Monday, December 28, 2015

writer's block circa Christmas 2015

I can't write, because all my thoughts are of him.
I can't breathe, because each breath is him.
I can hardly stay awake,
when each waking moment is consumed with absolute desire.
And each memory an attempt to recall the taste of lips.
To remember the gentle pressure of his mouth on mine
the sweet touch of his lips on my hand,
the hand he held between his own.
And then lifted to grace with a tender brush,
Two soft lips meeting my white hand.
A promise of devotion--
fealty--his lips on my soft skin.

So I stare into his limpid eyes,
wine-dark with desire.
And I feel my entire body thrill and fail
I cannot move,
every inch of me is transfixed, transfigured.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sharing Ben & Jerry's in Midway Airport

Joseph cradles his orphaned god,
as orphan luggage trundles by his seat.

Mary badgers baggage services
into holding excess carry-ons

until the longed-for
return leg of their journey

Deserted now, their airport seems
more prison than portal,

a sorry stopgap for
pilgrims stalled
and grounded nomads.


Someone's eyes are teary--
yours? or mine ---
as we pray a simple grace

over our sweet meal,
with closed eyes

and each hand closed
over the other's.

Our ice cream,
according to the posted sign,

is named "The
Tonight Dough",
(with Jimmy Fallon)

But we re-christen it
"A Gift for You"

Of the genus

Imagining my just desserts,
I never could have dreamt
of this--

of these hands,
those stumbling words of  grace,

your eyes,
smiling with the light
of twin blue suns
into mine.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

marked with Emmanuel

Christmas hath darkness 
Brighter than the blazing noon, 
Christmas hath a chillness 
Warmer than the heat of June, 
Christmas hath a beauty 
Lovelier than the world can show: 
--Christina Rossetti, "Christmas Eve"

 One day, this past spring, I stood outside my school and had a conversation with a small boy who was playing outside on the scaffolding. As we talked, I began to wonder: what if I was put here, in New York City, just for this very moment?

Encounters with strangers who have been Christ to me dot the course of my life, and--I think--change its course. These encounters often have the power to leave me with a word, a look, an impression that changes my image of the world.

So I wondered if this was another one of those moments: for this child, for me, for both of us. If this was an encounter that would change the course of our lives.

I was standing on the street because I had been late to a work event from choir. A very specific, peculiar, particular set of reasons had led me to stand there outside the school at that particular time. In an exercise of nostalgia, I looked back over my life, and I found myself charting a series of deliberate choices, and funny, strange, sad, seemingly unrelated events that had all led me precisely to that moment. Through the lens of this interaction, a story had been created where before there had only been a sequence of unrelated happenings.

I wondered if my entire life had been made for that one moment, that one conversation, those brief minutes on the sidewalk with this small child. And somehow that felt like enough.

It is incredible how our lives can be transformed through a narrative.

I wonder if that is how Mary felt at the foot of the cross, finally realizing: "Oh. This moment. This moment is not only what my entire life has led up to, but is providing me with a script of where to go and what to do next. This moment is explaining me to myself." Perhaps all the pondering in her heart since she had sat at the foot of the manger had finally paid off. Maybe it all became ruinously, gloriously clear to her in a single instant.

Or perhaps that moment, too, was simply another moment to ponder in her heart, to mull over, and try to make sense out of.


I am a fairly constant day-dreamer. In whatever spare time I find for independent, creative thought throughout the day, I spend a large part of it weaving imaginary worlds in my head. I anticipate many upcoming events of my life, and spin variations on how they unfold. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and, some days, I suspect it is slightly spiritually unhealthy. Day-dreaming seems to be not-living in the present. But day-dreaming is also is the way I tease out stories and spin dialogue in my head. So I foster the creative practice, while trying to allay spiritual costs.

But I am always struck by how the events that occur, when they do occur, never happen in any of the variations I had composed in my head. The events, as they occur in reality, are always tinged with a flavor of tangibility. They are real. And reality is marked with a certain sort of tone, a certain shade of certitude, that my imagination can't quite capture.

In my head, all my imagined worlds reek of me. They are lousy with me-ness. They are marked with my own imagination; and made in the image and likeness of myself. But events in reality are marked with the flair of their own Creator. They taste like God's doing. And one sure hallmark of God's doing, we have found, is unexpectedness.

They are like nothing we could conceive on our own. Our imaginations can conceive of how we would mold the universe.

But the story of the universe proves to us again and again that how we would mold the universe falls short of the creative scope that the narrative can weave.

In an onslaught of unexpected joys, I cannot help but think to myself: how much more real this is than whatever occurred inside my head. How much more true to God, is this story, and less true to myself. How much more Real, for being something outside of anything I could create. And how much more marked with love.

Perhaps this is why Christmas is so fantastic. For it is a story that is not marked with my own expectation or will, but is marked with Emmanuel. It is an outrageous idea, one I could not have day-dreamed all on my own: that God would come and be one with us. That He would not disguise Himself as a human, a bull, a swan, or a cloud of golden dust; but that He would empty Himself of all His grandeur, and become a crying, helpless infant crying--the Eternal Word lacking the power to say a word--wrapped in crude homespun cloth.


But once I understand that moment--that moment of the Eternal entering into the gross constraints of time--as the story through which to read my life; once I understand that encounter of Word and flesh as the narrative through which the world makes sense, I look at the world around me with new eyes.

It all seems to reek of Incarnation: the dog chasing the squirrel, with its owner tugging at the leash behind. The woman walking past me with her Starbucks cup, her eyes locking with mine. The men, covered in the dust of construction and sheetrock in an old brownstone. The families brunching in the dim light of the diner on a Sunday afternoon. The lady running past me in the cool dark of a Central Park morning, Natasha Bedingfield leaking from her iPod earbuds. The young man with round glasses an ocean away smiling at me through the fog of a frozen Skype connection. The old woman across the subway car smiling at me through the sea of backpacks and angry Wall Street Connecticut commuters. The man in the train, crying out for help for his son. The sausage and egg sandwich, hitting my stomach with warmth, as though I just swallowed a sun.

How can I look on any of these without awe? They are no longer just themselves, but epiphanies of an Incarnate God, dying to speak to me. The universe around me is stamped with God's God-y-ness. And each person is bursting with their own unique manifestation of Christ.

I love day dreaming and fantasies.
But I love the story the way that God has wrought it more, I think. For my stories are often snagged on the complexities of life. Life is filled with currents of dark motives and politicking. There is intrigue and a twisted story behind every decision, an entire backstage drama most of us do not get to see. I am fascinated by the terribly complicated web of history humans leave in their wake.

But Life is actually just radiantly simple. It is the truth that we encountered as young infants in simple illustrated picture Bibles and poorly painted crèche scenes. The entire mystery of the cosmos can be summed up in just this: the baby in the manger we have known since our childhood.

He provides the answers to our complex lives: and they are such simple answers. For He Himself is the answer to our constant questioning.

I would never have imagined a truth so simple and profound, an encounter so apparent and so mysterious that it transforms all of human history and my own.
I would never have expected Emmanuel.
I would never have dreamt it on my own, my imagination is too small, to full of me.

But this world. This story. This night.
It is bursting with Eternity. An Eternity that poured into our world 2,016 years ago.
How can Eternity be contained in just one moment? Just one night? Just one birth into the world?
And yet He was.

Ever since that night, all of creation seems to be shouting out His Incarnation. Incarnation is in my sister's face, and my father's laughter, and my mother's tired smile. It is in the baby crying in front of me, and the stranger offering me her seat on the subway, and the man hiding behind his book.

They are crying out Emmanuel.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

diamonds and toads

Some of the happiest hours I have spent at home this Christmas have been cuddling with my sisters on the couch in a pile of mostly unnecessary blankets watching Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella. (The other happiest hours will be treated upon in due course.) Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella is a fantastic feat of story-telling, because it fills an old tale with new life, renewing it, without "reinventing" the story in any way. It succeeds in making the story unexpected. While I intellectually know what events will unfold, I found myself surprised and in suspense during the entire third act of the film. Will Cinderella get away from the king's men chasing her before her coach turns to a pumpkin? Will Cinderella be able to prove her identity easily with the slipper--WTF, Lady Tremaine. You are the worst. Will the prince overcome scheming stepmothers to find Cinderella and place the shoe on her foot?
If you have been raised in a Western country, you most likely know all the answers to these questions. Happy the film that can make you forget them, and fill you with sheer delight as the questions resolve into answers.

But, what delighted me the most about the film was the manner in which it found new depth and meaning in its characters, without fracturing the story at all. There was no modern twist (nothing wrong with modern twists. It's always fun--and often enlightening--to see our own contemporary social sensibilities applied to an ancient tale. But there was something true and timeless about Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella. It feels like part of a canon that Ever After or Ella Enchanted have not been invited to. It feels canon in the way that Disney's 1950 Cinderella is.

But, no doubt because it is live action and not animation, Branagh's film is forced to find a third dimension to its characters. Lily James' Ella is good. So radiantly, beautifully good and kind. The most kind, beautiful, good person you can possibly imagine, and you cannot help but love her. Once the goodness of Cinderella is manifest, we, the audience, can understand how someone as bitter and selfish as Lady Tremaine would--of course--hate someone as intentionally good as Ella. And Ella's goodness is not effortless--it takes resolve, courage, and strength. As Cate Blanchett remarks in the bonus feature interviews (shut up), in this film you can see the "human cost" of a fairytale.

The film grounds the prince "Kit" (I think? Was that his name, was that just a nickname? It's unclear.) and Ella firmly in their families. Seeing these relationships helps us see these characters as fully human. And once humanized, and brought out of the realm of folktale, cartoon, or myth, the story takes root more deeply in our hearts. 

I am brought back to my girlhood, when Cinderella was a character who I admired, before I'd read feminist critiques, before the Bechdel test, before I'd learned a critical eye. Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella has an innocence deeper than criticism, that can weather cynicism. It's not a going back to innocence, but a movement forward, deeper, towards a stronger sweetness.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

magnificat anima mea

For Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.
--Isaiah 49:14

My favorite words in the entire New Testament are Peter's: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

They are one of those delicious lines in Scripture that open up worlds of different possible intonations and interpretations. Perhaps Peter's words are a firm rhetorical question, followed up by a staunch profession of loyalty. Perhaps they were uttered with florid sentiment and tears.

But right now, as I ponder them, they sound almost annoyed.
Lord, what choice do we have? There's no other viable option. The choice between following Christ and not-following Christ is choice between an option and a non-option. One either chooses Everything, chooses the entire cosmos, pulsing with love and beauty, or opts for nothing. One either chooses to become more humanly, or negate the very nature of oneself.

Peter's words are more frustrated, it would seem, than anything: what choice do we have but to trust you? You are Truth itself. We are bound to you by our very natures. This really sucks for us. We aren't really in control here. We aren't the agents of power in this scenario. We can't really "go" anywhere else. The only place else to go is nowhere. 
He asks: Will you leave, too?
Peter responds sharply in reply, the way my teenage sister does, when she's tired of you asking what she thinks is a stupid question (like: How are you? or How's your day been?) over and over again: I'm FINE! She'll hiss, wondering why these annoying family members won't leave her alone. I imagine  Peter responding in the same vein, acerbically and pointedly,  Lord, to whom shall we go? Like, what are our other options here, man? You and your crazy: "Eat My Body" talk are kind of It, in the way of Incarnate Truth. I mean, it's not like there are other Sons of Man we can just look up in the White Pages. So. Yeah. I guess we'll be along for the ride.

In my imagination, Peter is annoyed because he has no other options, and Christ hasn't made this one look any easier. In fact, Christ has now made the one option left--pursuing the Living Word--look like you're one of those crazies hanging around the cultish preacher-man who talks about eating his body. Nooo thank you.

Peter trusts that this "my flesh is true bread" talk is a legitimate something, and not cannibalism. But all he has to go on is that trust. Christ has made a promise that He has the words of eternal life.

The task of the believers, throughout millennia, from Abraham down to you and me largely seems to be cultivating that trust, waiting for those promises to be fulfilled. We trust. We wait, remembering what we have been promised. We have been promised so much.

And Mary sings her magnificat, reminding us of the glory of these promises being fulfilled. Her soul resonates with the glory of the Lord: of one who waited for God's action, and who finds it already at work in her life. What wondrous love is this, indeed.

Monday, December 21, 2015

the voice is John, the Word is Christ

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.
--From a sermon by Saint Augustine

In a letter earlier this autumn, a friend wrote of his frustration with human communication. Isn't it terrible, he wrote (and I paraphrase), that I could speak for hours at a fly, buzzing around my room, and never be able to induce it to leave. No matter how many words I would volley at the insect, it would remain irremovable.

But, if my brother walks into the room, one harsh word on my part could effectively push him away from me. One cruel word could send him out the door. Or, not even an intentionally hurtful word, but simply a misplaced, ill-timed, or misunderstood word.

Words do not possess a material power. They cannot induce the natural, non-sentient world to action (or can they?), they cannot move matter. But they can move a human's spirit. Sometimes far too easily.

Humans are so susceptible to injury through words. And, often, the injury is not intentional. Our days are fraught with miscommunication and misunderstanding, most of it harmless enough. But some of it can cause us, like my friend, to wonder what is wrong with humans. Why is our primary mode of communion and communication so prone to mishap?

Not to glibly glide by that very important question, but we live in a broken world polluted with violence, sin, and chlorine molecules eating up the ozone layer, so what can you really expect? If I do myself the favor of stopping to ponder the human condition, I am surprised that humanity's communication mechanism is so prone to error, and recognize that this strange fact invites further pondering. But, here, we will simply accept that our inability to communicate well is our participation in the broken cosmos, and continue on.

Because, what is more interesting than the failure of communication, is its success. The fact that human beings can share a common language, when we are all living such radically different narratives, is nothing short of a miracle. The fact that we can find common touchstones of experience, and give name to them, and then speak those words to others, and those words resonate deeply inside the other person, who understands them is quite astonishing.

Communication is so perilous. What you say is so apt to be misconstrued. And what you say has the power to hurt or the power to heal. Opening your mouth is a dangerous business, Frodo, as Gandalf might warn us.

So the Christian narrative is quite astounding, because the eternal Logos humbled Himself, and took upon the faulty, limited mantle of human speech. The Word spoken before time began came into our world and spoke with us. He did a lot of things, as well, and performed many signs and wonders. And, finally, offered Himself up for us, descending to the darkest sufferings of human existence, out of love for us. That He might speak to us from every corner of human experience.

But, then He ascended back to Heaven. He had moved forward, opening up for humanity a new ontological state: a new form of existence with God.

And what did He leave us? A lot of words.
I mean, He left us more than that. A Church, and His Body hidden inside a wafer of bread. But.
How are we to understand what He left us without the words that teach us the meaning of what we see, of what we taste, of what we touch?
What a terribly fragile method of communion to rely upon: to leave salvation of the entire earth to twelve men and three years of words you spoke to them.

And what did these twelve men do?

They simply spoke.

They didn't conquer nations.
They didn't really do all that much,
except proclaim the Word.
And the hearts of those who heard them leapt for Joy, like the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth.
And somehow that was enough.

As the faithful pass the holy water from hand to hand,
So we faithful, we must pass the word of God from heart to heart.
From hand to hand, from heart to heart, we must pass the divine Hope.
--Portal of the Mystery of Hope, Charles Peguy

Sunday, December 20, 2015

and now even human love

"Faith is not some hard, unchanging thing you cling to through the vicissitude of life. [...] faith is folded into change, is the mutable and messy process of our lives rather than any fixed, mental product."
--Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

I started at the words on the screen, in awe of how normal they were.
They were simply a message: about a book, a thought, a particular beauty or a particular joke. And I was going to respond. The exchange would be rational, joyful, much like any other millions of exchanges.

But something had changed. Inside of me beat a new awe and wonder, a new posture of amazement towards a person who I knew so well and yet knew not at all. Not at all. Know a person? Know a cavern of mystery with endless passages to endless rooms of stories coiled upon stories? What audacity to lay claim to such beauty.

What can one do in the face of such glorious mystery, but smile, and let your heart beat several times too quickly, and feel blood burst inside of you, churning with warmth and heartache.

How can everything change so substantially, in an instant, with one word?
All the accidents remain the same, but the interior reality has been utterly transformed.

Christian Wiman writes: The most blinding illumination that strikes and perhaps radically changes your life will be so attenuated and obscured by doubts and dailiness that you may one day come to suspect the truth of that moment of all.

The daily consecrations would seem to obscure the miracle of transubstantiation that occurred between our hearts.
But they do not.
The daily consecrations illuminate the precious gift of love made available to us at the altar of our ego, that we bow before, subdued and kneeling, doffing our vestige of self.

I have never thought of the consecration as a dangerous moment.
But how terrible, to know that you have the power to usher into your very hands the Lord of Love, the Paschal Lamb Himself.
What human being would dare to speak those words?
To turn the bread--the conceivable, human, quotidian bread--into panis angelicus.
It would be safer to simply eat the bread.
The vulnerability of the Eucharist; the searing, shameful honesty of it just smotes my heart.

Once you say the words, you cannot take them back.
You cannot retract an ontological leap, a substantial shifting of the very nature of the bread.
Once you say the words, they become truth. And you must learn how you relate to this fresh new reality.

You must take up a posture towards the truth that is spoken. There is no life anymore pre-illumination. There is only forward, whatever that way means.

Wisdom is accepting the truth of this. Courage is persisting with life in spite of it. And faith is finding yourself, in the deepest part of your soul, in the very heart of who you are, moved to praise it.
--Christian Wiman

Saturday, December 19, 2015

tufts of spring in darkness

Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.
--A Blessing, James Wright

It is a false spring in New York City this year.
The sun shines warmly from the South. It blinds me as I walk down to the library.
It reminds me of walking to the gas station-cum-donut shop on the West Side Highway, and the heat radiating off the clean cement and the sparkling Hudson.

The man is washing his hot white, sharp-edged sports car outside of the projects. The stereo is blasting music. He splashes water all over the gleaming hood. It is a scene from summer in the stark winter air.

Confused, the trees have begun blooming.
There is something wrong with this; I am disturbed by the trees that are blooming prematurely. The birds are in distress. Some of them have halted their migration in its treks. The birds of spring sing in the morning dark.

We walk through the rain storm, laughing, and suddenly I am in the summer. Running through Chelsea in a thundercloud, with my laptop--oh precious laptop, vessel most treasured--trying to skirt raindrops and dodge deluges.

I am sweating in the subway stations. We walk by Christmas trees in our light summer coats. I wear summer dresses, bare legs, and stop just short of sandals.

I can't help but feel that we are being strung along. At any moment, the other foot will fall. This December spring is fraught with suspense.

Right now in Minnesota, it is 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which seems more right and just. That's a winter you can trust.

But I trust this December spring--this Indian summer--almost in spite of myself.
As someone who loves the snow and ice, and detests the warmth, I thought I would find myself more disappointed in this heat wave. But it mirrors an inner summer inside my heart.

And so I'll save my dreamings of white Christmases until I am home.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Saturday morning canned champagne

New York City, unlike London, hides beneath a lot of affectation. Walking down the street requires lots of assumed runway swagger. Fine athletic wear or a fur vest is de rigueur for a stroll through the park on a Sunday morning.

The park on an unseasonably warm December Saturday morning is a dog lover's paradise.
Canned champagne in the park, while walking the Maltese Bichon, is a couple's paradise for brunch.
Women holding hands in chic pants walking drooling Alaskan malamutes. Three beautiful huskies, unrelated tumble over each other, frolicking through the yet-uncovered leaves.

A cockapoo leaps gracefully over a fence to retrieve a ball thrown by his master. It is the most effortless, seamless leap ever witnessed.

I stare at all the dogs running and rolling all over the lawns, soaking in the sight. I love this. This is a different scene from my dark morning runs in the park.

But I love those runs, too. I pass the same runners each day. The twins who run with the exact same delicate clip. The woman my age who, no matter how cold it is, wears running shorts. The man and the woman who walk together at a brisk pace, from 96th street down towards Columbus Circle, laughing and talking energetically about business deals going through and the day ahead. The shaman who lives down the road from me, where all the black cats hang out, who speed-walks past the Lake.

I recognize them all each morning, like clockwork. Rain or shine, wind or muggy fog, we greet each other quietly to start the day. The city feels quite small in the mornings in Central Park, before the sun comes up. Just Orion in the sky and the sound of footfalls on the pavement.

I love the sight of the stars over the foggy morning city, and the quiet rustle of human and leaf moving on the ground.

If you want to know a city, morning runs are the best time to get to know it. In London, on my first morning run of many, I tripped on a flagstone, and swore at the ancient sidewalk. Then I laughed. For I instantly understood London. Philadelphia is quiet and beautiful in the mornings along the Schuylkill, and the Museum of Art shines in the morning sun. Washington D.C. in the morning is stuck in the mist and fog of its history. Paris is magical and delicate. Kolkata is noisy: always noisy.

And New York. New York, during these morning runs, is not a mystery anymore. It is just faking it til it makes it. It forgets its past to race towards the future. It is a series of small villages all smashed together on one island. It pretends to be cosmopolitan but is really quite insular. It is cozy and confined, like a provincial town, ensconced in quiet satisfaction with its own merits.

One year ago, I felt stifled by New York. I was overwhelmed by its urban sprawl. I felt trapped by the buildings and squashed by the skyscrapers.

Now, I love it the way you love the small suburb you came from. For New York is no more and no less than just another city. There is a whole vast world outside of New York; New York is not the world, I scream at the city, trying to take it down a peg. Trying to free myself from its spell.

But New York is a monolith. An enigma, and despite its squalor and crassness, it possesses a well-cultivated allure which is none the less charming for being a sham. Or there's some truth to the sham. Maybe.


There are two blue jays in the park. They are robust and healthy, singing musical rebukes at one another, dodging each other from branch to branch. They are vibrant, living blue. In high relief against the backdrop of dead leaves and forest behind them. They are so natural and free from manufacture. They do not belong in the dead wood. But they still sing together, turning the winter Saturday into spring.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

coughing towards bethlehem

Our thoughts are not easily God's thoughts, nor our wills His will. But as we listen to Him and converse with Him, our minds will be given to understand Him and His designs. The more we come through prayer to relish what is right, the better we shall work in our mission for the realization of the kingdom.
(Constitution of Holy Cross 3:22)

Living in a big city is not always easy.

Preach, Papa Francesco. Preach.

I talk about New York like it's a human; a lover.
A person who I have wrestled for graces and blessings all year; with whom I have weathered a tumultuous relationship.

Whenever I come back from NYC after being out of town, my gorge rises. I feel a wave of contempt churning inside of me.

I'm done, I vow quietly, furiously, running late to a meeting because the MTA sucks at everything except fucking you over. I'm done with dodging scaffolding and pedestrians and cat-callers and loud buses roaring by. I'm just done with the smog and the dirt and the noise.

Then, I settle back into the rhythm of cacophony, and I adapt to the chaos, and I forget to be dissatisfied. This will continue for a while. I'll roll out of town into the autumn world outside of the island, and I remember how much larger the world is outside of New York, and I miss being a part of that larger world. I miss being under the sky and in nature, actually in the world.

Formation is not supposed to be easy or likable, I remember.
I was complaining for the umpteenth time about New York City, when I remembered, and was rebuked: Formation is not supposed to be likable.
You are not supposed to be good at it.

You are simply supposed to be there.

After much travel, perhaps too much travel this fall, I remember that I am supposed to be here.

All the different threads of stories that could have been eventually trailed off. I am here.
But it is only here, in this terrible and beautiful and awful, shallow, delightful, radiant city of Manhattan that I would be who I am now.

All the other paths hint that life had planned the inevitable. I would have landed in a spot so similar to where I am now.

But I have chosen Manhattan, which meant I chose a great adventure. I chose to add new dimensions of myself, foreign even to me. It meant I chose to struggle through the shallow self-determined materialism to find a deeper joy.

Living a big city is not always easy, Papa Francesco reminds me, but the people here are hungry for Him just the same. They are thirsty for the light. And we are still called to be lightbearers and chose the light, in the midst of rush hour traffic and subway signs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

last day of the year

I am fascinated my M.C. Escher's images of his father. There are three, in particular, that I saw at the museum, and I was struck by the deeper image that was born from the dialogue between them all.

His first, earliest portrait of his father is stern and foreboding. The stark lines of the linoleum print are authoritarian. He looks reserved, critical (border-line disapproving), and rather impersonal. It looks almost like it is an image of Any Father. Nothing warm or personal exudes from the linocut.

This second print is fascinating. With its odd, sinuous geometric shapes it appears to be more of Escher's ilk. But it also manages to obscure the actual human of his father even more. This is a geometric representation of a human. It is an allusion to a person through a formulation of shapes. It i more personable than the linocut of his father. Bent over whatever he is examining through his lens, Escher's father is captured in a vulnerable and honest moment. His focus is all outside of himself, intent on whatever he is 

The third image is of Escher's father on his deathbed. I wish I could find an image of it online, but I cannot. This seems fitting, however, for it is a very pensive, private image. It is in pencil, so malleable and expunge-able. It is an image of deep sorrow, but also great wonder. Escher does not attempt to see his father through any other lens than of his father's own person. The sketch does not capture Escher's skill, but simply the sweetness of his father's face, peaceful in his last repose.

Enthralled by Escher's attempt to capture the likeness of his father, I meditated on how I often feel the same drive to write the images of my own parents. But, perhaps all children do this. We come from these mysterious, wonderful creatures. During our childhood, we are so content to call them "mother" and address them as "father," and leave it there. They are simply mother and father and parent to us, and that is all we know them as, and all we need to know.

But then, there comes a break. 
We become adults, and we can no longer see our parents as simply our progenitors, but we must know who they are as humans. Who they are with lives distinct from our own, with lives that were there before, and will continue after the fatal moment of our births. 
They are enigmas. 
But we came from them. To have our own origins be an enigma to us is torture.

We are desperate to know them, so we paint them all the colors that we can.
We distort their images into geometric shapes, stretched to the far limits of pictoral reality.
We, like Escher, reframe our parents' faces to try to understand our own.

At the Rancho, I found pictures of my mother on her college graduation day.
She looked like me. But not at all like me.
But her hair was shining with the lustre of the 80's, the golden glow of opportunity, and a computer science degree. She was supple and alive, and the most twenty-somethingish. I found that picture the same day my sister sent me this:

Just 10 short years later the girl with the shining 80's hair would be the smiling mother in the sandbox with her husband by her side, and her two children squirming in her lap. Already then, her present tense was "Mother" and I knew her as such. Just 10 years later the girl in the green sweatshirt would be transformed into a woman with two children, and the green sweatshirt girl with her hips and jeans and air of wild expectancy would have vanished.

I know the mother in the sandbox, for I was the baby in her lap.
But I want to know the girl in the green sweater. The woman who became my mother. My mother before she earned that title. 
I want to know all of the stories that took place in those 10 years between the pictures.
Because I am living in those 10 years.
And I want to know that she has been here, too.
That she knows what it means to be twenty-something with the world at your feet; and a masters degree and husband on the horizon there somewhere, but just an abundance of present tense to live in until then.
I want to know all of the heartbreak and mess that she has lived through, too. Because I was born from-- from out of--born into-- that heartbreak, mess, striving, triumph, and grace. 
I was born from her. Her story has made me.
And I am a part of her story.
Our stories are bound together pretty fatefully, we mothers and daughters, and yet they are so disparate. We cannot be a part of one another's stories unless we let the other in.
Will I ever find my way to the inside of this woman whom I was once inside?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

fury of clarity

My God my bright abyss
into which all my longing will not go
once more I come to the edge of all I know
And believing nothing believe in this:
--Christian Wiman

We are down at the Rockefeller center tree, the mecca of the terrible bustling nonsense of New York City "Christmas."
Dutifully, I adore the Swarovski crystal star atop the giant tree. We pay homage to the glamor of Tiffany's and Harry Winston, and Bergdorf Goodman's gaudy, bejeweled mannequins. We approach the line of pilgrims that wind their way around the Saks 5th Avenue Window display, admiring the chic, wintry tableau.

Suddenly, I am ensconced in a circle of quiet. The spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral rise above the tumult, like dreadful, silent frozen candlelight. And I am enveloped in their mystic quiet, caught in the web of silent meditation they cast forth from their gothic façade.

All around me are the twinkling lights, pulsing, shimmering, radiating energy. Above me is the noisy music of the light show, the crowds are clamoring all around me, jostling one another to see the window displays and snapping photos. A family is pushing by me, mothers carrying large bags of gifts, there is yelling instructions for the family photo shoot.

But I am suddenly lifted above of all of them, I turn slowly, and the world spins slowly on its axis around me. The tourists are crying out in all sorts of language, I am surrounded by a babel of noises, and a cacophony of faces.

In just an instant, the city has shifted, so I am outside of all the noise, while completely inundated by it.  I am in the eye of the Manhattan hurricane.

This is an old blessing. A familiar comfort, and an avenue to falling in love with this city. For all that I desire is just space. Space that allows me to breathe without bumping into other people with my purse.

I have this space. Space seems to span out from me infinitely. And I, cocooned in an impervious bubble of peace, can observe with wonder the kaleidoscope of the city around me. As I turn, watching with awe, the mundane scene of holiday materialism is transformed by the kaleidoscope tiles shifting, tilting, turning the lights and people and voices into a mutating wheel of colors.

And I feel my heart beat. Pulse. Throb through my entire body. Calling out like a homing beacon for the voice in the silence. Crying out for the face I glimpse in the infinite quiet all around me.

Monday, December 14, 2015

you have no more misfortune to fear

The quiet gothic columns of the church were speckled with ocean currents from the stained glass windows. Each carved and rounded pillar became violet, like the absent Advent candles.

This is Gaudete Sunday.

It is my favorite Sunday of the year.

Where we sing Philippians 4:4 ad nauseum. But it is a necessary reminder. For to rejoice in the Lord always is quite a terrible command. How can we rejoice in the Lord when we are suffering so deeply? When we are hurt? When our world and our selves are broken by sin--how?

The answer occurred to me during the fifth time singing: "and in all pray-er/ and supp-li-kay-cee-ohn" that prayer is a vital part of finding our way to rejoicing in an evil world.

Prayer, for me, is too often a duty that I am neglecting, and therefore think about as little as possible, in an attempt to distract my guilty conscience.

But Paul instructs us, right after his command to rejoice: "in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God."

With thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. Pre-emptive thanksgiving professes a trust in the goodness of the Lord, and the presence of Emmanuel with us. Whatever comes from our prayer, the outcome will be worthy of the thanksgiving. For it is the prayer itself that is truly the gift.

Prayer is not so much something we have to do as something that we get to do. (This sounds like a terrible turn of senseless rhetoric that a mother would use on a petulant child: you don't have to help clean the kitchen; you get to help clean the kitchen! But I think there is really and truly a distinction here. Prayer is desperately important for us to be the homo adorans we were created to be; but we do not have to pray to survive. Or perhaps we do, we just don't always recognize our prayers as such.

Prayer is an avenue for joy, because, through prayer, we take all of the disparate elements of our lives and offer them back to God. And God is waiting to received the disordered elements of our lives and arrange them into clarity. The heavens are not closed, they are simply waiting for us to open, that they might rain down grace upon us, whenever we are ready to receive.

Prayer is an avenue for peace. And peace, ever increasingly, has become synonymous with Joy. Prayer, Joy, peace, desire-- they all have welded together.

And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 
--Philippians 4:7

Sunday, December 13, 2015

heretical namesake

Does the decay of belief among educated people in the West precede the decay of language used to define and explore belief, or do we find the fire of belief fading in us only because the word are sodden with overuse and imprecision, and will not burn? 

We need a poetics of belief, a language capacious enough to include a mystery that, ultimately, defeats it.
--Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

All my dearest friends, I think, have a list of books they are constantly reading. There is a list of "Things To-Read" that seems to increase exponentially with age. It gets longer as the years get shorter.

One factor in our ever-increasing lists is, of course, one another, who also serve as an impediment to reaching the end of our lists. As one person discovers an author, reads a new book, obsesses over a series, they quickly share it with the others. As this new world opens up for them, they rush to share it with each one of us.

They encourage us, incite us, cajole us, and sometimes force us (sending the book you've repeatedly told them to read as a Christmas or birthday present is always a good move), to read these books. They reference this new touchstone of knowledge constantly, they quote from it, they sing its praises. Until, finally, we read it too. And we fall in love (or not) with this new vision.

Together, we weave a world of shared words. We mold a common mental universe. Our conversation expounds upon itself, springing from this rich wealth of riches we have discovered with one another.

Our communication is livened by this shared world of mutual touchstones. And our communication deepens the communion.

And language, that hackneyed, broken vehicle of communion, redeemed, runs smoothly, like a miracle. It works as it was meant to do: the words serving as catalysts for deeper understanding darting between the speakers. The books on our list bridge between our broken worlds, and create a shared cosmos of understanding.

We have created something all together, we are, in fact, still creating it and always will be, the threads of understanding working themselves together, multiplying until they have woven something adamant and audacious: a new cosmos we exist within, together.

Perhaps this is why so many of my friendships have become retreats: they are, right now, not my daily companions on my journey. They are not the characters who populate each daily adventure. They are those who I retreat to; to reflect on the work that I am doing, on the person I am becoming, of the love I am growing into, they are those that I run to when the daily grind has ground me.

But that is not where they should stay.

The world that we've woven is constantly expanding, as new figures arrive in it. An ever expanding network of ideas, novel literature, and new humans with fresh ideas and new threads to contribute, this sub-cosmos pulls into it each person we encounter and befriend.

This universe of shared understanding is constantly expanding, modified and edited by our new companions. As friendships blossom--daily friendships, the companions, compatriots, and fellow sojourners--the friendships you form with fellow travelers, wearing down the same paths as yourself, so too new corners of this fabric blossom with new life.

Friendship is a wild grace. It sprouts up in dark corners, and flourishes in desert. It offers sweet encouragement and daily challenge.

Friendship is a wild grace, because it offers no relief from the Other. It is encountering a human person head-on. It is a brutal awakening to the world outside your own. But the grace of relationship is the one that saves us; for it breaks down the walls around ourselves. It knocks our pride flat out on its back, as we stand trembling in awe of the other and shaking in the frail shoes of our naked vulnerability.

But once we are finally vulnerable, we can begin to commune; we can communicate with others, we can achieve that union we were made for, that we struggle so childlike to achieve.

The words from our books ameliorate our sad attempts at voicing our love for one another, at voicing our quiet brokenness that calls out for companion.

We read. We write. We weave together a quiet bower of friendship in the vast, bent universe.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

roses in December

Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
--Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

her first scrape on her white knee,
the first tear in her calico skirt.

the first blood stain on girlish pink cotton,
the first inkling of long years of fertility.

her first kiss, filling her flower with its 
first timid blush.

the first rush of blood to her cheeks,
the first throbbing inside her maidenhead

her first betrayal and the first lies,
the first earthquake underneath her feet.

the first wrinkle and the first furrow
of worry on her forehead.

the first grey hair on her head,
the sign that summer will cease one day.

the first pregnancy test,
accompanied by desperate prayers.

her first stretch marks,
and the first ripples of cellulite.

her first skin tag, an invader on her breast,
a week after her grandmother's first mastectomy.

the first time she realized her body would bruise and revolt,
when the world was on the attack,

the first time nature stopped working in her favor,
when the universe was on the offensive

her first childbirth and first child,
the first time her world is utterly shifted

and shattered.
and put back together.

her child's first steps,
like her own, but now remembered.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I have had good dreams

It doesn't sing. I can't sing it. It needs more song.

His scarf was tied in a whimsical and useless knot around his neck. No coat or jacket. 
And a wedding band and watch on the same hand.

He had sheets of music staffs covered with delicately drawn cords. 
He stuffed the music in his backpack as the train approached 96th Street.

There was something about his hounds-tooth scarf that made him seem like someone familiar. I felt that I had the right to look at him. 

So I looked at him, and his sheet music, and tried to read the music on the sheet, tried to read the story in his face.

The dreams I dream at night are specific. They take place in locations I know the names of, just not the words that go with the names.

They are populated with people like the man with the hounds-tooth scarf and music in his hand. People whose faces are a cipher, but whose spirits are familiar.

I close my eyes, and I see my hands soaked in wine.
I see pungent rot on sidewalks.
I see old friends crying, and strange, stern women guarding prison doors.

I see trails meant for running, and muscles atrophying inside.

I see a lot of new images; new places I have never seen before.
My dreams are filled with new colors and old houses. New environs with old shades of crimson.
They are filled with different color schemes, and characters pop out of the woodwork of my unconscious, pieced together from new friends and watersheds.

Sweet words and bitter feelings weave together a new symphony of dreaming.

Time ripples and wrinkles until it is as senseless as my dreams, more colorful than waking, more temporal than words, and as fraught with missed encounters.

We are weaving a new world out of this dreaming.
Old dreams resurrected, new formulas forming.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

and the violent bear it away

Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves. It goes where it is led, not where it ought to go. Love gives birth to desire, it bursts into flame and that fire draws it to seek forbidden things. What more is there to say? Love cannot accept not seeing the thing that it loves. 

--Sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus

 Today's Gospel is one of those passages that are so important for us to hear, because the strangeness of the words ought to jolt us out of our bland acceptance of Christianity. We expect to hear things like: "Do unto others what you would have done unto you!" "Blessed are the poor in spirit" "That which you did to the least of these.." etc., etc. Since we expect them, we become immune to them. Their vigor, power, and radical newness with which they entered the world and plowed through First Century Palestine are dulled by our dullness, fermented by centuries of repetition.

And then, some days we hear things like: "I come not to bring peace, but the sword."
or, today: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. " (Douay-R
What the fuuuuu
"the violent bear it away"
What does that even mean?

Looking at other translations (the original Greek: biastés), the passage only seems to grow more mysterious:

violent men take it by force. (ERV)
and [the] violent seize on it. (Darby)
and men of violence take it by force. (ASV)
and the violent take it by force. (King James)
and violent people have been raiding it. (New International Version)

So what is this all about? What kinds of violence is happening to the Kingdom of God? And who are all these people bearing it away, seizing it, and raiding it? What does it mean for us that the Kingdom of God is being raided? How? How, if the Kingdom of God is within our hearts? What can exactly be raided?

One thought that comes to mind is how often violence has been done in the name of the Kingdom. Common narratives such as conquistadors, crusaders, and their ilk come to mind. Perhaps the passage references these violent men who have seized the Kingdom, and bent it to their own purposes. It would seem to accurately predict all the violence that would bear away the Kingdom of Heaven.

Another image that appears, however, is the image of the violent seizing at the Kingdom of Heaven, which slips from their grasp. No matter how it is assailed by the violent, the kingdom seems to be always beyond their reach. It may be raided and plundered, yet it seems to remain standing. There is a core of peace that belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven that the violent cannot seem to force from it. This passage is reassuring, comforting. For in the midst of all the violence that fills the world, the Kingdom of Heaven will endure, silently, in the places of quiet peace in our hearts. Peace that the world cannot touch.

Then, I think of the violence with which I approach the Kingdom of Heaven. I wish to take it by force. Look, Lord. Look at how good I'm being. Look at how I've earned my spot in this Kingdom, look at my virtue, look at my brilliance. Look at me. I try to grasp the Kingdom with my own power, by dint of my own goodness.

But the Kingdom of Heaven does not belong to such as these. The violence of the proud cannot understand the Kingdom, where the yokes are easy and burdens are light. Where we are instructed to sit back and rest, and let our feet be washed. Where we must rest and let Christ Himself feed us.

Finally, I read the word of Peter Chrysologus, and see that love destroys the lover. And it seems that love itself is a force of violence. Not of evil, but of great power, capable of great destruction. Destruction, I generally think of as bad. But so much of grace seems to be destructive: breaking down the pedestals we place ourselves and others on, breaking down walls inside our hearts, breaking down the shining barrier of self we ring around our selves. Love is a violent force; a force that possess great vehemence and fervor.

And I wonder if this is the Kingdom of Heaven: those who are almost sick with love, whose great desire to see the Beloved whom they can not yet see nearly destroys them. I wonder if the violence of their love is causes them to seize onto the kingdom and hold onto it for dear life. Love--that violent, careening force--drives them to continually seek Him who their soul loves.

Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

tugging at roots

My house says to me, “Do not leave me, for here dwells your past.” 
And the road says to me, “Come and follow me, for I am your future.” 
--Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Floating at the top of the slender half-liter glass, the white foam bubbled quietly, the hiss of carbon dioxide sizzling towards the surface. The cloud of bubbles floated serenely on the amber liquid. A thin drizzle of some glistening red liquid marked chasms in the foamy bed, like rogue autumn leaves sinking into fresh snow.

I blew gently on the foam, watching it whirl and bank on the rim of the glass. Captivated by the motion, I churned the foam with the straw provided (why?), and watched it swirl with the beer beneath it.

Paul says he can be all things to all people; but he may be the exception.
I am quite offended that I cannot fit all the activities I wish to participate in, all the projects I want to complete, and all the conversations I want to have into one day. It seems wildly unreasonable. But I, like all humans, must prioritize. Which means not doing everything each day or everything all at once.

This imbalance of time, this lack of eternity, creates a pull inside each day. A tension between all the relationships that cry for one's attention, far-flung; from California to Maine; from India to Africa and back again. One's heart is dragged all over the world. All the places that were ever home call to you, demanding your return. All the people who hold a piece of your very being beckon to you, offering you the remembrance of who you are when you encounter another soul.

And then there is the immediate moment. There is the present, that seems to be always in conflict with the future. The future yanks at your arm, dragging you forward into it, demanding intense preparations and at least one of your eyes on it at all times.
But there is now. And the now is disappearing so quickly and dangerously. The now seems to be the joint prisoner of the past and the future. But the present doesn't allow time to stop and think about it: There are the students who are asking for you: for your attention and your love, and just your presence. There are the people all around you who need nothing more than just your presence, and the simple jobs that need nothing more than your simple attention. There is a city full of darkness that needs a light.

My eyes were heavy with champagne, and the posh, tall room was lousy with mindless luxury.
I remembered what restlessness was like.
I will always be somewhat peripatetic.
Perhaps restlessness comes and goes in waves; starts and stops in bursts. Perhaps restlessness is native to everywhere that is not an airport. Perhaps restlessness is the fate of any human who has come to rest.
But I am at peace.
I am at peace here, in the present--in the now--with all of its currents and tides dragging me every which way. They pull at me, but do not drag me under.
I am at peace here, in the eye of the maelstrom of constant activity and dead, rushing air.
I am at peace here, in this place where the past and future meet.

And I say to both my house and the road, “I have no past, nor have I a future. If I stay here, there is a going in my staying; and if I go there is a staying in my going. Only love and death will change all things.” --Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Thursday, December 3, 2015

sunrise and moonset

Even in his

Absence, I
Revolve in my
Sheath of impossibles
--Purdah, Sylvia Plath

As morning breaks, I look to the tops of the pine trees, turning from black to faded green in the dusky periwinkle pre-dawn sky.
I see the moon, glowing, disappear behind the trees.

As morning breaks, I see the sunlight, the pink fingers of dawn, liquid from rising above the East River, reflect on the warm bricks of the Harlem town-homes and the mirror of the high rise apartment building on 5th Avenue.

The sun hits the train tracks, and I suddenly notice that there are trees growing out of  the stone walls that support the elevated tracks. Trees. Not just branches or weeds, but entire trees.

They make me think of the tree that my dad would always try to trim, right outside our kitchen window. He would lop off branches constantly, in an effort to tame the wilderness. But it kept blooming new branches constantly. It looked almost comical: this old, ragged stump of a tree who kept insistently bursting with new life.

The trees that grow in the train track walls are my New York.

My New York is Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters. It is the peace of the tip of the island, and the bustle of actual living creatures snuffling through the park greenery.

My New York is sunset in Washington Heights, opposite the Jersey cliffs. It is a view of the George Washington bridge, a safe distance from all that traffic.

My New York is the quiet moment between when you sight the headlights of the train down the subway tunnel, and when the engine roars into the station. It's a moment of silence, filled with wind. It's the sweet burst of motion on your face in the stagnant subway air.

My New York is Christopher Street after twilight. It's the candelabra lighting elegant sofas, glimpses of bookshelves through the brownstone bay windows, and a fireplace inside a mansion I spy on my walk back home. My New York is wide brown front porches with smooth stone, like wedding cake icing.

My New York is the Met in the morning, before the crowds arrive, before the Halal food vendors and the hot dog hawkers have set up shop. When the only movement is my feet on the pavement, the fountains silently trickling water, and the sunrise creeping upwards, slithering up the side of the building, like morning glory creepers.

My New York is Marcus Garvey park in autumn, Carl Schurz Park in the summer, and the warm entryway between the inner and the outer doorway of my home in winter. It's tiny, cowboy-style Catholicism, and redoubtable abuelitas on their kneelers. It's great danes at the Great Meadow, and the hidden statue of Jeanne D'Arc in Riverside Park. It's a soulless daisy-colored bakery with prepackaged black-and-white cookies. That is My New York.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

devil in disguise as a fair woman

"because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not."
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I'm so sorry for you.
I wish that I could erase all your guilt
I wish that I could erase all your self-loathing
and your pain.
I have the power to create,
yet have not the power to expunge.
What is written, not a jot will be undone.

If I were a man,
I could--one day--absolve you of your sins,
as you so have me of mine.
I wish it were as simple
as a tender: I forgive you
or a gentle: but I know you.
But that tree of knowledge has always been our downfall
and true pardon remains within subjunctive clauses.
once poisoned by the knowledge of good and evil,
our mouths are smarting from its tart juice.
Our hands are stained from grasping for its low-hanging fruit,
our consciences smarting from the smacking from its low-hanging boughs.

She spoke too soon,
she lost some face,
but inspired a movement
of falling grace.
She was the fair woman,
the devil in disguise was me.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

in ways you cannot foresee or even imagine

We know less when we erroneously think we know than when we recognize that we don’t.” ― Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me

I am a very prideful person, and I do not like to be told the things I already know, or (heaven forbid) be thought ignorant.

As I sat across from this man, who was rattling off platitudes I had heard too many times before. I was tired of the simple answers, and didn't like to be thought ignorant (there's that old pride). I felt my eyes grow dark, and the space between my eyebrows crinkle together, and I felt a scream of frustration choke up in my throat.

So I took a deep breath, and thought to myself: What are you expecting, Renée? What sort of answers do you think you deserve, that are more advanced than the simple truths that apply to everyone? Really. Why do you think there are mysterious, esoteric answers, hidden from the children and the simple, reserved for you?

Perhaps wisdom is listening to the same simple truths over and over again, and having the humility to understand that there are no other answers. There is no way around the truth that you cannot understand your life until you have finished it; that often the story of our lives is a narrative spun with the warp of strange choices and coincidences into the weft of confusion. There is great mercy in antecedent and permissive Divine Will, and great wisdom to be gained in remembering the difference between the two. There is great humility in accepting all the silver linings, no matter how seemingly small, as graces.

And I failed, as I stewed in my seat, to find the wisdom to listen to the hackneyed word being sown on my ears. I bucked against hearing all the familiar apothegms I had heard before. Disappointed, my eyes filled with tears, as I realized I was back at the beginning, in familiar stomping grounds of the well-trod spiral path. I realized that this road would be longer than I had anticipated, and I would have to keep searching for answers. And that search would probably lead me back to the very same answers this man was proposing--the truths that are unchanging, but so very hard to truly plumb.

And I felt lighter, as I looked at him, and made my best effort to let go of all the bitterness coiled up inside me like a viper. I breathed, and tried to breathe into my heart space for some humility. Space for seed to fall that was not choked by weeds.

To be a human means to be misunderstood, I think, but even more it means to misunderstand. We spend most of our days trying to communicate with each other, and ninety percent of the time, we bungle the job completely. Somehow, if you maybe dig a bit deeper, and listen just a little more, then you can find understanding, in the midst of all the misunderstanding. And that is actually quite miraculous, actually. That we, bent little hnau, can understand each other at all. The miracle of my eyes meeting yours and a bond of communion passing between us is astounding. There are so many signals that could misfire, words that could be misspoken. But the fact that I can picture your plight, congruent to mine, is quite a feat of empathy.

My resolution for this new year of mercy is to have the humility to assume that each person who tells me something I already know is doing me the favor of facilitating a re-encounter with a truth that could stand some revisiting. Since all my knowledge is, necessarily, limited, I will not vaunt the little knowledge I already possess. The people I admire most, esteem the most, and consider the most wise are all humans who listen patiently and with humility while being told things they already know. And are usually gracious and generous enough to find something fresh and beautiful in old truths being trod out before them ad nauseum.

If you have the humility to listen to simple truths, over and over again, knowing, as all wise folks do, that the truth only becomes more beautiful each time we encounter it, you will be rewarded with something new being eternally unwrapped from the ancient.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

lights in the maple key

I woke up at 4:30 AM to the smell of fresh coffee, which someone had started boiling, in anticipation of Black Friday shopping.
I couldn't sleep, because my body is so used to short hours of rest, it doesn't know how to overstay its welcome in a bed.
I looked outside the window right above my bed. The bed that I always sleep on at the Rancho.
The bed whose quilt used to be patchwork girls with charming calico bonnets. The bed I slept in with my sisters, when we all fit in twin-size beds together. The bed I slept in with old boyfriends'  college sweatshirts. The bed I've slept in as a child, girl, woman, adult. That bed.
It has a little window above it, so I looked up. And I saw the moon. It's a moon that's full, or at least mostly full. It's that moon that's just past peak fullness, so it looks a little bit of shadow has shaved off a small sliver of the perfect silver disk. But it shone bright and white and cool above the sharp peaks of the pine trees outside.

Today is the last day of the year. Not of the calendar year, but of the liturgical year. I am thinking of endings today. I am thinking of the world that is winding down, stripping down til it is no longer dressed in any of her sumptuous, extravagant raiment.

Annie Dillard meditates on the importance of the seasons. She wonders when the first human began to realize the rhythm and the cycle of the seasons. Without the calendar year, the ebb and swell of nature would be hard to pinpoint entirely. The difficulty with weather is that it is not a generalization, it is a particularity. We do not experience winter as just a swath of "cold, snowy days." Winter is a season of fierceness: sometimes harsh winds and snow blowing through the fields, other times sun, unhindered by clouds, turns the snow-clad world into a mirror of light. Spring can be very cold, or a muggy summer warmth. And autumn, without the defining motion of leaves floating ground-ward, would be a grab-bag of all sorts of cold and hot and lukewarm golden days. What would all these days mean, without the narrative and stereotype to make sense of them?

How terrible, Annie Dillard imagines, it must have been to weather the first winter, without the assurance that spring would come again. The world would start falling apart, and you had no promise the trees would ever grow new leaves. Imagine how traumatic autumn would be, before you knew that this was just a season, not a new, permanent condition. Before autumn became a playground for white girls with pumpkin spice lattes, it must have been a season of great anxiety, not joy or Uggs.

How long would that collective memory of the cycle of the seasons take to build? Several years? Several generations? Perhaps that is why human beings began to tell stories: to remind their progeny that spring would come after every winter.

Friday, November 27, 2015

thanksgiving at the Rancho

I am writing out in the sun-porch of the Rancho. The Rancho is the most beautiful place, now, in the fall. I've never been in the Rancho in the autumn before. I’ve only been here in high summer, when the light is aggressive, and you hid from the sun and the noon day heat.

But now, here, in the dim and golden light of autumn, the Carolina woods come alive.
And I have a front seat to it all in the wide, warm sunporch. Instead of hiding from the sun inside in the cool basement or the shaded screened-in porch, I spread out on the wicker furniture in the sun-porch, and watch the quiet backyard.

 I am far south enough that the desolate grey of November has not yet arrived. The world is still rusty and warm. There is still a thrill of green undercurrent in the midst of the dun, and the crusty brown leaves carpeting the forest floor. The pine needles weave a carpet of burnt and faded scarlet on the floor of the woods.

You can see right through to the creek. All the trees that hide the water from the house have lost their foliage. The forest looks bare, and the yard looks bigger, without the hard border of the dark woods on the green grass. The yard is covered with the shimmering neutral tones of the dead deciduous leaves. The topography is hidden under this thick seasonal blanket. And quiet descends upon the garden and the pond. The wood seems desolate and dead. No deer slice through the shadows, just several squirrels scamper through the leaves, kicking up a flurry of noise and movement.

 Yesterday, on my run, I saw two kinds of road kill.
I was watching the road beneath me, because I was on the look-out for snakes. Although it's November, it's warm, and you can never be too careful.

So I was watching the road beneath me, and I saw a squished spider. A very sad form of road kill. It was so small, and so close to the safety of the grass. Then, I passed the deer. I saw it, and gasped. Its empty eye sockets looked like something out of a Western--definitely not like something that belonged near the entryway to the nouveau-riche subdivision outside of which lay its final resting place.
As I passed it, the stench of decaying organs hit me full in the face. It was morbid and stagnant, turbid and rotting in the soft pine needles on the side of the road.
A crow cawed from a telephone wire.
On my way back, I saw a crew of vultures crowded around something on the side of the road. I realized that their meal was the deer. There were two vultures picking at the carcass, and two of them on the other side, waiting their turn. I shuddered. There was something so repellant about the heartlessness with which the vultures pecked away at the eyeless, life-less animal.

And yet, this is a part of their nature. It is a part of the design of nature. Nature's roadkill removal service. The vultures do not know anything else other than scavenging at whatever dead things they encounter. I wonder how that happened. When did the vulture evolve from the first bird, and what made it develop a taste towards congealing blood? Why does death whet its appetite?

I imagined, as I passed them, and they nervously looked up, that the vultures felt gauche, for they stopped pecking and watched me warily as I ran by. But, perhaps, I thought, they were waiting for me to drop dead, so they could have a dessert after their deer dinner. Or maybe they were embarrassed about their feasting on death in the presence of something living. Actually, they felt none of these things. That was all just my imagination. They were feeding, and stopped to make sure I wasn't a threat who could turn them into lifeless carcasses themselves.

I had never gotten such a close glimpse of vultures before--it felt odd to get such an intimate view of these winged memento moris--and they looked strange and silly. They were shaped like gargantuan crows. But instead streamlined heads and elegant black beaks, they had rough, bare black skin hooding their heads. Their sharp beaks were curved, measly-looking affairs.

One of the those vultures looked at me and waved his wing, a gesture that looked uncannily like a casual greeting between friends, between comrades. I was affronted by the gesture of bonhomie--that he would try to include me in their fraternity of death. I felt traitor to the poor deer, as I simply, watched them chew its dead boy. I felt that it was only a great deal of chance and grace that I was not beside the deer, roadkill myself, being picked at by vultures. It seemed arbitrary grace that I was alive and running, as the deer ought to be, and that animal was decaying on the roadside.

We were out by the pond, after my walk. Skinny the cat darts around in the leaves, and leaps up on the stone slab seat, grooming himself. And my grandmother took the net, and started combing through the garden pond, choke with leaves. She pulled out a small tree's worth of leaves. And one tadpole. The tadpole is so fat around the middle. It looks swollen, with the charm that roly-poly babies possess. She sweeps through the water once again and picks up a salamander. The salamander's tail is translucent and spotted. It squirms and squiggles in the net.

We throw the salamander back into the pond and go in for dinner, with Skinny the cat following behind, after lapping up a quick drink of pond water.

I am now sharing the sun-porch with Skinny. I have my legs thrown about unlady-like on the wicker loveseat. Skinny is curled up in the strong-backed chair in the sunlight, napping in the golden afternoon rays.

Friday, November 20, 2015

catechesis in stone

I gasped, in spite of myself, as a sparrow popped out of the mottled brown and red of the pillar.
It sprung out unexpectedly of the colors of the dead things.
Birdsong in November is such an unlikely occurrence. And the appearance of something living is a miniature miracle.

The North Woods in Central Park is one of the few places in New York City I dare not go. Its lush foliage makes it a place of shadow and mystery, even in the summer. It is unscuplted, it is not manicured. It is actually nature, unlike the rest of the park, which is nature for New Yorkers.

The North Woods is the place I always ran by, thinking of the Central Park Jogger Case, the Central Park Five, thinking of my friends' concern about my wandering feet and how they lead me often into places where I shouldn't be.

I never, I am almost ashamed to admit, ventured into the North Woods until a fall day with my mother and little sister. I was curious, we were north of 96th Street, and it was time to discover where the sound of falling water was coming from. Our adventures led us to "the Ravine," a place of beauty I had glimpsed often from the well-lit running track, but never dared to come closer to.

This weekend I realized that it was the last weekend of autumn. The leaves are almost all down, and they are losing their crisp autumn smell, and fading into the dead, dank wet of November and early winter.

And I thought to myself: now is the time to explore the North Wood. Now, before the spring when all the shadows and the sweet green leaves return. Now is the time, in the golden sunlight of a November Saturday.

And so I darted up through "the Ravine" and found a creek. The most beautiful, clear creek you've ever seen. There were large stones that stuck up out of the running water, and I hopped from each, looking for the origins of the creek. From one such perch, I turned and looked behind me. This was not New York City I saw. I saw the burnt brown wood of autumn, the musical stream, the sunlight hitting the slick rocks.

I saw the stream bubbling, whirling, gently gurgling on its way from its mysterious source to "the Ravine." This creek was in the City yet certainly not of it. And yet, here she is. Running and turning, constantly churning towards her destination: the small waterfall that everyone sees from the paved and barren running path.

I don't know what it means for a piece of the landscape to be in the City and not of it, when a stream is not created, but born of the earth itself. But I know that that stream has not embraced New York City and what it means to be part of New York City. That stream may be stuck here, in the midst of the grasping and the hustling, and the constant striving for self. It may be running here, in the thick of shutting people out, and turning a cold shoulder to our fellow man, but it certainly doesn't operate by those rules. This stream is in the city and diametrically opposed to what this city stands for.

I stood in the stream. I was in the stream and of the stream.
We were in the city and not of it.                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Thursday, November 19, 2015

even the sparrows are transformed

As I ran along the banks of the Schuylkill river, I thought to myself: what are the mechanics of Resurrection?
How exactly does a human being pass from this world into the next? And, by "next world", I mean union with God, which is a reality we all experience in the day-to-day. We all experience something of this participation in the life of the Trinity.

And yet, those souls who are no longer enfleshed in human bodies. They have passed away from this world. This world, with its riots and noise; with its endless movement and break-neck speed. They have passed beyond this world. Into what? Where have they gone, exactly?

They are experiencing the fullness of Joy in heaven, of course. Final, total participation with God. In time or out of it? If they are already in heaven, they have shuffled off the coil of the human clock. They are no longer bound by time. So where are they now? As in, this moment I am experiencing as I type. This moment I experience as I run along the banks of the river, as I stare at the mausoleums crouched upon the hill, this moment: now. Where are they?

They must be, I suppose, beyond this moment. For in this moment, that I am experiencing, they are not here. Their bodies are rotting under the pristine stones on the hill. Their bodies are not a part of the beatific vision they are enjoying. In the great dance, their bodies are still wallflowers, waiting to be brought into the center of the rhythm. They lie dormant, still slumbering, waiting.

But, in the eternal moment the dead are experiencing now, have they lept forward--Benedict's ontological leap--into eternity? Have their bodies now joined them, so that they have passed through the last things already, their bodies and souls united in celebrating the Joy of the Trinity? Have they already experienced the entire fable of humanity, culminating in the eschaton, and their mortal bodies being reborn into a dazzling new creation?

Perhaps they are, somehow, now in the true present. They are living in what is Really Happening. We are still in the past, and trying to reach them. We are lagging behind them; with each tick of the clock, we are struggling towards them; towards reality; toward the eternal moment.

They have passed, with Christ, through the mysterious barrier of death, and now enjoy life--life in abundance, that we are daily working towards.

I think of all of this as I run past the cemetery on Laurel Hill. And I think: no wonder Resurrection has caused such a ruckus in the physical world. Once the gates of heaven had opened to admit the first human body, did not all of history shift, mysteriously? Time itself has been re-done.

I watch my hands write, the ink fall onto the paper, I watch my students at work, the commuters on the subway. Who are we? We mysterious beings caught in the past, living our way into the future present. We are caught in the tension of time and the end of time; death, which means the beginning of something else. Tenses are muddled together now, blurred like the grey sky and the raindrops falling down the glass that is my window.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

cathy and her effigies

The spider spins her web,
she twirls fantastic shapes out of wicked, winding threads.
I watch her,
by the hypnotic gyrations of her swollen spinnerets.
Her abdomen is shaking from the force of her silking;
she darts, and drops,
spinning from a slender spool of hand-spun silky web.

The milky web,
the filmy maze,
the dizzying haze of filaments
combining to create a labyrinth of sin.

Abuelita Araña sits in the middle of the labyrinth,
winding all the silk into a tight and lethal knot.
The fly's wings, little gauzy strips of emerald and pearl flutter uselessly,
one last desperate cry for life,
trapped, as he is in he midst of death.

Abuelita turns him,
over and over,
like an egg that's over easy,
like a roast chicken on a spit,
like a grain of sand inside an oyster shell,
turning the rough and hairy fly into something soft and palatable.
A delicate entrée wrapped in silk.

Encased in innocent and naïf white,
the fly becomes a tankard of wine-dark nectar for Abuelita,
She sucks the blood from the compact package,
a drop falls on the web,
and glistens in the twilight sky.

She looks so beautiful,
drunk on the death she has created.
I am fascinated,
captivated by her swollen abdomen
and calculating, shining eyes.

I shiver as the sun sets over the reservoir.
And she goes on,
spinning, spinning,
like before.
Eternally, perpetually,
always the same daily ritual:
sucking off each victim
as he falls into her dewey web.
And always spinning,
spinning shapes of silk
darning deadly patterns,
and weaving warning signs
of sticky, sickly beauty
into the dewey evening sky.

Monday, November 9, 2015

thinking is an outdoor activity

"wandering on foot can lead to the wandering of imagination and to an understanding that is creation itself, the activity that makes introspection an outdoor pursuit. [...] Introspection is often portrayed as an indoor, solitary thing, the monk in his cell, the writer at her desk. Woolf disagrees."
--Rebecca Solnit, "Woolf's Darkness"

This past weekend, I went hiking in Vermont. I had had it in my head to "go to Vermont" all autumn. I had wanted to go in October, but that was not to be. I also had it in my head to see the stars, but that was also not to be. I miss the night sky as the night sky really is; wet with limpid, liquid stars.

But I was glad that I went to the mountains in November.
The mountains were covered with dead trees. The color of dead trees is a strange translucent brown; it's eerie and enchanting. The evergreens at the peaks are the only signs of life.

But somewhere, underneath that naked cover of life-less trees clamber bears, moose, followed by leaping deer and scurrying squirrels. There is a lot of dormant life.

I clamber up rocks covered in giant waves of dead leaves, and tramp through woods disturbed only by the moaning of the wind and the creaking of the shivering branches in the cold breeze.

I sit on a rock covered with bright green moss, and stare across the woods-covered mountains. And I can think. I can think with a clarity and a precision that gets lost in the rush of the city. I felt my thoughts churn out and order themselves systematically. Fresh and bright, just like the sky around me.

I wandered through the birch trees, with their bark peeling off, revealing the tender pink skin underneath. In the middle of the birch trees it was absolutely silent. There was no wind, there was no noise at all. I closed my eyes, and quieted my thoughts.

I felt like I could spend forever in the sweet silence of the mountain birches.
But it was no longer time for rest, but time to keep walking.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

October Rumspringa

We have decided that “papa” means someone.
A neighboring tribe has decided that “padre” means that same someone.
A small child growing up in that language makes a sound, calling out for the person who protects him from the dark, who is taller than the deep end of the swimming pool, who lifts him on his shoulders into the cherry blossoms of the spring tree.
A girl grows up in a different language, and calls for the person who plays tea party with her in her little pink playhouse, who lifts her up to put the angel on the Christmas tree, who tucks her in at night and sings lullabies to her about laughter. 
They are different languages, but the same person.
Different forms of speech, but the same love.

--Genna the Goldfish Solves It All: Or, Enhanced Comprehensibility

I am out of town; wandering out in the fall countryside.
And I am sitting in the fall sunshine, remembering all the different places in the world where you can experience autumn.
And it's tempting to try to claim that autumn is the best in any number of them.
Autumn is the time that I fall in love with New York, because New York in Central Park makes me feel like When Harry Met Sally; and running through Hell's Kitchen (as fast as possible) is better in sweater weather.
I feel myself getting all soft and squishy as I realize: oh wait, this place is not so bad.
But I'm also the most restless: because autumn is weak in the city. The trees don't catch on fire, and the colors don't take up the entire horizon, like they do out here, not in the city.

It seems so strange to think it's been over a year, but somehow through shared emails, spaced-out letters, and lots of prayer/participation in the Eucharist it seems we haven't been too terribly far (though geography sure suggests so).

Friendship is such a comfort.
And this is what I have discovered this past year, when my daily life is not spent constantly surrounded by my dearest friends, by the community of people that I love and cherish so deeply, who understand me better than I understand myself: that friendship from afar becomes doubly cherished.
Your friends--the dear people who have helped you understand who you are--become a retreat. They become a space of kindness and gentleness in the lonely cosmos.
Friendship has become balm in Gilead. It has become something very different than it ever was before. We are scattered all over the country, and we are separated by great distances. But the friendship still comforts, across the distances.


I have made some terribly poor choices in my life. I can't really quantify them, because terrible, poor, bad, wrong choices can sometimes hit in you in the face like a giant wave of shame, or they can just accrue quietly, like one too many white lies or selfish, snippy, snide remarks.
But making poor choices is nothing to be afraid of, I think. Because there are so many choices that you simply realize were wrong, and then you correct the course.
Perhaps this just means I have never made a Really Big Choice: like whether or not to murder someone, or to get married.

I used to be afraid of getting all those small choices wrong. But it seems that, as I get older, grace becomes more complicated and vague; less easily comprehended and certainly more tortuous, not straightforward at all. I have to learn that grace pops up in the stories as we live them, and it is difficult to look at the story and find the primary arc of action.

We live day-to-day episodes, and the dramatic thru-line seems to be cloaked right now. But perhaps that is what it means to be in formation: everything has yet to be formed, because it is still in the process forming.

One of the most destructive and shameful aspects lying is that it convinces us that the facts ought to be a certain way to be beautiful, or we must live a certain way to be good. That if the story is different from the one we imagine than the one we have invented in our minds, we have done something wrong. We try to cover up our own faults, terrified of what others will think of the story we have written. The story we think that we have gotten wrong.

But the story can be complicated and inexplicable.
It can be messy, imperfect, and disgusting.
It can include detours and pitfalls, terrible obstacles and terrors we never envisioned.
Because the story contains grace that we could never imagine when we were just born, before we had read our first fairy-tale.
The story is so much more beautiful than you or I.
The story is so much more complicated, messy, imperfect, and glorious than you or I.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

you will be the mayor, of course

The Atlantic is hopping on the Nicomachean Ethics bandwagon and attempting to dissect friendship, trying to discover how it lasts, what it is, how it changes. And why it changes. The article is so pedantic, and terribly depressing, as they try to discover what can keep friendship together, in the face of a complex world that seems intent on tearing friendships apart.

I think it comes from a deep place, also, of worry. We know that friendship is so important, and we worry that we will not get it.
Or we will have it, then it will disappear.

And there is reason to worry.

Because friends reveal such beauty to you: such wonderful depths of the human experience have been revealed to me through my friends: such joy, such deep, tender love, such kindness and such peace. Such comfort, such courage.

Friends have taught me all the different facets of what it means to be human. They have encouraged me to become more human, they have carved different facets onto my own soul.

Friendship is truly indispensable, I feel, to being human. It was rightly regarded by the ancients as the highest form of love, because it is about nothing more than discovering the human soul in front of you. A soul who shares your same desires; thoughts and loves, a language of describing the world that you thought no one else would ever share with you.

Friendship is such a deep mystery and grace.

For when you know someone--not as they reveal themselves to you--but who they really, truly, deeply are, you suddenly discover you can't grasp them at all. What really does make them tick?
What is really going through their minds? What motivates their actions?

You don't really know.
And the more you know them, the more you realize you may never fully understand them. But you know them, in a very mysterious way I can't quite place. You know who they are in the moments of time where they simply exist.
You know who they are in that fundamental, primal place of just being.
You know who they are when you are not around.

And that is not something you earn by wishing them "Happy Birthday" on Facebook. It's not something you hold onto by making sure to call them once a month. It's not something you can manufacture or piece together by yourself. It just seems to me to be a gargantuan grace. The most wonderful and essential grace of human life.

And I don't think The Atlantic understands this. They are very worried about losing something that is so deeply beautiful and spiritual, but without understanding the dynamics of grace that sustain this earthly miracle.

It really is a miracle that we, creatures who can only see the world through our own eyes, can learn to see the world from the orb of another. Our engines of empathy can inspire us to shift our center of gravity entirely, to include another person. If not for each moment of each day, but at least for a 90 minute phone call, we can be entirely immersed in the world of our friend, and see the world through her eyes.

This is a miracle. And miracles, of course, are unphased by time.

Friday, November 6, 2015

you can see lady liberty from the g train

Prospect Park is a jungle. And I was lost in it as the sun was setting.
Where am I? I wondered, as I passed unfamiliar trees and meadows.
Where am I? is a question that often echoes through my mind as I wander through the halls of the high school or through the soul-less streets of midtown.

I walked down Park Slope towards the 7th avenue G train. Brooklyn is a borough that has so much inside of it. From the outside, it looks like the Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg, a gentrified graveyard of the Hipster (2008-2013, RIP). But, on the inside it contains, like Prospect Park, a jungle of life, urban and suburban labyrinths of neighborhoods, and a rich history. The subway map doesn't account for it well. Brooklyn curves so much more than the subway map. It is full of curves and hills and and lots of beautiful, old homes.

When you are riding the G train North (Queens-bound) from Prospect Park, you are riding underground, like a regular subway. And then, the subway pops up above the ground, it crests with the breaking waves of the skyscrapers on the cityscape.

And it is breathtaking. To be underground, then, without warning, above it.

It is magnificent. I hope I never forget to be delighted by flying out of the dank dark of underground tunnels into the luminous ink-blue of the night sky.


I forget that formation is something that is supposed to be uncomfortable. Formation reminds us that the ultimate goal is great, but there are many deaths to self and portals that we must go through first, before we reach our destination. I called New York City my novitiate last year. Mostly because I was being annoying, and I was jealous of my friend who got to go to the real novitiate in Colorado, on the side of a mountain. Why don't I get to be on a side of a mountain?

But I reminded myself that New York City was my novitiate the other day. Sometimes our past selves are our best teachers.
Because New York City is a place of formation.
Not because it is conducive to self-reflection and quiet meditation (it's not), but because it is a place of profound dissatisfaction and discomfort.

I do not feel at home here. I don't know why.

I love cities. I love London. I have always loved London, from the moment I set foot in it. I am enchanted by the sidewalks; I am charmed by the cobblestones; the alleys; the twisting, winding streets. I adore Paris. Paris is like knowing your way around a dream. I knew Paris' streets before I was born. I love Chicago. I love D.C. I love Rome. I love Krakow.

I have a deep fondness for these places. For Boston's Beacon Hill, for Chinatown in D.C., for the madness of the Chicago Loop.

But I do not love New York in the same way.

I don't know why.
I thought perhaps it was because God is difficult to find here in the chaos and the commotion.
He is. But He is not far.
He is in the face of the CFR sisters, and the abuelitas at morning mass, and the aggressive-looking woman on the subway, and the lonely bus driver late at night.
I thought perhaps it was because this city is so oppressive.
And it is. But it does not kill the human spirit.
There is beauty riding each C train, and speed-walking past you on streets, and sitting on stoops in your neighborhood.
You are surrounded by eight million images of God.
But I still don't love New York.
I love the sunrise over the bridge on the East river.
I love walking down Christopher street in the starlight.
I love my students. I love walking through East Harlem in the fall.
I love Riverside park in April. I love the Cloisters and Bushwick. I love the thrill of the subway breeze. I love SoHo in the sunshine. I love Washington Square Park in the rain. I love the shabby, haunted chic of Rivington Street. I love all of it.
But I'm always pushing against it. Pushing against something in it that is vitally askew.
I'm always fighting not to be sucked into it; swallowed by it.
And I'm always wrestling with that question.
Wrestling with that lack of love, for no reason.
For no other reason other than that submitting to New York would be like losing part of myself.
And I am not going to lose that part of myself.
Perhaps the reason for my discomfort is the mixture of island cramped conditions and suffocating urban sprawl.
Perhaps it's just part of the formation.
Perhaps the feeling of falling in love with the small pieces of beauty each day, but hating the lifeless concrete is part of the formation. Feeling ill-at-ease and out-of-sorts.
But landing in bed each night feeling like you are living the adventure you have always wanted to, and feeling right at home in it.
Perhaps that is a sort of novitiate.