The role of language and story was one thing that especially struck me in Ruby Payne’s book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, which addresses the hidden rules and understandings of poverty, middle-class, and wealth cultures.
Payne discusses discourse of language, explaining the five different registers we use: Frozen (liturgical, wedding vows); Formal (standard sentence syntax—for school and work); Consultative (formal conversation); Casual (language between friends, full of non-verbal assists, 400-800 word vocabulary); and Intimate (language between lovers or twins, language of sexual harassment). (27)
To participate in larger North American society, a person must learn formal register English, either through acquisition (natural immersion) or learning (direct-teaching/study). Formal register is the direct, to-the-point, correct and complete sentence syntax used for job interviews, in the workplace, at parent-teacher conferences, for standardized exams, and more.
Lacking the ability to access formal register, a person cannot communicate effectively in writing without non-verbal assists and will struggle to adequately speak the language of the middle class, setting that person outside of the middle class. (28)
Language also includes ordering of narrative and sequencing of story: the ability to spatially, chronologically, or otherwise categorize information. The problem with being unable to sequentially tell story is that information is received and processed in an associative, random way, which is okay sometimes, but makes it difficult to assign information to categories, or to weave a web of knowledge. (93)
Categorization essentially allows us to organize space, assign meaning and place in a narrative structure, and understand a coherent and truthful story of ourselves and of the world.
Payne’s words have made me think of language as resource and the privilege of access to paper. Literacy is a huge tool to own, though so easily taken for granted. What presumptions do I bring to the table in my interactions with others? That everyone I know also came from a house full of books and has parents with multiple college degrees? That access to fancy personal technology, that goldmine of information, is a given? What language am I speaking, and what language do I assume will be spoken to me?
At Blue Ridge, where a large percentage of the parents I see are pajama-clad, poverty, at least based on income, is the culture of 93% of the students. When many of the teachers come from a middle-class background, a lot is lost in cultural translation between teaching-style and learning receptivity. Maybe we would be better teachers if we spent more time developing strategies to speak the culture of poverty and teach the language of the middle class, to help provide more opportunities to our kids and point them to a door out of poverty.
Ana Tijoux / 1977
Bon Iver / Bon Iver
Brooke Fraser / Saving the World
MIA / Kala
Shakira / Oral Fixation
Adele / Someone Like You
Beyonce / Start Over
Florence & The Machine / Shake It Out
Gregory Alan Isakov / 3am
Hillsong United / Desert Song
Josh Garrels / Farther Along
Kanye / Stronger, Welcome to Heartbreak
Taylor Swift / Breathe, 15, Back to December
Trevor Hall / Te Amo
Blessed Be Your Name
you were a mystery i didn't treasure
and i have a story you don't understand
well i've seen breaches in friendships i thought were strong
and i've known enough men to know i've only really been impressed by a handful
like the mountain in honduras, the hidden trail vista with a view like the rockies
where i stole so many afternoons and wept
and a neglected sister, twisted back
like the marriage of a man who will threaten separate bank accounts,
who will accuse his wife of 'not even working for ten years'
when she has pulled ten thousand times his weight
empty threats so oft repeated you'd think they'd cease to touch you
but they don't
words you couldn't imagine, son
words you wish you could forget, daughter
i don't know much about construction,
but i know a twisted base can buy only fear, not love
and i just can't afford the transactions anymore.
And to the kiddos at Blue Ridge, dirty fingernails and so many with permanent lice in their hair--who knew it is so expensive to remove? And many don't have their own washing machines and all the quarters it costs to kill the parasites, let alone scissors and glue and crayons at home, which is why they're always so worried when they don't finish art projects at school.
And to the leaves in piles on the sides of the streets, grace and more grace piling up, falling down.
To each day of sunshine in December, how hard winter is for me and yet full of its own particular beauty.
To American flags in churches (ask those questions honey, should they be there?--but with love for the bride and not malice in your heart).
To G, J, and J, mama of two cerebral palsy brothers I work with each morning. 'Dejelo mi esposo,' she told me when we met. They live at the YWCA, and she works at Burger King, saving money to rent a house with the four kids and her own mother.
And to dented cars when mine has none and tin can trailer hovels when I dream of (and expect!) a handmade home of wood and glass some day.
Oh, how entitled we are, when we deserve no thing.
Sometimes I feel like I'm cheating on my kids in Honduras by falling in love with these kids here. But the gifts we are given are not exclusive to each other. By receiving one, you don't negate the others. And oh, I have been given a thousand, thousand gifts.
We started off working on miniature bust creations of clay for about thirty minutes--I could have done that all day! The example was this marvelous life-size bust of Kanye West.
Went on to a tour of the facility: the welding and wax rooms, steel and bronze casting, laser-scanning and spatial engineering, machining and fabrication, designing the physics of how to even keep these enormous metal sculptures standing. Titanium and plaster and clay and iron, even concrete. Incredible.
Eighty-five people work there, creating artists' work and sending it out to Sweden, London, Venice, Puerto Rico. All over. Last year the Foundry only had 50 employees. How cool to know there are jobs to make art in these hard economic times.
(Everything in the photo is a metal-cast sculpture).
I spent the night running game booths and selling .25 cent tickets to families spending $2 or $3 on multiple children; the two unbroken twenties passing through my hands obvious. These things you notice.
I've been thinking how bipolar is a word we use because we want to explain insane behavior (the way I always wished he was an alcoholic: measurable, explainable, blameable--rather than just himself).
NPR did a report on 'How the Northwest Handles Mental Illness' this week, and I can already spot the kids at Blue Ridge--not to negative prophesy, but--the ones who will probably struggle all their lives.
And I cried to the school counselor trying to articulate the hardness of sending some of those precious ones back into adversity each day. Seven hours is such a short time for structure and sanity, and even kindness.
But I still want to sing the song of healing and freedom. I still want to proclaim the Gospel of Peace as it becomes true in my own heart and life. I still want to hope where others have none.
O! Holy night! The stars, their gleams prolonging,
Watch o'er the eve of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error, longing
For His appearance, then the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Read the literal translation from the French here.
''You're not becoming more free in order in order to weep more and more sincerely,'' I heard a girl say last week. ''No, you are becoming free to dance and sing karaoke in public and laugh harder.'' Freedom will bring tears, but so much more than that, freedom brings joy.
I've never been so silly in my life as I am this fall; I haven't laughed more in many, many years. And everywhere I walk, it's like I can hear the flowers and trees and streets themselves singing: you are free, you are free, you are becoming free.
#1) Katie & Pekos' wedding!! SB, Feb.
#2) Visit Elle in Colorado.
#3) Run Denver Marathon with her?
But besides this, I'd like to announce that I am now a grad-school applicant, to one-and-a-half programs so far, and one-and-a-half more (at least!) coming.
I love school, I love taking notes, it's been almost three years, and I am so excited!!
However, also exciting: knowing that maybe I will just move to Mexico instead. Wide open skies, honey.
Sometimes I see you,
even we talk
Does this mean you also dream of me?
Or is it a only a projection,
a mere copy of you
sailing the waves of my mind?
When I dream of you, things are never settled,
never well between us
but perhaps they are getting there
or perhaps not.
Who can say?
Here where the subconscious rises to the surface,
submerged cedars and sitka spruce surfacing for air,
where fear and desire uncoil
loosen and probe their snaking possibilities
in worlds where you are only an actor,
an observer, and yet a participant.
You awake where you began,
to find your testimony forgotten,
and every dreamed truth lost.
But take regard, young one,
do not disdain what you have beheld,
for you will be a witness
on a fogged and shining earth.
13.11.08, three years ago today: spending the night in the gym while the Tea Fire burned through campus.
13.01.11 the first day of teaching quinto grado en Nuevo
13.06.11 the day I left Honduras
Strange you know, how days can carry so much weight.
...Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren't I really just advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don't believe? I shake my head at the wonder of it: Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks.
Remembering frames up gratitude. Gratitude lays out the planks of trust. I can walk the planks, from known to unknown--and know: He holds.''
*a discipline, a practice, a vocation: the work of trusting Love. Intentionally.
''The full life, the one spilling joy and peace, happens only as I come to trust the career of the Lover, Lover who enver burdens his children with shame or self-condemnation but keeps stroking the fears with gentle grace.
Trust in the wholeness of the gospel--including this moment, good news too--and be saved. Choose stress, worry, anxiety, reject what God has given now, which is good news too--refuse to trust--and be condemned.
Without trust in the good news of Jesus, with out trust in the good news of God's saving work even in this moment, without an active, moment-by-moment trust in the good news of an all-sovereign, all-good God, how can we claim to fully believe? This is the trust I lack, to know that if disaster strikes; he carries me even there.''
-A. Voskamp, A Thousand Gifts
''?Para yo? Yo quiero ir a Francia, con mi mamá.'' She draws a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Half the class copies her answer in the same prompt. José, however, follows his heart.
''Yo quiero ir a la Pulga.'' ''?A la Pulga?'' I ask la otra maestra, knowing the word means flea. ''Mercador de pulga,'' she clarifies. ''The Flea Market, in Pasco.''
There is the pre-schooler a co-worker told me about. My friend, a tall white 20-year-old, was asking this little boy what his name was. The boy was so shy he actually covered his face with his hand, then proceeded to remain that way throughout the entire snacktime, eating his Cheerios.
Or R, who always wants to partner with me in the ''Hola Amigo'' song in Spanish Social Studies every morning. ''How's it going, R?'' I asked. ''Not so good,'' he replied, hand on his lower back. ''Yesterday I fell off my bike and broke my back.''
There is G, who comes to school late every day with hair sticking up like he just woke up, wrapped in his mother's jacket. N, in foster care, who always talks about missing his mom, to whom I've learned to say I'm sorry, you can't hold my hand, because I know he won't let go.
Some names I have written down (from just one kindergarten class) include: August, Diamond, Unity, Kannin, Arasely, Chris C. (apparently there are two), and Tiyauna. Some spellings on third-grade posters in the hallway: ''She is dansen.'' ''The gurl is flexebo.'' ''Dicas da sun muds.'' (That's ''Because the sun moves.'') and elfelfat (for elephant).
And oh, I love these kids, but sometimes it is incredible to think how we ever learn so much.
...but that's not going to be enough. I've worked with a lot of artists, Em, and they all have a need that cannot be met by another human being. That's why the affairs, the one-night-stands. It takes greatness of spirit to understand that the need is not meetable, and just get on with life.''
-Certain Women, Madelaine L'Engle
''Don't worry,'' she tells me, pointing to lavender Crocs, ''these shoes are really sticky.''
Sirgio, who I've taken to calling Sirge (like Surge, that soda from the 90s), is one of the smallest first graders, but wears clothes that are way too big on him--huge tee-shirts, super long shorts, even those Wolverine brown hikers--he looks like a little gansta. A couple weeks ago, I was saying something to him in Spanish, and he looked at me and said in English, totally deadpan, ''I'm half-Indian.'' It was hard not to laugh. ''Be that as it may, this is still a Spanish period, and you do have a Spanish name.''
On school picture day Tuesday, Xitlalli, who looked very cute with her hair all done, got so nervous she couldn't stop crying and actually threw up.
DeMarco led the meses del año song with an A-B pattern of alternate winking eyes. Awesome.
When we were talked about what things we try our best in today, Avarie, smart but rather high-maintenance, said flatly, ''nothing.'' A couple weeks ago she fell apart, crying (sans tears) and declaring, ''my nose hurts right here,'' as she touched the skin between her upper lip and nose with the end of her finger.
Dylan, with the white-blonde bull cut, skinny wrists, and black-framed glasses, always comes to school wearing different types of head-gear: baseball cap, cowboy hat, and, when it was raining, an umbrella hat. Recently we were walking outside to the bus when Teacher Mario pointed out his pants were unbuttoned and unzipped under his huge brown jacket. ''Dylan,'' I stopped him, ''please zip up your pants.'' He insisted he could not button them, which left me the awkward job of doing it myself in the middle of the bus lines, fingers splayed like spiders so as not to touch any part of him. Ridiculous!
Then there's Diego, 7 in May but in first grade. He doesn't necessarily fit right into the public school protocol (he was in Montesorri for the past two years), but his personality, dryness, questions: I want a son just like him. Summer birthday and a little old for the grade included.
And I almost forgot! Today, some of the third graders were asking about a picture of a man's hand with leprosy. ''What is that?'' they wondered. ''It looks like Voldemort's hand.'' I briefed them on the skin disease, how it's very rare now compared to in the past. ''Oh yeah,'' a couple of them knowingly replied, ''My grandpa has that. His feet look just like that.''
So the days include a lot of me madly scribbling new Spanish words into my red notebook, high-fiving third grade boys, teaching fifth grade math lessons, first grade reading, and recess playground moderation. It's amazing the authority any person over four feet tall has out there, and the stream of reports they receive. ''Teacher, teacher, Dakota kicked Zaden.'' ''Okay Francisco, thank you for informing me. If Zaden or Dakota has a problem, they can come tell me.''
In other news, I just signed up for a Women's Carpentry: Wood Refinishing class. !Qué emocionante!
T.E. once told me how rare he found real, actual conversation, you know with two people actually doing a somewhat balanced amount of sharing and listening (not just story-trading or topping!), of give and take. I remember sort of being surprised when he said that, like, well, maybe you're just too quiet or something... but I think it's true.
I think real conversation takes work, maybe more work than most of us are used to in our addiction to instant-gratuity, and I also think it's kind of scary for people, to actually open up about their lives and thoughts and questions and allow another person access and even, on some level, say. Because to really let someone in is also implicitly trusting them to judge you fairly, to not write you off if they disagree. To keep listening and practicing empathy and also telling you the truth.
We have made our own stories so cheap, resorting to them before we have practiced the long art and discipline of conversation with another person, and so ascertained him/her desirous/deserving to hear; R. told me once after dropping a big piece of hers onto a new acquaintance how she thought, ''Wait--that is a pearl! I want to be careful.''
K. was telling me Sunday about a dinner she just had with a boy. She said something about a documentary she had seen in class (in an interested, informative, curious, moved-by, sharing way), and he immediately got defensive and closed-up, like he took it personally, when she was just trying to reflect.
Why do we do that? Why do we get uncomfortable and shut down when someone says something we disagree with? Especially in a public place, I think that can feel really unsafe... when some kind of opinion is presented as the Obvious Right, and so we are afraid to publicly think differently. And I always jump to, ''Well, this conversation is just honestly lower than what I'm interested in, so I'm not anti-these people, I just don't want to participate.'' Like it's a lost cause or something.
I don't know what I'm trying to say, except that I wish I could go to some kind of group of people, of friends, who didn't show up with the assumption that everyone else feels the same way as them about things, or that trace attitude of being the Enlightened or Right one. A people who want to talk and listen and ask and share (platicar, I always think, though the google translation of that word is terrible) about faith and life and the meaning and narrative they see or long for and the questions of why and who and for what? Why are we all so afraid of this?
Both my friends who call truth by the name Jesus and my friends on the search for truth, for the divine, it's like we are all so quick to be offended, to shut down, to refuse to engage in conversation. I count myself. I think part of the reason we can't talk about politics and questions and beliefs is that we don't know how without feeling we have to establish ourselves or feel directly attacked by someone else's opinion. And sometimes we even let our opinions sound like attacks. So we talk about sports and the weather and work and gossip instead. Or we attend awkward meetings where we are in the closeted minority and so don't/can't engage and feel alone.
And why do we even have to have an opinion on so many things?
I want to give people the benefit of the doubt. To try to learn from everyone what I can. I want conversation to be more relaxed again. I don't want to live my life arrogant and enlightened and making other people feel unsafe when I say what I think. I want to live as someone who invites others to share, who listens well, who provides safety, and who tells the truth as best she can in a way that furthers conversation, the wanting.
Moving makes me feel like a first-year in college again: willing to participate in any activity / with anyone for the purpose of making friends. Cosmic midnight bowling? No problem! Whisky shots, nighttime graveyard walks, multiple coffee dates? I am down!
The nice thing is being a lot less insecure and a lot less anti-in-general than I was at 18. If you decide to be into it, anything can make you laugh, and most things can actually be pretty fun.
So I was more than happy Saturday when all these ridiculous hang-outs added up to a great hike with four other, more interesting, and less random, people. Not to mention it was in the 70s. Followed by an evening drinking tea and laughing at An Idiot Abroad.
Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn
And I've been a fool and I've been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I'm always dragging that horse around
And our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa
I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It's a final mess but it's left me so empty
It's always darkest before the dawn
And I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I'm ready to suffer and I'm ready to hope
It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I'm gonna let it happen to me
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out, shake it out
Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don't numb themselves to really living. Pages of the gratitude journal fill endlessly. Yet I know it in the vein and the visceral: life is loss. Every day, the gnawing...
What will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed.
When will I lose? Today? In a few weeks? How much time have I got before the next loss?
Who will I lose? And that's definite. I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss. Am I prepared for that?
Every step I take forward in my life is a loss of something in my life and I live the waiting: How and of what will I be emptied today?''
The road not taken is taken. Beyond the bend
it stretches on in the mind, well-traveled
as the one on which we set our feet.
An untold, imagined story
mingles with memory; actual
and possible paths cross and at each crossing
we pause, not to regret, but to remember
that to choose is to keep choosing.
The after-image of a face beyond a half-open door,
the felt warmth of a room beyond an uncrossed threshold,
the lingering sounds of a conversation that never happened,
leave their record, too, on the heart and in the bones:
fourth dimension of the life we choose and live.
You can lose what you never had—
mourn the unborn child,
the unspoken confession,
the friendship foreshadowed
that drifted away on the next tide.
You can lose what you only imagined having:
evening hours sipping wine over an open book;
walks that wind beyond the routes of responsibility,
the luxury of dailiness: “Oh, it’s you again—
I wondered when you’d come.”
The good-bye hard upon hello,
the embrace that renounces even as it receives,
the same breath caught in anticipation released
in resignation, confuse the opening heart.
By a strange mercy we are allowed
to practice the final paradox—to love and let go,
learning in each release to listen to the voice
that asks, “Do you see yet?” Do you see
how to love the wave already breaking
because it is a wave?
because it breaks?
I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.''
Stand still broken bones, you cannot heal yourselves
face the Blue Mountains & Palouse sky with courage in your veins,
following a path of peace, not fear.
Buenas dias, sun on my back, wildflowers and weeds,
women grown in the same forest:
take your September slowly.
I am not as sad as I was,
or even quite as old;
I am also still on the journey
learning that my own vineyard is mine to give
and yet my heart is not my own.
Exploring each new address by its street names and hiking trails,
its coffee shops and rivers
How many little ones and sisters can you love?
How many places can a body hold?
These are finite numbers, I am learning,
but a pilgrim life either expands your heart,
or breaks it.
So again I will pitch my tent
believing the Spirit is with me
and I am not alone.
Pitch darkness I mean, where you can't even see your own hand held inches from your eyes.
Apparently there are creatures who live in caves so long, they lose their sight
generations later, their eyes themselves are also lost
they forget all light.
I pedaled fearful and exhilarated at once, praising a journey that can survive such darkness,
triply grateful for every ray of liquid gold on my skin, shining intervals between the deep
brownness that won't last.
Now in fuller sleep than I've had in months, piecemeal dreams still hover, uninterpretable:
Central American highways and roadside carcasses,
old pick-up trucks and exotic vines,
thousands of miles away from you
dry leaves of a thin reconciliation blown by dusty wind,
but mostly the heavy separation.
Riding through ghost towns, worn brick buildings, decaying into alpine fir,
I listened to the stories of the 1910 forest fire--the one that started in Montana and burned so far west
of train passengers waiting in tunnels for weeks,
water dripping down in the cool blackness
Of animals running to the caves,
a mama bird roasted with her wings spread over her babies,
found still crying and alive:
Love's recognizable silver paint.
There are a hundred pairs of thirsty eyes,
but yours are the ones that haunt my life.
Así, una lista corta de las cosas me gustan hasta este momento:
-yoga classes! and dance! and a free Y membership for the month
-biking to get around!
-biking to the reservoir. running and hiking on the trails there.
-new people, new friends.
-seeing guys in their 20s. everywhere. unreal. and women too. come on!
-frozen yogurt. duh.
-farmers market, of course.
-hearing spanish. speaking spanish. latinos.
So I am learning to pray more simply. To unclench worried hands. To stomach highway carcasses and pause at signs betraying the truth.
Enseñame tu camino propio
Enseñame tu caminata
Enseñame tu cara.
I see your face in my mind as I drive away/ (T. Swift)
'Cause none of us thought it was gonna end that way
People are people and sometimes we change our minds
But it's killing me to see you go after all this time
Music starts playin' like the end of a sad movie
It's the kinda ending you don't really wanna see
'Cause it's tragedy and it'll only bring you down
Now I don't know what to be without you around
Never wanted this, never want to see you hurt
Every little bump in the road I tried to swerve
People are people and sometimes it doesn't work out
Nothing we say is gonna save us from the fall out
It's two a.m., feelin' like I just lost a friend
Hope you know it's not easy, easy for me
And we know it's never simple, never easy
Never a clean break, no one here to save me
I can't breathe
Without you, but I have to
I was crying with K on Saturday, this incredible woman and mama and human who has lived through more than any sane, optimistic, peace-bringing North American I know--I mean suicides and rapes and prison sentences and evictions and deaths and mental illness and broken trust and broken marriages and step-children and mothering and making a family out of wounded people-- just so much--and I asked her, barely able to choke the words out, ''Do you ever wish you could go back and give yourself a hug?''
Meaning in between those lines don't you wish you could hold your younger self, oh honey, these are gnarly things you should have never seen, this is hairy stuff you should not have to live through. I am so sorry. The things that make you feel one hundred years old, and batter down your pride of having it together so much that when you feel judged by those who don't know your story, who maybe haven't even lived through sadness, you are not angry, only full of sorrow.
''Every day, Cari,'' she told me. ''Be gentle with yourself. Be patient.''
And I don't care if it is cheesy, this is a year that I love Taylor Swift, and not ironically, and her song Fifteen just nails it.
You sit in class next to a redhead named [K.J.]
And soon enough you're best friends
Laughing at the other girls who think they're so cool
We'll be outta here as soon as we can
When you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
When you're fifteen and your first kiss
Makes your head spin 'round
But in your life you'll do (harder things)
But I didn't know it at fifteen
When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen, don't forget to look before you fall
I've found time can heal most anything
And you just might find who you're supposed to be
I didn't know who I was supposed to be at fifteen
It is so difficult to unlearn the practice of gaging your worth from men, from their attention and perceived interest and desire. One problem with that is when it is absent, you feel worthless. But you are desirable because you are a daughter, and not a bastard, even if you feel fatherless. You are desirable because of who you are, or as Elle might say, who you belong to, and not based on who or how many want you.
I was thinking last week about how I wish there was some kind of service where you could pay someone to call you every day and just tell you, with total conviction, ''You're making it. You're going to make it.''
Feeling so old this year has brought a lot of reflection. On worth and habits and patterns and love, on trust and protection and relationship and community.
So far in my life, I haven't really felt like I had to rely on God for provision. In my upper-middle class existence, things have always been provided for me, and I am sorry to say I have even acted very entitled. Extensive travel, great jobs, a high quality education, minimal debt, organic food, easy access to the outdoors and tools for recreation.
Since my departure from Central America though, things have become a challenging exercise in trust. Leaving was premature, I felt unprepared--I was unprepared. I didn't have it together. I don't have it together.
And yet here I am, living in a safe place obviously provided by the One I try to trust. With a great car I wasn't at all expecting to be able to buy. And three good job offers. And I still don't know what I will be doing at the end of two weeks from now, and all summer has been this way. And honestly, I hate it.
You can spend your life worrying and anticipating what will happen to feel more in control (''I will close my heart to this person. I will decide now how things will work out''), obsessing over finances and a scant savings account, your body, over-analyzing relationships and interactions. Or you can choose to live each day as it is, and embrace it. The weather, the food, the work and activities of the day are particular and will shape you, and I want to drink my coffee slowly and allow each tear to fall without wiping them away. I want to bless my body with every mile I hike and honor the land with each peach that I pick. I want to be slow and intentional and receive the ocean of sadness that is this year, though I feel like I am dying.
I always read the creation story of the Torah or heard its interpretations and thought, ''but I don't want to be in charge. I wouldn't want to be God, I've never wanted that. I guess I just don't relate to these two first people, metaphorical or literal or whatever they were.''
Now I see how that issue of trust marks my own life as well. That issue of wanting to feel safe and wanting to feel in control and trusting only yourself, being unable to rely on a force that you can't see or understand to care for you. Thanks G-d, but I'd rather know everything. What will happen with a certain person, where I will be living, what job I will take. I worship certainty, I reject faith. But if I have learned anything this year, it's that I can't trust myself. And it's that, like Bill Johnson says (I think I've listened to his sermon ''Living Unoffended at God'' about seven times in the past two months), ''God is more concerned with our intimacy with him than with our comfort.''
In Honduras whenever you see someone eating, whoever they are, even someone you don't know and you are just walking by, you look them in the eye and say Buen provecho. Good provision. I think of God the Provider and realize that is such a new concept for me. To say, 50 times a day if I have to, I trust you. You provide.
And I think of faith as not knowing all the steps and pieces and trail conditions on the journey (and vistas and lighthouses and dangers and disasters), but continuing to follow. Not to run ahead. Not to bushwhack your own path.
?Piensas que un persona se puede darle una otra persona paz? I asked R, more than once. Peace, what I have wanted so badly, my whole life, to have. And though he told me, Si, eres mi paz y yo seré tu paz, I see now that God is my peace. You are my refuge, and you care for me, so I will be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.
So I sing that Brooke Fraser song all the time now, tears running down my cheeks because I know that, even though I do not feel it, it is becoming true.
If to distant lands I scatter
If I sail to farthest seas
Would you find and form and gather 'til I only dwell in Thee?
If I flee from greenest pastures
Would you leave to look for me?
Forfeit glory to come after
'Til I only dwell in Thee
If my heart has one ambition
If my soul one goal to seek
This my solitary vision 'til I only dwell in Thee
That I only dwell in Thee
'Til I only dwell in Thee
-A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
Are tears prayers, Lord?
Are screams prayers,
Can trembling hands be lifted to you,
or clenched fists
or the cold sweat that trickles down my back
or the cramps that knot my stomach?
Lord, help me!
Help me to accept you as you are, Lord:
Lord, help me to trust you.
Like when you're at the fair and somebody plays some ridiculous-odds game to win you a completely silly and in a normal context childish stuffed bear, but you just feel happy and proud. Or when you have a partner for all the roller coasters, someone coaxing you into cold water, because they know you're a wimp when it comes to anything less than 85 degrees but they also know you'll jump in if properly encouraged.
Someone who is rarely angry with you, and never scary, but if they do get upset you are immediately convicted and repentant, because their word really matters. Someone to hold your hand when your blood is being drawn or you're getting an IV, even though you've had it done a hundred times before alone, and you were okay. Someone to care for you when you're sick and take you seriously.
Someone to feel safe with in a foreign city or a late night. Someone to share the rising moon and owl call, the coyote dance and the sound of the river where you're camping. Someone to talk about things with, like aren't caves crazy? And can you imagine waiting out a wildfire in a tunnel for a week, or the feeling of a friend lost in the woods even for only 20 hours, or what it'd be like to stumble onto a hibernating grizzly?
Someone to kayak and canoe and rockclimb and hike with. To go on bike rides and road trips and almost kill each other but then make up at the top of the pass, or when you first glimpse the ocean. Someone who listens to you and engages you and questions you and shares with you, stories and thoughts and questions. Who also calls you out when you're being ridiculous, or petty or selfish or elitist or bossy, all of which you can be.
Someone who adores your body, and tells you so, in a healthy, celebratory way. Someone who gets your commentary and adds humor to the rough and the awkward and the strange and the heartbreaking. Someone who doesn't need to have an opinion about everything and helps you to know that you don't either. Someone who holds you and protects you and trusts you and wants you. Or maybe desires you.
Maybe these things are the way of love, yes, but perhaps, I would argue, to love someone the most is to let go.
I know I only post in other people's words these days, but this quote got me:
"If you keep telling the truth, regardless of how embarrassing, it'll have a profound effect on you. It'll begin to free and heal you. And you'll actually begin to behave like less of a neanderthal.''
driving northbound, driving homeward, driving wind is driving me
and it just seems so funny that i always end up here,
walking outside in the storm while looking way up past the tree-line
it's been some time…
give me darkness when i’m dreaming
give me moonlight when i’m leaving
give me shoes that weren’t made for standing
give me tree-line, give me big sky, give me snow-bound, give me rain clouds
give me a bed time…just sometimes
you were my friend, and i was the same
riding that hope was like catching some train
well now i just walk, i don't mind the rain
but i’ve been singing so much softer than i did back then
the night, i think, is darker than we can really say
and god’s been living in that ocean, sending us all the big waves
and i wish i was a sailor so i could know just how to trust,
maybe i could bring some grace back home to the dryland for each of us
say what you say, you say it so well
just say you will wait, like snow on the rail
i've been combing that train yard for some kind of sign
even my own self, it just don’t seem mine
give me darkness when i’m dreaming, give me moonlight when i’m leaving
give me mustang horse and muscle, 'cause i won't be going gentle
give me slant-eye looks when i’m lying, give me fingers when i’m crying
and i aint out here to cheat you, see i killed that damn coyote in me…
By refusing to share our fantasies, worries, and joys, we limit God's lordship over our life and make it clear that there are parts of us that we do not wish to submit to divine conversation. It seems that the Master had something more in mind when he said, 'Trust in me.' ''
To love anyone is to hope is him always. From the moment at which we begin to judge anyone, to limit our confidence in him, from the moment at which we identify (pigeonhole) him, and so reduce him to that, we cease to love him, and he ceases to be able to become better. We must dare to love in a world that does not know how to love.
-Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water
-Streams in the Desert, 19 July
Once at midnight I nearly mailed back all your wooden and penned gifts, not from spite but only the wanting to forget, when our circles are still so close.
He has already forgotten, the one whose mouth tasted of milk, of life and heat and breasts and the vacas he grew up herding. I promise not to blame you if you do the same. I am so much older and sadder than you.
And being unwanted is a strange country.
farther along we'll understand why
so cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
we'll understand this, all by and by
Tempted and tried, I wondered why
the good man died, the bad man thrives
and Jesus cries because he loves them both
we're all castaways in need of rope
hanging on by the last threads of our hope
in a house of mirrors full of smoke
confusing illusions I've seen
Where did I go wrong? I sang along
to every chorus of the song that the devil wrote
like a piper at the gates
leading mice and men down to their fates
but some will courageously escape
the seductive voice with a heart of faith
while walking the line back home
So much more to life than we've been told
it's full of beauty that will unfold,
so shine like you struck gold my wayward son
that deadweight burden weighs a ton
go down to the river and let it run
wash away all the things you've done
Still I get hard-pressed on every side
between the rock and the compromise
like the truth and a pack of lies fighting for my soul
and I've got no place left to go
'cause I got changed by what I've been shown
more glory than this world has known
keeps me rambling on.
And even when I fall I'll get back up
for the joy that overflows my cup
heaven filled me with more than enough
knocked down my levies and my bluffs,
let the flood wash me.
Farther along we'll know all about it
farther along we'll understand why
so cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine
we'll understand this, all by and by.
rutted and dry, or else water-logged, thick with frogs,
an eighth of a mile from my front porch
past the houses of my neighbors
(and his house, the one for whom I left)
until the road turned right and became a trail.
I crossed the stream, water supply of the village,
where the trail began to climb and became La Culabra.
La Culabra: wilderness behind my house.
I memorized that trail like the ridges of my own dry heart
I have no photographs but memories
of greeting Justa, Marlon, y Marí, breastfeeding her newborn as she climbed
The men with machetes, sometimes drunk.
Buenas tardes, I would sternly tell them, trying to glare them off from any ill intentions.
I love you, they would say back in English
Once I came across one in a fetal-position in the middle of the trail;
he was fast asleep.
The rising trail offered a topographical look at the village,
the Great Rubber Tree marking one of many forks.
My favorite wandering place in those mountains had a view like the Rockies
shale rock, the river below, miles of sky.
I would steal away there and cry, sing, pray, sit in silence
until the light was almost gone and it was time to stumble down the mountain in the twilight.
Well I have hiked four times this week, and I am grateful for the steep, quick paths; the wildflowers and vista rewards,
the familiar land of my birth.
But it is nothing like La Culabra.
And I miss La Venta, the earth, the students I dream of nightly, the warmth of a language and a body next to mine
and I grieve the separation and loss of this 23rd year.
when all that's within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides
And this is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flames
And I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship
a week ago when I came home
(Home? But I miss the familiarity of Spanish,
of brown skin, tight clothes, crowded streets,
and my village.)
And all the fields were green with the June wetness of spring
Nw the Solstice has passed, the days turning again
We breathed in the piney wooden air,
celebrated with a campfire of firs,
bottle of white wine.
It felt good to pee outside again. It felt right.
I know I'm going to be okay, eventually.
When I look at my feet, the earth is moving,
a thousand ants moving the earth,
other unknown insects going about their lives
now recognized in the throes of weeding
Strawberry rows and cedar wax-wings,
their bandit masks betraying their mission.
I saw a bear cub on Tuesday.
I thank G-d for the soil, for work with my hands,
for every small door that points to Hope.
But then there are also two good parents and five dear friends who are okay that I'm so sad these days, and need to hibernate. And even one farm to donate lots of effort and love to (and of course, be in the sun).
And heck, maybe I will just go get a Masters. Or move to Mexico. Or simply quit worrying about what the hell I'm doing and what the hell comes next.
So, you know, maybe crying secretly in your bed every night still means you're making it. Or you're going to.
-a certain man's packing skills a few days ago. and steadiness.
-the sun. the warmth. a tan.
-mi 27 queridos.
-la culabra. hiking everyday.
and wasn't missing
-English all the time
-the cold, cold, cold
and the strange
-ice available? refrigeration? no power outages?
-indoor bathrooms. and showers.
-full length mirrors. mirrors everywhere.
-no ants attacking my food, legs, house. or flies. or beetles, mosquitos, tarantulas.
-still the automatic spider-check in my shoes.
-the size of everything. food portions. houses. cars.
is either a gift, or a tax.
Not that your blessings are negated by curses,
but that the richer wine has a stain of bitterness
its fermentation process more costly.
I am not Job, my G-d,
but I feel acutely the loss of what your hands have taken,
the vacancies left by the demands you exact.
And though my face and skin may tell lies of my youth
the truth is, my heart is a skeleton,
and I have aged before my years.
Now, exposed as in a desert,
unprotected by any sheltering rock,
G-d, audacious G-d, you dare to ask
for this last thing that is mine.
My foundation and attachment and direction for next year
My 27 people becoming people.
And maybe you ask in trick, like Abraham and Izaak,
pero no hay importa, because either way
to follow you, the answer must only be yes.
You and your camino propio
painting the differences between peace and happiness,
between want and desire.
And I know there is only one choice
Only one way to the Peace and the Truth and the Life
so in scorn, in shame, in misunderstanding and in judgment,
in action that appears ugly, or defeatist, or whatever else
in sadness and in longing and in the nakedness left by loss:
I choose you.
I choose you.
And I say I don't understand,
but I will praise you,
though sadness may remain a thousand days more
I will praise you for you have saved me and will save me from the pit.
Only don't leave me alone, broken and barren and old at 23.
Don't leave me unprotected, shelterless in the storm.
Don't leave me.
a dulcimer of patience in his hand;
whence harmonies we cannot understand,
of God´s will in his worlds, the strain unfolds
in sad, perplexed minors.´
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning
´Blessed are those whom G-d corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.´
Find me broken, find me bleeding
´cause I need more now than a fairy tale,
a god who lives in a book
I need someone real.
Come closer, closer to me.
Find me broken, find me on my knees,
cause I need more now than philosophy
Some god in outer space doesn't mean anything to me
So would you come?
Would you come?
If I begged you, would you come closer to me now?
on identifying with Elizabeth Gaskell´s Margaret from North and South (only not being nearly as elegant or strong)
like yesterday, trying to get a grip in front of my students
What is wrong, Miss? Why are you crying?
But I promise you, if you could see everything inside me
these many days and years
though be assured of my restless sleep these long days
of a soul in trepidation
though i still don´t know the way
my legs are tired from so long walking
east and west, north and south, in search of you
and of this road called Dolores , my weary heart aches from following
the very road, it is written, that leads to hope
hope, living in another country
apart from me
so i´ll pack my canvas bags again, and board the pickup unafraid
believing goodbyes are stronger, and i am strong
(though he wrote me to quit leaving)
who on earth could argue the richness of my life?
the fire blossoms on the trees crowding all the corners
the calligraphy of many lands and languages tattooing my brown skin
and a thousand steps on city streets and dusty roads weak with history
is it possible to have peace without longing?
it seems you must embrace both,
or else have neither.
and i don´t want to long for him, or for you,
i don´t want to feel empty
but even more, i want peace.
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind
I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind
So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears
So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the Maker's hand
Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be
And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again
-dress like Beyonce
-look reaalll good
-swim in the ocean (more than once a day)
-walk, walk, walk
-loosen up with a drink
-go to Espresso Americano without guilt
-sit in the sand
-read something by Jane Austen
-talk to Benjamin, a beautiful black Garifuna man who gave me his own handmade coconut shell earrings today, with the advice that,
´´When I see a woman without earrings it is like seeing a person walking on the street without shoes.´´
then everything changed, nothing is the same
but I never left his side
I´ve seen the walls, and they all fall down
I´ve felt the wind, its whipped us all
if you have give a coin or two,
if you don´t, a smile will do
Have mercy on me
Have mercy on me
Have mercy, have mercy
Have mercy on me
(thanks Trevor / the way much)
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.
So many are alive who don’t seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move in the world
as though untouched.
But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.
You are not dead yet, it’s not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.
1) I use a umbrella cover from the rain. (not too bad!)
2) I speak English. (Okay.)
4) I remembrance the table of six. (In all fairness, why is remembrance a word this week anyway?)
5) The circus has function at 9:00pm.
6) Keidy and Gerson has a goggles for swim.
7) I complain to the horrible food. (Straight to its face, eh?)
8) I had merchandise on the food market.
9) I had an expression happy. (Hey, he got the an right!)
10) I don´t had distust to Ana. (Not sure the state of Ana and Gerson´s relationship).
What is that Mary Oliver line about the trees? These kids.
I would almost say they save me,
I am living between fires,
trail-running at their bruised and blackened edges
cleared brush and lenten earth
Bathing does not wash the dirt coating off my ankle bones
and in the crevices of my feet.
Narrow northern feet,
walking in a foreign land.
Now I recognize the hunger in your eyes,
as well as their perspicacity
I examine it loosely with my fingertips
trembling veined hands deciphering a braille of images,
of men sleeping in the street,
roosters strutting in filthy graveyards of plastic and glass
blooming jacaranda trees.
Incongruous puzzle pieces
like the one you showed me,
the one you are building.
Doors and windows wide open invite non-existent breezes
Maseca season has left me dryer for him than I knew.
-five (!) bars of chocolate
-one jar of Roma
-one jar of Nutella (confiscated at airport, but the thought was nice)
-three people I love
Plus Emily and Jim visiting this week. In the middle of exams, report cards, and the end of First Partial (already?!), I count goodness on my fingers and write it on my arms.
Narrowing down to three out of all the women I´d like to celebrate is no small choice, but this third one is undoubtedly one of the strongest and beautiful women I´ve ever met. And as life would have it, I got to spend quite a bit more time with her in the year before moving south.
Patty Ediger, carpenter, horse-back rider, gardener, animal lover, listener, frequent crier, and source of clever commentary, is becoming like another mom to me. She´s fairly tiny but word has it she could out-arm wrestle her sons until they were 7th graders. She helped build her family´s house and their business and is self-taught and capable with legal, company, and non-profit financial bookkeeping. She gives classy DIY projects for Christmas. She goes on canoe-camping trip dates with her husband. She is basically the woman we all want to be.
Patty turned 50 on March 10th and wrote me,
´I cringe with the thought of it....why? Maybe because I have had a certain image of what 50 will be and didn´t like it... maybe because as a woman in this culture I already have had to struggle to find value in a man's world and becoming older in a culture that actually marginalizes older people rather than honoring and valuing them ...well it´s just a bit depressing I have to say. However, your words cheer me up and I need to take [a Tibetan friend´s] advice and just choose to not think about it. I feel great, I feel strong and young and I should be happy about that.´
I love her honesty. May women know more honor and value in the Northwest and all over the planet, calling it out in each other and wearing wisdom and strength and beauty as crowns.