Monday, December 31, 2012

the promise of evening

Thirteen years ago this evening, I would have been standing in the church parking lot, at youth group, sipping the champagne someone snuck into my Styrofoam cup. I would have been laughing at our pastor's jokes and watching my breath make patterns in the air. Tyler and Mike had already run off unnoticed, so they could hit the OFF switch on the church's power grid at midnight. I think of who I was back then, and what I thought life would hold for me. I think of my young faith, my belief that my plans wouldn't change, and my incessant hope for the future. Thirteen years later, having survived everything from Y2K to the Mayan Misunderstanding, I am grateful I can reflect on yet another year of life.

Something I read this morning shone a light on me, like God broke his silence for a minute to remind me of his plans. Here's the story:
Carolyn Myss, who writes about healing, went to Russia a few years ago to give a series of lectures. Every single aspect of getting to Russia that could go poorly, did. Then in Moscow it turned out that her reserved room at the hotel had been given to someone else. She ended up sleeping on a stranger’s floor. Two mornings later, on a train to her conference on healing, she began to whine at the man sitting beside her about how infuriating her journey had been thus far. It turned out that he worked for the Dalai Lama. And he said gently that he believed that when a lot of seemingly meaningless things started going wrong all at once, it was to protect something big and lovely that was trying to get itself born — that, in other words, perhaps it needed for you to be distracted so it could be born perfect.   (Anne Lamott)
I have yet to write about much of what happened in 2011. If you read much of my blog over that time frame, you'll see a lot of meandering and not a lot of detail, a lot of promising to write and never doing it. The reason is, it was a terrible year. It started fine enough: a handsome priest was showing interest. I had just gotten a new roommate. I had a best friend I trusted. And then Spring, which is known for rebirth, brought forth instead its paring knife. Priests can hold you down. Homes can be swept from under you. Friends can lie. What seems permanent can crumble, without warning, without asking, without grace. What started as a year of promise turned to ash and left me stranded. Church doors closed and God kept quiet. By the time September came, I had been carved of anything that felt human. I was stronger, yes, but I was tired. My fall and winter were spent indoors and grieving, and in the public eye I kept up my denial.

What a different year 2012 has been; what a marked change from 2011. Like a giggle that up-rises and surprises you, so is the year gone by. What bliss brings love, and so much healing, too. I want to be un-cheesy and tell you that my year has been great for other reasons, and it has. But I owe most of what this year has brought to the man that brought it. I fell in love this year, and will be forever in awe at his grace, his quick wit, and his beautiful spirit. In a quiet moment at my house last night, rolls in the oven, soup's near done, I penned a letter to the man who's changed everything. I can see him all over, in all the things he's touched, in the softer pieces of air he left hanging just for me, so that everywhere I go has no sharp corners. I can see him in all things because he is always on my mind. My heart lives to remind me of him, with the flush of my cheeks, with warmth and happy palpitations. From him I have learned what love really feels like.

As I read that story by Anne today, I saw the truth. Last year's pain arrived merely to stay me, to bring me to my knees so I could not move, so I would be here and looking when perfection came. Perfection has come, and he's a wonderful kisser.

If your head is bowing under the weight of a heavy year, know that I too have been there. Know that what feels relentless will always end, and good will come to you. This is, after all, New Year's Eve. Nothing, not earthquakes, not conspiracy theories, not death or devastation, has been able to stop the sun from rising again. This is the promise of evening: in the evening, we will not find our end; there will be a dawn to greet us soon enough.

May the new year bring you joy where it's been missing,
peace where tumult has yet reigned, and love where you wouldn't expect it.





photo credits: For Auld Lang Syne

Saturday, December 29, 2012

my whole life, explained.



  "Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating."
Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet





all photos found on pinterest (sources not found with the exception of far right, from here)

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Early: a little bit belated.


aria


i am beginning to realize how slowly the days pass by when you mark them with the heartbeats of a baby.

one hour. now ten. one day. now five.
we sleep, we wake, we watch, we wait.
we stare and crave to hold.
she Breathes


Aria the Beautiful, this quiet lioness and profound song.
with perfect gentle hands you touch
the softest of all faces: your own.
through glass or skin to skin, we Love you.



***************************************

My sisters really do make the best children; one look at my niece and nephew will tell you that. Such pressure! Should I ever choose to procreate, the standards have been set: my children must be gorgeous, funny, and smart beyond their years.

Five years ago mid-December, my lovely wonderful niece was born. She was born at 29 weeks, which is 11 weeks or nearly 3 months early. What was supposed to be a quiet gearing up for Christmas turned into a heart-squeezing exercise in patience, as we waited: first for news, then for more news, then for reassurance, then for news and reassurance. We put everything else on hold, because your only response is to put everything on hold, and watched this newborn babe breathe and wriggle; on her own too early. We watched my sister sit beside the incubator for hours on end, and for days, and then weeks, staring without pause at the child that she should have been holding in her belly, or at least in her arms.

That poem above was written in the days after she was born, after much time spent in the Nicu, watching my sister and her husband (and the many other new moms and dads) struggle and wait. I'm always struck with emotion on my niece's birthday as I remember those first days and weeks of her life, and seeing how far she has come! Healthy, vibrant, delightful.

So it's a little bit belated, but I want to wish my niece a very happy fifth year here on the ol' blog. How BLESSED we all are to know you (and those of us that don't, are surely missing out). You were ready to greet the world before the world thought you were ready, but you proved us wrong. I suspect this will be the case as you grow; you really are so strong, and certainly very special, and good things are coming. When you were a baby I couldn't wait until you could talk...I so wanted to know what you were thinking, how you saw things, and who you were! Now I know and I couldn't be happier: you are everything you should be, you are perfect as is.


Happy Birthday Sweetie!




Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy New Intentions

Most people have an internal calendar; some mechanism which reminds them which month it is. Whether it be according to the weather or the way the sun sets, the activities in the day planner or the projects due at work, we usually know where we sit. As if the Lord hadn't dichotemized my makeup enough, I seem to have two calendars at work in my system: one of the mind, and one of the soul. They are not in sync.

I have alluded before that my New Year begins in September. This would be my New Year of the Soul. There are circumstances, I'm sure, that effect this feeling. My birthday's in September, the world gears up for a new season in September, buckling down for the cold with sweaters and new-formed deadlines. Of course, we've all been trained this way in some respect, because school starts in September. Those things are obvious.

What isn't obvious is why my soul starts searching when September rolls around. On no specific date, but certainly at that time of year and always pressing, I feel rebirth approaching. My soul's New Year is celebrated quietly. Solitude becomes me as I wait for details, at the ready with pen and page and baited breath. I know reformation is coming; I can feel it. I am ready.

The lead up to January is a different sort of New Year. There is no feeling except one of urgency: this is what I've come to know as my New Year of the Mind. My soul, having just experienced rebirth and renewed searching, is exhausted, and my mind takes over. I go to work I come home I organize I tidy I readjust and I focus on the external. December is always loaded with numbers: alarm clocks and overtime-before-playtime and addresses I've failed to send mail to. Phone numbers I didn't call appear on my hands like conviction. I review the dates and what I did on them, bank accounts and what I did to them, and make long and lengthy budgets for the new year. Every December I do this, and I always end the same: with regret that I didn't change things, hope that I will change them this year, and amazement at how quickly I lost step with time.

In December, my mind reviews my soul's declarations. I read old posts from New Years' past and subconsciously check off former to-do lists, or add to the one I'm now forming. I congratulate my soul on how far it's come, or remind it to be thankful for the same. My current circumstances dance in the forefront of my brain and I am humbled, reminded of God's hand in things, and pray feverishly that he won't take it all away this year. I am always afraid he'll take it away.

So this must be why I make lists. Intentions and blog posts are written, numbers are crunched, justifications are made (so are promises), and I sit like a schoolgirl in the hallway outside the principle's office, looking like some Norman Rockwell painting, waiting to be called in. Beside me on the bench in a stack are the recipe books, note pads, journals, prose, jots and scribbles, and of course: my day planner. My nylons are scratchy and my shoes are too tight, and everyone else got to go home early. It's just me and the echoes; me and hope that what I've got is enough.

This year has been a blur of beauty and healing, but it's been a blur all the same. I have seen dreams realized, learned to be loved, and I've given myself second chances. Even though I feel like it was just yesterday, and it's not even really here yet, I want to wish you a happy new year; whichever kind of new year this is for you.

While it can be tempting to forgo Intentions all together, what with their alarming capacity to disappear into the abyss, I want to encourage you to keep forming these ideas anyway. Let your good intentions come to light, even though you put some down last year, or have been putting the same ones down for a decade. Let your good intentions come to light, and follow through with them. Let your good intentions come to light, because the world needs more of you, and it needs you (and you need you) to act on your good intentions.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

my favorite time of year

Okay it's true: I have about 365 favorite times of the year. But on a slow Sunday at the office in slower holiday season, with only a bag of trail mix to keep me company, I felt like highlighting this favorite. Ladies and Gentlemen: the National Geographic Photo Contest 2012 has accepted submissions. From macro animals to stunning human beings, from planned moments to happenstance, here are some of what I consider to be the best (credit and links listed below photos. No copyright infringement intended).


lovely dinosaur

Photo and caption by mehmet karaca
Strong enough to hold on to life ...
Location:
Kahramanmaras, Turkey

Bold & Shy

Photo and caption by Anjum Vahanvati
The unlucky car breakdown turned lucky when I found this school in a small village Khangral in Kargil on the way to Leh from Srinagar. The teachers also let me and my friends in to take pictures and most of the kids were excited about it. Some were shy and kept hiding while this little girl enjoyed the limelight.
Location: Khangral, Kargil, Jammu & Kashmir, India 
 

"Dedication"

Photo and caption by Handi Laksono
76 Years Old Mbah Mertadiredja (Mbah is called for an oldman in Javanese Language), dedicates his life making Javanese Puppet for decades.
Location: Solo, Central Java, Indonesia



Pelican, Walvis Bay, Namibia

Photo and caption by ROMULO REJON
A marine cruise in Walvis Bay, Namibia, is a memorable experience. I remember watching dolphins, seals, mola molas, cormorants... and having the privilege of picturing that one pelican at the exact moment he grabbed a bite thrown from the boat.
Location:
Walvis Bay, Namibia


The fisherman

Photo and caption by Ban Hup Teh
Fisherman repairing his net at dawn.
Location: Bali

How's my hair look ?

Photo and caption by Graham McGeorge
Female bonobos carry and nurse their young for four years and give birth on average every five years
Location: Jacksonville Zoo, Jacksonville, Florida



City birds

Photo and caption by Matthias Luetolf
Strolling through downtown SF during our vacation, the birds sitting on the wires and skyscrapers in the foggy background caught my attention. A lucky shot!
Location: San Francisco





...if you hadn't guessed yet, my "shortlist" of favorites was much longer than this...picking from this group is always difficult. The composition on that last one is so perfect it looks fake, and that fisherman...oh that fisherman! The details! And you haven't even seen yet the beautiful tribeswomen, the sunset on the red fields of China, or the Hamer women from Ethiopia (who are exquisite, by the way).

Go have a look yourself. Way too many beautiful stories and images to highlight here.


Friday, December 21, 2012

the first day of winter

from wintertimegirls


How pleased I am to be looking forward.

The World still sits, will see us through;
let us live a little longer. This planet, upon
who's back I stand, has granted another day with You.
There are heartaches yet to come, and heart graces, too;
and pieces of old habits that have yet to be removed.
I run my hands with intention on the frost, watch it crack,

let my breath show the air and its perfections; fall to my knees
that I may honor the weight of necessity's hibernation.
Wait with the rest of humanity in well-versed anticipation;
not for spring, but for the spring to return to my step;
not for sun, but for heat to emerge from my chest;
not for the end, but for the understanding, of winter.

© afterthoughtcomposer



Thursday, December 20, 2012

tomorrow: era or end?




Dozens of Cement People Dangling from Umbrellas


Hey God,

So, we're doing this again are we? Tomorrow is the what...the end of the world? You can hear me sighing, I know, and in a way I feel like I can hear you sighing too.

I am saddened that my culture is so obsessed with drama. If it's dramatic, we'll report it, we'll stare at it, we'll yell about it...and yet, at no point has any public voice stopped to educate themselves about the truth behind their yells. The Mayan Calendar, the one which ends on December 21, marks the end of an era. An era, not a world. And yet, this information is increasingly hard to come by. There's too much yelling.

I guess I wish you'd speak louder than the TV.

Why do I get the sense that you do, but we're too focused on the TV to notice.

So many questions. But this time around, for this end of the world, I probably won't dress up if that's ok. I'll just be at work, doing my job, waiting for your stories like I usually do.

with love and hesitance,
and with hopes to hear your voice instead,
a.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

to love is to move



Is grief enough?

...a question I have been asking myself. I already know the answer: of course it isn't. In the wake of yet another widely publicized tragedy, we are all grasping at strings when we try to think of the answer. Lucky for us, our grief is based on shock and disbelief, and not on the loss of our own children.

Disjointed as these thoughts may be, here goes.
Hurricane Sandy was 2 months ago. The Aurora shooting was 5 months ago. 49 kindergarteners in India were brutally killed by a train less than a 30 days ago. The earthquake in Haiti was 2 years ago. The earthquake in Japan was a year and a half ago. The fire at Tazreen garment factory in Dhaka was only 3 weeks ago. Amanda Todd killed herself only 2 months and three days ago.

I suppose I bring these up as a form of confession. I grieved, but my grief was short. There is a trend here, beyond my own life and country (but certainly present in my heart); a trend which focuses on the immediate. A trend which forgets what's past. We get emotional because the images invoke us, and we cry because those people are crying, and the situation is tragic. Our supper tables are filled with conversation and heated debate: about what should be done, or what hasn't been done yet. We make pledges, and call up radio shows to discuss it. We share pictures online and feel that in "liking" we have justified ourselves. Our part is done, we say resolutely. And then the new images show up, and we cry because it's tragic, and we shift and juggle and click like and say nothing with our actions. We fight not for freedom or justice or order, but for the end of our own grief.

Voice: only useful if I use it. My purpose is only as good as my willingness to act. To love...to love is to move. So yes, hug your children, pray vigilantly, and watch the news because you can not help but watch the news. But then, for the sake of those tiny heartbeats we will let slide to the next big news story...do something. Write the government, and write them again. Show up to protests, or start your own campaign. Lobby. Sing louder because that song you wrote needs to be heard for hearts to be changed. Make art that pisses people off. Stir the pot for once; God knows it needs stirring. Talk about the things that no one else wants to talk about; not to anger, but maybe to upset; not to vindicate, but to listen.

More than that: put your hands to something. Do work that will not benefit your own life. Serve in a way that will make you dirtier, in a way you will be unrecognized. Sacrifice something you want for something another person needs. Stop buying so much crap and give your money away instead. Ask your mom the tough questions. Tell your friends why you haven't seen them as much lately; the stigma will survive as long as you believe it is there. Resist gentrification and support rehabilitation instead. Stop ignoring the warning signs. Open both eyes and look closely, even when it hurts. Get strong enough to help the others.

It's been said, it's been said, it's been said. Enough with the saying.


UPDATE: read this. "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother" - this is what so many have been talking about. What a brave woman; we need more like her, more stigma changers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hospital Poetry



Hospiten Cancun

I was doing well.
In fact, I hadn't bitten one nail;
my hands looked like those of a real grown up lady.
So willingly entangled in the luxury of rest,
they fell
loosely at my sides, empty;
giddy and empty of cares.
And then some bad meat put my love
En Hospiten Cancun.
We hurtled there
(between hurls)
together,
my fingers beginning their agitation.
Then I, back: overnight requirements, dinner,
and clean socks.
My eyes closed and I felt my body straining
to stay upright,
as I raced along the thoroughfares of Mexico
in a taxicab with no seat belts.
Back again, strapped in this time.
My hands, though; my poor, reality incapable hands.
Somewhere between el Hospiten y el Riviera and back
I lost them all. I have no tips to speak of,
none left to my name.
Except, perhaps ironically, on my middle finger,
which I shall extend in a salute
to the bad meat.



Found

My soul's mate has been found.
He is over there,
on the couch.



This Visit has Worked its Way into a Bad Analogy,
But Here it is Anyway.


Before I met you I was in a state of severe dehydration.
Angels like nurses would come,
adjust the IV with their thumbs,
and pull at the corners of my blanket.
They can not make decisions,
so they bring me God.
"Does it hurt when I push here?" so asks the Lord.
"Or here; how much pain is this?"
"There is always pain
when you push me," comes my feverish reply.
After being rolled on a gurney through everything timeless,
my thirst, forever, was quenched.
Finally, the angels have succeeded in their duties:
they brought me you.