This is my routine. Three days a week, at the moment, I find myself sitting in the car outside Belfast City Hospital; I'm waiting for my wife. While her work day notionally ends at 5 pm, the realities of caring for patients mean that while I may see her shortly after 5, it could be half an hour, an hour, sometimes much longer before she climbs into the seat beside me.
I could spend three or four hours in a week just sitting here, waiting.
There is a temptation to call this wasted time, time when I could handily be somewhere doing something, but these few hours are instead precious to me, and when other commitments (generally a work thing in the evening for one or other of us) mean that I'm not here to collect my wife, I miss this time.
With everything else calling for attention, when I sit here I don't get the computer out; I rarely make a phone call; I don't have the room to write comfortably. Instead, I can just sit.
It's one of the few opportunities I get to read a book, or to relax with a puzzle played on the screen of my phone. I might listen to a podcast, or an audiobook run through the car stereo. I may even tap out a blog post, one letter at a time.
It doesn't really matter what I do, just that this is the time in my day when nothing else can take my attention, purely by virtue of where I am. That's precious.
It says something of me that I need circumstances to force this space on me before I can take these pleasures without guilt. Othertimes, that sneaking niggle is always there.
It's almost Advent, a season of reflection and anticipation — both attitudes and activities that require space and time. The Mockingbird's Leap (see the sidebar) is to be reconvened, a call to attention to the little graces that surround. That, too, requires the beat, the break in the scurry and hurry.
Rhythm is found as much in the spaces between the beats as in the beats themselves. There is a need to find that rhythm in a day, a week, a year.
I wrote here recently that Advent is my favourite season. It is for many reasons, but foremost are the quiet, the darkness, the anticipation and the yearning for what is to come, the presence of the fullness of life, of life itself.
I sit here waiting, in more ways than the obvious.