BREAD FOR THE ALWAYS UNCERTAIN JOURNEY

I was supposed to be out in the desert today, ostensibly attending the women’s qualifying matches at the annual Indian Wells Tennis Tournament. The two-week tournament, just one step down from a Grand Slam, is a very big deal in the tennis world, and always begins the second week of March.

Many years ago I bought a seat for a semifinal (those seats are not cheap, trust me) with Victoria Azarenka , and she backed out before the match, and we ticketholders were left high and dry. Ever since, I have opted to attend the first one or two days of the tournament, which are free, and in which the lower-ranked players vie for a place in the main draw.

The stadiums are way smaller, you can wander about and watch any number of matches or parts of matches, and even the most mediocre of the lower-ranked players perform at a level that, if you have ever played tennis yourself, is of an entirely different, infinitely higher order of being and doing in the world than you could have possibly imagined.

Also you can hang around the practice courts and possibly catch glimpses of your heroines (or heroes as the case may be–the ATP is here as well) in action.

Almost always when I travel, it’s for work or another obligation of some kind. So Indian Wells is the one event to which for the last few years I’ve treated myself to a couple of days off and a couple of nights at a halfway decent airbnb. You have to plan months in advance as half the world descends upon the place this time of year and reserves a place to stay accordingly.

The Coachella Valley is world-famous for its year-round stellar weather. I got a pedi in anticipation, thinking I could get a head start on the spring tanning of shins, ankles and feet that makes for optimal sandal-wearing.

Saturday, I discovered it’s supposed to rain most of the week.

And last night around 9 PST I learned that a single person had tested positive for the coronavirus in Riverside County, where Indian Wells is located, and that therefore the entire tournament had been cancelled!

My heart really goes out to the players, many of whom had already flown in, plus this is their livelihood, career, and playing season.

I got a 30% or so refund on the airbnb, which I cancelled at 3 am. And this is the bright side of the fact that my “retirement” savings (on which I hoped to live if necessary in my fast-encroaching dotage, then leave to various charities), are bleeding out as the stock market crashes, and that we’re all apparently going to die momentarily from coronavirus anyway.

It’s kind of like, Whatever! Not in a resigned, weary way, but in a kind of energized, curious way, as in we really DON’T know anything, ever, about how the world is going to go.

It’s interesting that with all our insanely “powerful” military, nuclear weapons, Supreme Court rulings, closed borders, lightning-fast technology, surveillance cameras, data gathering, TSA, et cetera et cetera, a tiny virus, invisible to the naked eye, can in the space of a couple of weeks practically take down the whole world.

Interesting, too, how as the world, as the world must, fails us, everything gets sharpened and honed down to the essential. Keep doing what I already do every day. Try to be kind, try to participate, try to keep my garden weeded, my bed made, my apartment clean, my bags, literal and metaphorical, packed.

And most interesting how the things I have done every day for years ever more assume their true importance: The Office. The Magnificat. The prayer I say, back at my pew, each time after receiving the Eucharist: “Oh my Jesus, accept this Holy Communion as my viaticum–as if I were this day to die”…

13 Replies to “BREAD FOR THE ALWAYS UNCERTAIN JOURNEY”

  1. Ingrid Christensen says: Reply

    Good perspective. Thank you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      So glad the piece resonated, Ingrid–thank you.

  2. Patrick Dooling says: Reply

    Hi dear Heather, I sent this to a wonderful man in my parish, Marine and WW2 veteran. I bring him Holy Communion every 1st Friday and he always concludes with what might be called ‘The Viaticum Prayer.” I knew he’d enjoy this article. Big hugs, Fr P

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Fr. Pat, how lovely–you and i may have discussed that I got the prayer from a biography by Eddie Doherty (Catherine de Hueck Doherty’s husband), of the soon to be canonized Matt Talbot. Matt, former huge drunk and daily Massgoer while he worked on the Dublin docks, would say the prayer after receiving Communion and I instantly copied it out:

      O good Jesus, accept this Holy Communion as my viaticum,
      as if I were on this day to die.
      Grant that Thy most adorable Body and Blood
      may be the last remembrance of my soul;
      the sacred names of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus my last words;
      my last affection an act of the purest, the most ardent love of Thee, and a sincere sorrow for my sins;
      my last consideration to expire in Thy divine arms, adorned with the gifts of Thy holy grace.
      Amen.

      In Christ’s love to you and all in your care in Monterey–

  3. Teresa Kleber says: Reply

    Heather, It is too bad that you will miss your
    tennis treat! I wish the airbnb could have been a little more understanding
    I am not anxious about covid 19 which surprises me because I am about everything else.
    I love the post Communion prayer. Thank you.
    Prayers for you and your work
    .

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks Teresa–it’s hard to know how much of the money for the room I didn’t use goes to the host and how much to airbnb–I’m sure the host lost money, too, as the room probably remained vacant. Still, yeah, she could have said Sorry it didn’t work out and that we both lost out. But she didn’t–and God bless her.

      I’m surprised by the same thing you are–I’m anxious about so many tiny things–paying my wifi bill, getting gas, whether the mailman is going to be late…but about the virus I’m kind of like if my time has come, my time has come…this may be a function of being “older” (67) and there may also be a healthy acceptance of powerlessness…this is just one of the stupendous benefits of being an alcoholic who no longer drinks…we alcoholics are deeply aware of our powerlessness over the things we can’t change…not helpless to change the things we can, but powerless to manage, direct and control the things we can’t. Which helps to direct our energy in at least a semi-sane way…

  4. Be it Coronavirus, losing 100K in the blink of the stock market’s eye or playing second fiddle to a spouse’s addiction, God pours himself into us. (Today’s Magnificat) Your writing speaks to me- so glad I found you!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Yes, Daina! And see my reply to Teresa below…it’s amazing how quickly the “old order” is passing away. As you say, oh whoops, there goes tens of thousands of dollars (I personally dare not look) of my “retirement”, oh I’ll be darned, we could all die in a week or two, oh hunh well I HOPE there’s food when I go to the grocery store today…of course those of us with family and friends affected by alcoholism are always on the razor’s edge of the next debacle or disaster…and yet somehow minute by minute we are breathing, inching forward, helping our neighbor, sharing a joke…and as you say, God in His extravagance, POURS himself into us…I’m so glad you found me–and that I found you!

  5. The invigoration of it reminds me of Walker Percy’s thoughts about crisis and the hard thing is to deal with a Tuesday virus-free afternoon.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh that is great, Tom, I never heard that one from Percy before. It’s true, I think many of us feel right at home in a crisis. Hunker down, tighten our belts, shore each other up…it gives us, our routines, our thoughts a focus, just in case we needed one. Whereas a Tuesday (although for me it’s more a Sunday) afternoon is when the existential angst sets in…thanks for reading and responding and welcome!

  6. I love all your posts. They are so refreshing. Keep up the good work.Stay well. You are in my prayers.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Lillian, I have been sure for a very long time that the prayers of others keep me afloat. Thank you, truly–and prayers for you, your family, and your work as well–

  7. Thank you for sharing this beautiful prayer Heather. I have copied it and will say it after holy communion.

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