Postcards from Claremont – 9 – The Joys and Challenges of Bi-coastal Living (Bruce Epperly)
Living on two coasts can make for an interesting life. It's three time zones and thousands of miles. Air travel isn't as quick and painless as it was before 9-11. But, Bruce Epperly has been living bi-coastally this fall as he teaches at Claremont. In today's post he shares his experiences of living in this way, inviting us to join him on the journey.
Postcards from Claremont – 9 –
The Joys and Challenges of Bi-coastal Living
Bruce G. Epperly
A few minutes ago, as I was getting my midmorning coffee at Claremont School of Theology’s Edgar Center, one of the students asked, “What are you doing this weekend?” I had to think twice. You see, my life is a boomerang as I travel between two coasts this fall. Nearly every other weekend, I’m asked to preach or lead a retreat in Southern California. The other weekend, I’m off to the East Coast, sometimes via a stop in the middle where I give a talk or retreat. I must say that the rhythm is dynamic and varied as I go from my scholar’s life in Claremont to domestic joy in Washington DC every fourteen days or so. Whitehead speaks of the need to balance order and novelty in personal and corporate life, and I’m living that life, although order is usually sacrificed for the novelties of bicoastal living.
At Claremont, I’m a scholar-teacher, serving as Visiting Professor of Process Studies for two of the most exciting academic institutions in the country. I spend my days studying for classes, teaching, and working on writing projects. I begin most days walking to the Claremont village before sunrise in quest of my morning Starbucks coffee and artisan bacon-gouda-egg sandwich. I rejoice in the coming day and the joy of a quiet read in the Starbucks patio. From then on, I rotate between reading, teaching, writing, walking, and enjoying the company of students. One of the joys of living on campus is getting to know the students and that has been a blessing. I take walks, get coffee (lots of it), and occasionally eat a meal with my Claremont students. I have an opportunity to get to know them in a personal way as I hear about their dreams, projects, and personal and academic interests. That’s the way teaching should be, a rhythm of classroom and informal conversation.
At Claremont, I am truly a peripatetic theologian: living without a car, I rejoice in walking everywhere, averaging six miles most days and feasting my eyes on the beauties of the village as all sorts of thoughts and ideas are birthed on tree-lined boulevards.
Here at Claremont, it’s early to bed and early to rise, and I mean early to rise. My body and psyche are uncertain about what coast I’m on and behave accordingly. In DC my typical day begins at 5:00 a.m. but here most days my eyes open well before 4:00 a.m. On teaching days, I have to pace myself so I still have energy and insight until 9:00 p.m. It’s a good life, somewhat monastic, but full and joyful, despite the fact I miss the loving chaos of marriage, parenting, and grandparenting.
Every other week, I board a Thursday afternoon flight to DC or somewhere on the way. DC is filled with family – the joys of catching up with my wife Kate and the “boys” – my son and toddler and infant grandsons. It’s all play and outings, almost always with my toddler grandson with whom I study trucks (especially excavators, cranes, bulldozers, and garbage trucks). We’ve been known to follow a garbage truck several blocks on its morning collection. We spend time at parks and in search of fountains (aka waterfalls). I am domestic guy, bonded to my family, so what a delight it is simply to sit beside Kate at the indie movie theatre, a light supper, or at home watching the PBS Mystery. Of course, my son and daughter-in-law, and mother-in-law (who shares our high rise apartment) make the weekend complete. It is a wonderful life and I am grateful for my marriage and family and the love that fills our home.
There are sacrifices to bi-coastal living. I miss hearth and home and the simple pleasures of domestic life and my body is never one place long enough to get a true rhythm. But, I wouldn’t miss these days at Claremont for anything. I am in process paradise and what a wondrous gift that is. This is a truly holy adventure, enjoying for one semester the best of all worlds – a loving family on one coast and an exhilarating academic life on the other. Yes, life is about that dynamic balance of order and novelty, and the surprising novelties that emerge along a holy bi-coastal adventure.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith Lectionary and Patheos.com. He is currently serving as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for lectures, workshops, and retreats.