Back in 2001, I read a book called The Way of the Traveler. I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned it here on the blog before. The author offers suggestions for how to make every journey - whether to the supermarket or to Sevilla, Spain - an epic one. One of his recommendations is that along with clothing, money, and a camera, travelers ought to pack spiritual provisions.
Ever since I read that book for the first time, I have set time aside before each trip to pray and ask for Divine guidance as to which spiritual provisions will be needed on each trip. What attitudes, emotions, and virtues must be included in my satchel? This adventure was no exception. Ask and it shall be given. I ask for guidance, and I write down the words, the phrases, and the ideas that come to mind. I have quite a collection of index cards packed with spiritual provisions taken on previous trips.
This time I packed: joy, gladness of heart, flexibility, fluidity, patience, gentleness, gentle answers, and wonder at the beauty I would see there in Sevilla.
So when the obnoxious teenage boy asked me if I was a man or a woman, I was able to ask him what he thought of my jewelry, my skirt, and my matching green sandals. Someone standing close by at the time, later told me that her answer would have been laced with enough verbal poison that he would have walked away crying. Gentle answers.
While one teenage girl repeatedly asked annoying questions, made sarcastic and insulting remarks to everyone within earshot, and seemed almost completely insensitive to the feelings and thoughts of others, I was able to maintain my cool and direct her attention in other ways. Gentleness.
When we had to pack our suitcases and move from one residence to another without sufficient warning, I was able to be flexible in my housing expectations.
As we strolled through the ancient streets of Sevilla, listened intently to the history of the Inquisition and the expulsion of Jews in the earliest parts of the last millenium, and dug our toes down into the hot sand in Cadiz, I never lost sight of the moon as it hung high overhead - even in the early afternoon hours. I collected fallen jasmine flowers. I tucked two rose petals into my journal, petals that were collected by an observant new friend who knew my penchant for including small momentos of life's journey between the pages my journal. We had just finished applauding for a pair of radiant newlyweds as they exited a church we were walking past when he came up to me and handed me the petals, saying that he hoped they would always remind me of the wedding I had seen in Cadiz. I hugged him, thanked him for his kindness, and wiped the tears from my eyes. Wonder.
This morning, I woke my husband up at 6 am and regaled him with stories of my trip for ninety minutes. I laughed. I cried. He listened. Asked questions. And together we prayed and gave God thanks for all the sights I'd seen, the lessons I'd learned, and the fabulous people I'd met.
I'm already beginning to think about the spiritual provisions I will need to pack along for my next trip to Spain - and especially for my return trip to Sevilla.