Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In the sixth year

It was the sixth year and it began on the northern shores of Lake Superior where the crashing waves met the jagged rocks composing the most beautiful of symphonies.  The wild, bitter winds crashed along the point where artists come for inspiration and to be small before the power of nature, as the shoreline burst forth in green and one lighthouse stood tall and strong. The fireplace crackled as they relished in a sweet reprieve.

Four states and two kids later, they once again found themselves hearing the call of adventure.   Change whispered in the daylight and roared by the light of the moon.  It was a small sense, but the biggest things begin that way, and it lingered through the autumn and into the winter; which lingers in Minnesota.  They looked into the expanse of the unknown, knowing only this, not here, this is not home.   His family remained un-plucked from their roots, but hers was long since spread, severed, and scattered to begin again in new fragments.  The idea of home, for these two adventuring souls seemed something attainable by all but them. The way that most understand the very thing they seek and struggle to find.  And perhaps home ceased to be a geographical location, but a spirit of living, but whatever the bewildering definition, it wasn’t this.

With the switching of calendars it came, and in months the pieces fell into place, as a sense of disbelief lingered in the air.  Could it be this easy? Is this really happening? And the truck was filled to capacity, no empty space was left in the family car as they drove away one March morning,  as the sun rose in the rear view mirror, over the snow covered ground.

They traveled east through the mountains and as they descended upon the new place, on the opposite coast of where this story began. A wave of welcome met them there, with familiar faces, helping hands and iced coffee.  It was a sweet and comforting lining that softened the new.

Then the hard began.  The part where huge, daring, and brave ideals collide with reality.  Children uprooted, searching for jobs in this shifting era,  the exhaustion of it all hitting at once.  The aftermath of the jump.  The part dreamers rarely see, which is a blessing and a curse, for it makes acting easier, but the landing is more brutal. 

Together, they knew and believed, remembering the voice that had lead them this far.  Long days of doing and praying and waiting came.   Little bits of reprieve were strategically placed in between what would feel like the greatest challenge to date. This was hard.  In the long looks and quiet, tired smiles, they remembered the long list of impossibilities and challenges that had long since passed, surely we’ll get to the other side of this too.  The collection from years one through five had prepared them, even when they felt stretched beyond all possibility.  The foundation had been laid, fortified by time and grace and love.

It was a year both weary and wonderful, where long awaited prayers were answered on the path littered with many new, because all the best and most beautiful things are worth giving every drop you can muster, loving with every inch and fiber, and living fearlessly into the unknown.  And when you think it’s too hard or too long, love squeezes your hand, walking beside you, sleeping by your side. 

In the sixth year,  they dreamed and launched forward with wild, daring hope.  They loved, laughed, and held on in the dark, when nothing else seemed certain, but the constant that surrounded them. Little children kept growing, bringing new magic and naturally, new challenge.  Memories were etched into the story.  The days were long, difficult, and beautiful, as the building years are. 

It was the end of year six and they looked forward with wild hope, strengthened by a fiery love, and the journey.

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 23, 2013: a note

The house was silent.  I walked into the kitchen as a golden burst rose from the dip in the trees and painted the room with a radiant, good morning.  The color so rich, it could almost be heard.  I imagine it would sound like a million sparkling prisms dancing and a shop wall.

My body captivated, my eyes alive in the golden room.

Then came the grinding of the beans, the filling of the kettle, rattling as it was placed on the stove, and soon traces of a little conversation between those two.

A new day.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20, 2013: a note

"Do you want this mama?" He asked, handing me three connected blocks that he'd been carrying around all day.

In his face, I could see the grand gesture.

I looked a minute longer into his giving eyes and said, yes.

I didn't know exactly why I wanted it, but it seemed important.

Then I was instructed that I could use it to fight like a Ninja Turtle.

So, clearly, I made the right choice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013: a note

The light in her eyes and smile on her face before she turns toward the hallway in what is a mesmerizing combination of flight and dance.  Never just a walk, but a fully engaged offbeat choreography. Her small shoulders rise, her feet prance, arms floating in the air to the melody in her head.  It must be the most beautiful song.  Her long hair swishes and she’s gone.  But, always the pause and the wild, knowing eyes. 


Thursday, August 8, 2013

On sharecroppers and struggles in light of today

I’m reading Grapes of Wrath for the first time.  Somehow, I managed to graduate from high school and obtain an English degree without having to open its pages and I’m so glad, because I think young Olivia couldn’t have seen it as it should be seen.  And in some ways I’ll probably never be able to understand, because as I let the story sink in, as its cruel, maddening realities unfold before my eyes, it makes me wonder if I’ve ever struggled a day in my life.  At all.

Not to belittle trials and tough seasons of the modern day for they are hard in their own right, but comparatively, it all seems to be just a pile of inconveniences.  This morning, we loaded our family and three heaping baskets into the car and drove safely down the road to a Laundromat.  Our own laundry room off the kitchen still sits without a washer and dryer, as we wait and save or wait to be able to save, but this morning, it didn’t bother me.  Growing up in the suburbs, I’ve always held the belief that Laundromats are shady places, but they are just places that must exist, because people need to wash clothes and it’s not actually a right of residency to have your own machines.  There have been years where our apartment complex didn’t have laundry hook-ups in unit and there were years where we had our own, but it’s just a part of this whole big thing of life.  A people thing.  And truthfully, in one and a half hours, I knocked out three weeks of laundry for four people, I couldn’t have done that at home.   My clothes filled half the row of washers and the circular windows were a blur of color and soapy water.  One by one, the loads were transported in the cart that always reminds of the one episode of Friends, where Rachel washes her own laundry for the first time and Ross falls even more hopelessly for her.  The massive dryers tumbled until the clothes were folded and again, packed away.

As I sorted and folded, I thought about the things we allow to be such great inconveniences and I thought about the Joad family, from the book.  It’s night and day, what we call struggle, what we believe to be a hardship.  And I don’t want to be that kind of person.  The Dust Bowl era destroyed the lands, sucking the life out of fields and farms. The farmers worked tirelessly to salvage the land, but the crops failed, so the money didn’t come in, and the banks took back the land.  The land where their children were born and the elderly died.  The land was a part of them, until the banks wanted profit and saw people as interferences and kicked them off the land.  The tractors destroyed jobs and homes, turning legacies to rumble.  So, the masses fled West, with the hopes of greener lands and jobs.  An exodus that became something of a nightmare and the Californians didn’t want the Okies, no longer farmers, but considered migrants, who were forced to resident in little camps on the outskirts of town.  They were treated as foreigners, trouble, good for nothing, and dirty, but all they wanted was to work hard and raise their families, to have a little home and be respectful people.  The orchards dumped truckloads of oranges into the river to rot as children died of hunger.  I wonder if anything has really changed in the world at all, but that’s another thought.

Once California belonged to Mexico and its land to Mexicans; and a horde of tattered feverish Americans poured in.  And such was their hunger for land that they took the land—stole Sutter’s land, Guerrero’s land, took the grants and broke them up and growled and quarreled over them, those frantic hungry men; and they guarded with guns the land they had stolen.  They put houses and barns, they turned the earth and planted crops.  And these things were possession, and possession was ownership.

The Mexicans were weak and fed.  They could not resist, because they wanted nothing in the world as ferociously as the Americans wanted land.  Then, with time, the squatters were no longer squatters, but owners; and their children grew up and children had the land.  And the hunger was gone from them, the feral hunger, the gnawing, tearing hunger for land, for waters and earth and the good sky over it, for the green thrusting grass, for the swelling roots  They had these things so completely that did they did not know about them anymore.  (Chapter 19)

It’s the last line that grips me, They had these things so completely that did they did not know about them anymore.  It tumbles in head like the the towels in the dryer, again and again, each time bringing more understanding and more questions.  I think we are these children of the squatters, the offspring of a generation that achieved a way of life, a certain standard of living.  And I think we’ve forgotten that a good life is not easily achieved, but full of labor.  It’s ripe with hard times and monotonous realities, like laundry and dishes and paying bills, but such things are actually not the struggle. We wash clothes without hauling waters and heating it on a stove, we clean our dishes in sinks of hot, clean water or at the touch of a few buttons and we pay bills, because we have things, like homes and electricity.  We deem it all as inconveniences and create struggles out of our abundance and ease.  Struggles are real and they abound, but they are not these things.

Recently, I was speaking with a dear friend, a mother of three young children and she said, “These are working years, laboring years.  We do our best. We give and love until we collapse at the end of the day with the satisfaction of knowing that we loved, worked, and lived.”  I imagine the people of the 1930’s were not much different than us, but they knew that all of life was hard work, sprinkled with little bits of rest and reward. Sometimes, I think our society glamourizes the opposite until we come to believe it is an essential right of being a first world citizen.  Sometimes, I think we see the years of work our parent’s generation put in and think we can obtain it all right away, fresh out of college with two little ones in tow.  We forget the building years, or worse, see them as an inconvenience. 

And I think we are also the children of the sharecroppers, because the way of life our parents and their parents knew and lived, is now fading.  Perhaps, we are fighting to hold on to the remnants, but the shift is here. They went to college, walked into good jobs and worked until they retired.  So, we went to college too and for some, the transition was easier, but for many, it hasn’t been.  The jobs were few and the over-qualified, college educated were plenty.  We see it every day and the tension grows and I wonder just what our revolt will be.  I wonder what exodus we will make that will write the next chapter of history, the way the sharecroppers did. 

They had these things so completely that did they did not know about them anymore. 



Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4, 2013

A Sunday morning congregation of black birds and brown-breasted robins have gathered in my backyard.  Two squirrels nibble away unnoticed and one cardinal has made a stately appearance, perched on the fence. The grass sparkles with dew in the early sun and a spirited gust of wind just shook lingering rain drops from the leaves.  I observe from my kitchen window after successfully crossing the vast hall into the kitchen, passing the children’s door, using my greatest stealth moves in order to brew water for coffee and cut a slice of espresso pumpkin bread.

I selected a small handful of cherry tomatoes from a brown paper bag that a friend sent home with us, passing along the bounty of another friend’s garden.  Surely, a garden tomato is one of God’s most marvelous creations.  The mass produced-store bought frauds are nothing compared to these and they cloud our minds with what real is until the flavors burst in your mouth, awakening your taste buds with glimpses of heaven.  I contemplated hiding them from the other tomato lover in the house, the little one who shoves them in her mouth and lets the juices cascade down her chin, but depriving her of that joy seems like it would rob the world of its color.  The males in this house have no idea what they are missing and selfishly, we will eat them all.

The feathered ones collect their fill, the after-a-rain special and I understand in this moment the intensity of his love towards us.  My backyard is filled with pecking birds and perching birds and swooping birds being sustained and nourished.  And I wonder if he didn’t send them for these few minutes to remind me in this quiet pause before the day fills with doing and noise.   Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26  It feels extravagant this morning, that my willingness to rise early would be rewarded so.  And that when I begin the day with seeking eyes, I will find exactly what I need. 

Church bells will sound at eleven from the tower of the old brick church down the street, the one with grand steps and luminous stained glass. But this morning, I’ve already heard the timeless message they will ring, in the silence and tomatoes and birds.