Love In & All Around Us

 

I sit and feel the rage — mine, and that which doesn’t belong to me –. the pain of

violence–words and actions–and I notice the yellow sunlight throw itself

against the leaves; complete trust in its’ trajectory.

 

My heart is big enough to swallow the world with every surgical mask, homeless man, and seething crowd in it. Like the feathers of a duck swallow the eggs

beneath her.

 

A duck with a red beak and brown feathers warms that nest of eggs and watches me

warily like she did last spring when

someone else walked by her sacred workplace and the crises on our lips

were not yet anticipated.

 

Crises bubble up, toxic tar ignored past expiration, a message

as blatant as nature’s rhythms:

we are dying

nature keeps living, keeps

 

thrumming her steady bass note:

love woven into the calloused bark,

cutting currents–like whiplashes–down the trunk, telling

us the story of ourselves.

I had Forgotten

Life is cyclical in many ways. I experience something, move to the heart of it, through it, and continue on until I return to the same or a similar experience. I face something and it brings so many torturous feelings over me that I look away. When I encounter that something again I am able to stave off the looking away for longer this time. Something small angers me. The next time that something small arises, I am able to notice my anger and have more agency over my response. I experience a beautiful setting, feeling, relationship, and then I forget. I experience it again, and I remember. I forget, I experience, I remember. I forget, I remember. Forget. Remember.

Quarantine–the word that’s shaping daily existence around the world right now–is reminding me of what I have forgotten. Ten years ago I knew the importance of being outdoors, be it blazingly hot, or bone-chillingly cold. I knew that I had to keep moving, no matter what. I knew how important it was to pay close attention to the books I read from start to finish. I knew that my friends were the most important people alive, I knew that I needed them and their hugs to survive. I couldn’t have explained to you why those were all important, nor how I knew. But I remember The Knowing, and I acted on that Knowing; it shaped how I spent my time. Five years ago, The Knowing was so strong that I spent entire weekends on the untamed riverside property between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The wildness of that space nurtured places in my soul that I had never before been aware of. During that time I safeguarded my solitude like a nun under a vow of silence. I held my beloved friends and the memories we shared closer to my heart than even the blood that surges there. I allowed myself hours–even days–with my cell phone turned off and that, in turn, allowed my mind and spirit to unwind. That time was an unfurling. I couldn’t have explained to you why those things benefited me, nor why in that moment I was able to prioritize them so (a fair dollop of privilege, yes, singleness, and no children, also), other than because I was tired of the way I had been in the world up until then. Other than I knew I had to find a different way to be in the world or my life would become toxic.

My life would become toxic. My life had become toxic again. This time, I didn’t have the privilege of time to spend away from the world. This time, I had bills and a husband and a salaried position, and a sense of importance in the world that existed side-by-side with a fear of being irrelevant and getting left behind professionally. Just a few weeks ago, those were the barriers between myself and all that I had forgotten. The responsibilities and fears stood between myself and The Knowing. Until the barrier fell. Until a literal government mandate took what I held to so tightly and made it more than irrelevant–made it off-limits. Until the barrier fell, I had forgotten. Actually, until the barrier fell, and I fought the new way of being for a week–give or take a few days. I fought it because I had traveled far from The Knowing. I fought it because the forgetfulness had overcome the memory of the way my soul unfurls when it gets what it needs.

I am remembering now the nourishment that leaves hold for my spirit: their veins and vibrancy carrying a story that speaks past my mind into my psyche. Leaves that wave under the sun, blinking and winking at whoever is or is not beneath them. Leaves that float downward without struggle, and ride the stream’s current wherever it takes them. Leaves that are green like the grass under my feet, ever regenerative and pure.

I am remembering now the essential nature of every human touch. Be it a hug, the brush of an elbow or the touch of your hand to someone else’s when they loan you a pen or a piece of gum. Be it love-making, hair-brushing, or the gentle holding between your hands the impressionable, expressive face of a little one.

It is coming back to me how close I feel to myself and everyone else when I spend those quiet, solitary hours, allowing my hands to release their desperate hold on the false security of busyness and control. I am unfurling again because life’s cycle led me back to this place where the barrier between myself and The Knowing has fallen against my volition.

I am given no choice but to remember, and the memory is sweet. Didn’t an author once say “every bitter thing is sweet”? Well, they were right.

I had forgotten, until I remembered.

 

 

 

The Cadence of Contradiction

Everything makes no sense at all. In travel, I find myself far from myself, but closer to the truth. I expect the truth to be clear, defined, but it isn’t at all. At least not in the ways that I would like it to be.

How can a place be in my bloodstream alongside my blood?

The wisest people don’t shy away from uncomfortable paradox. The wise ones among us open the door to what is contradictory, because nothing exists without an opposite.

I’ve been missing God for so long. I’ve felt heavy the absence of the Spirit in me, that tingling sensation of energetic liveliness which glorifies even the most regular day. Yet walking, soaking up sunlight, eating healthy food, sleeping, are holy activities.

I slid down to a stream during my afternoon walk, getting my Skechers muddy in the process. The smelly earth gave way beneath my feet, I almost sank into the mud at the water’s edge. The water made tinkling noises as it swept over the smooth, round stones. I’m not there anymore, but I bet the noise continues now against the evening darkness. Just like the trees laden with guindas bear their fruit regardless of whether it is harvested or not from season to season.

Beside the clear stream it occurred to me to pray; lately–for the first time in a long time–it has been a beneficial practice. I inclined my mind and heart toward the beyond (i.e. somewhere else), then realized the absurdity. The water was there speaking to me, its’ radiance motivated me to pray, and I consciously diverted my attention away from its’ voice. Like someone reading and sending text messages while claiming to be listening to the conversation at hand. Utterly ridiculous to seek God in clouds that I can’t touch when inspiration itself is within reach of my fingertips.

I realized that God was there as water, just as God was there as sun. The sun and the water, the stones and the mud were already telling me a transformative story. I didn’t need to travel away in my prayers, I needed to move in connection toward the revelations surrounding me.

The Spirit was there within me, and always will be, though my mind travel great distances. I don’t know much about classical music, I won’t deny that my shit stinks. I go to a Unitarian church once or twice a month. I don’t go anywhere on Holidays. Yet there is holiness woven into the tapestry of my life; it is there in my bloodstream alongside the air of every place I have visited.

How is it that the mind feels God as remote, while the body is here moving through the motions of Incarnation daily?

There is suppleness in my joints and pain populates my days. The God I knew as a child has died in me a thousand times, and I love the structure of ideas set foward by Jesus more everyday (they too are in my bloodstream). The country that I am from is wealthier than any other and nothing within its’ borders is valuable. Humanity has progressed profoundly, and we are a far cry from a loving community.

The wise respect the paradox at the heart of existence. We are living and we are also dead. God is here and God is also there, if there is indeed a there.

The water that glided through my fingers, the millions of drops that kart-wheeled past me according to their natural cadence in a stream here in Temuco, Chile, were full of God. I, too, am full of God. Divinity breaths love in and around me, whether I seperate myself, or draw near in humble awareness. The stream flows and the trees grow, whether they are tended and observed, whether their water is tasted or their fruits harvested.

Paradox is interwoven with the blood pumping through my veins. Life has purpose, and there is no purpose to be found in life.

The only thing that makes sense is to keep traveling, to move forward, however little sense it makes.

 

 

This Year

This year, so full. The action, unending. Now that I have suffered, suffered in a multitude of ways, I can enjoy-happily-all that there is to love about life. Late nights with friends, hearts on sleeves. Sweet, grassy smells. Incense, burning. Hammock, hanging. Boys and the way they taste-different, each. God and His majesty, revealed in a rainbow of ways. Thrift stores and NO HOMEWORK! Time to paint fingernails, toes. Maps Arts Gifts Waffle Fries. The library, the constant motion. Depositing checks $, going to concerts. Networking, knowing people and a place-exploring the depth of both. Frustrations with family, feet, feelings, sure. All the awesome cannot erase the awful. Yet, what joy is mine! In spite of surgery…and struggles, there is such sweetness to living.

This, my appreciation of it all.

Good jobs, great bosses, gracious friends. Outreach, outdoors. Long drives, lakes. People. People. People. Pulsation in my fingertips-I feel the veins against your skin. Being, growing, stretching. Life in all its’ wonder. Me, in all my imperfection. Pain, poignant, presses its’ finger on my everything. It wills me to snap. It encourages anger and abandonment of all that is lively and lovely. Happiness holds it at arms’ length for now. Fear(you dog!), today is not for you. This day is for nice, earthy, companionship…worship. Today is real. Pain, an illusion of yesterday and tomorrow.

Highlights

A menagerie of memories from the 365 days that we labeled, “2012:”

Teaching kids to read.

“God created us because He wanted to love us.”

Finishing the Radical Experiement!

Seeing my favorite band (Page CXVI) in concert.

Highschool graduation!

MEXICO!

“I wonder what homeless people talk about….”

“He does not try to pass the time but sits down and lives.”-Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”-Dumbledore

Anything this side of Hell is pure grace.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”-Lamentations 3:27

“We could get into trouble,” Isabel.  “That’s how you know it’s an adventure!” Hugo (Hugo, the movie.)

“Quiet your mind, hear what the land has to say,”-Zac Brown

Don’t cry “peace” in the good times only to yell for war when something doesn’t suit you.

It’s not that I am crying,  it’s just that hot tears are falling from my eyes because it hurts so bad.

“…an aesthetic voyager struggling to destroy the beast within,” Chris MccCandless.

NOMADS.

“The compassion we feel when we see the bad things going on in the world is not humanism, it is God’s spirit,” Jamie Zumwalt.

A glowing jellyfish-larva fight on the beach late in the evening.

Bloodshed follows bloodshed.

We cannot take back the way we treat others.

“You are waiting. I am smoking.”-Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows.

I feel the sun. It soaks into my bones. My toes curl with gravel between them. The thoughts in my head are as transparent as the cloudless sky. Wind whips hair sharply around my face. Literal truth: I am on the floor in my bedroom. Soul truth: I am on a great red peak in the midst of a canyon wonderland. Ah, imagination power.

We cannot apply the distraction of politics to our faith.

Watching old friends struggle through ancient issues, and holding them while they cry.

“Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other too…”-George Atkins, “Brethren We Have Met to Worship.”

“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”-J.D. Salinger

“You’ve got such an old soul to you.”

My prayer is for the people who have decided that death is preferable to life.

“The Christian, when he dies, catches hold of Christ’s garment, and Christ bears him into Heaven,” Charles Spurgeon.

“Sad parting promises fresh adventure.”

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller.

“No Heaven will be so sweet as a Heaven preceded by torments and pains,” Charles Spurgeon.

“All the little man on the witness stand had that made him any better than his nearest neighbours was, that if scrubbed with lye soap, in very hot water, his skin was white,” To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

She who loves life can do anything.

I care about you more than I coud ever care about me.

“…that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 2 Kings 19:19b

“They don’t recognize you asl the adult that you are, but you probably just need to submit right now,” KimT.

“This too shall pass,” the Sadler.

The nearly-tangible blanket of peace that God wrapped around me as I left the children whom I loved with my entire heart to the care of their Jamaican school-teachers and caretakers.

Buying my truck.

“And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” John 6:51b

That’s my life; my year. Thanks for reading all the way down! I am being shaped for something big. Odds are you too are being shaped!

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