html