Friday, August 28, 2009


It's going to be warm today, but as I write this I'm sitting outside and it is absolutely perfect. The sky is baby blue and I can see a few wispy clouds; one looks like a shark, and I detect the influence of my shark-obsessed 6-year-old on my imagination. The faintest of breezes feels wonderful on my summer-exposed skin. It's beautiful, and I am joyous being here. But I don't feel at home.

All my life I've felt out of place in this world, like I don't belong, like there has been some snafu and I ended up in the wrong line for my homeroom assignment. I have walked through the world with a sense of dis-ease, never quite comfortable and sometimes mad with longing for my true home, wherever that may be. I have wanted to escape from what is inescapable, in times of gladness as much as in times of sorrow.

Now, though, I begin to see that if I don't belong here then I can be a visitor, a traveler in search of adventure. When I travel it is the foreignness of my surroundings, the very fact of my not belonging that is a source of joy. I delight in being the outsider, the one who is grateful to be included by invitation rather than by right. I am not homesick because I know that home is steadily awaiting me at the end of my journey, whenever that may be. When I feel discomfited and far from home, it is because I am discomfited and far from home; my otherness is a given, neither to be mourned nor celebrated but rather simply stipulated.

So I will try to be a traveler in this world, to accept my otherness with grace, knowing that it is ultimately no more than an illusion because nothing, nothing can ever be other - nothing, nothing can ever be outside of God.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


It happened again today, that rushing outward and inward and forward and upward into the disquieting, jarring knowledge that everything is exactly, immutably where and what and who and why it is supposed to be. Perfection all around me in everything I see and don't see, everything I know and don't know, with not so much as a quark able to stray from the perfection that is, and this knowledge of perfection reverberating in my brain and streaming in my veins and falling in teardrops down my face. It takes me over, this beauty, this mad power, this total disruption of the ordered world in which I think I live, and I sit quietly until the knowledge subsides like the flames of a dying fire and I am once again able to breathe the air of what we have chosen to call reality.

These moments - I don't know where they are taking me. This is a transition, surely, but to what? I wonder sometimes, but I don't worry. What can truly be worrisome when everything is just what it is supposed to be? I'm losing my ability to doubt the outcome, even when I don't know what it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Greatest Teachers

For a few weeks, my mom duties have consisted of calling my son once a day to check on his progress and remind him, lest he should forget, that Mom loves him. Just a few short hours from now I will resume my more regular mom duties of getting him dressed and ready for the day, spending time on the playground, cuddling on the couch, getting and giving lots of big hugs, and singing to him every night. I will also resume being exasperated with the messes he leaves in his wake, becoming frustrated when I have to dangle the threat of consequences over his head to get him to follow my instructions, losing patience when he is moving slowly and I am wanting to leave quickly, and a host of other moments ranging from mild annoyance to flat out anger.

Part of me wishes that he was always compliant and I never had cause to lose patience. But that, I think, is the reactive rather than reflective part of me. The reflective part has discovered that the people I love who sometimes try my patience, like my son, have much to teach me. They help me see where I too much want my own way, where I put energy into needing to be right rather than into doing the right thing. They teach me that patience is a virtue, the particular virtue of acceptance: of others, of myself, and of situations both beyond and within my control. It is the virtue of clear vision, really. I too often lack this virtue, and so God in his wisdom blesses me with people and situations that will help me see both my lack and how to fill it. I am grateful to these, my greatest teachers; they help me strive to be better.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Moon and Stars

When I was a little girl, I remember looking up at the night sky and thinking that the bits of light I was seeing must be from heaven. God, I knew, lived continually in that brilliant light, in a glory we could at least imagine because we had felt the warmth and comfort of the sun. But that light is too much for us to experience all the time; we humans need the darkness, too, the nighttime of quiet and reflection to prepare us for the blaze of the next day's light. I imagined God covering the world with a blanket so that we would be protected from the radiance of his light, a blanket which obviously had holes in it because on clear nights I could see the pinpoints of light streaming down from God's heaven. Starshine and lightyears meant little to me at this point; everything was God's work for humans' joy. I felt the touch of God's love in the darkness: the daytime may have shown the brilliance of his creation, but the nighttime showed his caring and concern for the creatures of this world.

I didn't have words to say much of this as a child, and later as an adolescent when I could have found at least a few more of these words I knew enough to have discarded the idea of blankets with holes and God tucking the world into sleep. But still I would lay on the hood of a car and watch the moon and stars for hours on end, wondering about the distance the light had traversed to reach that car and me upon it. What numberless worlds had the light passed on its way? Why did the moon, a disk or sliver or slice of light and shadow, draw our gaze upward? Why did its beauty seem so holy?

For three nights in a row this week I felt conjured and called to leave my house of closed doors and artificial illumination for the perfect peace of a night under the moon and stars. One night I simply walked a lonely road in the moonlight, crossing a bridge with cars that seemed tiny as toys passing below. Another I paddled my way across a lake with the moonlight reflected in the water and then, just as when I was young, sitting on my car and simply watching in silence. On the third night I lay in a hammock, the sky framed by the branches of a tree above and only a few stars visible there at the edge of the city. And each night I felt the light seep into my skin, pulling me inside it and carrying me on its beams to my childhood dreams of a blanket and a night and a God who cares for his world. And every moment was a moment of love.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Whirlwind

These days I often find myself called up and pulled out of the workaday world, suddenly shaken from the simplicity and superficiality of going about my regular chores or watching TV or driving down the road. From thinking about what to add to my grocery list or whether I should take the interstate or a side street to get to my destination, I will suddenly be caught up in a whirlwind that I can neither resist nor direct. The intense emotion that the whirlwind sets off will be overwhelming, and something that is commonly held in abeyance in the very depths of my being will rush out and expand up and cover everything I know. But whether this whirlwind will carry me to a bright recognition of the oneness and wonder of all that is or to the dark of a fathomless grief is always the question.

I know this fathomless grief well. I know the sorrow of walking through the world without the one person who helped me feel steady and whole. I know the anguish of realizing that if I could see inside all the houses in my own neighborhood I would see abuse and isolation and despair. I know the agony of not being able to escape from the sense that the world holds more brokenness than beauty, more hurting than healing. I have lived inside this grief for days and weeks on end, and been unable to escape its dark clutches. I have even welcomed it, and made it my friend, and recognized that I can no more run away from it than I can leave behind my arms or legs. I don't live within it every minute now, but at the oddest moments it still claims its right to hold me.

I felt the deluge of this grief yesterday as I lay in the deep relaxation pose sivasana in a yoga class. From the calm and peace of enjoying my well-won rest, I was suddenly shot through with sorrow, wrenching heartache echoing through my body. I could only lay there with it, allowing it be, waiting for it to pass. It did not leave as quickly as it came on; it never does.

This sense of being transfixed by something welling up from the center of my being - it comes both in this grief and in that unitive experience where the boundaries of self and other disappear. Are they related? Has the long-time experience of one been a preparation for the other? Maybe the overwhelming sorrow is a clearing out and burning away of fear and longing; maybe I will plunge into the fathomless grief until I truly understand that it is not fathomless, that beneath and beyond it lies the oneness I have also come to know. Maybe both are grace pouring down upon me, neither warranted nor attained, and I simply need to accept them.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Deliberations and Dashboard Lights

I love driving at night. I get this sense of chosen aloneness: of having left behind all that ties and contains me in the home I am not currently inhabiting; of having momentarily stepped aside from all relationships with those not present; even the camaraderie of seeing people in other cars whooshing by my own is carried away by the darkness. It is an alone that feels so eternal, in spite of being by definition transitory as I transition from one place to another, an alone that settles around me as comfortably as the arm of an old friend. I feel rather than see the trees and meadows calm and undisturbed by the speck of my passing car, and the neon brightness of strip malls and gas stations seem to belong to dolls rather than humans. Whether I sing along with a CD or settle into the silence of my solitary ride, what I experience is a quiet that has nothing to do with audible sound. Driving alone at night is a wonder.

At least, until I start to fall asleep. Then it's just a danger.