One other point of decorum you might consider. It's not exactly good manners to invite someone to have a seat on their own property. It's my house. I'll sit down if I damn well please, thank you very much. You are no rabbi for me to huddle at your feet on the patio steps. Ahem. Anyway.
I do appreciate people with conviction, even if that conviction is misguided. It's good to know there are people in the world who still believe in something, even if it is an awkwardly misinterpreted deformation of my own faith. (Okay, I know... I don't think there's anything good about bastardizing Scripture. I'm just trying to be diplomatic here.) But have a little more gumption, please. I know my walls were up, and it was obvious. I didn't know you, and you were condescending to me with a Bible in your hands. Bad idea. But just because I tell you, 'Actually, I've read that book all the way through,' just because I mention interpretation and ancient Greek, just because I ask about authorship and translation doesn't mean you should run! Please! I've never heard of a reliable Jehovah's Witness biblical scholar. Couldn't you just give me one? A name? A book? Anything? I'm curious, really. I'm not interested in your tract - mostly because I don't want you calling me about it later. But I'd be very interested to read someone intelligent from your church respond, let's say, to Joseph Bottum of First Things. Or N. T. Wright (much as he annoys me personally). If I just saw that you were in conversation with actual scholars and pastors and intelligent men of faith, I might consider you credible.
One last thing. I know we're standing outside and all, but we're in the shade. Take off your sunglasses when you speak to a stranger about the kingdom of God. Let them see your face. Have that courtesy, please.
I want to be writing in my journal, but I burned my finger on the gravy and can't hold a pen properly. Typing is easier.
Stuffed, of course, on turkey and two kinds of yams and mashed potatoes and green beans and rolls. Dad and I walked for about fifteen minutes beforehand, collecting red leaves on First Street. We'll be frosting cookies in a bit, as soon as we can pop the dishes into the second dishwasher load. I took some blurry pictures of the table before dinner. Tried to take a picture of myself in the cornucopihat. Blurry.
It is the day to be thankful, and I am.
I am thankful for my parents, that they're interesting every day. That they don't freak out when I pour gravy on myself for no reason. For being steady.
I am thankful for my sister in Africa, for finding joy and living as fully as she can wherever she is. I am thankful for my sister in California, for being more faithful than nature. For both of them – for loving me like I'm more fascinating than I am.
I am thankful for my brother, for being brave and patient with the world. For believing foolishly.
I am thankful for the view out my window, for everyone who lives boldly in the open across the street.
For this past Monday, for wisdom and the peace of family who aren't family. For conversation and wine and infinity scarves in the fading light.
For writing till it hurts and the coffee that attends it, for criticism that constructs, for absurd word games and Lebanese food. You're in that, Jenny Bellington.
I'm thankful for Portfolio, but if I'm honest with myself, I've owed more to Starbucks with their consistency and ubiquity than to any other company.
For love that I ask for and love that I don't. For waking after strange dreams. For pages and pens. For C. S. Lewis (I'm reading you tonight) and Walter Wangerin Jr. and Frederic Buechner, and a host of smarter men than me. Not that I'm a man. But you get what I'm saying.
For learning my weaknesses and discovering that I can put my foot down and leave it there with happiness.
For Icarus – though you haven't spoken to me in years. For Eros – though you have grown up without me. I owe more to the two of you than to any other men.
For poetic code names no one understands but me.
For Kathryn and Chaeli, for keeping me in your hearts and hunting me down regardless of where I go in my head.
For grace. For spades of oceans of grace. For the seamonster that devours all my errors. For the Violet Burning (That's not a poetic code name. It's a band.) and for hymns. For Beth Balmer and the liturgy. For Grace Brethren, St Francis, New Life, St Andrew's, Church of the Resurrection, and Church of the Great Shepherd. Those who criticize the Church have not known you.
For my grandmother, who is gone. I wish you knew me now – the awkward phase is mostly over. You would have taught me to knit a cable knit sweater fit for an Atlantic fisherman.
I have been inordinately blessed.
To the one who gives more than I can return, I thank you.
Better than the sandwich was seeing Jenny again. I last saw her leaving from her wedding in a fancy car, white dress billowing, cries of 'hoorah' and all that jazz. She inspired me to make quiche - not that I've followed up on that inspiration yet, but I will - and we had a miniature wine tasting. The wine wasn't miniature. It was just... well, I guess there was nothing miniature about it. Anyway.
On my way out of town, I talked briefly with Spencer about logos and design and design philosophy and blogs and business and classic rock. I'm borrowing a small library from Tara, and I have some of my Christmas shopping done as well! It was a very productive day. And healthy, and fresh, and beautiful.
Every time I visit, I wonder why I don't do it more often. I know there are reasons, but when I am there the reasons seem so inconsequential. I said this last spring, and I say it again. I will try to do better. I will try to go more. I will try.
like a rug at noon--
like a rug in the yard
against the sun hanging.
i would beat her with
racket or with rod
and, like the dust from a mummy,
all that is not-her
will fly like so much sand
into the forgiving air,
the breeze like balm
breathing the not-me away.
this is my mercy--
(what i really want to do is touch
her forehead with the gentle tip of
a finger, gently push, and from her
skin see blow these particles, as
though this small gesture were an
of my suede boots, speckling
them with unwanted rain,
damaging their seams, their soft,
with storm, I smile.
I life my face to falling heaven
Who will ride through storm
thinking to suffer not
will wear a flinching fear
for person and possession.
Who will wade through water
holding high the precious things,
lifting above the stream the dear things,
knows not how to love them.
He loves who holds amidst the suffer,
who hand-in-hand allows
both comfort and decay to come.
He loves who worries not,
nor fears, but smiling at the gorgeous Good,
lets fall upon the smallest of concerns
the great unconcern of Nature.
Even so far loving life,
laughs slightly, though with pity
and with pain,
when the great Race of Man
hits heavy, beats and falls upon the body
or the heart.
Yes, even so will I,
though small and weak of frame,
with much or slight to lose,
wear wide upon my heart
the happiness of rain.
(written in Edinburgh, after being caught in a storm - February 10, 2006)
Yesterday was my brother's birthday. I think it's time to stop calling him a boy and start calling him a man. He's tall. He's old. He's got a fancy car and a realish sort of job. Happy birthday, Nathaniel. I miss you.
It's been over a week of my silence. I'm sorry about that. Been very busy with a lot of stuff I'm just not gonna go into here. Life is good, I'm alive, things are well. And aren't I descriptive? I'm typing this on my sister's laptop, because I just spent half my weekend here. Headed home in an hour or two after a shower and deciding which sweater to steal from her for the week. Next Sunday, we'll be headed to Santa Ana for Patchwork, where Tara will be peddling her beautiful wares! I foresee a whole lot of Christmas shopping going down. Hopefully by then I'll have my paychecks all sorted out (forgot to cancel direct deposit when I closed my F&M account last week. oops!). Meanwhile, I'll be working absent-mindedly, writing furiously and guiltily, and trying to be faithful to everyone else in the meantime.
Being faithful to people can be complicated. How do you choose between two opposing forces? How to you respect lines honestly and healthily drawn? How do you measure the worth of an individual in increments of time? Or productivity? Or the depth and/or length of a conversation? I'm not trying to be complicated here. Once upon a time, I thought I was a good friend. I thought I was faithful and thorough. I don't know if I've changed or just figured myself out better. I'm also not looking for affirmation. Just musing on growing up - what it means to know yourself and others better, and how increased understanding lends new responsibility.
(oh, and that is a whole blog post on its own - how understanding a person, whether you ask for that understanding or not, makes you responsible for them. why is this? i don't know. but it makes me think that those who understand human beings best should all be monks - to devote themselves to prayer for the world. how else will you have the time to fulfill your responsibility to your own human understanding?)
by G. K. Chesterton
Other loves may sink and settle, other loves may loose and slack,
But I wander like a minstrel with a harp upon his back,
Though the harp be on my bosom, though I finger and I fret,
Still, my hope is all before me: for I cannot play it yet.
In your strings is hid a music that no hand hath e'er let fall,
In your soul is sealed a pleasure that you have not known at all;
Pleasure subtle as your spirit, strange and slender as your frame,
Fiercer than the pain that folds you, softer than your sorrow's name.
Not as mine, my soul's annointed, not as mine the rude and light
Easy mirth of many faces, swaggering pride of song and fight;
Something stranger, something sweeter, something waiting you afar,
Secret as your stricken senses, magic as your sorrows are.
But on this, God's harp supernal, stretched but to be stricken once,
Hoary time is a beginner, Life a bungler, Death a dunce.
But I will not fear to match them-no, by God, I will not fear,
I will learn you, I will play you and the stars stand still to hear.