20 May 2009

be where you are

i am reminded again that we are all full of terror and fury and shame--having been shattered by the fall. we are all caught in the act. we are all scrambling to cover the foibles, the stains and the broken dishes, the lies and the bad decisions.

(an aside: i think i need a man who wants to make this into a song—a slow, sad, bluesy song with a slide guitar).

but i am also reminded that this isn't where the story ends. hallelujah.

she wrote that details matter. otherwise: drop a bomb on all of us. "say yes to life, all of life" she says. say yes to the real things about who we are.* we carry around the details that say life matters and each person matters; the making of music matters--those pictures and memories we carry around matter. even the mistakes.

i want to get it down: the knowing look and smile between friends--that moment when we realize that even though the sorrow is killing us, we are going to be OK. this matters. write it down, for goodness sake.

it will help us remember in all of our shambles and shitpiles that God is going to help us, like he always does. when we learn to tell the truth and admit our need, we see how Faithfulness works on us without giving up.


in morogoro, tanzania, in the hills called faulkland, i found myself in the middle of a thousand stories with names and sights and people you could never even dream up if you tried.

there are the giant racing snails hiding in the blades of grass that cover the hills, waiting for wet sidewalks to travel. there is a small girl named selena, whose tattered light blue dress falls off her shoulder as she dances and laughs. there is a semi-circle of grass thatched huts with a fire burning in the middle, and a woman bending to collect wood. there is a church with no roof surrounded by plantings of pink impatients in the brick red, dusty soil, where women come each afternoon to sit on wooden benches and sing together, over and over: "the blessing of God is around us."

i wonder: is it still a story if what came before and what comes next cease to matter? if these memories are enough to take me there, to remind me of my friend saying to me "when you see that place, you can't even cry"?

there is a place where the smiles and gentleness of the people in the stories seeped right down into the cracks in my heart and stole it; i think i fell in love for the first time in a long time.


we each have moments like these, don't we? the ones that sneak in and shake the foundations of our hearts in a way that we know we will never be the same. in a way that we are broken and healed all at the same time.

in a way that tells us yet again that we can't pretend like none of these things matter.

*natalie goldberg writing down the bones

13 May 2009

you may or may not know

you may or may not know
that if you drive along the northern coast of zanzibar--
say at 7:45 p.m. on a wednesday night--
you'd see people out for an evening stroll.

women walking in pairs with bright kangas draped around their shoulders against the slight chill in the air, boys and girls side by side.
a man with one hand clasping his arm behind his back, slightly bent forward,
going right along and listening to his friend
who is walking an old red bicycle and telling a story.

you may or may not know that all along that road
there are people sitting on front stoops,
peering into and out of tiny shops
where dim lightbulbs hang from the ceiling and pulse with generator electricity.

i bet you didn't know that is what you would see. i didn't either.
i didn't expect to see
the way the palm trees swayed against the dark sky.
the way what might have looked like lush wilderness
was mysteriously peopled with these figures
illuminated, captured in motion
in the headlights of a passing truck.

04 May 2009

night prayers

thank you
keeper of these lenghtening days and maker of the blooming trees.
thank you
one who knit together each and every thing we see,
even the ducks that wander in pairs and swim around the fountains in the park.

thank you
one who provides the things each creature needs--
(now more than ever i struggle to pray this--to believe it.
kristin asks: what about the girls in sonagacchi? does he not see them?
and i think, what about the widows in kibakwe who are suffering with AIDS?
i don't know the answer to these.)
in spite of not understanding and not knowing how to see or believe,
can i still say thank you?
and i praise you?

can i see that through all these days when i can't find my way home to you
you find your way to me?

thank you that in the inconsequential and consequential things
you still seek and comfort;
step by step you show the way.

thank you that in you there is no shadow,no shadow of turning.
(we know shadows of turning too well; we ache with them.
but you will not change your mind about us.)

tonight, the prayer is thank you.