For weeks now, from early morning to late afternoon, the street that is my link to the main road, has had a Road Closed sign across it. Diggers and trucks come and go, scooping out mounds of clayey soil as they dig holes and lay pipes. Even though this hilly little suburb is only 25 kms north-east from the centre of Melbourne, at long last it is being connected to the sewerage system.
Whoever named that particular street The Boulevard was either a romantic or had a somewhat peculiar sense of humour. This is no Champs –Elysees, lined with graceful buildings, cafes and shops, stretching from a great public square to a Triumphal Arch. Our Boulevard is about two kilometre long, unpaved and just under two cares wide – or is that narrow? It bends and twists to accommodate dips in the land and the here-and-there creek at the bottom of a rough slope, before meandering briefly to make room for a little afterthought of an even smaller street.
That little afterthought of a street, about 400 metres up The Boulevard, is where I live. I was put out when the Road Closed sign went up. It meant that when I wanted to take my car somewhere I had to negotiate the rest of the Boulevard as it curves around this small Yarra Valley hill. Practically speaking, it means that I have to hill climb out of our valley, ignore the view as I creep around a double hairpin bend, then head down onto a badly rutted track. Always there is the posiibbility of meeting a car coming the other way. When that happens we are very polite, each edging over as far as possible and trying not to think about the slight drop to one side, exchanging grimaces as we pass within millimetres of each other and moving off with a thank you wave.
And yes, if that’s all I have to grizzle about, then how lucky am I! Every night the 7o’clock news takes me around the world and into the lives of whole families looking for a safe place to live, others fleeing fighting that is none of their making, men and women, struggling to build meaning into a life shattered by sexual abuse in childhood. I’m grateful that I have never had to carry those kinds of burdens. I’m ashamed that it is little things, like a road closed sign, that can upset my day.
When compared to the suffering I read about and see depicted on current events programs, my reluctance to recognise God in the ordinary of life in a small suburb, is pathetic. Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who died nearly fifty years ago, said over and over again, that God is to be found in the context of our everyday realities. By that he means the boringly ordinary and occasionally frustrating bits, like a closed road. Or to paraphrase the words of Paula D’arcy, a present day writer and retreat leader, “God comes me disguised as my life.”