Over the winter, I attended a workshop about bringing creative arts and visuals into the Sunday morning experience (this blog isn’t really about that–but if you think that sounds interesting, let me know, I’d love to work with you!). The workshop leader, Marcia McFee, introduced us to a term that I immediately loved: metaforaging.
Metaforaging: the practice of looking all around you in the world for the metaphors that lie hidden in everyday objects and experiences. Like when you’re weeding your garden and you start thinking about what the weeds are in your own life, and how you could clear them out to make space for something new.
I do a lot of metaforaging, which is helpful for my job but probably annoying to my families. But sometimes the metaphors just jump out at me, willing me to notice them. My orchid plant is like that. It sits right next to my desk, and it has a habit of blooming at exactly the right time. Actually, it came AS a metaphor–a gift from a colleague for my ordination. She said congregational leadership was like tending an orchid: sometimes it would bloom beautifully and amazingly, practically out of nowhere, and sometimes it goes through long periods where it seems like it’s just a bunch of dried up sticks.
My orchid bloomed right before I went on maternity leave with my second child, and it’s blooming now, as I prepare for my second sabbatical of my ten years at WES (I’m actually calling this a sabbitical, a little bitty sabbatical, since it’s just six weeks as opposed to a more typical 3-4 months. Also because, as this entire blog demonstrates, I enjoy made-up words). I like to look at my metaphorical orchid as I prepare for my time away.
It never quite feels like the right time to go on sabbatical. Like every season, the spring has its challenges–from missing a staff member during Melissa’s extended sick leave, to unfolding and important conversations about how we approach our anti-oppression work, to the stress of the annual operating budget drive–and I can easily look at all that is still on my plate and think “Wait! I can’t go! What if it’s really bunch of dried up sticks time!”
But of course, I can go. In fact, I should. Zeb Green will serve you so beautifully in my absence as Sabbatical Leader, and he’ll have a chance to learn and grow with you in a different way than when I’m there. He has excellent support from colleagues outside of WES, and of course from the Board and the staff and the entire body of WES’ lay leadership.
And, that orchid isn’t just a metaphor for the congregation…it’s a metaphor for me too. Sabbaticals (and sabbiticals) provide the clergy person an opportunity to set aside the administration and organizational leadership that can take up so much brain space, and allow time for other kinds of thinking. Learning, resting, growing. Metaforaging, from some new sources–not just from the plant right next to our desks. I’m so grateful for this time, and for what I will discover about my own self and my own leadership during it. And I’m excited to learn what you will discover together as well. Happy blooming, to every one.