I meet a nun. On a Sunday. She is at the Amtrak Station. Headed North to get off at an earlier stop than mine. I think she said Kelso / Longview. (I am getting off at King Street Station in Seattle.) My introduction to nuns came when I went to First Grade at Our Lady of Fatima. The nun that I had for my teacher was so cruel that a girl in my class threw up every single day when she crossed the threshold into the classroom. The nun (Sister Wicked) hit the girl every single day on her hand with a ruler. Bad memories.
Hurricane Carla took me out of that school on September 11, 1961. I probably only had to endure Sister Wicked for a few weeks but it sure seemed to my miserable six-year-old self like a whole lifetime. I was absolutely certain she would hit me at some point during my First-Grade year. I forgot to wear my head covering every single day and she had to pin a tissue on my head when we went to mass. I was already one of the misfits.
Four years later, I saw Sound of Music when it came out and my wicked nun memory was modified by the lovely Julie Andrews and the other nuns in the movie. And then when The Flying Nun came out with fun loving Sally Fields, nuns were fully absolved of their sins.
This nun, at the age of 75 was going on a Road Scholar kayak trip on the Columbia River. (I am crossing the Columbia River as I type this.) I have just left Oregon and entered Washington.
The conversation with this nun started at the Portland Amtrak Station. It is called Union Station; probably because the Union Pacific was the main railroad in the West. (I sat on the plane next to a man who works for the Railroad. That’s another story.)
I ride this train regularly. It’s been almost 10 years that I have done this route. I know where to sit at the station; where there are padded chairs and there is a plug to recharge a device. The main seating at both Union Station and King Street Station are simple wooden benches.
A woman walks over, plops her backpack down and says, “I am going to leave this here while I go to the restroom.” She is dressed very casually. There is not one shred of nun clothing evidence on her. She has on a hat that looks like she is about to go on a water- based adventure, a t-shirt with a map of an island chain on it. She has on pants that look like athletic, water-resistant pants. She has on sneakers with colorful socks. I always notice the socks. (She did not look like a terrorist leaving unattended bags. She did not look like a nun.)
I just nodded. She returned and then went off again and retrieved more bags. At this point, I asked, “Where are you headed?”
She told me about her trip. She told me she was a nun on Sabbatical. I don’t remember Julie Andrews or Sally Fields going on Sabbatical. (Maybe the assignment to the Von Trap Family was like a Sabbatical. No, that was more like penance.) After she told me she became a nun at 18, I heard a short version of her life story. For one nano second, I wondered if this was Sister Wicked but no, she was an Ohio nun.
I think I just like typing that word Sabbatical. I want to take one myself.
So, who wants to go kayak on the Columbia River and stay at the Skamokawa Resort? Let me know.
We all need a Sabbatical.