We got into Auckland early on Friday and were back in Dunedin by 9:15. It was cold. Unbelievably cold. Cold as in the there's absolutely nowhere in this house where I can feel warm and nothing I can put on that seems to make a blind bit of difference kind of cold. Our big brick house had stood empty for three months, leaching away the stores of heat it had piled into all those solid internal walls and gradually absorbing moisture. It has taken six days of heat pump and firewood for it to begin to feel cosy again, but we're getting there. On Friday night we both slept 13 hours, and both woke, independently in the wee small hours, thinking "where do we have to get to today, and where is the toilet in this place?" On Saturday we slept 12 hours and Sunday 10. There was a large box of mail, a couple of very full inboxes and a pile of old Listeners in their plastic bags. On Monday morning my computer died. It had been on the way out for a while, but sitting idle for a long time then being restarted was the coup de grace; so I bought a new one and have wasted hours setting it up and reinstalling about a decades worth of programs and files. And finally, this morning, I think I might have arrived home.
It's Wednesday and soon I will go and celebrate the Eucharist for a group of about 30, mostly elderly women. It's a congregation where it's hard to hear over the rattling sound of all the marbles they have not lost. I will share something about the Gospel of the day and begin again to pick up the pastoral reins dropped three months ago: business as usual. Today I'll talk about Jesus preaching from the boat, and the miraculous catch of fish. A surprise for Peter and Andrew and James and John in the middle of the ordinariness of their daily lives. There they are, going about their ordinary business of catching fish and hocking it of to the Gennesereth housewives when along comes this bloke who shows them that there is a path winding right through this very spot: a path they had never before known was there, but which they were even now sitting on, and if they were to get up and follow it they would find themselves in all manner of extraordinary places.
I guess one of the great pleasures and one of the great pitfalls of travel is that itreminds you of the fact that those paths are always there. As Bilbo sings, and Gandalf before him and Frodo after,
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say
It is the knowledge that our home is not a destination but is no more, no less than a resting place on a way to somewhere else. Even though I will be staying put physically for as long as I can see down the road, I know that everything has changed. The light is different somehow. The net is full of fish and I'm darned if I know how they got there.