Retreat

I have often wanted to share with you images of my friends but I so rarely pull out my camera. Tuesday, with Caitlin, I made an exception and photographed her as she tasted her stew. I also snapped a few shots of her home because my time with her and her husband, John, offered me an unexpected retreat.

Anticipation for me almost always results in anti-climax. Maybe that’s true for everyone. It is certainly what happened this weekend. Celebrating my birthday in Grand Rapids was…okay. So on the way home Monday, I dropped by my friend Joie’s in Lansing to “help her clean” (or sit on her bed and talk while she cleaned) and go paint shopping with she and Caitlin. What was supposed to be just an evening together turned into a day and a half.

Before we even left for Home Depot, Joie and Caitlin decided that I should stay the night in Lansing. Since Joie’s apartment was cramped with boxes (she was preparing to move on the 4th), Caitlin’s home was the best choice.

She and John live in an old firehouse that’s been converted into apartments. All the people living there are from their church and it has become a sort of intentional community (the garden you can glimpse in the backyard is theirs). Their apartment, which they share with only one other guy, is spacious and charming. There is something welcoming and earthy about the space. It’s full of light. Thankfully there are many windows because they have no air conditioning to cool their home through these hot and humid days.

While I’ve always appreciated that each of my homes has had air conditioning (with the exception of one apartment in New York City), sometimes I enjoy being without it. Maybe it is because, especially in an old home like theirs, it reminds me of visiting my friend Jessica Bookout in Louisville, KY. After we’d moved away from each other at the end of middle school, I used to spend a week each summer with her and her family in their new home. I treasured those weeks.

Just like the Bookout’s, Caitlin and John’s home is a place where one can find both solitude and conversation. I was able to spend the morning by myself in silence composing a letter, watching the shadow of their cat pacing in front of my door. A gentle knock on my door, around 11am, drew me out of the room as John offered for me to join him for coffee.

I don’t know if he and I had ever actually had a conversation before that day, only having known each other through Caitlin. Even so, both of us were at ease as we talked for what felt like hours before Caitlin returned from the farm she works at around 1pm. Without altering the rhythm of our conversation, she joined us. After lunch, she put on music and we painted for a couple of hours as he watched tv shows on his ipod.

The matted piece of artwork is my birthday present from Logan titled Grace & Disgrace. I painted the hand at Caitlin’s. (I haven’t painted in a long while, mostly I was playing with the dry brush technique)

I was a little reluctant to leave them and the calming rhythm of their lives. But now I’m back home. Back to writing web copy and doing data entry. Stay posted though because I think I’ll be stringing together some reflections on love from I and Thou and Letters to a Young Poet for you soon.

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