Friday, August 4, 2017

Northernness

The voyageurs thought the call of the loon sounded like a crying woman, which describes less the shrill honk of Minnesota’s state water fowl and more the image of utter loneliness these bachelors must have felt, starved of civilization and the sight and sound of female humans for many long Northern months. The loon conjures up loneliness in his very cry: a fitting anthem for these men who forged a slow and lonely aquatic path in these Northern water ways and woods.

On the other side of the island which Bernadette and I do not manage to hike all the way around, there is a very bare spine of volcanic rock peaking out of the clear water of rainy lake. But the stone is covered in some sparse wildflowers, and, most staunch and foolish of them all: a scrubby evergreen, lacking needles, which bares its naked comb of toothed branches against the cold Canadian wind, shoots down shallow roots into the non-existent soil it ekes out of the old lava in the rock, and grows. It just persists at growing and living, because that is what nature knows how to do.
If a seed falls on rocky ground, it does not give up the cause as lost. Instinct doesn’t even brook a doubt.
It goes on, because that is what it must. And it will often fail, the odds are not always in its favor, but it doesn’t much care for thinking in hard analytics before it sows itself.
And it manages to grow.
Nature has an insistence on survival that is miraculous in its persistent intensity.
Much like families, who seem to weather storms like we do today: hunkered down in our screened-in porch, and persisting until sunny skies appear again, which we can laugh under and splash at one another, floating like fruit loops in a bowl of milk carved out by old glaciers.

We speed across the lake, and I am inundated by sun and pale blue sky, lousy with clouds (and mosquitos), and the fresh spray of water, the horizon is hemmed in by pine trees, and it is utterly beautiful.

I think that this is sort of what life’s adventure means: it means attentiveness to beauty in the small and large moments, it means embracing an adventure from hiking Mt. Tabor to clambering over mossy rocks in one's back yard, it means diving into the Mediterranean alone, and off the back of the boat, even though the water’s deep. It means loving those immediate kindred spirits, and those perhaps hidden from your instant recognition, and it means embracing all these movements of grace as gift. Sacred, divine gift, which you will not clasp onto in fear, try to control in your paranoia, not clamp down on, trying to cling to them as buoys, nor shove them into the mold you had intended for your life. It means embracing this wild adventure—its sad loon calls, its dangerous portages, and its surprise turns—knowing that life is only a preparation for that which comes next. And this life doesn’t have to turn out exactly as you imagined it would.
But it must be beautiful.
And it must reach towards that heavenly vision of communion you can taste in the faces of the congregation at the our Father, in praying together before an empty golden tabernacle, in holding court with friends at sunset on all that’s right and wrong in this world. Our lives must point towards that, if nothing else.
And if we have that firm direction of growing, let the winds land us where they may: be it on the lush fields of the Galilee, or a scrubby Northern rock, not even deigned to be called an island.

I wonder what sort of adventure the voyageurs had wanted, how much of it they had chosen, and what they thought about what they had received in return. Did they ever get to sit in their chairs, surrounded by grandchildren and hear the cry of the loon which reminded them, not of a woman crying into their empty lonely frontier lives, but of the vast Northern skies they forged a path through, and the horizon that constantly spread from underneath their fingertips whenever they called it theirs.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

10 items from a run after the rain

1. I watch my dog cant across the green grass, muscles rippling under his brown silk coat. I've let him off the leash, and he chases geese into the cold water of the lake, until I call him back.
Pippin. Come back.
He only listens if I drop my voice into a lower chest register. But he returns. Unquenchably excited about his foray into the reeds and scummy water, and how tantalizingly close he got to those sneaky water fowl.

2. The man reaches out a fist and I go for the fist bump, because I assume he's not trying to punch me. He seems surprised, and awkwardly splays his fingers so my loosely clenched fist does not produce the satisfying thunk of knuckle-meeting-knuckle, but goes through the gaps in his fingers. The clammy physical revulsion that accompanies a greeting gone wrong shivers through me. As I bound after Pippin, straining on the leash, I consider his midstream change of course may have resulted from the plastic bag I hold in the same fist. It is not yet filled with dogshit, but it looks as though it might be. Certainly an object to shy away from.

3. There is a baby sock, still a fresh white, lying in the middle of the slick asphalt sidewalk. Pippin sniffs it and his roving nose brushes past it.

4. I realize that I am overwhelmingly angry about the fact that women, for millennia, were not treated as men's equals, because they weren't men's equals. Like, metaphysically, perhaps they were. Ontologically, I suppose. But practically and culturally, they simply weren't, because they were denied the power and the education necessary to become so. It must have felt like talking to a child; talking to a woman who depended on you for her social and physical mobility, just as it feels talking to a teenager today. And I am angry that it is only within the last century [not even, if we're taking Mad Men as a guide!] that social pressure has shifted (shifted infintesimally, almost imperceptibly) towards treating women not as chattel or as property, but as other humans. And I am angry that men (and, even more mystifyingly women) have the gall to suggest imagining that that means all work is done, and that there's nothing to talk about, work on, or [heaven forbid] complain about, you whining bitch. Look at how great you have it. How does one imagine that centuries of being treated as second-class citizens can just be easily reversed, sans the slow, systemic conversion that we each have to apply to our own most deeply-rooted sins? How would a society experience conversion any differently? What if we treated micro-aggressions as we treat venial sins: small symptoms of deeper spiritual ills, which must be attended to and confessed. And only can regain their proper perspective within that sacramental act of self-aware acknowledgement.

5. I remember that when I ran down these paths in high school I was not angry. And I wonder how it is that we learn we have need to be angry. I remember how I listened to Colbie Caillat and really didn't concern myself with a larger world outside my own head. There was enough going on inside of it to occupy me, and I splashed in its depths, conveniently and blessedly ignorant of the entire universe. If anger is a price I pay for being saved from living my life in the box of my own context, I will gladly pay it.

6. A man raises his eyebrows, about to address me, as me and the newly-leashed Pippin approach him. I am wary: is he going to rebuke me for some rule of etiquette I am unintentionally trespassing upon? Does he have unsolicited advice about how to control my dog better? If you're continuing down the trail, he says, in the hushed tones of enthusiasm used by acolytes of Marian apparitions, there's a doe and her fawn at the end of it. Thank you! I whisper in equally hushed tones, his excitement catching, as I motion Pippin into a quieter gallop.
This would never happen in the city, I think. It is good to share excitement over nature with another human.

7. How spicy is the slaw?
Uhhh I don't know, the cashier counters, embarrassed flush coloring her cheeks like sunset. She's embarrassed for me, as if I just asked the most foolish question in the world, like there's a joke I'm not in on yet, which everyone else in the softly lit café has understood already.
She shrugs.
like medium I guess?

8. A silver-haired grandmother, holding her grandchild in a baby carrier on her breast, a seat from which her big baby eyes can take in the entire world. They are staring off into the Bambi-underbrush of the woods, into which I imagine their cervine counterparts have disappeared. They watch the woods with an unvarnished intensity, and the grandmother smiles.

9. I realize once you lose faith in someone's good will, everything they do becomes suspect. The latin chant becomes pretentious, their recalcitrance is selfish, their enthusiasm is possessive. Trust is so easily lost. They tell me that once your tank actually runs out of gas, your empty meter will register empty later so that you have less time once your meter hits empty to refill your tank again. I find this mesmerizing. It is as if my car has sprouted feelings and sentience, and her small revenge on my inability to hold up my contract to feed her regularly is to play fickle with the gas meter. My car, it seems, will no longer completely trust me. I have reneged on my commitment, I have wounded her with my casual disregard for her needs in my selfish haste to get from A to B and she responds as I respond to everyone else: small acts of distrust. Burned once, she will not be so injured again.
Perhaps that is where anger arrives: I trust that I can sink into the world and it will receive me as hospitably as Colbie Caillat music and the rich imaginations that swirl inside my head. The world proves me wrong. This place does not promote my flourishing, in fact, it wants to make me fodder for the furnace which keeps it running. No way in hell. Enter mistrust and anger, pursued by bears.

10.
if you have ever felt a small, cool breeze in midst of the most shadeless, scorching summer day
if you have ever felt the first drops of rain break through constipated barometric pressures
if you have ever felt the delicious surprise of a stranger or a friend speaking out loud words you have only heard in your heart
if you have ever seen whatever home you have rear up out of the horizon, or pop around the corner, or emerge from the tangle of city streets, to swallow you up in its familiarity and safety,

then you probably understand how grace feels as she roots new space in the rotten soil of cynic thoughts, as she ripples through the stagnant swamp of self-righteous nursing of old wounds, tired spin cycles of the same grievances. She is so gentle to welcome, and her gracious self floods over these festering internal hills. After building up inside of me fast strongholds, stubborn stone towers, there is nothing more fun than finding that chink, that hole in the dam, and let grace flood through, rivering refreshment as she goes.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

playwright at work

Playwright at work:
talk at your own risk,
date her at your peril
otherwise
you'll one day
walk into a theatre
and as the lights dim and couples
on dates begin to hush
and clear their throats in
the dusk of curtain-rise
you'll find your quirks and cadences
your slight verbal tics
and idiosyncratic talking patterns
your preoccupation
with super marathons
your 30-year-old
celibate naivete
your clumsy charm
and tired pick-up lines
your blue eyes sparkling as they catch mine
will play out in front of you
on stage,
art reflecting,
refracting,
revealing
you back to yourself
in one warped funhouse mirror.

Friday, July 28, 2017

this is galilee

As the golden hour-almost-sun-set light hits 35W, Ed Sheeran's Castle on a Hill is playing—fittingly—and I speed down it faster than I ever did coming back from play practice late at night. Israel has really done a number on my defensive driving skills—now I am the driver my mother warned me about. Coming home feels like a long time coming: perhaps it's been longer than since January.

My jaw drops as I drive into the sun, the trees on either side of the highway over sloping hills tricking me—for a second—of thinking I am driving the little white Toyota Corolla (like the one I just passed) I drove from 77 down to the end of 90. Who knew that the Northern woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota look so much like the Holy Land?

I blink. Trying to erase the feeling of déjà vu from my eyes and clear my imagination of such foolish, fanciful impressions.

But, as I drive down 169, I suddenly feel like I am driving down 65, and as I drive over the flat reeds and past the trees shaking gently in the humid winds, I remember that last small stretch of road I would always hit at this time of day, returning to Ilaniya, after a day of hiking, swimming, or wearing out my sandals. Their appearance is undeniably alike. I have always held home as holy, so no surprise there that it bears such resemblance to the sacred. But it is silly to travel to the heart of the world, and realize upon your return to your own little native corner that what you went to see was always with you: that the woods where you went on your first runs in high school are just like those that surround the village, simply surrounded by fewer IDF bases. It makes one feel like a fool to travel so far into the foreign and find that it really is just familiar.

How did I never notice then, how much like home it was?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

my new neighborhood

Cold, quick sprays of dew
splash off the tree branch
car exhaust which smells like weed
pine tree out my window
Sunnymedes expansive green

The sunrise over the Mishawaka trees
Gerald Manley Hopkins' skies
the river licks my bicycle tires
and sandal soles.

Joey and I split Ben & Jerry's at the fish ladder
and the neighborhood kids beg him to
Hit the Quan
He didn't live in Harlem,
he doesn't know.

I walk back alone,
in the dark of the trees
and St. Joe
and the mulberries splattered on the white
sidewalk.

I cut across the parking lot
accompanied by two loping raccoons.
The world compresses into a quilt,
tucking me in with humidity and quiet.

I wake up to the tune of Eddy Street traffic,
some hard-ass gunning his bike,
and a garbage truck driving by at sunrise.
Rush hour.
But the sun hits my bed in the morning
white and Avonlea-pure,
and it cuts through the blinds in the evening,
golden and warm.

Just three weeks of summer,
in a little house on Wayne Street,
a small oasis of rainstorms catching you on the way to the car,
Oaken Bucket a river run a way,
and ferreting out new corners
of an old world.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

settlers of cat[a]

"I do not care" you protest, until you realize that you do. And that must be an odd sensation: to be met with truth in your denial. But you have never been a woman in possession of the infinitely large fortune of twenty-five years and not in particular want of a husband. Women with this kind of wealth—youth—are the Americas, constantly eyed by lascivious colonists, looking for fresh land.

Women who possess the freedom of life lived and more of it ahead to live into, are viewed as prime colonial costal properties. They are an expanse of virgin soil—unsullied by a homesteads or shanty boomtown blights—which cowboys wistfully pretend—play-acting—is their frontier to claim. They lick their lips from behind the borer fence—the land's boundaries are porous, but their visas have tight visiting restrictions. They tentatively try to stake a claim remotely. Like Russians with American elections, they itch to influence what they cannot conquer. They lob advice like rockets from Gaza, foisting their unwelcome flags onto the soil, which, despite themselves, they cannot claim. Their non-possession of the land feeding into the twisted manifest destiny they try to bleed from their own fates. Their fates, which have left them outside the land, which have given them their own lands, conquered, they have irrigated dry. The barren plots of soil they grudgingly farm, while lusting after the much greener grass next door. What harm is there in simply tending the land, caring for it until the foreclosure goes through? Surely, you do no wrong—in fact, it is your duty and your right—to care for this wild, untoward, untouched land. If it is not careful, it will end up in the hands of an exploitive and greedy, terrible farmer. You will care for it carefully, weed its hills, and tend her orchards, until slowly the land is yours, you think. When it slips from your grasp, when some new mystery of its terrain appears, a topographical surprise you did not expect, you grasp it tightly. You bind it like the land you've already tied down.

To be a twenty-five year old woman is to understand conquering and colonialism—one is colonized all the time. There is not accident, Manifest Destiny is an understandable desire: to see a woman and know she stretches from sea to sea, with room enough inside of her, which cannot be corralled. The thrill of that challenge is intelligibly intoxicating.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

the speed of Psalm 90:3

The grass grows and fades with sure same swiftness
of Ansel Elgort in baby driver,
flipping through his sunglasses
or what I call
an Israeli driver on his Monday commute

I am dancing bouncing in my seat to the tune of Taylor Swift
and my fake Ray Bans, feeling
fly af as
Ansel driving to the tune of
Queen on his morning heist

The air of South Bend sings
I bask in its benediction upon my
Yo Pro Commute to campus

Prosper this, I think

Prosper this commute: which is not a walk
which is not morning subway bus ride —
the missing of the bustle of midtown in the morning
strikes me:
to be again
grinding pavement beneath my boot heels
would be nice —
but I ride this car into the sunrise
pulling on the brakes
dipping around the slower eddies of cars
hitting the green lights as bars on the xylophone
of high spirits that chime on 92.9

Prosper here, I pray

each awkward meeting moment
this translation
from one congruent sphere onto the other
prosper the new languages
and spaces that have opened up
I think that I can live in this
Perhaps I can live here in this
prospering.