Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sing Inside Like a Radio

‘Be careful, that edge is sharp,’ ‘You’re going to drive your father to the edge,’ ‘Don’t get close to the edge,’
our parents caution us.

‘I was at the edge of my seat,’ ‘That was cutting edge,’ ‘She’s got the edge,’ we hear as adults in the world.

Talking about the edge causes a swirl of emotions. On one hand you have all of the warning information from your youth—-harm, provocation, danger. On the other you have for what people as adults often strive--excitement innovation,adeptness. I was recently asked what my own personal edge was, this edge being very different, how my personal equanimity is received. I have waited for the moment I could say this. God plays me love songs on the radio.

Oh, Oh Deep water
Black, and cold like the night
I've stand with my arms wide open
I've run a twisted line
I'm a stranger
in the eyes of the maker*

I was pulling into work the other day thinking about what the next entry in my blog would say when Bob Dylan’s “Broken” came on the radio. I mentioned this song on one of my last blogs. Daniel Lanois produced this song, the DJ mentioned. Daniel’s name has been popping up quite a bit. I heard a bio on him on Saturday. I downloaded a podcast on him yesterday. He plays Toronto’s Massey Hall tonight and the DJ after interviewing him played the song “The Maker”. I hadn’t heard this song in years, and thought, ‘That’s it. This is what resonates with what I have to write.'

He’s done it countless times. You’ve come here and if you’ve read here, you already know. It shows up mentally most prominently in my writing. Writing keeps my pendulum sinking deeper between erudition and apathy, between listlessness and driveness.

I could not see
for the fog in my eyes
I could not feel
for the fear in my life
From across the great divide
In the distance I saw a light
Jean baptiste
walking to me with the maker

Mentally, like anyone else, I have had something preventing me from seeing the truth of myself and others, and it’s a constant noticing that lifts the haze from my life, affirming that I don’t have to be like anyone else and the uniqueness of each being. I can choose not to be haunted by fear. My faith in God can unfold like the intriguing lives in His Word, filled with individuality and a deep desire for me to know how much He loves me. I have small books and scraps of paper throughout my life demonstrating this.

My body is bent and broken
by long and dangerous sleep
I can't work the fields of Abraham
and turn my head away
I'm not a stranger
in the hands of the maker

This deep listening happens on the physical level for me with the practice of yoga. Many friends have questioned me doing this, dismissing it as it being something that would lead me into spiritual darkness or heresy in my faith. Saying this would be the equivalent of their child becoming a Buddhist from the practice of hapkido or karate. It is so far from the truth. This psychological science of mind, body, spirit relationship has at its core a non-judgemental, non-directive devoutness, any person of any religious fidelity would be at gain to practice. And it is not without the support of my pastor and spiritual director that I do practice.

Through the mystical union of spirit and breath, yoga has brought my body and mind deep healing in areas I could not describe to a physician or psychiatrist. This ritualistic repetion of the asanas of has guided me through some obscure, cold places and made me more aware of the Light I attempt to live out. It has helped me to be more calm and merciful to myself, opening me to love others more. Yoga has done all of these things so very profoundly, I have decided to share it with others and become a teacher of this ancient healing art.

Brother John
Have you seen the homeless daughters
standing there
with broken wings
I have seen the flaming swords
there over east of Eden
burning in the eyes of the maker

Spiritually, listening for the intertwining themes and harmonies erupting happens through an openness of mind, heart and spirit. I can't describe how this happens, but I have a sense of awe about it. It is like God playing love songs on the radio, but I am the radio constantly tuning in to everything that enters my life. I live in the city and there is a rawness about it, a grit that enters your soul and creates a sensitivity to the human condition. I belong to a church that is dedicated to their relationship with the city and fortifies me for service with words and music. There are other sudden bursts of connection--books, lectures, nature. It settles into the spaces of my solitude.

Why do I tune in? Simply because they are all eternal activities. I am one small radio that can transmit the eternal interconnectedness of what I experience. This is were I feel equanimous, at home and free.

oh river rise from your sleep....


* "The Maker" from the album Acedie by Daniel Lanois

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fractures of Forgiveness

“I was able to go to her yesterday,” my eldest cousin said today. “I am not sure if you knew this but it had been five years since we had spoken. We were able to make peace. I was able to make peace with her before she passed and know all of that has gone away.”

To tell the truth, I had no idea. I don’t know much about my family here in the US. Let me rephrase that. I do know too much about them. But I know not to try to know too much about them.

My mother, filled with tears, grace and light, had called me earlier that day. She told me that my cousin passed away that morning. I knew this cousin had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and my husband and I had prayed for her often. She was nearly ten years older than myself. My mother asked me to call the eldest cousin to ask for more information about the showing and funeral. I obeyed.

I didn’t how to say anything but the polite thing. “I’m am very sorry for your loss. I am glad you were able to make peace with her. What are the arrangements for her?” I asked.

My mother taught me that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. (It is one of the only sayings she can’t get right without mixing in some other metaphor.) It’s not that she wants me not to disclose our family’s locked hidden secrets, I just think she is asking for respect without trouble. The truth is that for the past ten years or so having the older friends that I do, my brain has become a repository for many secrets. I dare not open my mouth for fear of creating some concoction that will inadvertently sever me from them. I love my mother. She deserves for me to behave graciously and tight-lipped. She’s put up with all of this mess for over 70 years. So I tend to focus on the truth. It’s sometimes the only thing that can keep the pain that unforgiveness generates on a leash.

She is trapped inside a month of gray,
and they take a little every day.
She is a victim of her own responses,
shackled to a heart that wants to settle, and then runs away.

It’s a sin to be fading endlessly.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.*

The mayor took a plea today. I suppose in a city like Chicago one is too enchanted with proper city amenities and culture to become too disenfranchised with city leaders. There may even be accountability involved, who knows. In Detroit, things are too small to even know what all of that looks like. We just take it. It is painful. It’s like a chemical reactor that makes small children look at you strangely because you appear to be white and living in their neighborhood. It closes the Catholic school down the street and reopens it as a charter school while the public school on the next block closes. It causes the dark person in their late model car to cut you off at the light. You have use up gas to haul all of your smelly recycling with your car into the plant instead of having it picked up at your home. There is a sewage treatment facility with money in their pocket while the city’s workers are jobless with picket signs in front of it. You can’t scream to the little child that your husband has lived in this neighborhood all of his life. You can’t re-shufffle institutional changes within education. You can’t honk at the car that cuts you off without fear of repercussions. You can’t demand city officials reexamine how recycling could revive their budgets. You can’t point a finger at who’s palm in city government was greased to get the sewage treatment contract.

You deal. Day after day.

She is leaving on a walkaway.
She is leaving me in disarray.
In the absence of a place to be,
she stands there looking back at me,
hesitates, and then turns away.

She’ll change so suddenly-- she’s just like mercury.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.

I opened my Bible and read twice of wisdom this week. The first time on how David felt it wise to abdicate to Solomon. David was forgiven by God of adultery and murdering Solomon’s mother’s first husband. And yet from that mess he received a son who would become king. The second was of what Solomon, who as king could have any given good thing from God, when asked of God what he desired most, Solomon requested wisdom to lead God’s children. My husband spoke specifically about forgiveness today. And this is wisdom. He said we could not as a family and as a people who live in this city mock the situation further by emphasizing it. We had to forgive and move on. This had to be demonstrated in our subtlest actions. And this is from a Caucasian man who has been at the brunt of the “dealing with it” for all of his life.

Keep some sorrow in your hearts and minds
for the things that die before their time:
for the restlessly abandoned homes,
the tired and weary rambler’s bones.
And stay beside me where I lie.

I am too relieved to hold onto anything about the mayoral situation. I feel released inside now that it is over. I feel empathy for the prices paid yet at the same time feel confident that the beginning of accountability has come. Yet this is what I feel today. I can only intend to continue to feel this hope.

She’s entwined in me-- crazy as can be.
Yeah, but she’s all right with me.
She’s all right-- she’s all right with me.

I will go see the cousin that passed at the funeral home. I will see all of the family that did not come to my wedding and hope they love my merciful mother a little more. I will vote this November with my fears reverberating from the lack of connection in every direction as well as the quake of the country’s collective unconscious sullenly stirring. I will look ahead the future instead of back at scandal. I will try to be my mother, my husband, King David and his son King Solomon. Yet mostly my mother.

*Mercury by The Counting Crows (Yes, Adam, I know it is not a song about love but a song about addiction. Humor me on this fractures of forgiveness line.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

There was a time that I might have surrendered but not now

Bob Dylan stabbed my optimism this morning with his voice.

Broken, broken,
everything is broken

His words are a comfort sometimes...connecting realism with the beautiful mess of chaos and the grit that gives it traction. How did it all get so tangled, so disconnected?

I was at a new/old friend's home the other night. New friend because I met her a little over a year ago, old because I identify with her in a way that it would take years to develop. She is also my pastor. It was a lazy evening of food, music, cards and fending off affection from her Don Juan cat who would sneak nuzzles from me and leap onto the couch to be close to this new female in his domain. My friend and I talked about how all of the familiar had fallen away from us when we started our new lives in Detroit... friends, methods of transportation, approaches to our faith. With no certainties, we had found the gift of one another's comfort and friendship, and we so grateful for it.

We had been listening to her ipod and when a newly dressed song from my past began to play, I was transported.

I had big idea
I had a crazy eye
I broke the sacred seal
I told a lazy lie
I've had my conscience bent
I've had my patience tried
I've been up in the desert
And down by the riverside

I remembered the lazy lies and crazy eye from nearly 20 years ago, feeling emptied in the desert and growing up by the Riverside.

Will the eagle fly
If the sky's untrue?
Do the faithful sigh
Because they are so few?
Remember when I cried?
Remember when you knew?
Remember that look in your eyes?
I know I do

I recollected my feelings of being crushed by others' actions in what was supposed to be a safe, holy place. Lives truly shaken and futures forgotten in moments of oblique knowledge. Heavy, heavy experiences for someone not even through the first year of college.

I think this time in my life trained my psyche to expect the worst from people, that I was a victim no matter what I tried create of the chaos. The recovery from being this person has been a long road. A long road of learning and relearning hope.

And count the stars to measure time
The earth is hard, the treasure fine
To the sea I'll crawl on my knees

The grit of memories the years leave behind can stay with you and you have to remember not to re-live the hurt when those memories surface. Every time they surface. You begin to feel the curative waters and tuck into the healing that surrounds you.

Feel it coming in
Feel it going out
Water covers sand
Blood covers doubt
So I begin again
Again, the healing bow
There was a time that I might have surrendered
But not now

And then you begin the response to difficulty and pain by immediately waiting on your knees and letting the waters wash over you. Your eyes use mercy to see and your hands reach out with grace.

My friend preached yesterday. She talked about the lame beggar that everyday was lifted by his friends to a place at the Beautiful Gate to seek alms. Peter saw him there, took him to Solomon's Portico and he was healed. Excitedly, he announced his healing, not in the streets, but to those who were there in the temple. It seems that they needed to be reminded of the miracle of healing. My friend also reminded her congregation of healing and other miracles we should expect, letting us know that they might not be picture perfect landscapes of experiences, but to keep our hands open for what will land there. In her personal life, she had been surprised by a miracle just days before.

Her life and my life may be mightily different from what we anticipated would happen to it. There is still a sense of things not being quite what we'd like them to be. Yet we maintain our faith in miracles. We found friendship in each other.

Consult the cards to measure mine
The earth is hard, but the treasure fine
At the sea, I'll wait on my knees

*Dig by Adam Again

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Drinking and Sinking

I have been stirring for a while now this fermenting mixture of words like a homemade brandy hidden in the dark of my basement. I won't know how they taste yet, and the same mystery surrounds me as I breathe in the physical smell of money while my heels echo in the hollowed halls of the place where I work. Where is that smell coming from? What mildews and bacteria combine to create it? And why has it landed here?

I first noticed it on Monday as I sat in my chair and logged in. I searched by pockets and desk for cash I had left laying out. I had none on me. None to be found. I can no longer pretend that this titanic terrarium hasn't gotten to me.

Nearly a year ago on a bleak January morning over 3,000 people lost their jobs here. I had done this before. I had transitioned from out of a ship destined for the scrapyard for reinvention or the hidden deep below-- where ever the Dow Jones decided it must go. I could not feel bad for myself when I was surrounded by people who had devoted their vocations in one form or another to making people better. Major discoveries happened the rooms by which I was surrounded. I can make something temporal from anywhere with a pen or software, these people had altered the health of the world permanently.

Yet I cannot pretend this hasn't effected me. Seventeen buildings were closing and the people within were leaving. I attended eight of numerous holiday/farewell parties in December. How many times can you say goodbye? Before the parties I would go days and days without interacting with people face to face. Closed in a room to work left me enjoying absence and strangely feeling absent. I was asked, "How can you do this? It must be hard to go to work with all of that desolation going on, huh?" I thought mournfully about the science, verbalized homage to the scientists and the people that make them go, and soothed with the words, "Plus, I have done this before."

Her greatgrandfather saw the future
didn't know nothing bout panic,
he certainly probably thought
that it was unthinkable.*

I sit locked in a storage area right now, glad to to be soaking in the semi-permanence of the art stored withing it. It will go on to fill other conference rooms, nooks, cafeterias and hallways. The building is vacant aside from these elements. I hear the heating vents hiss and the pipes banging themselves from the sleeping walls knowing that dreams have died in this scrapped ship. I, too, have had dreams die, not unlike the ghosts trapped in the walls.

Growin up in a biosphere
with no respect for bad weather
there's still roaches and ants in here
so resourceful and clever.

I grew up in Flint, a town where the people were tough but life so delicate that one accident, misspent dollar or business closure could manifest a spiralling destiny. Everyone there has issues and everyone's spiral was intertwined with another.

an accident's sometimes the only way
to worm our way back to bad decisions...

My family had a thriving home improvement business. My mom ended up a cook at the rescue mission and my dad took a job in Syracuse, NY selling water softeners and later driving a Flint MTA bus. My brothers were cute, pudgy, hyperactive kids who dreamed of buying their mom a yellow caddy and rode their dirt bikes in our three acre wilderness. They were ridiculed by other kids for being fat and different, got into drugs and alcohol, didn't graduate and spent time in jail. I myself dreamed too big for that small city. Although I managed to get through college, all of those great things college moved me to do and be were crushed by oppressive, bullying bosses and work conditions which left me broken and escaping for survival in Detroit where things were only slightly better.

If I could press the ears of people I have worked with in this place of science to my chest, what would they hear my heart say? I can only hope the faintest voice of Christ would be heard whispering, "I know, I know." I feel the brokenness of it all. Loss, mistrust, unrootedness, disbelief, bewilderment, unwillingness, that sinking feeling that nothing is real and nothing tangible will last. An atmosphere so thick in this terrarium it takes nearly a year to verbalize. And I can hope my actions say, I know, I know, while in my nose stings the dirty smell of money.

So, I have brought the brandy out from obscurity and drank the ever changing concoction of dying fruit begging for harmonies. I feel an intoxicating relief that the words are out of the recesses and perhaps a numbness, as well.

We stay inside and try to conjure the fathers of
injured and faking
if there's glory in miracles
it's that they're reversible

- END -

*Titanic Terrarium from Day by Night by The Tragically Hip