Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sabbatical Musings #2 - I "miss" you

     What a fascinating framing of an inexplicable emotion:  “I miss you.”  Whom do I miss when I travel?  Depends on who’s not there.  Pretty much I miss my wife, and my children.  Once in a while I miss somebody else.  Out of three possible ways to drive to Kilcreggan, we chose the route through Inveraray. 
     I couldn’t recall why this place was fresh in my mind – until we elected to stop and visit the 18th century castle.  I saw a peculiar number of people snapping photos literally through the wired fence – and then I nabbed the little brochure which featured the cast of Downton Abbey, the PBS television series, on the cover.  Inveraray!  That’s where the Granthams went to visit their “highland relatives.”  We posed for photos, and luckily met Joan, the manager of the castle, who was on her way home from work when I asked her where the front of the castle was in the TV series.  She explained it all – and I asked what she thought of the cast and crew.  She reported they were lovely, gracious, great fun. 

     Whom did I miss?  Oddly, I found myself missing the little conclave of people I know love watching Downton Abbey, and especially one of our staff people at work:  Claire.  Not only does she dig the show, but when I see her in the hallway at work, I realized that when I say “Hi, Claire,” it sounds precisely like “Highclere,” the name of the castle where the show usually is filmed.  So when I found myself at Inveraray, I snapped a photo and couldn’t wait to download it, email it to Claire, and see if she recognized the place without me tipping her off.

     Missing works this way.  We associate someone with some place, or some song, or something.  In
Edinburgh we waltzed into “The Scotch experience,” and I spied an absurdly rare bottle of scotch priced at 10,000 pounds.  I pulled out my camera, photographed the bottle (and the pricetag), and emailed it to my pal Stewart, who introduced me to fine scotch.  I missed him just then, and wished he’d been there.

     Did I miss my wife when I saw the bottle of Scotch?  No.  But I missed her terribly during most of the junket when she wasn’t there.  Walking to the north end of Iona, where there were no other human beings, just a handful of sheep and gulls, I wished she were there, knew she would treasure the moment, and knew my telling would both thrill her and stir some envy – as it should.  I try to type messages to her later, or show her the photo gallery once I’m home – but this leaves me hollow, as it’s just not as precious as it would be had she been by my side.

     I miss my children during such days.  When they were little, we all travelled together.  But now we do not.  But I think of each one, and not all together I find.  When we worshipped at the abbey in Iona, I heard the lead singer, who was all right, but not as good as my Sarah would have been, and I wished she were with me – or even leading the singing. 
     When we hiked the daunting climb to the top of Dun I, the highest point on Iona, I wanted to phone my son Noah right then; and later I did shoot him a message reporting that we had an “arduous” hike – and knew he would laugh out loud over the word “arduous,” which I used repeatedly the previous summer when we hiked in Switzerland.  Indeed, he responded with a “hahahahaha.”  I really missed him right then.

     And any time I take a photograph, I wish Grace were there.  She became my official family and personal photographer during her high school years.  What an eye, what an ability to capture just the right moment, angle, framing.  Every photo I ever take, I wish she were there taking it instead of me.  I miss her every time I lift a camera to my eye.

     What does it mean to “miss” someone?  You are somewhere, in some situation, and the living, vital presence of someone – who may even have died twenty years ago! – lingers, because the moment reminds you of that loved one, because you know he would dig this moment, because you know she of all people would grasp the grandeur of the moment.  And that bond enlivens you, and yet grieves you at the same time.  Could God rework the universe so those I love might be hovering about on standby, reading to stand with me here, or there, or at a castle on Inveraray, or in a stone church on Iona, and relish the moment with me? 

     Years ago I found myself in Paris, alone.  I saw the grand buildings, the beautiful landscape, the stunning stained glass and architectural wonders – and was miserable.  Every scene was one I wanted to share with Lisa, or a friend whom I know is keen on architecture, or Chopin, or pate.  God declared this at creation:  “It is not good for man to be alone.”  I know it is not good for me to be alone, or at least I am dead certain I do not wish to experience this world alone.