Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

This is the last day of 2009. This is also the first morning of my stay at home that I've woken at a reasonable hour (8 a.m.). Because of the latter, I enjoying the opportunity to be alone in the quiet of the morning, reflecting. I read a blog post from a friend that highlights her experience of 2009, complete with dates and photographs. It reminded me that I always want to do that but never actually do.

Perhaps when I've returned to Chicago I'll work on that. For now, I am sitting on the back porch with two of the cats, a chorus of birds, and the fresh dewy chill of this new, climactic day. The past year has been one of great change for me; some triumphs, some sadness, a strange but fruitful shift in geography/employment/community.

January was the month I had originally planned to leave life in Kentucky, not for Chicago, but for Palestine. I pushed that back to March and then never went at all. Instead, I began to treasure up my time with the women and staff of Healing Rain, with my darling roommate and other volunteer and former volunteer friends, with my sweet Kentucky home. I had no idea, when I first moved there, how my heart would be wed to its hills.

I trained for and ran a half-marathon (though, in all honesty, I couldn't run the whole thing)in Nashville with a few dear friends who would soon be setting out on their own, separate, adventures. I paid a visit to Israel while he was living in Tennessee with his brother and sister-in-law whose lifestyle I admired and tried to not covet. I flew down to Florida for Easter and a chance to visit my family before entering the unknown.

Chris and Amanda drove up from Knoxville when the day for moving arrived and helped me transport my bedroom's worth of belongings to Chicago. Over half of the latter end of '09 has been spent in that city; no telling how many more months/years will be lived there. Before I left it for this holiday trip, Chicago was the location of monumental transpirings. Sitting here though, in flannel pajamas at my childhood home with the majority of my family slumbering nearby, my life in Chicago seems faraway and small. I know that won't be the case when I return. It is a peculiar thing, the effect that perspective can have on one's vision.

Since being in Chicago I have already had a number of visitors (Grace & Sarah, Kristen and Shannon, Kosch) gone to visit others (Amblyn-WI, the Rommelfangers-WI, Rebecca-TX, the Nees-FL). I have reconnected with dear old friends from former seasons (Laura-Ky, Azuree-WP) and made a passel of new ones (Cat, Chrissy, Catholic Workers & Co., Laura F. the yet unmet but greatly beloved Laina, Dan & Angela, etc.). these encounters have led me to realize that relationships are the essence of being. They are life's fullness without which, even the most beautiful landscapes, the most exciting experiences, are flat.

In addition, I have begun to find acceptance of and in the Catholic church. I miss Aaron and Ann Marie very much. My feeling of being responsible for and connected to the world has been reinforced. My sense of wonder has returned. My love for the Nee family abides. And I wonder, with anticipation, what we will become and what we will create in this new year.

Be well and blessed dear friends, and yet-unmet fellow travelers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are You My Mother? (a reflection on learning how and who to follow)

The Daily Office readings for Tuesday paralleled our first mother, Eve, with our second, Mary. In Genesis, the presence of God is in the garden, asking man how he happened to notice his nakedness (Gn 3:9-15). Adam points to Eve who acknowledges, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” Eve rejects the first divine imperative, conceding her will to that of the serpent as if his understanding of the way things are (“it’s good to eat the fruit”) exceeds and nullifies her understand of what God had spoken (“don’t eat the fruit”). Implementing her freedom of choice in this manner, Eve diminishes her power by submitting to the serpent’s suggestion and not acting out of her own conviction. Responding to the woman’s deviation toward passivity, God puts a name to her action in the form of a curse, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” It reads like an accusation and an allowance of what she herself has determined; more consequence, “look what you’ve done to yourself,” than curse. This was not the pattern of relationship for which we were originally formed. It is the result of an aberration, one that has continued as each successive generation accepts the “curse” as an indelible aspect of reality and not a consequence renewed by each individual’s chosen course.

With Mary, we have an example of one who walks another way, returning to the original pattern before it was distorted. Initially, this “new Eve,” looks to be following the same formula as her predecessor. An outsider, the angel Gabriel, enters her guarding, so to speak, and delivers a message. This message (you will conceive and give birth to a son), is to her understanding, contrary to the proper order of things; “how can this be?” Mary’s understanding is based on a broken way of being initiated by the first false move and perpetuated by those that followed. Mary accepts the contradiction. In doing so she is like Eve, believing that the assertion from this outside source supersedes what she previously accepted as truth. She is different though in that her acceptance signals a restoration for woman/humankind, to the position in which she was originally created. That is, in direct relationship with God, choosing to act in alignment with his intentions; whereas Eve’s obedience was an act of submitting to an authority other than God to rule over her. Mary and Eve are placed in the same position but on opposite sides. Eve, from a place of union, chose division. Mary, from a place of division, chose to be reunited. Hence Mary is called, “Holy Mother,” not just because the one that she delivered through childbirth was holy, but also because she is in a sense a deliverer as well; restoring for those with the vision to see an example of how we can relate and respond to God, even when Word God speaks stands in contradiction to our understanding of how the world works. We all, like Mary, are presented with that choice of being filled with the Christ and delivering him to the world or otherwise rejecting the claim that “with God all things are possible,” and saying, “This cannot be.” The latter is a sensible response. It makes sense to look at the overwhelming, destructive cycles that encircle us and to submit to resignation. “This is just the way the world is.” There are those, however, with ears to hear and eyes to see that that become aware of way that while not new is surely different. They know it looks impossible, and that is sounds crazy, and in response the say, “I’ll take it.”

I read these passages on Tuesday morning and they triggered a replay of a question a classmate had posed during her presentation the previous night; “If government authorities came to your home and commanded you to do something you believed was wrong, would you say, ‘no.’” I raised my hand, along with about a dozen others, indicating that I would. If this same question had been asked of me a year ago, I don’t know what I would have said. Even now, my confidence wavers. I am uncertain of my own judgment and feeling diminished by my ignorance, inclined to obey, if not trust, those who display certainty. More and more, I learn to question and to recognize that the common way is not always the best. I believe that I am beginning to understand what it means to be free.

Hail Mary, full of Grace; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…pray for us…

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oh World, I want to wrap my arms around you; I want to push you away.

1

The woman who stations herself near the Waldorf School was sitting in her usual spot last night. I passed her on my way to the Loyola red line. She is an African American woman with short graying hair; her joints are indistinguishable, buried in flesh. I wonder how she moves about and it occurs to me that I have never seen her walking. She has no teeth. I noticed a nubby cigarette in her hand and for some reason began to think how strange it most feel to smoke with the paper touching your gums.

"Honey, I'm homeless," she says as I approach, "can you help me out?" This is what she always says and sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. I've passed her many times and feel like we are acquaintances at least. I feel sad that I don't know her name. I ask for it this time, but she doesn't hear me and I let it slide. I'll call her Ana for now. Ana rides the train all night for warmth and because it's safer than sleeping in the street. She told me that she filed for social security and was not denied. Ana expects to receive payment by the middle of this month. I didn't think to ask her where the check will come to.

"I plan to use that money to get me an apartment," Ana tells me, "I sure will like that."


2


Love, I think, is like manna. Trying to save it up only causes it to spoil. Better to give it all away, trusting more awaits with the morning.


3

I heard a bit of a report on the BBC News Hour about video games. They played an audio clip from a game with terrorists as the main characters, the avatar for the real-life-person holding the game control. I could hear the sound of guns firing, people running and screaming. This is entertainment. I am sick at heart. Our sense of safety at the distance between violence/murder that is actual, and violence/murder that is synthetic, frightens me. What is the appeal? Actual terrorists tend to perform their acts for an ideal and they are demonized. Gamers do it for fun.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Words, words, words

The tension between words and their intended meaning has been a prevalent theme in my life as of late (as of always really, but more so as of late). Last night it came up again as we discussed apophatic mysticism, that type of experience of God as Unknowning, as No-thing, as Being itself. Paradoxically, thought the nature of this experience defies images and labels of any kind, to be expressed to others it must be molded into the shape of words and risk distortion. The cry of this conflict crawls through me, as I believe it does through all that is. It is elemental and its implications far reaching. I will not endeavor here to resolve the tension. I feel inclined though to share a reflection I wrote while on retreat a couple of weeks ago that ties into this theme.

There was a reconciliation service at 4:15 p.m. I did not go to a confessor but stayed amongst those who were waiting. I moved from the Our Lady Chapel to the main sanctuary and began a private confession, facing the stained glass window that composed half the wall and beautifully, ecstatically, abstractly portrayed the trinity and the tree of life and seven binding rivers; beneath, small and plain in comparison, was a wood-carved Christ, one with his cross. You could not look to one and not see the other. There is a part of me that is still reticent to accept this effusive return to embrace a specific religion, to say, “I am a Christian and I believe what Christians believe.” I withdraw a little from the use of the name “Jesus” from the reintegration of Christian phraseology into my vocabulary. Words. These are so vital to communication and yet can be the greatest inhibition to accurately sharing thoughts, feelings, truths.

I don’t always like the words said about You, God, nor the ones that allegedly you spoke. Sometimes they don’t make sense to me and sometimes they don’t seem right or good or just or loving. Sometimes I can’t believe that they are true. I can’t believe that you are who we say you are. Just as I am not always sure that Jesus is who his followers say and who the scripture’s records of his words imply. It is not difficult for me to accept God as “Being Itself” or as the life-spring and actualization of Love. But the specificity of Jesus confronts me. He feels like an intrusion. His definitive body, the imprint on history of his words, his actions—a boundary line is thrown—this calls for acceptance and allegiance; this creates us and them, division, “not peace but a sword.”

I read the “high priestly prayer” (John 17), Jesus’ prayer to God on behalf of his disciples. I read it thinking this is how I will listen to Jesus, how I will learn to pray with him. But it didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t sound like I thought it should and I felt disappointed. I had an idea of who I felt Jesus should be and I didn’t find it there. The words confused me, and no wonder, because they are words! Words divide and hid and yet without them we lose significant access to ourselves and others. The naming of things is such a crucial component to being human; according to Genesis, it’s been with us since the beginning. Jesus is the Word of God. What we see of him is the word. In actual essence he is Logos. Logos, the meaning behind the words. Father Kinoti, in a talk on the Holy Spirit, described Jesus as the mind of God. Like an artist, only more perfect, God can project his thoughts onto the world tangible and Jesus is a representation of His mind.

Abstract art is the only way to depict God with anything close to accuracy, I decided, admiring the stained glass in its surreal, mysterious beauty. And religion should always be poetry. But there, beneath it, the harsh realism of the crucifix, Jesus the man, suffering. He looked so small beneath that great glass and yet, his was an unavoidable presence.

And that is Christianity. It is intrusive because its version of God breaks the rules. The Christian God collapses the division between spirit and flesh and yet creates new division between those who believe it and those who don’t. It is a religion that demands mind and heart and strength too, the body because God took on a body and walked among men: touching as they touch, speaking as they speak, feelings as they feel. That is why it is a religion that cannot be contemplated only, it must be lived. What have I to do with all this? I don’t know. I don’t know except I think sometimes that this God loves me, and sometimes I think I love him too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Street Talk ((sorry folks, this is a long one!))

Sunday night I went to see Where the Wild Things Are. I went alone and was thus fully engaged in the film and in the feelings it conjured. I thought a lot about perception, about family and loneliness, rejection and disappointment. Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers remind an adult of what it feels like to be a kid. They remind an adult that what we brush away as little things, to the child are everything. The loss of a golden moment (when your experience of moments has been so brief) is like the loss of years and rejection from a loved one is like being abandoned by the population of the world. I thought about my ten year old brother Sam who, when he and our sister were running for “house president,” had a campaign platform that promoted “everyone doing everything together, in the same room, at the same time.” We laughed about it then and it grieves me that I did not respond to it as an expression of his longing for communion. I began to wonder, as I’m prone to, why I am here in Chicago when the rest of my family remains clustered together; one bunch far to the west, the other to the east.

Walking out of the theater I continued to gaze in the direction my inward eye had turned while remaining awake to the life of the surrounding night. Enclosed in thoughts, I still felt the cool soft air and watched, as if from a distance, the people moving about me. I was the center of my universe, the one intrusion being my inability to decide whether or not I could justify buying myself a cup of hot chocolate. I didn’t want to go home and be interrupted by ordinary life. A warm beverage would be good company to wander down to the lake with me.

I was interrupted; not by ordinary life (at least not as I know it) but by Francis. He and another man were sitting in bulky coats and ball caps, hunched on a bench a few steps in front of me. The bench faced the street, but Francis had angled himself toward the sidewalk so that he could hail passersby for spare change.
“Hey girl, where did you learn to walk like that? That stride.” It took me a minute to understand the question; he spoke with a mumbled slur. When I did understand I still didn’t know how to answer.
“Um, I just, ha, I don’t know.”
“Well, my name’s Louis and I sure would appreciate 80 cents, or more if you’ve got it.”
“Sure,” I said, handing him a dollar.
“Do you have another one of those?”
I laughed, and pulled out another. “You rascal. What was your name again? Louis?”
“It’s Francis.”
“Oh…”
“Here, it’s on my bracelet, I just got out of the hospital.”
I asked why he had been in the hospital and he said it was for epileptic seizures. I assumed this meant seizures induced by an overdose or an inadvertent detox, especially because he smelt strongly of alcohol.
“Are you okay now?” I asked.
“Am I okay? No, not really. Not sick I guess but I’d be a whole lot better if I had a bed. Or a roof over me.”
I nodded, not sure how to respond, wondering what a Catholic Worker would do in this situation. Somehow we came around to talking about me going to school. I said I was going to Loyola.
“That’s where we were!” Francis exclaimed, explaining that he had studied Dance, Theater and Creative Writing and that his brother--he indicated the man sitting next to him--had studied History. Up to this point the brother, (who’s name I later learned was “Frank, frankly”) had remained facing the street. He looked like he wasn’t listening, like he was beyond caring about anything at all. But when I mentioned my class on Day and Merton he turned and asked, “Dorothy Day and who?” and continued to quiz me on the life and times of Thomas Merton. Francis kept interrupting us and even grabbed my wrist once, like a child impatient for his mother who is ignoring him while she finishes a conversation.
“Hey, we are trying to have a discussion,” Frank says, “I am talking to my friend Amy here, stop touching her.” Frank indicated that his brother was “the town drunk” and continually responded to him as one who was perpetually, affectionately annoyed.

Francis did get my attention when he abruptly asked me if I was going to become a nun.
“Oh, I don’t think so; it does seem to come up a lot though. I don’t know. Some people even have a problem with me thinking about becoming Catholic.”
At this Frank rejoined us, saying that denominations don’t matter, that I shouldn’t let anyone discourage me as long as I was believing in Christ and following his Way. He continued quietly but emphatically in this way and I don’t know why but I could feel that tears were beginning to form in my eyes.
“There are two great commandments,” Frank said, “do you know what they are?”
“Love God as your—no, love your neighbor with your whole heart—I mean—“ my hands were rummaging through the air as they often do but they provided no assistance in finding the words I knew that I knew.
“You can’t quote it?”
“No.”
“It’s in Matthew, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.’ You do these things, and you aren’t gonna break any laws that matter.” He told me about a church he and Francis had just gone to, asking if I had heard of it. I had not.
“It’s just at the end of the block,” he said, “Here,” he reached out his hand and I took it and we walked to the corner. It was little store front catty-corner to a coffee shop I frequent with a hand-written sign posted in the window announcing days and times when the fellowship would be gathered.
“They aren’t fire and brimstone,” he said, “they’re all right. They do get excited though and might want to lay their hands on you.” I laughed and nodded.
“That’s good too though,” he added, “they aren’t fire and brimstone about things. My back was hurting real bad and they laid hands on me and it’s better. They pray for him a whole lot,” he smiled wryly and pointed to his brother, “they really pray for him.”
We talked a little longer and then they said, “Well, we’ll quite holding you up, let you get out of the cold,” though they would not be getting out of it anytime soon.
A wiry bedraggled woman approached as I was getting to ready to leave, cursing up a storm and casting it on Frank. Then she saw me, “Oh honey, you know I was just joking.”
“I know.” I said. There were hugs all around and I went on my way.

Not even two blocks down the road I walked past a couple of men who were standing next to each other. One was leaning on a fence, about as thin as one of its rails, holding a briefcase and talking on his cell phone; he closed the phone as I walked past.
“Aye!” He called after I’d passed.
“Hey” I said, turning to face him while still moving.
“Can I just—I don’t want anything—can I just offer you a compliment?”
“Um, sure.”
“I saw you walking up this way. I was on my cell phone, on a long distance call and I had to tell them to wait after I saw you. You are beautiful.”
“Oh. Hm. Ha, thanks.”
“I don’t mean anything by it—I am just giving you a compliment—when I see something, I tell it like I see it. And you are, not just in your face. Something about you that comes out.” He continued in this fashion for what seemed like a very long time. His name was Antonio and though he “didn’t mean anything by it,” he did want to know if he could buy me anything, if he could give me his number, if I had a boyfriend. I responded no to all but the last. It was a lie but one I find myself speaking more frequently, almost automatically.
“How long have you guys been together?” Oops.
“Oh, uh, not very long.” I just made him up in fact.
“Well you tell him—I’m sayin’, make sure he knows—because you really are—“
“I am going to tell him he better appreciate what he’s got!” I said laughing and walking away again. The exit wouldn’t be so easy, several more calls of “Aye!” and me turning, and him reminding me of what I need to say and to “be careful.” I eventually made it out of ear shot. After Antonio, I thought I should probably skip the lake.

I walked home feeling exhilarated, suffused with an intense energy of the kind that I sometimes feel after an enlightening class or an engaging conversation or noticing a small beautiful thing I’d overlooked before. Back at the apartment I gave Anne a rough outline of my encounters.
“It’s weird that these random people are always talking to you.”
“Yeah. It is a little. I must have some kind of air of approachability or something.”
“Yeah. It’s weird.”

I was wondering if the mark of openness (or the sign that said "sucker" however you prefer to think of it) was on me tonight as I walked down Sheridan toward Loyola's campus. A trio of men in big jackets were huddled together in front of Chipotle, talking in loud erratic tones. As I walked past, one hailed me, "Aye!"
"Hey."
"Can I ask you someth--oh, girl, you are beautiful."
"Thanks." I was not comfortable with this man. He was too young, standing too close. He said something about my eyes and my "face structure," and I backed off a little.
"Hey. Hey. I am hungry."
"You want me to buy you a burrito?"
"Yes."
"Okay."
We turned toward the building and walked past his friends who were surprised and irritated at his successful conquest, "What? You got to be kidding me!"
"Shut up," he said to them, then to me, "those are my friends." I just shrugged at them and smiled.
"What's your name?"
"I'm Amy, what's yours?"
"My name is Temple…Yeah, I don't know why my mom named me that. Kinda crazy. Do you think it's crazy?"
"It doesn't seem crazy to me."
He was difficult to understand, evidently intoxicated, talked a lot and was pushy. He kept asking the girl preparing his burrito why she was mad at him and telling her she had a nice smile. After a few minutes she stepped away and told one of her male co-workers to take over. When we finally got to the register I paid and he asked me for some of the change.
"No." I said, "I need it. The burrito is for you, this is for me." He thanked me and I left quickly.

I continued down the sidewalk in a bemused state. What am I doing? Why does this keep happening? What I began to realize is that what is happening around me is not unusual or even different. What is different is my response. I went to the campus chapel wanting to sit in silent contemplation; not making requests, not trying to figure anything out. A student was practicing the organ in the balcony and someone else up there was playing "Mary had a little lamb" on the piano. I laughed at myself and the context. Truly there can be no perfect place of quiet except within a disciplined mind and devoted heart. But this place was good and I had a few moments of communion before the thoughts of whether what I had done was "good" and helpful or just "nice" and potentially harmful came crashing back in. I thought of Jesus saying, "give to anyone who begs of you." There are no qualifiers attached to that statement, but how to apply it when you live in a city like this? Do I have enough for everyone? And when he said "give" does that mean, give what they ask of you, or just give something? I avoided following through with the questions that surfaced and sounded something like, "What would Dorothy Day/Peter Maurin/Thomas Merton do?" knowing well my potentially disastrous proclivity to make heroes of humans I admire.

I left the chapel to make my way home but then stopped at a statue of Mary that stand in the courtyard of St. Ignatius church. Aesthetically, I don’t like the statue. Yet, I am frequently drawn to the aura of sweetness, simplicity and warmth that hangs about it. Sitting on a bench that faced her I said,
"I want to be good and do right, will you help me?" Then I laughed at myself again for being so vulnerable to spiritual sentimentality and continued toward home.

Only a couple more blocks to my apartment and still my mind was grappling with an amorphous opponent. I thought of myself confronting the man for having spent whatever he had on alcohol, or telling him I would get him something if next time I see him he is sober. But that was not a satisfying rewrite to our meeting. The image of that girl behind the counter, so uncomfortable, resurfaced. What I could have done differently? I imagined telling the man to settle down, that he was acting inappropriately. I imagined a scene in which someone confronted me for bringing him in there and asked if I even knew his name. That question interrupted my dramatization; did I even give him the dignity of an introduction? I couldn't remember, but then, yes. Yes, I asked him his name. His name was Temple.

The instant his name came to me, my feet stopped moving and I was still. His name was Temple. My mind reached for a scripture I could not remember and found instead a quote from Peter Maurin I had read earlier this afternoon. He had been in Chicago, visiting an underground railroad where homeless men had taken shelter, Maurin addressed them saying, "You are in fact ambassadors of God." We are all, in essence, image bearers of the Divine. How much grief and glory are held captive in that phrase!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A reflection written Oct. 9, 2009

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, which seems very strange. I can only hope and pray it acts as a kind of cornerstone, continually forming him in the way of peace. The timing is interesting as tonight the Roger's Park Catholic Worker house is hosting a round-table discussion about the role of peacemakers in our present context. Some of the following questions come to mind: how long do we wait for Obama to make good on his promises regarding Guantanamo Bay and Iraq? What about Afghanistan, can all that is transpiring there be considered actions of a "just war"? Is there such a thing as a "just war"?

As I write this my mind keeps revisiting the image of a night when my family was at a lake house visiting with missionary friends on furlough from Spain. Sitting around a campfire, I don't remember if we were listening to a radio or just talking but I know the topic was war. Desert Storm had just been initiated the grown-ups were in the house and we kids were making planes of sticks and dry leaves that we would toss into the fire to be devoured in flame. I remember a mixed sense of unease, sadness and excitement. That is my first memory of war, so distant and safe. Yet, that is probably the most connected I have ever felt to one. It was very present in my mind and in the conversations of those around me. I don't remember people close to me either trying to condone or condemn it. I do remember my younger brother Jonathan, who could not have been more than six or seven, writing a journal entry about trying to love Saddam Hussein and get him to love Jesus and change his ways. He believed that was the only true way to reach a healthy resolution.

My general reaction to war has tended to be avoidance, even in films and conversation. I have always been disturbed by films about war or even action film scenes of vast destruction, not only because of the violence, though that is troubling in itself, but also because of the sense of aching futility and tragic waste. Despite feeling ill at ease and unhappy with questions that feel too wide to be narrowed into words I do little. Resigned to a deeply ingrained pragmatism I find the cry of my heart easily muffled and brushed aside by the louder voices asking, "Well, what else can we do?" I have no answer that sounds intelligent or practical enough to be worth voicing. So, I listen, and leave the decisions up to those who do. This does not relieve my responsibility.

In, Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion, Day and the Catholic Workers are cited as seeing, "militarism, totalitarianism, fascism, and communism as the outcome of centuries of pragmatism and practicality...the state being elevated..." Economist John Kenneth Gilbraith, in his book The Good Society, theorizes that elevation of the state is exacerbated and reinforced through the population of affluent nations (i.e. the United States and Europe) buying into a lifestyle that demands the assistance of the state.

Thus, I am implicated in activating the war machine not only by my reliance on practicality and pragmatism but by, however much I may verbally protest, engaging in a manner of eating, dressing, traveling and general living that stimulates state regulation. A transactional relationship is established in which I become the debtor and thus diminish my power. How does one extricate oneself from such a system? There is the option of "hobo-ing it" which has an appealing dramatic flair, but in the end continues to rely a great deal on the affluence of others. Besides, that option (as with many means of "going off the grid") risks resulting in isolation and alienation, a step I am reluctant to take as a professing Christian. Where is the love in that?

Though I won't pretend it is perfect or even that I perfectly understand it, I am drawn to the Catholic Worker response to this conundrum; addressing the immediate needs the community is confronted with--feeding the hungry, comforting the lonely, confronting injustice--while persistently working toward a long-range plan that "gives the worker ownership of the means of production" (Day), and "makes our world an easier place to be good" (Maurin).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Experiments with Truth

Alone on Monday morning, I am still in Texas and the friend I am visiting is at work. I am reading the bible and thinking about what has been unfolding in my life: the gift of my pen-pals, the state of the world, the Catholic Worker movement, the events of this weekend. I feel a bit disgusted at the excess I have indulged in over the past few days: beer, chocolate cake, and meat everyday, crude talk and no exercise, prayer or meditation. I wonder, when is it appropriate to accept differences and when to stand on principle and confront them? I find I do significantly more conforming than confronting.

My quandary about how to treat my meat-eating is an example of that. I do not want being a vegetarian to stand in the way of receiving hospitality, particularly because I am not sure I am opposed to eating meat per se, but to the way it is produced and processed, the treatment of the animal and the people along the way. Then, I think of Gandhi who rigidly refused milk even when told it could cure his deathly ill child. The religious teaching he aligned himself with was against eating of any animal product and he stood firmly to that. His decision seemed so narrow and foolish to me when I first read of it. Yet, it was that type of hard-nosed adherence to conviction that put him in a position to shake the world, one consistently principled step at a time.

Sometimes I feel that the religious life is for me not because I am especially religious, but because it is the only place I can safely and acceptably practice the lifestyle I am inclined toward. It is the only way I can practice this lifestyle without being an embarrassment to myself and an offense to others. This line of thinking begs the question, why so much attention to avoiding offense? The prophets offended others and brought derision on themselves as did Jesus and all the disciples who have followed his Way, knowing that the sincere love they share will not always be received as such. This is a hard truth. I had comfortably turned away from it for a moment, but it is always hanging in my periphery, occasionally sliding around to stare me down. I do not know how to respond. It is so much easier to be nice than to be good.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Truly, madly deeply...or, truly, deeply mad

Brother Lawrence writes about coming to know God through faith; a faith at once childlike and obstinate. This faith he considers to be a superior vehicle to knowledge of God than "deductions of the intellect." Knowledge of God thus acquired is deepened and sustained through "practicing the presence of God," and its fruit is a relationship of love.

For me, such a relationship, and by such means, appears exquisitely beautiful and appealing. It also appears dangerous. Whether seeking truth via faith or intellect, I feel that I am blind. Relying on the intellect, I reach about, grasping for a sense of my surroundings. My reaching hands are aimless guides, utilizing the accumulated knowledge of life to discern what is touched and to make inference of what is yet untouched. Relying on faith, specifically on faith in God (this is a challenging term, even with intellect a measure of faith is required; a trusting of learned facts, mental processing and memory. And then, can we assume an experience of "faith" is not being filtered through the intellect?), my reaching hands have found a rope. When I am willing to take hold of this rope and hold fast, I find that there is someone or something at the other end, drawing me forward. Wonderful, awful discovery! Am I saved? Am I being drawn to Truth, Light, Love? Or, is this a steady tug pulling me to a deeper darkness, drawing me into an enthralling delusion?

Encounters with certain gentlemen who experienced dramatic transitions towards what they perceived as transcendent awareness and even some of my own reactions to relationships and situations have left me scarred and wary of an encompassing spirituality or complete release of the self to the Other. I am afraid of losing my mind, losing control, losing my place in this world. The jubilation I felt this weekend is being crowded by gathering clouds of anxiety. Yet, I do not feel that my withdrawals from these situations and into more reasoned, rational ways of being has led to the life of liberation and purposeful action and enriching relationship that my heart persistently hunts for.

I feel more at ease moving at my own pace, reaching about in the dark, but I also feel alone and unsatisfied. So, disregarding whatever psychological or philosophical rationale may apply to qualify my experience (it is so tempting to me to enter into that realm where conclusions are indefinitely delayed), I feel there is something constantly being point to, that amidst a milieu of raucous clamor something insistently, consistently speaks in a still small voice, and I feel that this something is God and that God is Love. If this is so, how can I not desire above all things to seek after, to love and be beloved of such a One!

I hear my struggle voiced in the words of Dorothy Day when she writes,

"Always at the bottom of my heart was the desire to believe, sometimes so faint as to be imperceptible, at other times very strong. But I distrusted myself, my own emotional reactions and my own instability."

Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and C.S. Lewis are three spiritual writers through whom I am consistently inspired and challenged and with whom I feel a deep synthesis and mysterious kinship. All three had sharp intellects and brilliant creative talent, to the point that I feel overwhelmed in the presence of their work. They were well learned, curious and speculative. In the end their knowledge did not inhibit their aptitude for faith but in fact played into their inclination toward it.

Perhaps this matter of faith versus intellect is not an either/or affair at all, but a situation where each would benefit from humbly acknowledging the presence and purpose of the other. With that in mind, I think it is valuable (and has proved itself to be productive) that I continue to identify and pursue those things that kindle my heart, while simultaneously continuing to actively question myself and my influences.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

August, Part 1

Looking back over my journal, I found that August was a month of much contemplation with journal entries to accompany my thoughts. I began this post with my usual technique of simply typing up journal entries, cutting out pieces that seem too boring or personal. Halfway through the month though I realized that I wasn't going to make it to the end in this manner. Below is what I had already typed. Hopefully I will find a more constructive, creative way of exploring and sharing the latter portion of the month's meandering thoughts and experiences.

8-3-09

Reading Merton’s reflection on his mother’s illness (Seven Storey Mountain, 15) plunges me back to thoughts of perception and how shallowly we tend to view others and the world. A person’s character we assess based on a moments interaction, coupled with physical appearance. In this assessment they are encased and viewed as long as we have memory of them. Seeing the paradigm shift from Merton’s child p.o.v. to adult caused a quickening in my heart. How I would love to receive everyone I encounter with up close and abundant excitement. Accompanying this beating desire, a feeling of excitement—what a glorious way to live!—and a feeling of sadness—what an impossible way to live! These thoughts remind me that this journey I am on arose from a desire to learn how to love. (Why Jesus? because he taught me to love…) I’ve strayed from that goal, making the mistake of pursuing maturity, purpose, identity; valuable aspirations but I think misplaced when made direct objects.

8-4-09

“I wanted to be in all these places, which the pictures of LePays de France showed me: indeed, it was a kind of problem to me and an unconscious source of obscure and half-realized woe that I could not be in all of them at once.” (Merton, 48)

A sentiment I often share…

* * * *

I washed diapers today, feeling very satisfied as I hung them on the drying rack in a sunny patch of the concrete courtyard, noticing they had very few stains. Removing them from their rinse in the tub I’d been singing “Sisters” while squeezing out the excess water. “I like how you’re like Cinderella,” Anne said, “singing while you do your dirty work.”
After lunch, I took Isaac in his stroller to the Devon Market. I enjoy going to market, particularly browsing the produce and international food isles, pushing the stroller with one hand and hefting a full basket in the other.
While walking I listened to the sermon by a young pastor of a new church. I appreciate his zeal and scholarship, but own that I hold myself at a distance from his message. Though multiple factors doubtless apply, I attribute my reticence largely to the derisive statements he consistently throws in about other established religions; namely Buddhism and Catholicism…I don’t dare make a character judgment or ever dismiss his teaching. I will say that he (unwittingly, I think) portrays himself as an underground church elitist, justifying criticism of the traditional because that’s what Jesus did, forgetting that these other established groups are simply more mature bodies that were born into Christ many years ago. Everyone looks different when they are older. Because Jesus died when he was in his early 30s, should we never exceed the point of view of someone in that age group?

* * * *

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.”

-Proverbs 3:5-8

8-5-09

I was out of bed by 6:20 a.m. this morning. Light was already seeping redly through the window shade. It felt good to be awake, good to be on a schedule. I did yoga and meditated. This was the first meditation I had practiced in quite some time. I chose Lao Tzu’s “The Best,” and St. Paul’s “Love is…” from Corinthians. Short but very sweet. When I got to “love never ends” I kept examining and caressing the words feeling an almost suffocating combination of sadness, joy, gratitude, remorse and affection. I suppose I felt love; more than anything, the reception of it. Attached to the words was the image of Jesus. “I can’t not be in love with Jesus,” I admitted to myself. And I don’t know what to think.


8-6-09

Anne, Isaac and I packed a lovely picnic lunch…and walked to meet Angela at the beach. Outside it was absolutely beautiful; solid blue sky, light breeze, bright sun, high 70s…Angela looked out over the lake and exclaimed, “look at that blue!” It was tremendous. This great expanse of water with no end in sight had soaked up the color of the sky and implemented its small waves to add depth of hue and texture.
“Who wants to do sun salutations?” Angela asked, quickly responding to her own question, “I do!” And she did.

8-7-09

It’s a drizzly day and cool. I’m having a cup of tea, cursing myself for wasting so much of Isaac’s nap-time on facebook…It’s 2 p.m. and I am listening to beautiful, melancholy, Elvis Perkins. The music is probably more distracting than helpful. I’d had thoughts I wanted to explore, but now I’m thinking about how, according to Grace and Sarah, he wrote this song, “While You Were Sleeping,” about his mother who died in the 911 crash; just a passenger on a plane. And, as with any sad, sweet music of quality, I think of love. I have been thinking of this a great deal recently, particularly the nature of love itself and love for Jesus, for religion even, and then too love between humans; considering the distinction between these, if any exists. If any exists. And here is where I speculate that my jaded pragmatism toward romantic love has seeped through its compartment merging with my love for Jesus and influencing a stance of determined detachment. This detachment insists upon validation and definition before affection and devotion. I haven’t liked the feeling though. This week I’ve returned to meditation. I have also been listening to Poppa’s sermons and reading Merton and wondering, “can love take the lead over logic?” I hesitate in wording the question because of the implications that can arise from the words that take their place between “love” and “logic.” I don’t want to imply that one contradicts the other, nor can I assume that the plane they exist upon is a linear line. I it reasonable to even consider they might exist in a relationship where one leads to the other? In fact, I think my belief in the possibility of such a relationship may be an impediment in itself. I would withdraw from love for fear that a logic that followed after love would be bent, biased toward the treasure of my heart, the overflow of which my mouth speaks and my thoughts think.

8-9-09

It’s amazing how refreshing it can feel to wash one’s feet. I just got back from a night walk. I went to the beach, taking my flip flops off and walking to the water’s lip. there were five points of bright light in the sky. they gave the illusion of stars, but were something else. I don’t know what.
Many people were out, I was surprised how many; enjoying nighttime picnics, or taking a stroll. Most people move in multiples; couples or groups of friends. I felt self-conscious walking past them.

* * * *

…it is a curious thing, this feeling that follows shifts in place of occupation. This feeling that something internal, essential even, has shifted as well and you are not what you were. Yet, simultaneously, you are seamlessly imprinted with it, even when memories are vague.

8-10-09

While waiting for the train, I noticed another girl standing on the platform. My first thought was, “how is it that some people are so tiny?” She had curly brown hair pulled back into a short ponytail. Though it was quite warm, she wore a long-sleeved black shirt with a black cardigan. Her skirt was a light material, but long with a patch-work pattern. She wore brown Grecian sandals. For a few minutes she sat right next to me on a bench. I had my guitar propped upright between my legs, my hands folded on top and head resting on them. I observed this girl, discreetly I hope. the sleeve of her shirt had shifted a bit so that about two inches of her left wrist showed. It was covered in white raised scars. I considered what gift I could give this girl. I thought about saying something simple and stupid like, “your skirt is pretty,” hoping that might be enough to remind us that we are not alone in this world. That would be enough to remind us that we are both seen and seeing. I didn’t say anything. On the train we sat across from each other. I watched her face run through myriad of dour expressions. I watched her get off the train and walk away.

8-11-09

I don’t want to pretend,
nor to offend;
it seems we must always do one
or the other.

8-12-09

6:30 a.m. and the sun’s awake. I missed the meteor shower, too sleepy to motivate myself to get up and go out in the wee hours of morning alone…
…I am feeling very aimless, unaccomplished, and disheartened today. I imagine there are physical contributions to this—in the house all day, little exercise, possibly premenstrual—but I’m inclined to believe there is something of the spiritual involved as well. I feel as though I have not course, and I don’t like. And, I miss my family.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

3 weeks in

Three weeks ago I moved to Chicago. The following are some selections from my recorded thoughts, feelings and deeds.

5-17-09

“…drove to Chicago, in a van, with my friends…”

I actually did not listen to any Sufjan on my way to Chicago, nor did I drive a van. I did however drive with friends, or behind them anyway. C and A, in their little Jetta, toted a trailer packed with my furniture. They barely let me pay for their gas and didn’t even stay long enough to let me by them dinner. They stayed just long enough to heft all my heaviest stuff up the windy back stairs and into my new bedroom.

I unpacked everything except kitchen stuff that night then watched Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with A…It felt good to wake up in the morning and be surrounded by my own things, an island of comfort in this alien ocean.
…I want to be diligent in proactively engaging in things that I velieve or want to have become foundational elements of my life: contemplation, exercise, writing, reltionships (with people and the earth).
Now is the time to act…

5-18-09

…I made waffles for breakfast and French pressed coffee. A and I went out so I could get a library card and bank account. The LC was acquired without a hitch. The first bank we went to offers a free 4-piece Pyrex set upon opening an account. I eyed the box and felt excited at the prospect of storing it away in my closet. Unfortunately they require and IL drivers license, something I neither own nor plan on obtaining. So, on to WaMu where less than a week ago I’d closed my account. There Damir, my “personal banker” accepted me for who I am, KY drivers license and all…

…I took out the trash and proceeded to walk to Lake Michigan. The clear sky had clouded over and wind entered the city…I wandered around the sandy lake shore, picking up perfect skipping stones that were swallowed quickly by short aggressive waves instead of skipping across the surface. So many seagulls, and people—walking dogs or kids or partners or alone.

5-19-09

…I walked to the lake again this evening, trying an alternative route. The neighborhood is beginning to feel more familiar now, the streets woven with such precision. The day could not have been more beautiful. I sat at the lake watching people, reading the bible, jotting down observations…On the way back I stopped at a used bookstore I’d notice on the way called “Armadillo’s Pillow.” It smelled of incense and was dimly lit with wonderful nooks and narrow halls formed by tall shelves of books. I bought two postcards and “73 Poems” by e.e. cummings.

5-20-09

Well, today was Isaac’s due date and he has yet to make an appearance. A. is watching Lord of the Rings and I am wasting time doing God-knows-what on my computer…

5-21-09

Omnivore’s Dilemma. See previous post.

5-22-09

A. wasn’t feeling well yesterday so she spent most of it on the couch. I divided my
time between the computer, books (Ramayana and The Omnivore’s Dilemma), walking and talking on the phone…Intermittently through the day A. would feel like she was having contractions. Every noise from our neighbors—with my window open they sound as if we’re sharing a room—woke me with the thought that Anne was going into labor. No such luck.

5-23-09

“Sometimes I wish I was somebody else; sometimes I wish I had more to give; sometimes I wish I was better than this; oh, Honey, let me sing to you…”

Oh Joe Purdy, I hear you and you can sing for me any day.

…This would be the day I go downtown. My first time venturing outside the neighborhood alone. I don’t even want to estimate how many times I visited the bathroom that morning. My body’s stress responses are predominantly physical…I can’t deny that I was nervous. It was a pleasant anxiety though, I gave it space as partner to excitement. A new adventure. A chance to prove myself to myself. A change of scene. A long awaited reunion with a dear friend.
I walked to the Loyola station and climbed to the wrong platform twice—thankfully making it to the southbound side without missing my train.
From my corner seat I could observe everyone in the car and noticed a young man with glasses and a bright green shirt noticing me. I tried to arrange my face and body to look composed; “I belong here.” In my mind it finally struck home, “My God, I’m here, I’m really doing this!”

I exited at Lake, underground, taking note that the walls by the stairs had tiles indicating what street you’d surface at. I headed left at Randolph and climbed the stairs to the chaos of downtown State St. Towering sky scrapers, packs of people, signs that stretched from a building’s head down to its waist. I walked in the wrong direction for blocks, just past the river before I checked my map and realized I wasn’t heading toward Millennium Park.

5-24-09

Isaac’s second due date is today. We’ll see if that’s anything he puts much stock in…

D and A continue to delight me, a little more each time I see them and I am touched by their inclusiveness. D, ever ready to instruct me on the city; it’s layout, history, politics. He shared with me too, on the same walk back from dinner at the Viceroy and Mango Lassis at the Sweets & Snacks cafĂ©, about his travels in India and Nepal. It was kind of a funny conversation to have walking down the sidewalks lined with shops displaying sparkling saris, a video store with a poster of Shah Rukh Khan in the window and side walks teeming with Indians. He warned me about how you don’t have to worry much about your safety, but you do have to watch you money as they will try every angle in attempting to cheat and hustle you.

5-24-09

This is the first day that I have really felt down-hearted. The realization that I will not be returning to KY is settling in. I’m sad fore what’s been left behind: dear friends, a lovely town, a job that I knew and was good at—where I contributed—places to go and a place to come home to…

I like to believe that I can be a valuable contributing human even without a work schedule, but I’m beginning to doubt it. My over-inflated sense of self-determination and intrinsic, driven, goodness is losing air. Maybe that’s a good thing. I think I was beginning to develop a cockyness that overlaid some still rooted insecurity…

5-25-09

Isaac was born tonight around 8:30 p.m. It’s nearly 11 p.m. now and I am waiting for word that A’s parents are on their way here to the apt. Funny how it worked, the moment we took our eyes off the pot it boiled. Most of A’s labor took place in her sister’s car on the way down from WI to her hospital in Evanston, IL. I wonder what our lives will be like now? I wonder what A is feeling?

5-27-09

In the hospital with A and Is. A. has been such a natural, coaxing him to eat, comforting his cries; it’s lovely to see. Now she is trying to doze a bit as Is sleeps between my legs on this little cot where I spent the night.

5-28-09

First full day with Is at home, scrambled eggs and black bean soup, my wonderful outing with Az, our unexpected rendezvous on the el, perusing the life aquatic at John G. Shedd Aquarium, chill'n at JPUSA. I took the train a few stops in the wrong direction…I had a lot of fun today, hopefully I’ll learn to be helpful soon.

5-29-09

K.U. called me tonight. I thought it was an adventurous move on her part and told her so. I also said I hope she doesn’t have any false expectations about my coolness just because I’m Adam’s sister. I don’t mind that I said it, but it’s a bit sad that I think that way.

Had a wonderful chat with A’s mom L today. She told me the story of her life as a young woman in Long Island, New York, contemplating convent life; to a happily married mother of six (with 12 grandkids!) in OskKosh, Wisconsin.

5-31-09

Reclining on the couch, reading while cradling Is, a moment of awareness met me. I took note of the light streaming through the tall windows that I had laboriously cleaned earlier in the afternoon, the way the trees that loomed outside and the shade’s A’s mom had sewed broke it into scattered beams that played in the embroidered flowers on my shirt, he bared skin of my chest where the shirt’s neck had shifted, Is’ five small fingers clasping one of mine. I heard the pounding bass from our upstairs neighbor’s music, dulled only slightly by the floorboards and accompanied by his off-key crooning. Their noise annoys A—who I hop is successfully napping—but it amuses and delights me. Here we all are, separate but together, sharing our lives; albeit unintentionally.

6-1-09

…It was hard for A. to see her mom go, “I wish my mom would just move in!”
“Are you scared now that it’s just us?” I asked.
“A little,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
“It is scary.”
We were sitting side by side on the couch, silent for a while. I don’t remember what was said, but a moment later we’d found something to laugh about.

I’ve drifted in and out of wakefulness—gone to the bathroom, eaten ½ a banana, even knocked timidly on A’s door—since 6 a.m. It’s ten to 7 now and I am sitting up in my bed, covers on, lights off.

I told A I would take Is in the morning, but now I am wondering, what’s the protocol for that? Do I just go in there and risk waking her if she’s already asleep? Do I wait until he’s awake, knowing that at that point he’s probably ready to feed? Acts that come so naturally to a mother, I am having to slowly learn. One thing to definitely work on is asking more specific questions.

6-2-09

Digital media is delighting me today. This morning/afternoon I watched the recently made Bollywood film, “Paheli”…I’m not often moved to distraction by stories these days, it takes more (or perhaps it’s a matter of timing and theme?) to captivate me. “Paheli,” with Shah Rukh, Rani, accomplished it. I find myself hungry for something that I don’t know the taste of. Feelings like this beg the question; is it better to side step stories that stir yearning and restlessness, or is it better to embrace them; to follow them like clues to the heart of the universe (or at least, to my own heart)?

Just as I scrawled that question mark, the Bowerbird’s singer (the other digital media that I’m currently delighting in) crooned, “well, I don’t know.”
Walking home from the market, arms laden with a purse and two bags of groceries, I was not afraid to smile in the face of strangers. After I did, I felt even better.
Outside, it is cool and cloudy. A. decided to wait for a nicer day to go out with Is, but I had the excuse of groceries to escape the confines of the apt. Amazing how simply walking through a door can feel like unfurling shining wings.

6-3-09

…Is. had an appointment for a DNA/Paternity test this afternoon. Holding him while A. still slept, I thought how this test dispels the cozy illusion that Is. is all A’s and that everything is as it should be.

6-5-09

I need to get over my cell phone fixation. The proclivity I have towards obsession surfaces in the most random and useless areas…

What I want has been much on my mind today, and I don’t mean just in a wireless provider. I’ve let my mind look to the future and consider what it is I’m working toward and hoping for. The images I conjure fork in vastly divergent paths. Laying on the couch in the quiet of the morning when A. is sleeping in heard bed and Is, in my arms, I read “Ominvores…” and conjure up the dream of pastoral living; growing vegetables and having chickens for eggs and maybe even a cow for milk. I’d live in a house with extra rooms so I could be open to visitors—people who need a change of scene, writers, friends, family—

…In the book there is a brief allusion to Chilean child labor and my mind transported me to the scene, a witness (for peace? a journalist? an advocate?). Someone who travels and writes trying to frame my vision in words, to plant an image in minds and light a fire in hearts. Then, the sound of Is’ breathing, the warm weight of his body in repose on my chest, reminds me that the latter is not a lifestyle in which a day like this would be a likely experience, and I am liking this day…

I imagined myself in the activists life—maybe I could foster infants when on a furlough of sorts. I imagined getting the call, having just returned home to my husband (where’d he come from?) after a mission: “Amy,” the voice on the other line would say, “we have a baby, will you be available to take him?”
I say I will have to talk to my husband, feeling the pit--that will steadily grow throughout the day--begin forming in my stomach. No time seems like the right time to bring it up. Finally, at dinner, I lay it on the table.

“____ called today,” I say, shifting food around my plate with a loosely held utensil.
He’s sitting across from me, the room is light, we’ve just grown quiet after talking about something, I don’t know what.

“She says they have a baby that needs placement,” I continue.
He sighs and looks away, I stop speaking and wait.

“I feel like I hardly know you Amy, you’re always buried in something. I don’t know if you married me because you wanted a husband or an extra pair of hands.”
I’m holding on to the first part of what he said, turning it over in my head.

“Sometimes I feel like I hardly know you too. It seems like there’s this certain place a person comes to in relationships, or in most things really. Like a wall. And you either give up there—walk away or just stay stuck in a kind of suspension—or you dive in and discover this other life below the depths. I’ve never dove. I don’t think I know how to. I’m not sure I would even be able to.”

“Amy,” he says, rising from the table, “you tend to have a knack for getting what you want. When you decide what that is, let me know.”
He is tired of my abstractions. As he walks away I consider asking, “So, what about the baby?” but decide that now is not the time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The high cost of cheap produce...

"...I started to see the golden kernels everywhere, ground into the mud by tires and boots, floating in the puddles of rainwater, pancaked on the steel mills..."
-Micheal Pollan at an Iowa grain elevator (from The Omnivore's Dilemma)

As I read this, an image returned to me. Hands and knees in the dirt and patchy grass of the Farmer's Market lot, fingers picking up each individual kernel that had spilled to the ground. I was helping S, a local farmer, and T, the wiry brown-skinned boy with eyes like the ocean who was interning with her, run ears of corn through a hand-cranked machine that freed them of their kernels. Following this, T and I winnowed the grain, pouring pounds of it from one shining silver pot to another, letting the chaff be blown off by the wind. More often than not the machine delivered patchy ears with a majority of the kernels still clinging. T and I would kneel by the trough, coaxing the kernels off by rubbing our fingers against the roots fixed to the ear like tooth in gum. We'd carefully pick up whatever had been flung off target by the spinning wheel, going so far as to brush our hands over the surface of the earth to reveal any that had jumped behind a sprig of grass or been covered in a thin layer of wind blown dirt. As far as we were able, we accounted for every kernel. Nothing was wasted.

I was simply following S. and T's lead. My first inclination was to let what had fallen lie. First, it's dirty (how quickly we forget that it's from dirt that all food rises!). Second, taking the time and trouble for such a small thing seemed pointless--we had stacks yet to go through! I had a commodity view of corn. A supermarket shopper's presumption that whatever was needed, or wanted, would arrive before I did and be neatly presented for my consumption; whatever I wanted, whenever (for the 24-hour Wal-mart shopper) I wanted it. S and T had an entirely different paradigm. Having been with this corn from seed time to harvest, it was not just a product to them, it was the tangible manifestation of work, energy, life. It was a representation of their time and talent, as well as a sources of income; food in a starving world, money in a poor man's house. Golden kernels of corn where, for these farmers, not unlike nuggets of pure gold to a miner.


How quickly excess quickly begets waste.

Pollan quotes Friar Sahagun in his writing regarding the Aztecs:

"If they saw grains of maize scattered on the ground, they quickly gathered them up saying, 'Our Sustenance suffereth, it lieth weeping. If we should not gather it up, it would accuse us before our Lord. It would say, "Oh, our Lord, this vassal picked me not up when I lay scattered upon the ground, Punish him!" or perhaps we should starve.'"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Forgiveness

The child makes many a mistake,
But the mother forgives them all.
I am your child, your wayward child,
Lord, won't you forgive my sins?

If the child throws a temper tantrum
And pulls and pushes his mother,
She does not move away from him
Nor pull and push in return.
I am your child, your wayward child,
Lord, won't you forgive my sins?

My mind is trapped in depression;
How can I free my mind without your name?
I am your child, your wayward child,
Lord, won't you forgive my sins?

Bless me with a loving heart and a peaceful mind,
And draw me into full absorption in you.
I am your child, your wayward child,
Lord, won't you forgive my sins?


-Kabir

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Darlin', come be close, and be rested...

When you’re in love the reasoning behind your affection can be difficult to ascertain—the love supersedes what is commonly considered logical or within the realms of accepted reality. I guess I’m in love with Jesus.

On Good Friday, I went to mass with A. I left feeling a bit dejected and guilty. My mind had spent most of the time wandering and halfway through the two hour service I noticed my antsy feet were jiggling the pew in front of me. I was not embracing the mystery. It was not long ago that I felt a thrill at the symbolism, sanctity and unity that infused traditional services. Now I only felt impatience. Can it be that I’ve killed my ability to be receptive to this mode of spiritual connection?
My schedule has been completely askew this week, set on the shelf waiting for Monday and the promise of a more normal work-week. The result has been a perpetual struggle with anxiety and irritability. Thursday night I was on the edge of despair. Friday morning I rallied, but my response to the service acted as a catalyst for a decline in morale. Saturday I slept deep and late into the morning; running errands in a mental fog and returning just in time to leave for an Easter/Birthday cook-out.
After that I felt pressed for time to do laundry and get a good run in before going to HR to cover the night shift. I couldn’t find my keys and was feeling agitated and rushed when J called. I overrode my usual inclination to ignore incoming calls and answered. It was good to catch up with my wise, mystic, silly friend. He said some things about faith that made me wish I’d been recording our conversation. It was something about the need for an apocalyptic, eschatological faith—as crazy as it sounds, he said, we need a Christianity that embraces the idea of a kind of Utopian future—we need hope. In the moment I didn’t fully agree or believe, at the same time though, something clicked. I was raised, if only a little.
This morning I went to St. Thomas with no expectations. In truth, I went anticipating the discomfort of insincere recitation as I participated in worship. I went with the expectation of being unmoved. I was drifting until the gospel when Andy’s reading of John 20:1-8—Mary’s lament at the empty tomb of Jesus—captured me. It was her despair at the perceived loss of her believed that pierced through my apathy. Not only was he dead, now even his body was absent and she had nothing left to hold on to. I grieved with her.
Without recounting every detail of my thought process, there came a point in my sparse notes that I scratched, “Oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, how long will you put up with me?” Mary mourned at an empty tomb. I avert my eyes like someone avoiding the sigh of what they are afraid of (will it turn out that no one is there?). Both of us focused on an absence, ignoring the presence that asks of her, “Why do you weep?” of me, “why do you ignore?” Communion was a blessed reunion and the song that accompanied it contained a verse, “How I love him,” that I sang with the heart of a grateful lover; changing my vocabulary from “I doubt,” to “I wonder.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

wilted

How I would love someone to hold on to tonight.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Musings...

When I said “I don’t want to write,” I may have been telling only part of the story. Another part indicates the opposite is true. A third says I’m lazy. This laziness is compounded in times of enhanced guardedness, times when I am reluctant to share my thoughts or even to explore them myself. This is not one of those times. What follows are some journal excerpts for the month of March.

“When the Lord God did not call my name, I might have called his name—but I did not. There you have the difference between greatness and mediocrity. It’s not an uncommon disease. But it’s nice for a mediocre man to know that greatness must be the loneliest state in the world.”
Samuel Hamilton in East of Eden

3/7/09

Spring. We set our clocks forward tonight and nature has spent the day dropping heavy hints. Straight narrow blades of thick dark grass pierce through earth into air, which is warm and windy. These will soon surround bright yellow daffodil blossoms. One of Kentucky’s most brilliant indicators of seasonal shift. Birds are exultant and fat squirrels shake off their lethargy to hop across open spaces in search of new food sources. Patches of delicate, pale purple flowers are cast across the grass like throw rugs. I’m sitting at a picnic table on campus. The sun is low. From the building behind me I can hear a faltering but rich melody; a student is practicing piano.



Sitting atop the East Pinnacle with L…we talked about the various ways that we respond to coincidence; sometimes trying to find the secret signs and meanings, sometimes just sitting back in amusement. During the silence that followed, I looked over the distant littleness of Berea and the wide wild expanse of hills and valleys and ragged winter forest that surrounded it. I mulled over the other part of my conversation with A [ about the death and new life of moving from one place to another—wondering what reincarnation of me would present herself in Chicago.], understanding that to a large degree the me that will arrive in this new place is largely a matter of choice. It is a rare, priceless opportunity. As I present myself to a new place and new people, who do I want to be?

3/10/09

There’s a bright full moon tonight and I was wishing I could just lie back and look at it instead of having to drive my car home from Jackson County. I could go gaze at it now, but my body feels so tired, nothing outweighs the appeal of being stretched across my bed wearing loose light clothes…Mitch Barrett was playing at AJ this evening and his music, as usual, draws me deep. There’s magic in that man’s art. My thoughts were many but primarily I’m being kept in mind of D. “…she wasn’t born to waste, she had to develop the taste,” is a recurring line in a song Mitch wrote…I felt the stories of all the Healing Rain women; those stories I’ve made them write not once, but twice over the courts of their stay, the stories I see them act out day after day…D said writing hers brought up all sorts of negative feelings. Looking back, all she was a waste. Some women pointed out she had her daughter. I said something feeble about her now having a unique perspective. I meant it, but I hate that I said it—filling the silence, putting a band aid on a bruise—knowing all the while that I saw the waste too. The heart-breaking, bewildering waste of a beautiful life.
I keep thinking about this and mulling over how I could have responded, how we can respond when encountering these things in ourselves or others. I cannot think of a way to look back and make the bad things good. Valuable perhaps, as lessons, but not good. The good can only come in present awareness and future creation. That is where D’s gift comes in. She can look at her life and see what it has been and what she would have liked for it to be. D can look back with the perspective of today; a perspective grounded in life as a treasure, recognition of responsibility—she can see that there was something to be wasted. Whereas, those who’ve lived in relative ease with little disruption sit heavy on their eggs, crushing what was meant to be hatched. Not to say we need disaster in our lives to truly live, but something that’s what it takes to wake up.

3/11/09

Morning. The tree outside my window is budding!

3/18/09

In East of Eden, when contemplating the meaning behind the story of Cain and Abel, Lee has an epiphany. He realizes that the story is about rejection and man’s response to being overlooked in his quest for love and approval…I read this over a week ago and, while I felt it deeply then I’ve only just begun to think about it. Looking at the stories of the Old Testament through the lens of Lee’s revelation, I can see this theme of rejection and response cropping up everywhere. Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, David and Saul—the party that wields the sought after love varies, but the primary elements remain. One is chosen over the other for reasons appearing, for the most part, to be entirely arbitrary. While this seems utterly unfair, does a lover not have the right to choose a beloved and is it not possible that this is true with God as well? In any case, that part is not a thing that can be changed or controlled. As with HR classes, the story shows that we can’t make anyone feel anything, that’s up to them. Freedom comes though in the next step, acknowledging that in the same way that we don’t have control over other’s feelings, neither do they have control of ours. Hence, timshel, “Thou Mayest.”

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto Thee shall be his desire, and thou mayest rule over him” -God to Cain

“…the word timshel—thou mayest—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man.”
- Lee, in East of Eden

3/23/09

I don’t want to be a cynic. “I want my heart back,” an inner voice whimpered; creatively remembering an innocent, hopeful, believing heart. I’ve always been receptive to cynicism though, identifying it in others and reaching my arms out to wrap it in an embrace even as a decried it. Cynicism is safe. Eventually you come out on top, life proves you right. Every battle that you win though brings you closer to losing the war. Maybe it’s not better or worse to think one way or another, it only brings you to different results…This morning’s meditation on the same old words lit a fresh angle:

“…If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong…if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but
have not love, I am nothing.”

“I want to go back,” I started thinking but was corrected and redirected by what I would call the Holy Spirit,
“You can’t go back (and if you could, it’s not what you’re thinking), there is only forward—but you can choose what you will bring with you.”
---Timshel, “Thou Mayest”---
Skepticism has its place; turning stones and revealing new truths. Cynicism though, I believe it closes more doors than it opens. It asphyxiates the spirit.


During meditation this morning (and this is so silly, but it touched me) I had an impression of Jesus, bending down and reaching out – like Aladdin on his magic carpet to Jasmine – asking, “do you trust me?” And oh, how I wanted to take his hand!

3/26/09

…I was reminded of The Poisonwood Bible, the part where the sisters are touring a temple and the guide explains some of the religious rituals that basically amounted to massacre. The tour guide pronounced the barbarism of the race, while one sister pondered, perhaps this was a survival skill in a region where sustenance was scarce, and she questioned the ethics or her own role as a doctor. K and I went on to consider, if all of the men and women who died in wars and other acts of cruelty or neglect had lived and had children—would the earth be able to sustain us? Do we need wars? Do we need the elimination of individuals in the present for the sake of the survival of the species throughout the future?
I told K that I ask God everyday to teach me to love. Some days I have the heavy feeling that the best way to love is not the kind that brings warm fuzzys and that tough love goes beyond telling a child she can’t have a piece of candy. It’s a thought that challenges and sometimes frightens me. I want my love to feel good. Bother to me and to those who receive it. Here, K, beautiful big-hearted K, interjected. She said, even recognizing this argument, she could never go against her feelings and support a war or any kind of killing. Nor could I, I conceded, but I’m not confident that I could fight convincingly against them either.
Then, one of us brought up natural disasters—is what happens naturally not enough to maintain the balance?
K made an interesting point; if we were not destroying each other, as the human race expanded would the earth not more naturally assert herself, express her boundaries—swallowing us in water, withering us in drought, ravaging us with disease—we could experience the natural consequences of withdrawing earth’s resources, of living, rather than bearing the weight of another’s death. Anxious to take on the power of God, we crush ourselves beneath a responsibility impossible to understand or bear...


It rained steadily through the night and into morning. A light drizzle continued into afternoon. I went for a jog. The air was damp and hung heavy with the smell of earthworms that stretched across the pavement.

3/29/09

While chopping lettuce for future lunches, I recalled something I’d thought of while driving home from work. I decided to say it aloud to A.
“I don’t know why I started thinking this,” I began, “…it occurred to me that my growing romantic skepticism runs parallel with my religious skepticism…faith seems to require believing something and then building a life around it, much the same as romance involves feeling something and then building a life around it…”
…I did not tell her, I didn’t even remember until now, my minds rolling about the word “believe.” Focusing on the letters that begin it: b-e. What you believe is most accurately revealed not through what you say but what you do. So, to believe something is to be it. To be something requires a series of complementary thoughts, feelings and actions. These I identify as being a matter of choice. Is a belief a choice? I think so. As such, can it change without losing its validity or diminishing its value? I don’t know. In the past, I think I would have said, “No.” In the past, I also believed I’d feel romantic love for one man only and that I would love him until my dying day, even if it was unrequited. And so I move most of my beliefs to the shift but not altogether unwelcoming house of doubt.
All this from a girl who yesterday morning sat cross-legged on a porch swing and felt the pull to commit her heart to the Creator for keeps. The subtle greatness of sisterhood is never allowed to travel far from me before I call, “Wait! Stay where I can see you!” (Followed by a whispered, “but don’t come any closer!”) Processing the idea a little, I thought that one of my dominating inhibition regarding relationships is a reluctance to become too involved in one thing lest there be something (calling, person, place) greater—what could be greater though than a commitment to be eternally devoted to the God of the Universe? No wonder such a notion would beckon me, and that it would call all the louder in times of uncertainty.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I don't want to write.

I don't want to write. If I could just stop thinking about it, I wouldn't write. I wouldn't have to. There'd be no need. I'd just let the thoughts run over my wrinkly brain, like waters teasing embrace of a creek bed. I'd just let it run over and out. Whether I wanted to do it or not would not be an issue. All those thoughts would just be themselves, and run their course. And I'd feel fine, just dandy. If I could just stop thinking about it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thinking and feeling.

Poetry's been creeping up on me. Perhaps because it's a way to focus, like meditation, and not get swept up in the sea of words and wondering cascading through my mind. I do want to attempt navigating through the swirling ideas and select the bits that I can apply to an essay about hope and change (no, it's not about Obama!).

Sometimes, surveying the wreckage that is our world, the damage that we inflict on one another in seemingly indefatigable cycles; I think, if I love well enough I can help. Other times, I despair. During despair, if I can remember how I act when I believe, there's still a chance that the step forward needn't be followed by a fall back (perpetuating the myth that it is the despair that is more naturally valid). "Faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love." Without hope though, can love live?

Present stabs at elucidating my thoughts result in a frustrating amount of omissions and overwhelmed dismissal of the multitude of seemingly necessary tangents that wrap themselves around the central thought. Hence my inclination toward poems. Poetry has a tendency to leave itself wonderfully open to sparse language and broad interpretation. The following began during a walk on my usual trail that winds through the woods behind Berea College:

***

Love is stalking me
not creepily
playfully
clandestine.
Shuffling,
several steps behind
like a friend
setting up a surprise.
I keep my eyes
winding up the forward path
winking at skeleton trees
I won’t interrupt Love
reticent rogue;
becoming, being
it’s wonderful, mysterious,
approaching self.

I lightly kiss
the soft spreading earth
with skipping steps.
Love lingers.
It will sneak up
getting closer and closer until—
“Boo!”
“Oh my gosh!”
I exclaim,
“I had no idea I was falling in love!”
I smile to think of it.
Oh man, the stupid grin on my face.
Sun, the rascal,
acts casual casting
shifting light
sighing color.
Pretending its not romantic
I nearly bust with laughter

I’d love to share this joke
but choke back the urge
to speak
and spoil the process.
so I play a game with love
(while letting it be)
I walk with slow dragging steps
then fast
and
stop.
“oh, what an interesting beautiful place,”
I audibly muse,
touching rough bark
with fingers tips
eyes swallowing what there is to see…

Love is,
well, taking its time
for a reason
I am quite sure.
Still, a little peek
a discreet glance
a 180 just to check, I see

nothing.

Was it wind?
Brambles whispering
gossip about birds
and bees?
My own feet perhaps.
Oh, but no
no, no—
Love, haha!
Sly sneaker
you got me just now
but I know.
In the end,
I will tell the joke with confidence.

***

(Feel free to offer critiques, I know I can use all the help available when it comes to poetic compositions.)

And there are these little ditties I made from poetry magnets at 3rd Street Stuff coffee shop in Lexington:

***

She saw good
from dark
what can that mean?

***

Cool round moon
nest those
who cry.
They are nowhere,
slow to get home.
They may grow
to flower
after time.

***

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thank you NPR, for rockin' my socks off yet again

I heard these songs on the radio today, one right after the other. The first made me think. The second made me smile.



Winter keeps being what it is, in spite of me

Every once in a while, I wake to the feeling that I haven't been myself in quite some time. When my mind is in that place, I think perhaps Kentucky's been my cocoon, how I hope to leave it as a butterfly!

I hiked the pinnacles after work. What a beautiful mess it was, with thorny brambles and uprooted trees cast across the muddy path. While walking, my out-of-shape body greedily gobbled at oxygen. I felt the cold air in me. I had a sense that the exertion I was experiencing was akin to that felt swimming in the ocean. I remembered a day when I'd gone alone and sat in the wind with the sun laying over me, sand forming crystals on my skin. My nose and throat felt like I'd had an inadvertent dose of briny water. I let myself believe in it for a moment, knowing all the while that what my sinuses were clogged with was "Kentucky sludge." A side effect of the winter weather.

There's an open patch about halfway to the east pinnacle. It's a wonder how it changes from one month to the next. Today it was a field of tall brown grass and flowerless stems. Their dry rustling sang to the silence. I'd say the place was lonely, but every where I looked were watching hills rolling over one another, and swaying trees; all made shadowy by the unusually unfettered sun, and cutting their shapes into the achingly blue sky. An old tree, bleached bone white, lay lifeless and long across the field. I perched on the base of it's broad trunk, faced the sun and closed my eyes. "There is nothing better than this moment," a whisper told me, "how happy I am to be present in it." With my eyes closed, the sounds and sensations brought me back to a sense of the ocean. So different, but so much the same in the way each location, combined with Presence can simultaneously lift the spirit above this earth and bind it gratefully to the body.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

for the curious

I did eventually finish that essay about co-dependency. There are some areas where I'd like to edit it a bit, but I am too lazy at present. It is what it is, and it is quite long so I won't feel bad if you don't read it:


Amy Nee
1-18-09
Co-Dependency

The word “attachment,” as used by Simone Weil, presents my mind with a series of metaphors. Attachment is a black hole that expects all the world to fall into the consumptive abyss of me. Or else, it is for me to find something or someone (oh special someone!) into whom I disappear completely, and become free of responsibility. Attachment is like a woman looking at her lover and thinking, “he is mine,” or even, “I am his.” In either case entering the illusion of a dissolution of boundaries, ceasing to see what is—two distinct beings able to think/feel/act independently—and fixating on a false image of her own creation. An amorphous mass that feels and thinks and believes what the perceiver feels and thinks and believes, all in alignment, all defiant to the idea that they are only reality because that is the label the perceiver has given. It’s what she believes, oblivious to the possibility that it may be a deviation from or distortion of what is true.

Attachment is a major player in the modern American conceptualization of romantic love. That may be over-generalizing; to be fair, attachment has played a major role in my conceptualization it of romantic love. It approaches surreptitiously in the guise of affection, loyalty, commitment—presumably acceptable attributes in a healthy relationship—it cranks up emotion and dulls intellect. I’ve found that I’ve a tendency, when fond of a person, to begin forming him into an idol; casting the multitude of concepts he put me in mind of into a single image, his. The clumsy representation tumbles over the person, hiding him from my view and overwhelming me in its bulky shadow so that I too am hidden. When the one to whom you are making yourself known has been transformed from a person, to a god that encapsulates what is both most desirable and most intimidating, is it any wonder that instead of bringing to the table self-revelation, I hide in other-imitation? In the presence of the divine, my manifest destiny becomes only to be pleasing; any other ambition or defining lines are dissolved in the ocean of attachment. There are those times too, when the part of god is designated to me, at which point the roles are reversed, and there is an expectation that the other ought to always be in agreement in order to be a worthy lover, or should I say worshiper?

Misconceptions of love are not the only illusions that attachment weaves. It can surface in many aspects of life coloring belief and behaviors in its chosen hues. I see it very much in association with the desire to possess, and the accompanying notion that to grab hold of something and own it makes that thing, or the one who has it, more complete. What that thing is can vary depending on the seekers fancy. For some it may take the form of information, for others money, or artistic ability, or another person. I have discovered this feeling of restless dissatisfaction in myself even when I’ve hiked to the ridge of a mountain, surveyed a beautiful view and thought, “if only I could capture this.” It was not enough to savor the sight of peaks robed in reaching trees and surrounded by yawning valleys, multitudes of colors blending and contrasting, I felt that I could only truly enjoy it if I could wrap my arms around it. It is the same feeling that swells up when I hear beautiful music and ache, not only because of its beauty, but because I cannot play it. It isn’t mine, so I am diminished, and the full-figured notes fall flat. A fine line exists between appreciation and attachment, the latter demanding that the object which enraptures be a package that can be put in my pocket. Thus the object of affection is severely diminished and the attempt at satisfaction brings only self-defeat.

Detachment, I think, is acknowledging you don’t have all the answers, and recognizing that things aren’t necessarily what they appear to be in your own eyes. At the same time, it involves the ability to accept your own ideas as worthwhile, even when not perfectly in alignment with another’s. Great difficulty can arise when trying to parse out what is mine and what is another’s. I believe that even within the realm of healthy detachment I can allow myself to be influenced by those I respect, without being passively submissive.
There were times (there still are) that if I found my own thoughts and feelings contradicted those that I perceived in a beloved authority, then—ashamed of and frustrated by my internal dissonance—I would dismiss what was mine and resolve to replace it with what was “right”. I was so attached to the beliefs of others. Detachment allows me to think for myself. When appropriate, I can choose to sacrifice what I would like for myself, replacing it with what another would like, so long as I recognize that I am doing it because I want to, not because I need to keep them close to me.

The shape I am today is the result of countless exchanges—extractions, additions, alterations—between myself and those around me. I am a compilation. The repertoire of music that composes the soundtrack of my life is always being edited; making room for a new melody that I heard from someone else, a clear note that resonated from the wilderness, and making changes to old tunes that are no longer in harmony.
It’s all very confusing. In fact, the more I think about it, the more intricately wound the web appears. If there is an “objective reality” possible to be ascertained—a me that is “most me,” a belief that is unadulterated, a truth that is intrinsically, unerringly true--it is not something that I can clearly see. It is a great mystery. Often I cannot even honestly say I recognize when I am viewing the fabricated illusions of attachment and when I am catching a glimpse of that presumably more accurate reality offered by detachment. For now I try to remain ever mindful of the words of Epictetus,

“People and things are not what we want them to be
nor what they seem to be.
They are what they are.”

I only hope that St. Paul’s implication was accurate when he said that as I put childish things behind me, what is now seen dimly will one day be clear. Perhaps that day will be when I learn more truly what it means to love.

Friday, January 16, 2009

about "love"

I tend to take issue with the way this word is bandied about, by others and myself. It's something that's on my mind often and has of late been almost overwhelmingly so. This is partly to do with the environment in which I work. A couple of weeks ago, for staff training in a class on Co-dependency, I was assigned to write a reflection on the quote:

"Attachment is the great fabricator
of illusions;
reality can be attained only by someone
who is detached."

-Simone Weil

The reflective essay is due on Wednesday, I've yet to write it. I have however, written some sort of poem things.

If you love me,
don't say that you will change for me.
Don't do it for me.
If you do, you'll expect something in return,
and I may not want to give it.
Then, you'll focus on the disappointment of me
and fail to see what you've achieved.
When you change for yourself, you can be happy with the results
and freely choose
with whom you wish to share them.
Then you have a gift to give. A free gift
(because that's what gifts are).
If you choose to share with me,
Thank you.

* * *

Let's try this;
I will say, "I love you"
and not wait for you to repeat it
You will hear "love"
not as a claim of ownership
nor sign of increasing expectations
just a word
expressing that to me you are:
a treasure-
of priceless value,
of infinite mystery-
a dear friend
a constant challenge
a lot of fun
your own, not mine
beloved.
Let's try this;
"I love you."

* * *

I do not want to fall in love.
"Hopelessly in--"
"Helplessly in--"
Hopeless? Helpless? No, thank you.

I do not want to disappear into,
to get lost in someone,
nor for them to lose themselves in me--
or find themselves there for that matter.

I want to walk
wide-open-eyed to love,
to walk deciding everyday
that the other is the one I want most to be beside.

* * *

I could walk away from you
you could walk away from me
but you've chose for now that you will be
walking next to me

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hopefully, November will have less typos...

11-4-08

Election day, and I began in a panic. Before going to bed last night--far later than I'd planned--I checked my voters registration notice. My breath stopped. Somehow, I'd never noticed the fine print: "more information needed...you are not registered to vote." For awhile I considered not even going to the polling booth. My thoughts attacked me. How stupid, stupid, stupid. Only a fool would miss her opportunity to vote in a historic election because of a careless oversight. I was embarrassed, angry, and deeply disappointed. [Note: I did get to vote]

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." -Descartes

11-7-08

The lighting outside is really remarkable--I love the sky after a rain. Cracks of light--accentuated by broken gray clouds--illuminate the autumn leaves; transforming them to shimmery gold slivers, gently waving in the cool fresh breeze. The wakening air and radiant scene are juxtaposed by the still staleness of the kitchen; pale walls dimly lit by an energy saving bulb, the drone of appliances, and M typing on her laptop. With the back door open just enough for me to lean against its frame, I sip a cup of hot tea and straddle two worlds. This has been a strenuous week, I am relieved by the arrival of a Friday with no plans.

11-10-08

...This morning I was like a kid at Christmas getting ready to come out here [to camp AJ for the Healing Rain "Survival Week"]--jumping up and down while I packed--I listened to a This American Life called "The Break Up"...Sunday was beautiful. I was so ready for the weekend and so happy to have nothing planned except church and coffee with my crew...

11-14-08

The rain kept waking me as it altered it's rhythm throughout the night. It began falling fast and hard and I felt like an asshole for being in a tent beneath a shelter while everyone else was exposed to the elements...It's been a wonderful week but I'm with the women when they say, "I'm glad this is the last day."

...We are all so tired. I spent much of the day on the verge of tears for no reason other than exhaustion. But we accomplished much. We built a bridge. We did a lot, but above all, we built a bridge and treated each other with love--walking zombies of grouchy love...One picture that's imprinted; turning to look behind me on the geocache hike--the forest nearly bare of leaves, except those that carpet the ground, the air draped with a silky mist; orange, gray and brown--I'd turned because S spoke to me,
"Thank you for making this happen," she said, "I didn't want to come but I've had a great time."
I've had a great time. I feel love and loved. Also, my heart wants to break, thinking about decisions and relationships and all that I stand to lose by changing and all that I stand to lose by staying the same. But I won't think about that tonight. I'll think about that tomorrow.

11-16-08

Driving past the Vineyard, on my way home from St. Thomas, I thought of my investment there. I remembered the feeling of anticipating a walk with Z after services, to hang out with T, and then to hang out with Z himself as he tried to pry me open and find a warm place to rest. I put so much energy and emotion into that fellowship, into that man, now I hardly think of them...

"I like to leave things unfinished sometimes, so I've an excuse as to why they don't meet my standard...it would be nice to finish though."

11-21-08

"Everything's changing and I don't feel the same."

A and I are in the process of packing up Berea House to move to Forest St...I'm in my bed and wishing my mind was ready to sleep. It is active enough to keep me awake but too somniferously inclined to properly process my thoughts. Ever since camp, I've been blearily watching myself travel through a series of mental shifts. At this point, I almost feel reluctant to get in the way of whatever is transpiring up there; better to stay on task and attentive to the tangible, pressingly present aspects of my life...

I'm reconsidering Palestine; feeling the confusion dissipate when I let myself say, "I think the time may not be right."

My iPod has been stuck on Alyson Krauss for almost an hour. Now she's singing, "Baby, now that I've found you I won't let you go..." and the weaker part of me is wishing I had someone to hold.

I've so much to be grateful for.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Amen.

11-26-08

...Preparing for the new and leaving the old, combined with our usual tasks of work and other responsibilities, has been a non-stop task. We spent our first night on Forest St. Sunday. With only a few days in I already feel more of a sense of belonging in the quirky, crumbling "treehouse" than I ever did in the cookie-cutter mansion on Commerce Dr. My mind is buzzing with crafts and creations for decorating and I feel right at home cooking in the kitchen, squished in the tiny space between the sink and our waist-high, square-top stove...

11-27-08

Happy Thanksgiving. I'm enjoying this slow quiet morning with A. It will be strange to ever live with someone else...

...One thing that continues to linger in my mind: A few nights ago, Tuesday, we had a guest speaker at HR. He's the man L bought a motorcycle from...He was unabashedly pro-Jesus and I was amazed at the respect L had for him considering his stance on "deliverance" vs. "recovery." I think that what resonates with L is sincerity--this man's sincerity certainly moved me. I was determined to get home and get in the word, to re-examine the space I was in spiritually--but first I had to make M cake and enjoy being with her for our last night as roomies, then there was stuff to do on the house, dinner at HR, A's sister arriving,and now Thanksgiving Day. In a few hours I will be going to work and staying until tomorrow morning.

11-28-08

...I doubt there are many jobs from which a person can come home after an overnight shift and say, "that was fun."

11-29-08

Last night MB came over--truly the world shines brighter with her in it--we all went to the Paddy Wagon and laughed and drank for hours. It was the most fun I've ever had at that place.