It’s Thanksgiving Eve, and after a week of whirlwind travel, I’m thankful to be exactly where I am tonight – in a quiet house in a sleepy suburb.
On Friday I flew to San Francisco for three days of non-vacation. I stayed with a good friend, and we ended up in a third-story hotel room above Powell Street, where a cable car clattered back and forth until some ungodly hour and where people-in-less-need-of-sleep-than-we-were drummed and sang long into the night. The lights were bright, the noise was perpetual, and decent sleep was impossible.
We were attending the annual convention of biblical scholars (SBL, the Society of Biblical Literature), a nice place to catch up with old friends, take advantage of outstanding deals on books, collide with people whose publications you’ve read, and taste the flavors of a new city. But SBL is busy and bustling. It is an event overrun by book-buying, discourse-driven academics with connections to make, networks to develop, and careers to advance. Thus, there is plenty of schmoozing and plenty of self-marketing – an environment that was not, as one of my colleagues observed, designed by introverts.
Some of my colleagues thrive in the SBL environment, but I’m hard pressed to have a clear and coherent thought in such surroundings. I can almost feel the life being sucked out of me as the days pass. Solitude! Silence! Space! Sleep! Whether this is just a personality quirk, the result of years of single living, or some combination of both I cannot say. All I know is that for me the best part of such trips is coming home.
When I finally did arrive home late Monday night, I did a quick turnaround to drive out of town the next morning so I could spend Thanksgiving week with my parents in Wisconsin. The five-hour drive may have afforded me lots of solitude, silence, and space – but since sleep was still sorely needed and since stress always accompanies driving through Chicago, any healing benefits I might have enjoyed had to wait.
The contrasts between my destinations couldn’t be more drastic. Except for the twinkles of some neighbors’ Christmas decorations, the nights here are black, and I can hear myself breathe no matter where I go. Sleep is sound and long. Sanity is restored.
There’s nothing profoundly instructive in this blog entry, and there’s nothing particularly “spiritual” either. Some weeks are like that. Tonight I’m just thankful for good friends who weather SBL attendance with me, for the quiet life I enjoy nearly every other week of the year, and for the God who’s gifted me with both – and so much more.