Monday, June 11, 2018

interior design

My photographs were supposed to be developed at the drug store by today, and yet the drug store has not called me.

I am impatient for these photographs. Having digital pictures has made me forget the fragility of film. What if some disaster befalls to these images? What if an incompetent employee ruins the negatives or misplaces the results? I want to see the results—I have some inkling of what they will look like, but I am not yet sure. I wonder how the remembered moment will translate to film. I have faith that they will arrive, and yet it is hard to wait.

I go for a run. It has been a very long time since I ran, and I am scared, as my feet begin to move across the pavement in a way which is foreign because it was formerly so familiar, and to be reminded of its familiarity is to be reminded of its loss, that my knees will grind to a halt underneath me.

But they do not.

I run into the forest where I wrote my first poem, and found my first God. As I run, I sort through, in my head, the threads of feelings, responsibilities, loves, desires, dreams and plans. It is data that is mostly tangled into knot and I feel incapably of following the line to its end.

Suddenly, in the midst of rain, in the midst of what seems immobile, inert, stagnant, it seems to me that a path at my feet opens, and all that is left is freedom.

To be in a state of uncertainty, a liminal state between jobs, between homes, between places—to be, simply, in the in-between season—is not comfortable. It is uncomfortable, and yet it has been strangely freeing.

There is no identity to hang myself on other than simply my own name, and the relationships that give it shape. As I seek to remain myself in the midst of a transition which could assail my sense of self, where I find my solace becomes revealing. Where do I run, I ask, to continue maintaining my identity? No longer living into a job description, which comes with a set series of tasks, I am left to form my own routine (ubiquitous in my former lives, yet woven into a lot of extraneous tasks, which muddle, perhaps, its own clarity), and discover what is vital to remaining—or developing—who I am.

Who are the wells I draw from when my charity runs low? I continue, Who are the fortresses from which I launch my advance of love? Who and where are my dining room tables? No longer surrounded with accidental mentors or happenstance sharers-of-life, my heart teaches me who I can lean on, lacking a serendipitous supply of supports in the day-to-day.

To discover oneself, to discover what relationships demand of you, given the patience and time to live into them, is a rare gift.

And I wonder, as I wait upon and live into the daily developments of both my photographs and my story, what will appear.

At the end of the run, this realization of freedom strikes me with the sudden shock of instinct. As I seek to argue my way forward, pick open these knots with intellection, it suddenly appears as though all exegetical restrictions will be removed—relativized—until the only exigent necessity that remains is the will of God. The only compass point is what begins to be, and the only story revealed will be cross and resurrection.

Monday, June 4, 2018

eucharistic restrictions

I received Holy Communion at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver, on a street where the skyscrapers block out the ubiquitous mountains. Muscles in my thumb throb, tendons complaining overmuch about the usual tasks. My mind is mostly occupied with that. Odd where our imaginations wander when our bodies are stilled in prayer.
As the sweet host—sturdier bread than usual—melts on my tongue, into my heartbeat, I think of the dream I had, its details softened into the atmospheric haze of nights melting together, that I was almost on the road to Nablus. My hands full, as they usually are before entering a vehicle, about to step into the white Toyota Corolla, I stopped myself, as I remembered I was wearing shorts. I realized I absolutely could not walk into this conservative town with those on.

My lips have been chapped, and my mouth dry. But it started to water, thinking of the sweet knafeh that was only a car-ride away, if only I could find the proper attire.

I thought of all the hills of Samaria I forgot to take pictures of, covered in the richness of growing olives and tough grasses. I thought of the sunlight hitting Mount  Gerizim.

These were so close, but so impossibly far.

Is this, I wondered one of those exterior molding forces I’ve been told about? To be stopped in your tracks by restrictions outside of your control?

We undeniably leave people that we love, and desert places which have brought us home to ourselves. We are certainly separated from them, the pain of that separation fuels most of my activity—airplane travel, to find my way to their physical sides; conversation, to build a thousand bridges between their thoughts and mind; writing, to try to hold onto all the moments which inevitably slip quietly into the deep sea of what is permanent and inaccessible inside of us.

But they are never quite left behind. The people and places you love rise up to greet you, like the tops of stone buildings above undulating highways. Small patches of brush in the Rockies’ foothills remind you of Mount Tabor, the new verbal tics you have developed trace your journey through various dialects and others’ hearts. They continually manifest themselves in the world around you, cheeky sacraments of what is beloved, whose absence ascends into some new kind of presence. Felt in the quiet breath of wind at sunset, in a new construction of our mental topographies and verbal maps, in strange liturgies of memory which bring into the present what has past into a future already-but-not-yet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

small white signs

You are older now and the world does not offer itself up as easily, it seems. The world rises up to meet children with forgiving elasticity, but resists adults. Is that because we are not as skilled at receiving what leaps out to us with open hands?

My backpack beginning to weigh more heavily, I reach the first relief of a downhill stretch of sidewalk, and I let my feet fly off the pedals, as gravity pulls me forward into this small patch of woods.

As I begin to pick up speed around the tight turn, an albino squirrel scampers from the slick sidewalk into the cover of the rain-soaked brush. He is exactly like the ones that used to cross our path on the many ice cream trips we made to the store with my grandfather growing up. As the squirrel dodges my spinning bike wheels, I can only think of my grandparents pointing them out to us on our ritual expeditions.

Then, they were magical—how can a squirrel be white?—now they are sacramental, holding the memories of people now gone and routines laid to rest.

Perhaps this squirrel is magical—or sacred—and enchants—or blesses—this moment, as I speed through the lush overhanging trees of Minnesota forest, my legs spread out on either side, being pulled along at the speed of—

it is important, I think, to move through the world with the proper momentum. I do not like slow-walking or slow-moving. The world demands more from us than plodding. There is something correct, I think, in the joy of rushing through the beautiful, not for a utilitarian sense of getting to the end faster, but because the journey itself is utterly transfigured when you move through the world too quickly for thought. Details leap out from the scenery, apprehend you and transfix you, defying critical appraisal, wrapping you in the sum total of all their parts.

Moving quickly is not moving mindlessly, but it is moving without ego. Speed disabuses us of the fantasy that we are outside the scene, a qualified spectator of what unfolds. To find myself flying, legs splayed out like hopeful wings from the bicycle, praying for a gust of wind to life us off the asphalt, is to find myself intimately part of the beauty which surrounds me. I do not just see it, I am with it and in it, and that is strong consolation.

In this moment—for at least a moment—I am part of this thing which is beautiful. Which restores, for more than just one moment—

joy.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Gretchen's Last Ride

Everything about tonight is smooth—I think the poet would describe it velvet, but it is (thank God) not quite so heavy as that, the sun's delayed setting finally pulling down the mercury in the thermometers. Finally full, the moon shines through a slight halo, which means I can dub the evening "gossamer" and not be guilty of egregious romanticizing.

I guide Gretchen down the freshly-paved street (there was so much construction on these roads last summer), her exhaust pipe leaks creating an unintentionally disruptive roar. The radio is playing Taylor Swift, so that sort of dampens the muscle-y rumble, I guess.

I drive Gretchen (who is my car, by the way) through the moonlit navy blue sheet of night being pulled down over this little Rust Belt Nowhere, USA. This miniature city is a joy (aren't all cities?), and as I try to observe the necessary, proper rites of leaving, I find myself flooded with the impossible debt of love of belonging to a place.

College is a particularly blessed and happy time, but I wonder if our encounter with wherever we go to college is so intertwined with our own encounter with ourselves, that we cannot see the place very clearly. To return to this place where I became a human for four years is an unexpected joy. Because this place's sacredness, although not focused on, is not negated or obfuscated. This becomes another place where you can just live in, visit, and belong. The place becomes more apparent as it becomes less identified with your own experience or past and stands against you as its own entity, entirely.

As I gaze at the St. Joe's river, trying to stamp the sight of the shimmering lights and the roosting ducks in my heart, I am so glad. So glad that this river claims me as its own. That I have memories entrusted to it, which I cannot remember wholly on my own. A part of me is left here—and that, I believe, is the essence of belonging: to entrust yourself to an impermanent world and its contingent story. To link your own narrative with those of others, to weave your story into the same tapestry that others have begun. Where to love and who to love seem to be such risky endeavors with no guarantee—are we really in control of which places and people we fall in love with?

But we do. We catch small glimpses of home, if we are watching closely. And we turn our boats upstream, even, to follow them.

I cannot summon all the proper gratitude in this moment, to say goodbye to this small river. But the dryness and the effort are, in themselves, an offering of love from a heart stretched past capacity. I turn back to the car, remembering.

I drive Gretchen back up to the small fairy-tale house where we lived last summer. Cut the engine, and tuck her in underneath the trees which arch over the sidewalk, reaching toward the road.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

peripatetic perichoretics

What God has joined together—
bonds of serendipity,
the glue of happenstance:
accident, now necessity—
builds an exterior fortress 
from which God creates, 
loves, espouses, and diffuses

The Economic Trinity is a fortress, from which God loves the world. But the Imminent Trinity is, too, I think one sunlit Wednesday on a bench in shade, under the sunlight of the trees. Certainly, their relationship is one in which they balance and check one another, they meet, support, and translate the being they receive to the world. But do not the taxes balance and complement each other. They are a fortress unto themselves, protecting the Godhead from collapsing into the interiority of the two. The pair is natural (e.g., Adam and the Beasts, the Occupants of Noah's Ark), but where three are gathered in one name, how can this be? For to have relations with a man is to meet him face-to-face. Can we meet two gazes in one moment?

Whatever else it demands, Trinity demands faith. To believe, as hearts fail and bodies crumble, that there is a God who is not angry or cruel, but ultimately love, is a great risk. To believe that there are certain sturdy castles one can anchor one's kingdom on is a leap of love.

But whatever is divine—whatever is made up of the natural and its supernatural fruit, whatever meets our expectations and exceeds them, whatever offers both cross and resurrection, whatever offers a foundation deeper than sand and a happiness and wholeness beyond a grasping comprehension, whatever demands more than we know how to give, and provides us with a rooted place from which to love the world—

let no one tear asunder.

May no single hand dismantle
its painstaking, long-suffering,
loving bricks.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Things That Fall Apart:

a brief catalog.

Hearts
Phones
Scrapbooks under influence of water
Cars
Plans
Bodies
and Dining Room Tables

Resolutions
Good Intentions
Sleep Schedules
Dreams You had When You Were Twelve
Families
Communities
Routines
and Possibilities

Chairs held together by glue
The doll's head mended by an amateur
a butterfly in the hand of an eager toddler—
which is how we're held by God, sometimes.



Monday, May 21, 2018

Song of Scaffolding

Fold the creamy linens,
like bread dough on the countertop,
kiss the wooden altar,
where I have left my heart.

You have held a life here,
on brown-paper-glass floor,
through phone calls with Balthasar,
rendezvous on tear-streaked mornings,
guilty Christmas wreath-packings.

Women meet and pray here
in the hush before the day springs,
in the quiet as night stills
to a heart-beat halt.

Your arms, spread wider than the heavens,
scatter old wounds to crumble
in condemned chapels.
With such a gracious host,
scarred hearts and wounded hands,
can welcome new loves and guests
with the enthusiasm of Elizabeths.

I hold your hand in mass,
and feel your body,
rooted to the hardwood floor,
grow tall and strong next to me.
A tree who I can grow with,
lean on, and find shade in,
here in this chapel of visitation.