One full week into my stay, an update seems appropriate.
As I mentioned previously, my sabbatical month is being spent at The Bishop’s Ranch, the conference and retreat center for the Episcopal Diocese of California (located geographically, however, in the Episcopal Diocese of North California, as I learned this week.)
The Bishop’s Ranch offers a terrific program called the Prayer Residency. In exchange for room and board, I facilitate one hour of silent meditation daily and officiate at Morning and Evening Prayer daily Tuesday through Saturday. I’m also on hand to help out the other resident staff in various ways. In the remaining time–of which there is plenty–I’m free to work on my own projects at my own pace.
Settling into the pace of sabbatical has been difficult. It’s like being on an exceptionally extended retreat. Although I’m staying pretty busy with project work–both personal and profession–I’m free to set my own pace and hours. I find myself relaxing more here than I’ve ever relaxed before. Although I’m still working–spending mornings and afternoons writing and evening reading–I find no pressure to hustle and bustle. It’s a nice change to be sure.
Sonoma County is an exceptionally beautiful place. The Ranch is about five miles from downtown Healdsburg, which is a charming little tourist town. Sonoma County is known, alongside neighboring Napa County, for its wine commerce. There are countless wineries and vineyards dotting the countryside here. On my five mile drive into town, I pass no fewer than ten vineyards or wineries.
The upside to the wine commerce is an increased cultural standard. The downside, of course, is also an increased cultural standard. Downtown Healdsburg is pristinely maintained, but also very expensive. If you go a couple blocks in any direction from the downtown plaza, you’ll find a pretty normal town. Normal houses, normal people. Downtown is exceptionally white–tourists from the Bay area, as I understand. The surrounding neighborhoods are mostly mixed with a higher Latinx population, as one might imagine.
The strange part about being here for a month is that I feel more committed to the place than I would if I were here as a tourist, but less connected than if I were a local. It’s a strange liminality, being in a place for an extended (though not-so-extended) time. I found myself rolling my eyes at a group of tourists just the other day, an exceptionally ridiculous behavior since I, myself, had only been in Healdsburg for less than a week.
I’m not ready to share substantially any of the projects I’m working on quite yet, but here’s a bit of a preview:
- some fiction and poetry, long neglected due to the energy-sucking constraints of academia
- editing and revising my thesis into a more publishable manuscript
- a presentation for the 40th Annual National Conference on Faith Based Service in St. Louis this November
- information collecting for a project on young Sisters and nuns who are engaged in activism
- a couple blog posts on silence, prayer, and coffee
(As you can see, I’m not lacking in work!)
I’ll check back in. As always, feel free to comment. Know, of course, that I’m praying for and with you and yours.