I am back home again. I actually arrived back over a week ago. Yet, traveling back to Utah from California requires a longer mental decompression or social quarantine than the eleven hours it generally takes to drive back.
It really is like one of those novels where someone is split between two worlds, when you are in one world the other fades and doesn't make sense. Combine that with the usual surreal atmosphere I most often feel here, and it makes for some difficult transitions.
Yes, I was born here and have spent most of my life here, but that doesn't cancel out the oddness. Mostly what experience does is help you cope by muting your expectations. You learn to not expect things to make sense in any direct correlative way. You get used to “the look.” So, you are only disoriented for a moment by a family on television looking so recognizably Mormon that they couldn't look more so by singing LDS kids songs in front of an LDS temple with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir accompanying.
I'm not saying that conformity is a common occurrence here, I'm saying it's ubiquitous. Even non-conformists tend to conform to a narrow range of non-conformist conformity. That's why some people joke that to set your clock to local time, you need to set it back fifty years.
Let's call it chronic culture shock. Sure, I can help minimize it by not watching local news, or leaving the house. And, yes, if I look out my window a sad number of my actual neighbors could serve as extras in a low budget film set in the deep south, but that effect is ruined when they talk and sound like the kids I grew up with.
I understand that I'm especially sensitive to the peculiarities of the locals right now, that I'm giving in to stereotyping, and that there are other people here with lifelines that stretch out across the vast deserts and mountain ranges of the continental divide that separate us from the rest of the world. There are others that aren't too deeply entrenched in the psychological cultural social religious divide that morphs just about everything here. Yes, there are such people. Mostly, they hide it well.
So, although I arrived back at my place of residence four days before Sunday, I didn't arrive back to anything approximating home. I arrived back to dead and dying plants, the proliferation of weeds, an ambitious gopher, a small insect invasion in the chapel, aches and stiffness from so much time spent on the road, and many more tasks and chores I could bore you with. There was so much to do that I hardly slept Saturday night, only catching a couple of hours between tasks to get the chapel ready. I thought about canceling the service, I had little chance of getting things done, along with the little sleep.
But, the Eucharist is very important to me. It is my central spiritual practice. And offering it to people here is the most important thing I can do for them, although they most often don't see it that way. So, I managed to make it, barely—hopping out of the shower as the first person arrived.
I was celebrating the Eucharist not in the lovely chapel in LA with assistants and a full house of people deeply participating, but in my poor thinly attended chapel here in this odd region. And then it happened. As the service moved towards the consecration, I was finally home. Offering myself, my life here and now, to be a conveyance of transformation just as the bread and wine are offered.
There is nothing particularly special about the bread and wine. Non-fermented wheat flour and fermented grape juice. Yet in the offering they are given up to be transformed. In the consecration they embody that transformation. And, in the communion we incorporate that transformation.
Where the Eucharist is celebrated, there is home. That is the reality that bridges and transcends both irreconcilable worlds.