hope springs purple.

The sun streaks long and lean over the back lot where I take the dog for a small run before returning him to the apartment probably too small for him.

I press in to the solar flare, to the wind that comes to bless us in the spring before it flies elsewhere and leaves us with the stagnancy of summer. [Texas summer, a season all its own.] This kind of thing has me thinking about the Ascension.

Why do you stand there looking to the sky?

I want to scream at that line I find so beautiful sometimes, like a child,

BECAUSE HE…HE SAID HE WOULD ALWAYS BE HERE. or. or maybe I dreamed that part. did he say that? where? where is He?

[by the way, I think I agree with my priest when he said that we live in the days between the Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, though I tend to say that about every church season.]

I’m sorry, I was pressing into the sun, the wind a moment ago. Let’s go back to that. [Thought if you ask me to tell you exactly what that image, means, I’ll just give you a look. I don’t believe you don’t understand, even though sometimes I just say things.]

I press into them because I’m trying to press out of my anxiety, trying to lift myself into the sky where I first learned how to pray. Maybe it’ll take me back.

I’m also trying not to think too hard about the way I casually wrote the word anxiety a moment ago, or how I might be using it to cover other words like depression and acedia, or how I can’t bring myself to finish Kathleen’s book on both of those words.

But also, I’m taking it all in deeply and slowly because I’m thinking about those things precisely, because sometimes they are healed bit by simple bit.

Though three hundred things have changed and blossomed since then, I feel like I am wearing a giraffe bathing suit in my kitchen and crying into my cupcake all over again.

It feels like a thousand things, all of them having to do with the simple act of living and changing, are out to get me, and even as I say that I realize I sound like a character on Girls I would normally yell at, but the truth is that it seems like walking through a cloud. It’s Eastertide, and has been, but I keep smelling smoke in my clothes.

I yell for the dog and he races ahead of me, eyes wild and tongue flapping, to the house. I laugh and follow, glad he’ll be my roommate for the summer, the fleeting months that mean something completely different now that I’m not an undergrad student anymore. It’s still a space between, but more of the same. In this between, I want to abide in Love and Grace and Peace. I want to read Flannery O’Connor’s anthology of letters, but mostly I want to not be afraid of reading Scripture anymore. Or, at least, to only be afraid in the ways you’re supposed to be. I want to sit at the foot of the tower of stones I once stood on firmly, study them, see if they tell me something new.

I want to pray all of these wants, but I might have forgotten how.

Inside, I spot my name on the most loving list of prayer requests. I am undone without really knowing why.

I collapse on the couch and the damn dog wants to play and I want to scream at him but then I am arrested by a swatch of medium lilac acrylic in a painting by a friend I have seen a thousand times and suddenly the cry is a healing one.

I meditate on the purple. Somewhere in the transport, I know, shakily, there is Enough.

detail of “Four Songs for Scripture” by Preston Yancey.

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absorption.

It’s Saturday and raining–the first true Sabbath I’ve had for a while. With a few jobs, a few friends, and a few classes I’ve picked up, It’s been more than  little difficult to rest, to just be still.

[I feel like this is something we are always saying these days, but it might be a while before it stops being true, before our desperation explodes.]

True, the weekend before I had not been working. I visited my dear, longtime friend Alia in her tiny blue cave-house on the south side of Dallas within walking distance of fascinating people and vegan diners. This is indeed a kind of soul rest. We sprawled like cats across the periwinkle duvet, drinking in each other’s stories, bursting with them, content to listen, to ebb and flow.  We have both changed so much over the years, and even in some important ways. But this? It stays the same. It is easy. And I am always so pleased to step into her life in the briefest of moments, whether it is trading English and Farsi curse words with her family or talking late into the night with her ragtag tribe of troubadours, artists, and 9-to-5-ers.

[On Sunday I watch her fry the eggs. I, charged with toast, load my knife with butter and marvel at the fact that I have been given close friends who make verbs out of words like home and host and harbour and haven, with a practiced ease.]

But this weekend takes on a peace in a different hue. I have cloistered away from retweets and comments and mentions, and it feels just right. I’m practicing absorption. I read Dante’s Purgatorio slowly, word by word, note by note, swallowing them rich like chocolate. I’m not sure how much time goes by. The Commedia is about a journey–arguably our own–and I laugh to think of how we’ve taken that word and run with it. Journey. I sympathize with Dante’s distraction along the way, and catch my breath when I read certain lines:

And I, who understood what he intended,

raised my tear-stained cheeks

and he restored the color

Hell had obscured in me.

He speaks in terms of color, of song, of walking, and these are things I understand.

[And Cato’s chastening at their pause to listen to the lesser song? This was enough to cut to the quick, but then professor told us that it was one of Dante’s own poems, that here was a reflected rebuke about loving his own words. Mercy, I sigh.]

I remember my cappuccino beside me and the Rilke in my bag. I’m reading his letters.

Therefore, dear sir, love your solitude and bear with sweet-sounding lamentation the suffering it causes you.

This is not the kind of thing I grew up with. Maybe I once thought that Jesus came so we wouldn’t hurt any more. Maybe instead He came because we hurt.

[Later, I will cry through this poem of Rilke’s. I realize that I want the “she” to be me.]

I call Alia [one of a small band that has been trying to get me to read him for years], pacing in the rain, running my mouth about Rilke and his loneliness, how sometimes he makes it sound like we are utterly alone at the root of it all. This worries me for me, but also for him. I want to know if he ever had a true friend in this life. She’s not sure. I tell her something I read after my professor’s memorial service, something she once wrote about loneliness as analogous to fasting, when you lean into it. You find your truest Dependency.  You are without for a while to see more clearly Whom you always have, Who always has you. See what the loneliness has for you, Lauren Winner wrote.

[I ask, am I lonely? Is that the word for it?]

I’m playing the new Mumford album [along with everyone else].

Though I may speak some tongue of old
Or even spit out some holy word
I have no strength from which to speak
When you sit me down, and see I’m weak

We will run and scream
You will dance with me
They’ll fulfill our dreams and we’ll be free

And we will be who we are
And they’ll heal our scars
Sadness will be far away…

Do not let my fickle flesh go to waste
As it keeps my heart and soul in its place
And I will love with urgency but not with haste

 

[I wonder, softly, why it seems easier to pray with Dante, Rilke, and Marcus Mumford these days.]

The rain is loud enough to allow a beating heart and nothing more, to make a quiet soul.

the land of enchantment, saving me.

Today I am joining the synchroblog over at Sarah Bessey’s (one of my favorite writers). So I share with you some unedited thoughts on New Mexico, and how it is saving my life right now. (Forgive typos and the rest, I’m on the fly today.)

This sky of azure.

Oh, that sky. The sky that seems painted close enough to touch one moment, then seems utterly unknowable, uncontainable the next. Like, how does it even belong here?

It taught me the same thing about God before I even knew it.

I miss it when I’m gone, like coastal people miss the ocean. I ache for that expanse. And when I’m here, I’m reminded why it’s my oldest thought-picture when I hear the word “glory,” and when Psalm 19 comes up in the lectionary.

And it’s saving me because I feel like I can pray a little more honestly here, and it feels like the peace in that little chapel at St. Paul’s. When I see how wide it is, my heart wants to crack open my chest from the inside out and be wide and open, too.

——–

And then there’s the turquoise. Everywhere.

It’s painted doorways, it’s the centennial license plate, it’s the murals and the dishes and the shoes and dresses and stones pressed into silver. (Jewelry I have rebelliously chosen to wear before I turn into a vieja.)

It’s another piece of glory, but on a selfish note, it is nice to wear turquoise and a swath of other colors and not be the brightest spot in the room. And I promise I’m not that self conscious about it all the time, but every once in a while, it’s nice to feel a little more in step with everyone else’s drummer.

———

And my family, whom New Mexico drew back like a magnet.

They are saving my life and driving me crazy. As it should be. Maybe when I am one hundred years old, I will write exactly how weird we are and all of our functional dysfunction, but for now I will tell you that they are all mine and they were the ones to teach me about unconditional love and sacrifice.

They are loud and hilarious and dramatic and generous and inappropriate and kind.

They sit across from me with their coffee cups and Mexican housedresses and cry when I tell them what’s broken my heart recently. They listen to me babble incoherently about my best friends (who are saving my life all the time), and ask me every question I hadn’t thought of. They laugh at my anecdotes and press a hand to heart when I’m done, saying softly, “I’m so glad you have them.”

——–

And then there is right now, with my gluten-free muffin and cup of coffee, framed against another turquoise wall, marigolds stark against those big blue heavens, patchouli and piñon always in the air.

This is saving my life right now.

color, cacophony, communion.

My colors are loud today.

At least, they seem so in the quiet of the chapel bathed in neutrals. In here, there is no stained glass to add to the banter, to wash everyone else in jewel tones, too.

I’ve already wiped off my coral lipstick as I made my way through the church. It’s the kind thing to do with a shared Cup, I think. But I cannot subdue the turquoise shoes, the canary clutch wallet. And then there’s the siren of a neon-orange manicure that I cannot hide as I pass the peace, or cup one palm in the other, waiting for bread.

And to think, I was just giving eucharisteo thanks for all those tones and shades.

Now, here, they are blaring. And I am being arrogantly self-conscious about it, but it feels like a sign of something else. I know I should instead drink in the grace in Amma Jo’s eyes as she meets mine, beginning in perfect meter, “the Body of Christ…” I know I should instead soak in our peace-passing as it become onomatopoeic, our soft “c’s” brushing against each other’s faces and echoing in this little place.

But I am tired of feeling loud and new and out of rhythm here. I want to skip all the steps of learning how to be in a place and with a people, how to “do” church. I am not willing to see the little things as they come as beginnings. I want the house to be built, but I do not want to build it. And mostly, I do not want to admit the fear.

I am impatient.

And here, at this midweek service, I am waiting for Eucharist to not only be communion with Him in mystery and beauty, but also an enactment of Faith and Life in community, unabstracted. I want to know names and stories, to know for whom this Body breaks, for whom this Blood pours out.

And really,  if I’m honest, I’m the one who wants to be known—well, at least by a different name than the girl with coral lipstick on the back of her hand. 

————

————

two links about communion that are worth clicking:

* Holly Ordway’s wonderful podcast, weaving in truth and beauty of her own: “The Gift of Love: the Eucharist in Poetry by Malcolm Guite and George Herbert.”

and

* “Bread and Wine” by Josh Garrels, new to me. 

Life: Unmasked

on color: a repost.

This post from last summer–another time, another blog–makes me laugh a bit at Past Antonia and her writing. Nevertheless, I needed to read her today, from months before I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and before I wove in words like “icon” and “sacramentals.” Today, my prayer is to be surprised again by His signs of steadfast love, like color, friendship, and food, and that you may as well.

For me to say that color is a big part of my spirituality might put you off a little, though it may not surprise you. If you are on one side of things, you might say that this is “hyperspirituality,” and pretty soon, everything and anything will be “holy,” right down to picking your nose. On another side, you may say that it is idolatry, or pantheism, or something like that.

And, well, as with most things important to one’s spiritual life, I struggle to keep things where they should be.

But disclaimers aside, this is what color is to me–

a sign of Grace. a sign of Love.

I’m finding that the more I discover, the more I unfold, the fewer words I have to describe things like ‘Grace,’ miracles like ‘Love.’They are big words. They are brimming words, words that throb when you pick them up and hold them in your hand.

But anyway, colors are just so lavishly given, aren’t they?

It reminds me of a friends favorite saying about food: “God could have just designed us to be hooked up to a gas pump or something and get nutrients in our armpits. But He didn’t.”

But He didn’t. And that makes me think of things like Grace and Love.

I don’t know what the equivalent would be to color. I’m sure scientists could tell me that our brains need it to keep us safe, as sensory communication, something. Me no talk science good. Me watch Planet Earth and Disney Cats.

Maybe. I don’t think that threatens the beauty of it, though.

It is yet a gift.

More than once, it has been the deep purple of a favorite shirt, the rich green of trees, the grey-blue of my own eyes that has pulled me out of despair, as whispers of hope, tokens of love, causes of praise, reminders of the One who gave them.

I know this isn’t the same for everyone–my friend Erica takes butterflies to be those signposts to the Giver of all good things, and even I have other examples–squirrels and quail are reminders of joy, and don’t even get me started on the spiritual experience a good meal (especially with good people!) can be.

Or, this may not make sense to you at all. I get that.
But I hope maybe you start to notice things like color, or food, or music, or friends as gifts, as glory, and are pointed to their Giver, the Glorious One.