Reflecting, Connecting and So Much More – Sabbatical Update

Jan’s blog – 5-15-18

From here to there is rarely a straight line.  Starting point and destination shift.  Dots are there for the connecting.  We don’t visit all of them, for they are infinite in number, each an option, a possibility.  So it has been with the here to there of my sabbatical—a time of rest and renewal, reconnection with family and friends, reading and reflection, and anticipation for phase two that includes my November pilgrimage to Vietnam.

While I have read some of the basics, such as Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward’s The War in Vietnam: An Intimate History, and have viewed in corresponding mode each episode of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part series on that war that hasn’t ended for so many of us, and have immersed myself in a span of media on that war, on trauma and healing, and on restorative justice, I have also joined Dan in connecting with family.  Just yesterday we returned from a visit to Vermont to celebrate grandson Forrest’s 8th Happy Birthday and a birthday party with his friends at a water park (indoors, thank you, we’re not completely crazy!).  After a FULL day of water park fun, what was Forrest’s next move on arriving home: “Let’s go play soccer in the backyard, GramJan!”

What a gift that all three daughters wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, along with Dan who presented me with a recently published novel whose story-line is the jarring aftermath of a U.S. POW returned from Vietnam.  As Dan was at the wheel en route home from Vermont, I was ensconced in the Alaskan venue of The Great Alone.  

As for our larger world, hope and outrage meld as we hear of the scores of Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded in Gaza as they protested the provocative move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. How many more families on “the home front” will be torn apart by the immorality of this ICE age?  How many more of our teachers and children will continue to be disrespected through school budgets voted down and public education undermined by the powers that be?  Yet hope is alive in the launching of the new Poor People’s Campaign.  Yes, to all of you who marched this Monday in Hartford.   Yes, to all who marched in over 30 capital cities across the country.  And Amen, to the words of Rev. Dr. William Barber, who has taken the torch from 50 years ago and stands at the helm of this campaign: “We cannot continue to have a democracy that engages in the kind of policy violence that we see happening every day.”  And Amen to our faith’s fifth principle, which bids us to affirm and promote “the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large”.

One can never take a sabbatical from “all that is our life,” from the reality that we are all connected.  Yet this time out is affording fuel for my soul, for the struggle in which we are all engaged and the journey we are on.

I think of you every day.  I think of our sanctuary guests, Sujitno and Dahlia and the hope we hold for their freedom and safety.   I think of the shared ministry demonstrated by a congregation with the minster in sabbatical mode.  And I anticipate the second Sunday of June, when I will return to the pulpit of the congregation that I love.


A Festival of Daffodils and Sabbatical at Mid-point

And then my heart with pleasure thrills
and dan
ces with the Daffodils.”

Such are the final lines of William Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” that holds the poignantly poetic meditation inspired by these seasonal blossoms.  As for seasonal, ‘tis the season for a 40th Annual Daffodil Festival at which I know a host of daffodil lovers of all ages are volunteering, and a favorite destination has surely been a booth where my favorite FUNdraisers are selling mouth-watering grilled cheese sandwiches, tummy warming tomato soup, thirst-quenching lime rickeys, and hot chocolate as a liquid dessert!  Hopefully hundreds if not thousands of festival attendees stood in line, eager to order, no matter how long the wait.   After dancing with daffodils and mulling over the crafts and more lining the aisles of the mega-tent, it was time to indulge!

Here at home on my sabbatical, it was hard to stay away from saying, “Okay, I’m ready to sign-up for “daffodil duty”, pragmatic spiritual practice that it is.  I trust that the proceeds were gratifying to all who were there and grilled sandwiches, squeezed limes, stirred soup, and poured hot chocolate.  Bravo and brava!

Perhaps Wordsworth’s wanderer, having been near Hubbard Park this weekend, might have later mused with the great poet:

“I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;”

 which commences this beloved verse.  To you dear William, apologies if I have offended your soul by tapping the gift of your poem for this not quite pastoral celebration.  But might we agree that daffodils are worthy of poetry and festivity however rendered?

As for my sabbatical and my musings on what I am up to.  Yesterday Dan and I saw “1945”, a soul-wrenching film about what happens when an elderly Orthodox Jewish man and his son return to the Hungarian village that betrayed them and their family.  It’s poignant and ever timely and showing at the Madison Arts Cinema.   Tomorrow morning, I’m headed to the Y for a “start-the-week-right” workout.  I continue to read, read, read, AND in the arena of logistics, have now booked my flight for my November pilgrimage to Vietnam.   It becomes real, when I visit and key in as my destination: Ho Chi Minh City!

As I conclude Ed Tick’s most recent work, Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War, I am about to open the pages of beyond forgiveness: Reflections on Atonement, an anthology of writings that includes the work of Ed, Kate Dahlstedt (his wife and co-founder of Soldier’s Heart), Rabbi Michael Lerner, Arun Gandhi, and others who have walked this path.

With growing mindfulness and love all around,



Jan’s sabbatical as of mid-April

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ve quite exceeded my word quota.  So be it.

Reading, relaxing, renewing, reconnecting are among those “re’s” that this sabbatical is making possible.  As for reading, I have a companion, a muse you might call him.  Pablo at his most tranquil curls up beside me, head sometimes in my lap, but not so much that I can’t turn the pages of this particularly sizable tome, Geoffrey C. Ward’s and Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War, a good ten pounds and a scholarly emotive opus that speaks to heart and mind.  I read a chapter, then view with husband Dan the corresponding episode in the Ken Burn’s and Lyn Novick’s     ten-part video series.   This is personal affirmation of those words of trauma therapist and co-leader of my autumn pilgrimage to Vietnam: “Wars do not end when we say they are over.”

On another note, what could be more relaxing than a swing in a park?  Specifically, a swing in the playground of granddaughter Sophie’s school in Glen Ridge with my ever lovin’ spouse?   This past weekend Dan and I headed south to New Jersey to see daughter Lisa and husband Rob and Ollie (10) and Sophie (6) but also to reconnect with my home church, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, for a  series of celebrations.   Revs. Any and Scott Sammler-Michael were installed as co-ministers!  A concert that rocked the rafters the evening before, followed by dinner with longtime friends, was prologue to Installation Day, this past Sunday.   Here are Revs. Any and Scott along with UUCM’s (yes, Montclair and Meriden UU congregations have the same acronym) Minister Emeritus Rev. Charlie Blustein Ortman, along with friend and colleague Rev. John Crestwell.  Such were reconnection and renewal in this sacred space in which so much of my UU history was formed!

Reconnection continues with family.  Daughter Sarah and grandson Forrest (almost 8) arrived for a visit with “GramJan and PopPop” this Tuesday.  Off to “Isle of Dogs”, a movie for children of all ages, we went.  As for yesterday, Sarah and Forrest and I reveled in exploring the highly interactive Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.  It’s always hard to see them go home, but home in Vermont they now are.

Retreat is yet another of the re’s, more challenging for me given an energy level that can sometimes be oppressive.  How to channel my energy?  Swimming laps at the Y, working up a sweat on the elliptical, walking “into town” for breakfast with Dan, whose choice is to drive, an occasional lunch with friends.   All mark a retreat from “ministry as usual”.

Reading, relaxing, renewing, reconnecting, retreating are what I am about as my sabbatical continues and evolves.   I cannot, however, fully retreat from you, congregants of the UU Church in Meriden. You’re in my thoughts, my affections, my hopes, and my trust that you are forging onward in the spirit of shared ministry, the ministry of sanctuary, and all the dimensions of congregational life that allow me to sing your praises and bid you, once again, thank you for this gift of sabbatical, a gift received with the outcomes given back in a minister ever more vital upon my return.

Stay tuned for more!