At the Hyatt, hiding out

p1060220-3

I’m hiding inside the jagged womb of the Hyatt along the Riverwalk in San Antonio and I happen to be in a very bad mood. Not one to leave me alone for long, God casually dropped a Wall Street Journal on the badly-veneered coffee table and took flight. I peruse the unsettling headlines. A choir of angels wait in line for Starbucks, their badges hanging proudly from their elegant necks. The cacophony of praise frightens me. I wish God had stuck around for a few minutes. And the Wall Street Journal? C’mon God. I toss it aside.

People, so thin, so fat, so empty, so full, so pregnant, so barren, so tattered, so fancy. Bearded, buttoned, long and short. A stooped woman in turquoise joins a youngster in yellow slacks; they dance their way to the river and disappear. I search myself, inside and out, for some indication that I care about any of these people. Most likely, I do not. As a whole, they are mildly revolting, strolling by in their vast imperfections and badly-chosen coverings. They are orbs of self-absorption, sipping and snarking, limping and lying. Filling their mouths, licking their fingers, while I sit and watch from this sagging orange couch, isolated from the masses by my computer screen and the glare on my face.

A man named Mo sits himself down across from me. Clean-cut. Gray. Do I love Mo? No. Emmett? The thin Japanese woman named Janice? Stacey with the suitcase? No. No. No. But what if they were hungry? Would I feed them? What if they were bleeding? Would I dress their wounds? What would I risk to ease their pain? Would I die for them? Each of them? All of them?

God has come back without warning and all the people have now become trees. Willows. Cottonwoods. Oak, maple, poplar. Their limbs, filled with birds and grace, roots exposed, beautiful. As they walk slowly around the lobby, a holy breeze rustles their leaves, subduing the harsh light. The gnarly truth is no longer so repulsive. A merciful perfection has settled over us, and I realize all I have to lose are these few coins in my pocket that were never mine to begin with. I borrowed this life, these coins, this rarified air, and I have mostly forgotten why. William Butler Yeats wrote:

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun,
Now may I wither into the truth.

Yes, there is a chance I would willingly die for them. In fact, I might’ve already done so. I’m unbearably connected. Suspended in the clarity of oblivion, I realize the choices I can still make.

Everything depends on the fleeting moment and the unguarded soul. Everything.

img_0648-1

Where things are written

imported-from-the-camera-april-2014-412-2“Hey, God,” I yelled, angrily turning off the radio. “Are you aware there’s a large, huge, ginormous number of people down here using the Bible to control and hurt people? They’re yanking it around. They’re managing to make it say hateful things.”

“Yeah,” God said.

“Well,” I said, after waiting to see if God might want to elaborate. “Well. Could you step in here? I mean, they’re doing some real damage. You would not believe it.”

“Yes, I would,” God said.

“So, what gives? How can they do that? How can you let them? Somehow, they’re ignoring the basics, drilling down on obscure things, acting like know-it-alls. They’ve gone after gay people, and women, and brown skins, and they adore rich people, excusing all sorts of crap that you wouldn’t like. And acting like they don’t have to love anyone but themselves, and like it is okay to hate.

“Are you jealous?”

“What? No. Are you nuts? Fuck no. Hell no. I’m like that Psalmist. I only hate those who hate you. I want to chop off the heads of their babies…” I was being as sarcastic as I could possibly be.

God began to materialize, and she wasn’t in the best mood. She shook her head, and removed her hairpins, so her long thick mane fell to her waist. Her black eyes blazed. “Don’t do that,” she said, her voice stern. “You know better.”

“How?” I snapped back. “How do I know better, huh? There’s ugliness everywhere, and contradictions, and things that don’t make sense, and impossible commandments that no one even attempts, but then they try to defend things like capital punishment, and war, and they lord it over others. And forgiveness? Ha! And humility? Give me a break. And Mercy? Justice? Truth? Not a chance. It’s just greed and fear, greed and fear. We’re humans. By definition, we kill each other.”

God could see I was pretty wound up, so she waited and let me spew it all out. I ranted a bit more, but gradually grew calmer. She motioned for me to sit down, which I did, reluctantly.

“Honey, you’ve been reading with your eyes again, trying to fight judgement with judgement, fire with fire. Hunting for convincing words—written words—strokes of ink on paper. Screaming for answers in an answerless world.”

Oh, this made me crazy. I leaped up and grabbed for her hair. It turned to water. I drank. Her beautiful body turned to rain. I bathed. Through the clear water, I could see my heart, beating. I could see what was written there. In the profound silence of her absence, I could hear the tender whisper of this one small life I am trying to live.

 

A random text from God

20150423_185155-2

God texted to see if I’d be available for a get-together one Tuesday shortly after I’d finished the chemo. I clenched my jaw as I acknowledged I was free, but pointed out other options in case I could throw him off. He’s crazy, and difficult to talk to sometimes. Slow to speak, unassuming, but simultaneously requiring too much unearned adoration. Seriously. He’s almost condescending. And often he sets up these meetings and then no-shows. He runs out of money and his phone shuts down.

I called his mother later in the week, just to see if anything God said was true. “Yes,” the mother of God said. “He’s honest. Just unfiltered. He’s got a lot on his mind, you know.” She paused and said, “Say, you don’t happen to have any contact information, do you? He’s been out of touch with the family for a while.”

This set me back on my heels. Where was God? Last I knew, he was eating at the homeless shelter, picking up odd jobs and repairing bicycles. He likes to camp along the river if it isn’t too cold. How could I tell his mother this? How could his mother not know?

As Tuesday approached, I grew more and more anxious. I wished I could cancel, but with God, this is difficult. He arrived early, agitated. “Did you call my mother?” he asked, slapping his fist into his hand. He was clearly angry.

“No,” I lied. God knew. We locked eyes for a brief moment. Then he looked out the window at the apricot tree. “Looks like rain,” he said.

“Yes,” I said, sobbing. Why did everything have to be this hard? I’d lost my last apricot tree to aphids, and two sweet cherry trees to moles. I’d lost my uterus to cancer and my idealism to the nightly news. And now, God was angry just because I called his mother.

“Look,” God said, the anger abated. “Just as you are. And just as I AM.”

Then he put his long thin arms around me and bent his wild head down so it touched the top of my partially-regrown hair. “So it is, and so it will be.” His voice was as soft and dense as sleep. I climbed in, and was welcomed into the folds of that voice.

I still find rest in that thick, palpable space. There are so few places that offer any kind of shelter these days. I’m thankful, but sometimes, lately, it’s too crowded and noisy to really relax. And who knows which of these refugees might be carrying a bomb? I’ve been asked to carry one myself, but so far, I’ve refused.

 

 

The Value of Hate

dog-2

I stayed in the city last night. Slept in my favorite closet at my daughter’s little place. This morning, as anticipated, the woman who purports to hate her dog was up early, screaming obscenities through the thin walls. The dog is a little Corgi with the requisite liquid brown eyes, short fat legs, and wagging tail. It has no apparent way to defend itself.

According to other neighbors, the verbal assaults have been steady for the past five years, and include constant haranguing about the dog’s inadequacies and sins: stupidity, hair shedding, eating, drinking, looking, lying down, getting up, needing to go outside, and, well, being a dog. Strangely, I’ve rare even heard it bark.

The few times I’ve seen them outside, the woman walks close to the dog, yelling in an ugly voice. She openly declares her hatred for the dog, as if this will garner sympathy, connection, or even affection from her neighbors or passers-by. The dog looks innocent, but her ranting suggests such horrid behavior that even the most sincere dog lover might wonder about the incorrigible nature of this awful little dog.

So my daughter has orchestrated a rescue. She found someone willing to adopt the dog, and I helped her negotiate all the strange requirements necessary for the dog to move to a happy place. She chats up the neighbor most days now, tries to set a date, listens with patience and empathy, and waits for the dog to be handed over. She waits, and chats. And waits.

My daughter is too young to realize the enormous value of having something to hate.

Choice

imported-from-the-camera-april-2014-224-2

God left in the evening again. He’s doing some shift work and right now, he’s on nights. I watched him pull out, his hands gripping the wheel, his ragged head tipped forward, determined. Frustration burned in my soul and I wanted to scream. Night shifts are not good for anyone, especially when the company flips people back and forth every five days or so. In the next life, I hope God’s experience with this kind of work insures that no one has to give up their pleasant, warm, cozy bed and venture into the cruel, cold darkness to earn their way along. But the next life, who knows? God plays that one close to the vest.

It’s been hard to resist talking politics with God lately, but he’s too tired. Luckily, we’ve covered a lot of this ground at other points in our relationship. One time, when I was honestly considering whether abortion was wrong, and if so, whether society should take the choice away, God grabbed my attention. We were standing under an apple tree (true story) in early fall, and of course, apples are a result of a fertilized seed, and they were lovely. But each apple also contained a lot of fertilized seeds. And the weeds I hadn’t quite gotten pulled had an astounding number of fertilized seeds in fragile snowy circles, and the juicy tomatoes, and the tender corn. Fertilized seeds everywhere.

There are millions more fertilized seeds than could or should be brought to fruition in both the plant and animal worlds. This fact slammed me alongside the head. “Hey God,” I said. “They wouldn’t all fit, would they?”

All things fertilized are not meant for fruition. And bean sprouts are sprouts, not beans.

And humans have frontal lobes and consciousness. We anticipate the future, analyze the past, and make choices that greatly affect those around us. Some of our current choices might determine if human life can continue on this generous, bodacious earth. That’s how much choice God gives us. If there was ever a god who endorsed choice, it’s you, isn’t it God?

I said all this to God. I was not struck by lightning. Instead, the enormous responsibility of love descended on my shoulders. Mercy, not judgement. Justice, not expediency. Humility, not insistence. Wisdom, not rigidity. There are times when a pregnancy should not continue. This is a private matter. Usually painful and difficult. God’s warm lap and huge comforting arms are available, but not required.

In the soft humus of rotting leaves, I sat under the tree and ate my way around the worm holes in a crisp, tart apple. I raked up the bruised windfalls and gently put them in the compost where they’ll decompose—their essence a sweet scent, rising off the altar of endlessness, where Alpha and Omega play fearless, holy, circle games, propelled by joy.

This apple seed revelation was decades ago. I’ve still not been struck by lightning. I still wear the mantel of love, wrapped tight. God still turns to me, and me to God. In fact, I have some warm bread ready for when he stumbles home, and a darkened room where he can rest, undisturbed.

 

God and I win Big…

20150421_110744-2

Or should I say biggly? No. Not biggly, right God? We should not sink to that level of mockery…

We shouldn’t even brag, but it is sort of Mitch’s fault (https://mitchteemley.com/2017/02/09/my-blogger-recognition-award/) because Mitch, someone I’ve never met except in the form of shared words, nominated me and God for a BLOGGER RECOGNITION AWARD. And unless he made this whole thing up (which Mitch is entirely capable of doing), I need to reciprocate. Of course, I would nominate Mitch, but he already got nominated, so I will play by the following rules:

Blogger Recognition Award Rules

  • Thank the blogger/s who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Write a post about it the Blogger Recognition Award
  • Briefly tell how your blog started
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  • Select 15 bloggers to give this award to

How I started

It seemed like the thing to do. I’ve been interacting with creation and the creator for a long, long time, and the urge to capture some of that in words and then find a way to share it overcame my natural reticence and skepticism.

Two Sagely Pieces of Advice

  1. Open up space in your soul whatever ways you can to grow and become a wiser, kinder human being. That might result in better writing, but if will for sure make the world a better place.
  2. Remind yourself how very, very short our lives are–and if you are inclined to write, get with it.

And now, my nominees and a confession. I’ve not been blogging long, so I only have a few followers and only follow a few blogs. I can’t nominate that many…

I get a kick out of Belfastfoodman because of the places his foodie posts take me in  my mind. He also appears to be able to step out of his usual mode and express real human concerns. https://belfastfoodman.com/2017/02/01/fair-weather-so-called-friends/

My buddy who bravely began blogging before I did has this blog:

https://yakkityyakblog.wordpress.com/    and it is a funny, insightful, carefully crafted piece of writing every time she posts.

Ok. That’s it, but I have a worried feeling that the links I’ve pasted in aren’t going to work. That’s how techie I am…and let me assure you, God is even worse.

Peace. And thanks again Mitch.

 

Mistaken Identity at City Brew

p1040827-2

There’s one vacant seat, and I ease into it without spilling. Two women to the right share a long forced laugh that ends in an awkward sob. One of them is trying to absorb what it means to have a dead husband. The other one is helping, such as she can. Not long ago, her husband died too.

The man directly in front of me is typing, fast and loud. A swarm of words hovers above his keyboard, landing occasionally on his glasses. He has to wipe the lenses. I’m not sure if it’s words or tears and I don’t want to look too closely.

Sticky muffins punctuate the shiny table, and an older woman, her skin, deep purple, is texting and sipping from a tall black cup while a younger woman sighs, making her way through a stack of bills, paying with her phone. The devil is in the details. But if that’s where the devil is, where’s God? Where are you? Do you hang out in the details too?

Yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve dropped a lot of hints about this over the eons, but remember how dense we are, how sheltered, avoidant, afraid. Have mercy, Royal Master of the Known and Unknown. Peek out at me. Wave or wink so I can get my bearings. Who should get the lion’s share of my love and attention? Is there anyone here I could scorn, just a little? I need to scorn someone right now. Oh, how I need to scorn.

A train rolls by. The conductor waves, the whistle blows, I stare out the icy window and then refocus back in the cozy room. Halleluia! There you are! I jump up to offer you the last muffin. I’m a dog, licking your wounds. I’m a bird, nesting in your hair, I’m an apple, a warm coat, a shiny red car. God, do you want a ride? Can I give you a lift? Where shall we go? C’mon God. I need outta here, outta here, outta here.

Oh, no! Not God? Oh my. Excuse me. I mistook you for an old friend of mine. Very sorry.

I’ve caused a ruckus. I’ve been asked to leave. God is laughing from the belly of a very pregnant woman. She shouldn’t be drinking coffee anyway. How could I have known? I cross the street, dazed. I hear the caw of a crow. The twisted feet of a hundred homeless people have frozen to the sidewalk. They can’t move. I can’t move. We will wait for the sun together. I am at peace.