Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poetry and Ferocious Termites

Life's been really busy lately.

Everybody says that. Including me. My tendency is to make the merry-go-round go faster and faster until I can't see straight and everything looks like a blur. When I was little, I only liked going on merry-go-rounds if the person promised to spin slowly. I've been trying to listen though, because I believe that life is poetry, but poetry isn't loud or invasive. Poetry is a quiet whisper that we can only hear when we slow down and listen for the breeze.

Recently, I've been feeling really empowered. Really strong. I wake up ready to face the day. I am not sure where this attitude came from, other than receiving a lovely compliment on Friday and the spring hinting at being somewhere close. I've been riding this wave, enjoying how strong I feel, how much I can get done.

Tonight I spent the evening with Caleb. When it was time to go home, I found myself inexplicably frustrated - at the time, at the fact that I had to go home (as I'd much rather just stay with Caleb), at the fact that I didn't bring my coat inside and I knew it would be cold out. My coat. It was the tipping point.

I got in the car and ate a bar of chocolate Caleb had shared with me. With my coat on. "What just happened?" I asked myself. "Why did not having your coat make you feel that way? Get it together. You're strong, remember?"

The anxiety surged. I think if anxiety could make noises, it would sound like if you magnified the sound of termites eating away at the strong wood "Numnimnemnumnem".

"What's your deal?" I said to the anxiety, this time a little less nicely. "Get out of here."

I remembered being quiet and how sometimes poetry is found in the most unlikely places. I stopped feeling sour at myself and tried a new question for the feelings inside. "I feel you. I see you. What do you need from me?"

In that moment, the anxiety ceased to make that termite feeling/sound. It was like it stepped out from behind the mask and said, "Thanks. I just needed to be seen."

We drove home, listening to the classical music they play sometimes at night on the radio. 

A Story

It was Sunday, and we'd just gone out to eat for Caleb's sister Marissa's birthday. We spent some quiet down time that afternoon at my house, then headed to the evening service at church. As we were walking inside, Caleb turned to me suddenly and whispered, "I love you." We say this to each other pretty frequently, but walking into church is not a typical moment for this to happen. It felt... extravagant and came as a surprise. Before I could respond, I had to catch my breath. Once inside, we sat in church, a few rows back from where we normally sit. As we proceeded with all the usual church activities, I had an arm linked through Caleb's arm. During a song, Caleb reached his other hand around and squeezed my arm that was linked through his. He smiled down at me, beaming with love. I felt my stomach whoosh upwards, and wondered what was going on.

Halfway through this sermon, Caleb leaned over and told me he wasn't feeling well and was going to step out. I had been craving some alone time and so I tried not to worry about him, focusing on the service and enjoying the space. After Communion, I went downstairs to find the restroom. I wondered where Caleb might be, or if he was okay. He sometimes goes downstairs to think or pray during a service. As I opened the door from the bathroom, I saw him slipping into the community room under the sanctuary. I thought about following him, but decided against it. "If he needed me, he would have texted," I reasoned, as this is the normal pattern. I made up my mind not to follow him, letting him have his space. I went back up and started composing a text on my phone, "Are you okay?" I typed. Before I clicked send, I got a text from him. I opened the message.

I smiled, and typed a quick reply, affirming that I would. I savored the rest of the service, but as I put away my phone and stood up to sing, my intuition whispered, "This could be it." I tried to brush it away, but my heart beat faster, my palms grew sweaty. I tried to shove my intuition in a closet in my mind - I wanted to be surprised, darn it! - but to no avail. After the last song finished, I burst out of there and clattered down the stairs. The doors to Banner Hall were closed.

I stepped inside and Caleb stood up quickly from his position near the door. I searched his face and saw joy and a little bit of nervousness. These are not the normal emotions I see when I meet him to pray after church. My intuition elbowed me in the stomach, causing me to unconsciously giggle nervously, though I didn't realize this until much later when Caleb recounted it to me. Caleb turned off the only light in the basement and led giggling and arm-gripping me to the stage where I had taught everything from Isaiah to Kids' Yoga.

As we passed through the parted curtains, we were transplanted to what felt like a magical forest grove. Caleb had set up candles, pillows, and blankets.  It was there, surrounded by trees and candles with pillows underfoot (and under bottom?), that he professed his deep love and asked me to marry him.

I obviously said yes. And then we hugged for about 5 minutes before Caleb showed me the ring, which was tiny and perfect and has a little white sapphire. We then proceeded to bask in the moment and take it all in. Caleb shared all the little white lies he'd told over the preceding days and I congratulated him on how sneaky and calm he'd been. Then he said, "Also, I have dinner warming in the oven." 

 BAM! Engagement paella, made lovingly by Caleb over his grill that morning:

We couldn't eat very much because we were too excited, so we ate a little, stayed in our magical forest land where a few weeks earlier, I'd showed elementary kids what frankincense smells like, and wondered at the gift of love.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Something I love about the church calendar is that it marches on regardless of how you feel. Something I don't really like about the church calendar is that it marches on regardless of how you feel.

The ecclesiastical year begins about a month before the calendar year, with Advent. The years go by in a three-count circle, creatively named year A, B, and C. Advent and Lent are remarkably similar times of waiting, preparation, and reflection.

For a number of years, I felt like I was in a perpetual Advent, always waiting, knowing that something good was at hand... but not here yet. Every year I wanted Advent to be longer, I sunk into it and knew I was at home. This year and last year, I waited with great anticipation for Advent, but it no longer felt like my season of life. It will probably come back around in the "year B" of my life and then again in "year C", whenever those start.

I'm not sure what liturgical season I feel connected to now. Maybe Pentecost, a time of fiery activity, rejoicing, confusion, general chaos and newness. I don't think it's an accident that a celebration like Pentecost marks the beginning of what, liturgically, is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary - you know, chaos, people eating things that were once forbidden, Jesus having left them, the disciples making a lot of messes and then beautiful things rising anyway.

Today is Good Friday. Three years ago, I spent all of Holy Week at a monastic community in France called Taize. Good Friday was the incredibly powerful climax of the week. I had questioned monks, been in dialogue with people my age from around the world, meditated and prayed.

At 3:00 pm, bells tolled around the grounds marking the hour of Jesus' death. Everyone stopped and was silent for five minutes. Hundreds and hundreds of people. Silent. Remembering the story that we are all connected to and contemplating it. And some of them were probably thinking normal thoughts like "Has it been five minutes? Is it okay if I sneeze? Gosh I have to use the bathroom. My leg itches."

I was silent though, letting the wind on the hill whisper through my open fingers.

I understood the mystery of this day in a way I hadn't before and haven't since. I wish I could feel that way every year, but emotions are pretty fickle. The church calendar brings us through Lent, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost no matter where we feel we are. And so today, I hold closely the memory of that day on a hillside in France and know that it is holy. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

(P.S. This is a great blog. )