love letter for a friend

(for 2-27-16)
We sit around this corner table in your favorite Memphis brewery, the four of us, you and your love and me and mine. A few hours ago we were down by the riverside, balancing on a log, balancing each other on a log. Down by the riverside, arm in arm in arm in arm, watching the sun set on the mighty Mississippi. I just want you to know how full my heart was in that moment. Full to bursting. Even when we are a 7.5 hour drive apart, I know I am as much a part of your life as you are mine, even when we don’t talk but every month or two or three. But I love you and you love me, and we are each reflected, in some strange way, in the love we’ve found with these other people, and we all share each other’s stories.

We sit around this corner table with a rickety Jenga tower in front of us, we beat Jenga! we declare, but I know that you and I will keep on going higher and longer, higher than Jenga towers, longer than weekend visits that last 24 hours. We play silly games and laugh so hard we cry and drink rich dark beer that’s the best I ever tasted, almost at least, and I maybe wish I could stay safe in this presence forever. But part of the beauty of what we have is that it can be picked up whenever we need it, and maybe it is best this way, to have highlight moments but share souls from afar, I don’t know…

We sit around this corner table and share the hours and laugh so hard we cry and talk about nothing in particular but I am with you and that is what matters, and this is just my way of saying I love you –

simplicity and farmer’s markets

(from Tuesday, 2-9-16) The canal path is white today and the bare tree branches dusted with snow; the flakes come down and greet my eyeballs with a handshake. The simplicity and the beauty of the snow make me think: what do I really want from life? Where will I find my joy? Because I recognize that I have such joy in this simplicity; this morning run on my canal that I’ve done hundreds of times, the gentle flakes falling from the sky, the houses on the canal path that I always imagine myself living in, fantasizing of a life of simplicity and peace as you look out over this waterway every morning with your coffee. What I long for is the complex simplicity of making your home, your life, a place for people to find their peace in or find a community that they belong. What I long for is someone with whom to share all of this. And I realize, as I propel these tired legs forward on a random, beautiful Tuesday, that right now I have all that I need. In this moment, it is complete. And some deep part of me trusts that the next moment will also, somehow, be complete.

*****

(from Saturday, 2-20-16) Farmer’s Market, Saturday morning. A February morning that makes you believe wholeheartedly in spring before winter strikes again, not ready to fully release us to sunshine and melted streets and birds singing. People file into this old windowless warehouse building, funniest farmer’s market atmosphere I ever saw, for their market goodies before starting the rest of their day. My roommate sells coffee along with free huge hugs and smiles to brighten your day. I go to see her. I love this collection of people who are willing to slow down, savor tastes, and pay a little extra for the real thing. I wish I could be more like them.
Too soon it is time to go, back out to the sunshine, off to my Saturday shift in the library before I am free to run and play in this abundant sunshine. The surprise summer-in-the-end-of-winter puts me in a giddy mood and I cook up plans for how to squeeze every last drop I can from this day. I act as if I won’t have this again forever, and in a way I won’t, if forever means a couple of weeks. I remind myself to let the abundant sunshine rain its abundance on me. There will be days like this again. And right now, live fully into the moment that today is giving me.

how we worship

This small congregation of 12, the ones K. tears up for when preaching about them in sermons, the ones who have to close their doors in too few days, too few to allow K. to be ordained in the church building he was raised up in. Where is the line between thriving and surviving? What happens to a church that once split because it was growing so much and now, can seat everyone comfortably around a long foldout table?
Sitting with them, I film a movie in my head, a beautiful tragedy of a once-bustling church. A scene of this very conversation, zooming in on the confirming question: we still want to keep meeting, right? – yes. Camera pans out to a wide shot of the whole table discussing how much money to sell the building for, face shots of people giving out numbers in earnest, putting numeric values on a place that has housed the growing up of children, the building of community, the maturation of their own souls. I watch the fierce commitment of people who have spent years and years together, without a question in their minds of whether or not they will continue to be church with each other, only wondering where.
I imagine a future scene in my head, the keys being handed over to the new owners, the wooden doors closing one last time, the last truck loaded with folding chairs and a chalice, driving out of the parking lot. A tear streaking slowly down the cheek of the churchgoer, maybe the movie watcher. A beautiful tragic drama, or as K. reminds me, There is joy; it’s an opportunity for a new beginning.

 

*****

Early morning pre-dawn, best time for running. We’re getting so much in before most people are even thinking about rolling out of bed. The moon is just showing off with an incredible set like this, playing hide-and-seek between the clouds, sinking large and low on the horizon. K. and I tread cautiously on frozen snow, paths lit by the shine of the moon and the occasional car beam, until we reach the stillness of the canal path. I breathe deeper there and relax – my home. There is something about the joy of the cold air, the bare tree branches, the night sky, and running beside my love that alchemies into a mixture of joyous exuberance. Words burst from my mouth, story after story after random detail, but I am safe and know I am loved, and K. finds it all charming. At this easy pace, I could run forever, and almost wish to. Just keep going til you run out of path, out of time, out of darkness. Run until dawn, until the secret of night ends. That is what I love about night runs, I tell K. — it is as though the canal and I hold a secret that nobody else knows about, that there is beauty so strange and glorious and wonderful and I revel to share in it. Oh you beautiful world, you. Light feet, light body, light heart.

Moonset CTS night sky

heart-opening Quaker meeting

(January 10, 2016) It is First Day, Sunday, Quaker meeting. Today is his first visit to my holy place, my sacred ground. Only a couple of people are in the meeting room when we arrive and there is something so vulnerable and intimate about that. I’ve learned by now that when I bring friends here I can take no responsibility for the quality of their worship. There is no way I can relieve their boredom if they are bored – though it turns out they are generally not bored and enjoy the silent experience. So today, I trust him to settle in, and I take note of who is present, gaze out the window. Then I turn my eye inward, shut my eyelids, open my hands to God.

This past semester, every meeting was a challenge, my inner demons attacking me after my first ten minutes of silence. I couldn’t sit still – well, I did sit still, but inside, I was a mess, a thousand monkeys ricocheting in my  monkey brain.

Lately, though, I have been full of peace and joy. I am this way today, sinking into something deep, wondering if anyone else is experiencing today’s meeting how I am, wondering what it feels like to be in what they call a “gathered meeting” and how I might find out. Is this one gathered? I am gathered, at any rate. My heart is open to the world, open to other people. I remember when I was not this way. It was most of my life. I used to be so closed off, so guarded, so walled. So afraid. Who am I now? How am I this different from the girl I once was? Today, my open heart overflows with love, and I want everyone else here to experience this as well.

The children file in at the end and my wish for them is that they may remain open-hearted, that the world will not close them off and that they will stay light and free. I hope they still are: when I was their age, I was not.

Heart-opening exercises in yoga have got nothing on this Quaker meeting, for me. Sit, breathe, expand, love.  

NMCF outside

(Picture taken from my meeting’s [North Meadow Circle of Friends] Facebook page… thanks, guys!)

two weekends in the woods

(January 3, 2016) I like to imagine myself as a deer in the woods; long-legged and leaping from one place to next. This is how I envision my experience. In reality, in the woods, I follow my love (not to the fields, Wendell Berry – the woods are even better) and am so happy to trot along after him, not deer, more like puppy. I’d follow you wherever you go. Until I seek permission to race ahead like deer, because really I’m too independent for too much following, and run too fast. Unlike deer, I get tuckered out (more like puppy) within a mile. However, out of sheer stubbornness mixed with pure love for the woods, I go round for another 4 mile loop. Four miles in the woods is more like 7 on the roads. I am tired, but when I emerge from the woods with my head hanging and unable to walk in a straight line, he is there waiting for me patiently at the car. His welcoming smile makes everything good. I am deer – I am puppy – I am Christine, full of the woods and all their good things.

(Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front reads, “Go with your love to the fields. / Lie down in the shade. Rest your head / in her lap. Swear allegiance / to what is nighest your thoughts.)
deer running(Image from Google Images / Youtube)

(January 9, 2016) A little rain doesn’t stop the dedicated runners, especially when the setting is serene Eagle Creek Park. My goofy leaping about as we get ready to step on the trail betrays my feelings; not that I was ever one to hide my excitement, anyway. The sky is heavy gray, the tree branches are bare except for the stubborn yellow leaves hanging out on the undergrowth, and the path is clearly marked. As I run beside this man, the pace feeling relaxed and easy, I think back to other days with other people, when I believed their happiness was my responsibility and I was weighed down with guilt over things I couldn’t control. This man, even though he feels “off” on this morning with a weather front coming in, gives me nothing but his smiles when I look at him. There is something within me that is very reassured by this, some deep-seated fear or maybe memory being overlaid by this new experience of someone smiling back at you when you check in with them, someone who really wants you to be here with them. Or maybe part of it is that I’m finally able to believe – to know – that I am wanted here. I’m not sure what exactly it is, but I know that here in these woods, on this rainy January day in Indianapolis, something is being healed.

Kevin in the woods

joy, and undoing the knowing

(12-28-15) My friend unwraps Reese’s bells with the greatest deliberation and sets them before himself on the counter. One, two, three, four. He stuffs them all into his mouth at once because they taste better that way. Tears roll down my cheeks, my abs ache, I can’t breathe.
I laugh every time just remembering it.

*****

(12-29-15) I know him so well but tonight I don’t. A near stranger staring at me earnestly across the counter. I am stunned and speechless, almost dizzy for a moment as my eyes unfocus – who is this man with the scruff and glasses, rubbing his forehead in that way? They focus again and I see him, the man I’ve always known, yet am undoing the knowing.

*****

(12-30-15) I sit with my therapist and give her my stream, or really train of consciousness about the new love that is pouring into my life and my most wonderful retreat at Gethsemani and how very very happy I am right now, sorry to be talking so much about everything all at once. She laughs; this is your time, use it how you want! She has sat with me in my pain and tears, and somehow it makes things better that she sits with me in my joy and shows me that this is just as important. I struggle to believe joy is okay but maybe it is okay because these people are not leaving me just because I am happy.

*****

(12-31-15) I am at home here, in the home of a Friend. My belly is full and my heart is warm, and we settle in to Quaker silence as I settle in under a blanket.
My heart is full to bursting. I must surely radiate this joy from my very being. I wonder if it is okay to feel this much joy. Maybe I should ponder sadness around the world? No, no, no, something deep within assures me, Joy is precious, and not found every day. Share this joy with others. May all beings be happy. May all beings be free. Joy like this should not – cannot – be contained.

Sun over horizon