Conversations I had with local flora and fauna on Monday, December 10th

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Walnut tree – are you a walnut? 

My forestry is less refined 

without leaves. 

Your ancient bark is so deeply ridged –

I want to fold myself inside

and learn from you

the slow pace of winter sap rising. 

 

Is there a minute network 

of chattering fungi beneath my feet?

My tree book suggests there is,

but you are a newly reborn forest, 

so recently returned to life from clear cut ground. 

Has your speech returned?

We silenced you because

we didn’t know what we were doing. 

But I am listening now. 

 

I was walking too loudly –

I’m sorry –

cracking ice and branches and frost. 

But now I’m stopped and waiting and still,

and you can come out again, 

chickadees and sparrows 

and whatever bird you are,

nearly infinitesimal,

almost hidden by the branch you land on. 

Hop, scuttle, peck. 

A bright yellow stripe

crowns your tiny head,

and I’m not sure that I have ever seen you before. 

Genus? Species?

For the first time ever,

it occurs to me 

to ask you what you call yourself. 

 

Equine companion,

who rode through here sometime last week,

might you have left your piled gift

somewhere easier to get around?

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O, great mystery!

A canyon of color 

contained in a mushroom. 

You are a bearer of worlds. 

 

The river breathes. 

More slowly than humans,

and even than the green things,

but there is a rhythm,

in and out,

and I can see it in the ice on the flood plains –

in the layered ice rings around your trunks,

and the cracked lines dipping in the sheets of ice above your roots,

proof of water levels moving

up and down,

expanding high,

and compressing low,

like lungs,

water like air,

the earth a body,

where a flood is not a disaster,

but a deep breath in.

 

You really wanted to see that bridge,

my own dear self,

and when one way was blocked

by thunder-cracking ice

with slowly breathing water pulsing beneath it,

you came this way. 

Was it worth it?

On most paths,

the mud is frozen

in space and time

with prints preserved

of human, deer, horse, raccoon,

and maybe occasionally

a dog.

But this path,

this leaf-strewn,

mud-caked, 

water-widened way,

is quickened by the breathing river,

and your feet sink into the loam,

muddy water rising over your grey suede boots. 

Cold feet. Potentially ruined shoes. 

It wasn’t so much that the bridge was worth it,

was it, my own dear self,

but that the setting sunshine,

and the sliding black river,

and the maple leaves still hanging,

were calling for a witness. 

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This, too, shall pass

I recently found myself in a bout of happiness.

It was the little-things brand of happiness: when you look at the evergreen outside, you smile. Instead of tiredly avoiding conversation, you get excited to see your friends and acquaintances. You accomplish something, maybe even something small like checking your email without falling down an internet rabbit hole, and you feel truly accomplished. A cup of tea warms more than your body. Soft socks feel soothing. A phone-call with your family leaves you grateful rather than homesick. You dance to music because you feel so good you need to move. You can’t stop smiling. And sometimes, you don’t need a reason at all – you are just happy.

But I’ve got the pronouns wrong – it’s me that’s been feeling this. don’t need a reason at all – I am just happy. What a gift. About halfway through the first day of my first “bout,” when I found myself smiling at the sun coming through my window and laughing because I was so relieved at how easy it was to smile, I said something that may, at first, seem counter-productive or a little cynical. “This, too, shall pass,” I told myself. “This won’t last forever.”

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Usually those are words I reserve for my heaviest moments, the ones that sit on my back and breathe down my neck, or the starkest moments, the ones that suck all the color out of the world and flatten it. “This, too, shall pass,” I say. To give myself hope. “This won’t last forever.” You will make it through to the other side.

But this impermanence is no less true of a smile than it is of a sigh. And while acknowledging that fact may sound defeatist or ungrateful, for me, it was just the opposite.

This, too, shall pass. So don’t worry about holding on and making it last forever. Simply receive the moment as a gift.

This, too, shall pass. Embrace this moment for all it’s worth because it only lasts for a heartbeat.

This, too, shall pass. Because all things pass. Because you are alive – a dynamic being. To live is to breathe in and out, to be happy, to be sad, to love, to hurt, to laugh, to sob, to embrace, to push away.

This, too, shall pass. You are not required to keep yourself locked in this one place, this one experience. You will feel sad again. And that does not mean you will have have failed. It simply means you are alive. You are not required to feel happy indefinitely.

English speakers have been attempting to sort out the difference between “happiness” and “joy” for as long as English has been a language. And people have sought to understand the concepts long before that. Is one a feeling and one a way of being?  Can you have joy without happiness? Happiness without joy? What does it mean to be joyful if you’re not happy? What does joy mean in the first place?

A few weeks ago I was at the Calvin Worship Symposium, attending a seminar called “Prophetic Lament” in which writers and pastors discussed the necessity of lament in our spiritual practices. One panel member, Danjuma Gibson, talked about the tendency to hurry out of spaces of grief and pain. “But I’m not sure that lament is the opposite of joy,” he said. “I see it as a particular embodiment of joy.” He went on to define joy as “the divine, eternal conviction that, no matter what, I am somebody in God’s creation.” For Gibson, joy is confidence in the existence of my relationship to the Creator and God’s good creation, the faith that I am alive and breathing and beloved. Lament, he said, when rooted in this conviction – this faith, this joy – is the choice to make my place in the world known and heard. Heard by God – and heard by myself.

Happiness, with this definition of joy, is actually not so different from lament. Happiness is also the choice to make my place in the world known and heard. Depression tends to take away my capacity to understand my place in the world and to lift up my voice in any kind of meaningful way. It numbs me. The lifting of depression opens my capacity for all kinds of feelings.

When both happiness and lament are rooted in joy, in the faith of my being beloved by God, I don’t have worry about the passing of any particular emotion. These, too, will pass, even as the conviction of my place in God’s creation remains the same. My bout of happiness did come to an end and was replaced with a gloomy, tired couple of days. But the gloomy days ended, too, and I am smiling at small things once again.

And this, too, will pass. But what a gift this being alive thing is.

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Water is Life

I got this swooping, sinking, rushing feeling when I saw my professor’s facebook post.  He was planning to answer the call for clergy to come to Standing Rock next week, he said.  And would any students like to join him.

I didn’t really want to go.  I knew what camping in the freezing cold was like.  I’d seen the videos of violence against protesters.  I had a full schedule in the week ahead.  And I felt woefully unprepared.  But something deeper than desire and stronger than fear rose up within me and whispered, “Go!”

So I emailed my various supervisors and professors and asked if arrangements could be made for me to miss 4 days of work and classes, a not-insignificant part of me hoping they would say “no.”  But they didn’t.  They told me that this was an important opportunity and that they would make things work.  And the whisper inside me grew bolder and said, “Go.”

I decided to sleep on it and pray for guidance and had a very distressing but unhelpful dream about biking across Europe in the autumn and falling over on 3 person a bicycle into a mud pit.  The morning found me both weary and wired.  And the voice raised itself up inside me and shouted, “Go!” I knew that if I silenced that voice, I would silence something essential in me.  Call it my conscience, my vocation, a sense of justice, the Holy Spirit living in me – more than I wanted to stay home, I wanted to listen to that call and stand with those who needed allies.

There are several camps now at Standing Rock, all working toward the same purpose: halt the death-dealing black snake of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  This pipeline and the oil it carries represents disregard for native lives and well-being, a threat to water sources, and a victory for big oil companies rather than a move toward sustainable energy solutions.  The Water Protectors (the preferred term, rather than protesters) have been using non-violent forms of resistance to call attention to the unjust and unethical practices of the pipeline construction.

This past week, a call was made to clergy all over the nation to join the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and stand in solidarity.  This is a crucial time for the work against the pipeline.  Violence and force from law enforcement is increasing, winter weather is beginning to set in, and the tribes gathered at Standing Rock need our support.

I am going with 11 other Garrett-Evangelical students, professors, and alums, as well as 2 non-seminary-affiliated folks.  We’re joining clergy and people of faith and people of no faith from all over the country to stand with those at Standing Rock.  We’ll be leaving Tuesday, arriving in Cannonball, North Dakota, on Wednesday, and participating in the clergy solidarity action on Thursday.  We’ll make the long trek back on Friday.  We ask for your prayers for strength, wisdom, peace, and justice.

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Behind that tiny word “Go!” are so many convictions that God has grown in me over the years:

  • God made the world and made it good (Gen. 1)
  • God includes the whole earth in God’s vision for community and justice (Lev. 25, Isaiah 11)
  • In the incarnation, Jesus was born, lived, died, and resurrected as a human, fleshy body who walked on this physical earth – in the incarnation, God affirms the goodness of Creation and brings the whole world into the redemption story (John 1, Romans 8).
  • All of Creation will be made whole (Romans 8, Isaiah 65).
  • Our God is One of justice and mercy, and God stands with the oppressed and the marginalized (Matthew 25, Luke 18, Isaiah 1 and 58).

I go to Standing Rock because of the God I serve and the kingdom of God that I am called to join.  I ask you to join your hearts and prayers to mine, and together we will work for the good of all God’s people and land.

More information from those on the ground about the history and situation:

http://standwithstandingrock.net/history/

This article is a couple months old, but it gives good background information:

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/09/26/sierra-club-no-dapl

If you have very warm winter gear – coats, boots, tents, sleeping bags, etc. – or hygiene items that you want to send with me, let me know.  Here are other ways to help:

http://act.350.org/sign/stop-dakota-access-pipeline?akid=s197373..Z7kCFf

Finally, you may be thinking, “This sounds like a good cause and all, but doesn’t it defeat the purpose to use a lot of oil/gas and drive out there?”  Good question!  We still live in an oil-based economy, and there just aren’t a lot of good options for traveling without using petroleum.  This is in large part due to the subsidies oil companies receive and the huge amounts of money and political power our nation grants them.  If enough of us can stand up and say NO to the Dakota Access Pipeline, then we may be able to have enough people power to imagine and enact new, healthy, sustainable and just ways of being a society.

 

Two Daughters

A couple weeks ago, I preached a sermon at Reba Place Church, my spiritual home in Evanston, about the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5.  In my seminary studies, I read about a connection between this story and another tory of an unnamed daughter of an Israelite leader, Jephthah, in Judges 11.  Jephthah’s daughter is sacrificed because of her father’s hasty and unfaithful vow, and her cut-short life is honored by Israelite women for centuries.  In the book of Judges, her sacrifice represents the fallenness of Israel and the death-dealing forces at work in the world. 

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Jairus’ daughter is saved because of her father’s faith, and her resurrection prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection.  Her healing serves as a sign of Jesus’ power for life over those death-dealing forces that surround us and speak so loudly.  For me, brining these stories together helps me notice God at work in the lives of young women across the globe and throughout history, girls who have been expendable in the hands of power and vulnerable to the violence of our societies.  I also began to look deeper into the ways God is present in my own struggle for life over the power of death.  The audio for the full sermon is here, but below is an excerpt imagining the two unnamed daughters as one young woman who Jesus calls to life.   

After clearing away the mourners, Jesus walked into the room, and he took the young girl’s cold hand in his. He said to her her, “Talitha cum!” Young woman, get up! Daughter, arise! Death is knocking hard at the walls of your heart, and death is breathing down the back of your neck, but you are not dead, only sleeping.

Daughter, arise! Do you feel the light sliding across your eyelids? Do you notice how now, again, your chest rises and falls with the wind on the breath of God? Do you sense your blood flowing again, not pooling, but racing through your limbs and circling strength back into your bones? There is a balm in Gilead, and the leaves are crushed for the healing of your being.

Daughter, arise!  Death presses in from all sides; it blinds, it maims, it tears you apart. But it will never. Have. The last. Word. Whether the overwhelming weight presses from outside or the insidious shadows grow taller inside you, I always have the last word. There are forces that want to claim you as their own, that silence the loud beating of your heart and crush the strong stance of your feet, but I will not let them destroy the purpose I have called you to. My voice calls louder still.

Daughter, arise! I call you up! I name you as alive! I pull you to myself, and you are not alone. When I pull you up, you will stand. On your own two feet. And you will walk. The light in your eyes and the breath in your lungs and the blood in your veins will all work for a common cause: to move you in the dance I have set for you. You are un-paralyzed. You are re-enfleshed. You are healed for a purpose.

Daughter, arise! I am sorry that your need was faster than my arrival. But everything wrong will be made right. Everything dead will live. I will wipe every tear from your eye, and there will be no more fear. I cast out your fear when I called you my own. Daughter, arise, he told her. And he took her hand.

And she stood up.

——-

image found here

Thursdays in the Lectionary – Stones

I do know it’s not Thursday … I’m a day late with this post because yesterday I was busy finishing up my FIRST YEAR OF SEMINARY!  It was a pretty grand day.  The world got so excited about it that it forgot what season it is and snowed today. 

Rachel Held Evans, a writer and thinker I have long admired, began a new series in which she will be dedicating her Thursday blog post to the coming Sunday’s lectionary texts.  She invited her readers and fellow-bloggers to join her in this task of delving into the Bible as a community – whether through a traditional sermon, a poem, a reflection, art – and I am taking up that invitation.

This week’s texts are: Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

 

One Stone

I jumped on the shovel

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It sliced into the hard-packed earth

Roots and sticks and last year’s leaves turned over and under

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I shove aside the dirt and look down to the heart of the world.

Will I hurry away

and sell everything

for the the Stone I see there,

One large enough to host the the longing of universe

and build it into reality?

It was so terrifying,

they buried it in the loam of the garden,

hoping it might grow there into something more

manageable.

Two stones

They fit like they had always been together

one stone next to the other

breathing with one sturdy lung

binding the whole wall together

into a sanctuary of holy possibility.

Three stones 

When I ran into town

and told them all about the wall I had built,

with the Heart-stone pulsing powerfully at the center,

I asked them to come and see

and imagine with me

just what kind of

roads and bridges and homes

such a living wall could offer.

Lord, do not hold this against them:

three stones hurled in fear.

We will pick them up together

and add them to the wall.

The cornerstone is large enough

to hold every stone they throw.

Fall journal excerpts – Activity, passivity, and becoming dry bones

I’m always hesitant about writing these journal-entry-posts.  Since these words were scribbled quickly in a notebook with a pen (no eraser/backspace), it’s not my most polished writing.  But it is my most honest.  And if I want to show a movement into the home space, I have to start with where I was.

Different times in our lives require different speeds of movement, but I have noticed something about my own tendencies.  I have a lot of steps I need to move through.  It takes a while for me to adjust to a new routine or a new space.  How I get there varies, but in the end I always have to come to this conclusion before I start moving upward again: I will never get where I want to go until I let myself go where I need to go.  Sometimes I need grieve and mourn.  Sometimes I need to rest and slow down.  Sometimes I need to find myself stripped of my own strength so that I stop relying on it.  

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

 I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.  I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

 September 4 

It was easier to fight back melancholy and malaise in Ukraine.  I had a purpose and a goal.  Teach English.  Get through the year.  Here, back home, whatever that means, everything is much more nebulous and slippery.  I haven’t arrived here with a missionary mentality, I have no sense of what will be short term and what long term, the well of strength I pulled from has been all used up.

I start my new job in two days, and I am excited to have a regular schedule again.  I’ve felt I should take advantage of all this free time I’ve had, but I’ve not been very good at it.  All the things I’ve had down on my running “possibility list” would perhaps tempt me under different circumstances – crocheting a rug, making a collage booklet, reading, working on the dollhouse, writing letters.  The problem is that after spending most of the day alone, it’s hard to look at that list and get excited about doing one more thing alone.  This was an issue in Ukraine but expected there.  I’m supposed to be home now.  And I think I might have, by the end, had more friends in Transcarpathia than I do in Bloomington.

I don’t know why, but going to bed here always seems so terribly anti-climactic.

September 19

In Péterfalva, I had an evening snack of bread as often as I could, plucked from the bread-scrap bag left out by the cooks after dinner.  Sometimes the students had picked over and hoarded everything (I often saw them the with foot-tall piles of bread as they walked toward the dormitory), and I was lucky to get a few heels. But, oh! the bliss of a few chewy slices of bread as I sat down to watch my latest BBC infatuation.

Tonight we actually had good bread in the house – Mama purchased it especially for me – and I ate two small slices with banana in between.  That was a combination I ate in Péterfalva a few times, usually as part of a on-my-own meal, bread being the cheapest available food and bananas, surprisingly enough, being the most readily available fruit.  I remember how lonely and, yes, bored, I was sometimes in Ukraine.  But I can’t help feeling homesick for the simple, pleasurable routines I created there.  For how small and big I felt all at once.  I really wish I could have one big debriefing session so that the whole thing would stop feeling like a dream.

September 27

I still can’t get used to strangers talking to me.  The woman tonight at the roller rink – in the U.S., being in the same place as another person creates a bond.  People who smile at me in the street – I can’t react fast enough.

October 24

[In reading my diaries from 10 years ago that I found in the basement, I’ve found another thing] I need to be careful about: over-committing myself.  My 14-year-old self was spread too thin. Soccer and violin and youth group and Conference Board of Youth Ministries, and ballet and musical theatre, and playing music with Dad, and sign language, and writing, and leading worship.  Oh, yeah, and I was a freshman high school student.  And a daughter and a sister and a friend.  No wonder I was feeling overwhelmed.  In the pages of my diary, I constantly bemoaned why.  I think I believed that I couldn’t be over-committed if I liked everything I was doing.  I put all the blame on loathsome math, convinced that this one thing I didn’t like to do was causing most or all of my stress.  Hogswhallop.

So much of my mental energy, too, was poured out in other ways: feeling out of place, the tension of being at an in between age, loneliness, heartbreak at my new discovery of how senselessly evil our world could be, questions of identity.  How could I expect myself to move gracefully through those growing pains if my schedule was jam-packed?

I have a lot of growing to do right now, too, and at 24 I think I’m more resistant to growth than I was at 14.  I’ll need more energy to do it.  So in my clamor to find meaning and purpose and a life outside this house, I need to be mindful and respectful of my limits.

November 1

As I neared the end of the final Emily of New Moon book, I felt all my internal organs tying themselves up.  I knew I would cry if she did not marry Teddy … and that I would cry if she did.

It had a happy ending.  Teddy and Emily came together in the end.  It was all very rushed, as if L. M. Montgomery didn’t know how else to fulfill the dream than with something dream-like itself.

I read my life and passion on Emily’s pages – until the end.  The end that I so ached for but also ached over.  Because my story doesn’t hold that ending (not yet), and I was left trying to convince myself of what should be a self-evident truth: I don’t need a romantic attachment to make me feel fulfilled, I won’t dissolve into the same loneliness Emily had without Teddy.

When I got up to clean the bathroom, I felt myself itching all over.  I wanted to tear at my skin, itch every cell away until that large, fleshy organ was gone and I was left only with bones and muscle.  Not raw.  But de-layered.

Life Cereal is giving out a few $50,000 prizes.  I thought about what I would do if I won.  Pay off my loans.  Donate to the family shelter in town.  Pay taxes.  Buy a ticket to Ukraine in time for graduation.  Work with the Roma preschool until November.  Go to Taizé.  Stay for 9 months.  Then?

I like that plan.

I told [the Bird] today, as she was looking at me in the rear-view mirror with exhausted eyes, that since our bodies get tired when we are having a physical growth spurt, maybe we also get tired when we are growing mentally and spiritually.

But what about when you itch?  Not growing pains, but an unbearable itch?  Is that when your body wants to shed some growth?

What if I became dry bones?

be ever thankful (3)

I was on a holiday – a full holiday from work and a partial holiday from electronic devices. And now I have returned – with a celebration of all things advent-y and Christmas-y.  I am thankful for:

– Advent candles; even in the middle of summer, the smell of a freshly-extinguished candle reminds me of an Advent wreath.  The end of the Advent season got a little busy for my family, and for the first time I remember, we didn’t finish lighting all the candles.  But we started out admirably and with a new (for us) concept.  Instead of reading an Advent liturgy, we simply discussed the meaning of the words associated with each candle: hope, peace, joy, love.  We often stayed late around the kitchen table on a Sunday night talking about our own experiences, understandings, and questions.

– an email from my Hungarian-Ukrainian friend Ildiko with an update from her family.  The email itself came as a great surprise – Ildiko’s family does not have email nor access to the internet; I had not expect to hear much from them and despaired of a letter ever getting past the crazy Ukrainian post offices.  However, Ildiko was able to borrow both the computer and email address from a neighbor.   Her short Hungarian phrases were easy for me to read and full of love and care;  I read that email several times and imagined the people and places it came from.  I didn’t realize how disconnected I had felt from my life in Transcarpathia until I got that email and felt the rush of warmth (and tears) that accompanied it.

– the Advent season’s defiance of one definitive emotional space.  We celebrate hope and peace and joy and love as we light each candle, but we are not required to feel those things, just to acknowledge them.  In Advent we do not pretend to have arrived anywhere, or even to be sure that we are going somewhere.  Of course we know that, liturgically, Christmas comes next, but Advent gives us plenty of space to wait and lament and fume and marvel.  Christmas may be a season we associate with coming home and settling in with family, but Advent shares the same root as adventure, adventitious, venture, avenue, invent … it is a word of movement, of restlessness, of not-yet-arriving. Advent is the only season I know that takes discontent and holds it until it finally grows into something else.

– Christmas music, even the cheesy kind like Manheim Steamroller – as Mama and I always say, the Christmas season is perfectly adapted to cheese.

– Game nights with the fami-lami-ly; my favorites include long, late nights trying to memorize the capitals of all the Asian countries and the pictionary-telephone game that started with a minister serving communion and ended with a dancing goul perparing breakfast.

– Car rides + books on cd, especially Harry Potter.  My sister the Bird and I, having listened to said cd during said car ride, have effectively addicted Mama to Harry Potter.

– sand castles and leaf flags; my brother Mr. Gershwin, the Bird, and I had grand sand castle dreams and labored long to bring them into fruition.  The contrast between that golden leaf and that vibrant aqua sea kept calling me back again and again into wonder and praise.

A poem I wrote at various times and places

Sojourn

Movement 1

I stand
barefoot
in the center of the church
sandstone slab worn smooth
all the cold of winter
(and death)
stored up
comes up from the stones that mark the final resting place of who’s and that’s
I state my case clearly:
God, I am homeless.
And God laughs.
Because He thinks I’m lying.

Movement 3

Eating bread and chocolate
If only what we ate took us back to where we last ate it.

I am the kind of person who is never happy to be somewhere until it’s time to leave.
But what I like most
is coming back
A reunion needs a leave taking.
I’ve taken leave of
everything
but my senses
which persist in lying to me
In telling me
when I taste
the bread
and chocolate
that I am home.
What is the lie?
That I am home?
Or that I have one?
But I think the real falsehood is that the place of bread and chocolate is home.
I didn’t feel at home until the day I left.

Movement 2

I’ve always associated snow with the cosmos.
Maybe it’s the snowflake’s unmistakable star shape
Though
admittedly
I’ve only seen that shape once
In a cluster on my lilac scarf
daring me
in the face of such extravagant detail
to curse the cold wetness they were causing my feet.

At this moment
by the light of a streetlamp
I’m watching an ever-expanding universe of violent action
move in fast-
then slow-motion
as the foreign sky pours a blizzard
on our corrugated tin roofs
and heads.

Or

I can imagine that I am spinning around with the distant stars blurring and whirling

to look like snow fall.

When I was 17
and dark as only 17 can be
I stood under a confetti fall
of snowflakes bigger than a penny.
The snow held its breath
and floated too slowly to be real
But of course it was real
and of course the snowfall was the cosmos
and each snowflake a star
a nebula
a galaxy
I had been called into the universe
Into the hugeness of God
(which is sometimes a snowflake)
And now that I knew it
there was no going back.

And to find myself here
flung out to the other side of the snowfall
I am ready for the snow to just be
weather
And for the universe to shrink back to size
To fit in a cluster on my lilac scarf
And made no grand claims
about where I am going

Movement 4

The best thing
about the golden hour
is that it never lasts for exactly an hour.
In May
It reaches out on both ends
Until there is enough time to bike to the island
and stretch to the length
of the golden hour itself.
Nettle burrs and dandelion ballerinas:
Plants are in-credible
Because their only purpose is to try for immortality
Maybe
That seed will take
And then everything will have been worth it.
The dandelions are fallen moon and stars
But the buttercups
It gets to where
I cannot tell the difference between buttercups
and sunshine.

The nearness of the cowbell
rings the hour.
And I am hidden under a white tree with clapping leaves and dancing bark
A tree with no other desire
than to be immortal.
If that were my only desire
the cool slab of headstone
would not turn my feet homeward
the bread and the chocolate
no sacrament of memory
the universe written
in a snowflake
would be a call only
no fear
of infinity
And when I blew off every seed of a dandelion flower
I would not wish
for anything.

Prelude

Simplified itinerary,
from the homeland outwards:
Taizé, France
middle of nowhere, Ukraine
Abiding time:
As long as it takes.
And if when the time is up
I run away east
of nowhere
(To Kazakhstan, maybe)
It is not because I don’t want to go home
It’s because home became plural
(or more?)
and I wanted to
simplify.