Dust Mite

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Sometimes, my co-author pushes things a little further than seems appropriate and leaves me dangling. For instance, this morning I’ve had to gulp back my aversion and hide my incredulity while  I try to model polite acceptance. “Hello, God,” I said. “I see you’ve become a dust mite.”

No discernible answer. I try a little ingratiation. “Wow. You’re so tiny and translucent.” But I’m thinking UGLY! Of course, I realize beauty’s in the biased eye of the beholder. I continue on. “And bugs like you are impossible to eradicate.”

Without a word, God infiltrates my psyche and I drop a little deeper. Humans can dip very low. God can dip lower.

“God, you freak me out. You’ve taken up residence in the detritus of humankind, yet you remain essential and good. You’re living where we’ve been, transforming what’s fallen from our bodies into sustenance. You restore meaning to things that have been cast off and forgotten. You complete the circle. You’re like a mother clasping the old sweaty shirt of her child to her heart, weeping for all that has been, all that could have been. Taking courage from the scent remaining in the shredded cloth. You fearlessly find the way forward. Onward.” Still no answer, but I think God is in agreement.

“I’m like that today too, God,” I say, longing for some kind of affiliation.

I’m sitting beside my expanding rock collection–stones that were once fallen trees, transformed by minerals in the ancient putrid waters that sucked them down. I can’t fathom the pressure necessary to create these stones. And how is it they’ve come to be here, on my bench, in my house, absorbing the warmth of the morning sun?

Judging from the way things break down and are reconfigured, my place in this cacophony of life and death is a whimsical bit of happenstance. This upsets me a little bit.

“Sometimes, I wish you took me a little more seriously, Dust mite God,” I said. Of course, no answer.  “Okay, sometimes I wish you didn’t pay any attention to me at all. You’re a frightening, infinitesimal speck of persistence, patiently digesting, creating and re-creating this ragged world and all that is within it.” No comment. No reaction. I stumble on.

“Diminutive God, you’re nearly invisible to the naked eye.  I don’t know what to make of you. Why have you chosen to inhabit such a tiny space.?”

Finally, I realize there will be no reasonable answers. In fact, there will be no answers at all today. Only compassion. Only resurrection. Only the icy hope of rising water, the magical appearance of red-winged blackbirds, the ambivalent green of an ordinary day.

In this version of myself, I am the friend of dust mites, the builder who will not reject these temporary stones. I am a transitory being of ashes and dust, improvising the best I can with the materials at hand. I won’t get it entirely right. No one ever does. And it doesn’t matter in the least.

 

In Praise of Sky

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I sing the praises of blue, blue sky, diving magpies, hawks, and ravens. Perfectly still air, and a calm soul. I shout thanks for the excellent sleep and the waking, consciousness and sustenance, and the rusty metal relics I’ve made into toys and works of art. Pumpkin pie and beer for breakfast. Lotion for my itchy legs. A plan that will help me sequence as I meander. A charger for my phone. I am among the blessed. My good fortune extends so far beyond what I deserve that the comparison is spurious. What I deserve and what I have are unrelated. To prove otherwise would involve such massive statistical analyses, only God could give it a go.

My mind wanders. Imagine God with 7 billion independent undeserving variables lining up with their blessings and curses, their riches and hunger, their longings and fears. What connects to what? What would the dependent variables be? Clean air? Laughter? Breast milk? Weapons? Money? Love? A full belly? A fantastic sexual partner? Healthcare?

Correlation is NOT causation. This is the single spiritual truth I learned in Advanced Statistics. But, my or my, aren’t we tempted to draw the easy conclusions? Isn’t it hard to let go of those judgements about who deserves what? Some graceless days, I deserve nothing. Some malevolent days, I’d willingly get rid of half the world’s population, convinced I’d be doing the Universe a favor.

Tune in here, God. Don’t you realize how maddening it is to be us? Well-fed, fulfilled human beings who’ve invented politics, the nightly news and the Internet? I didn’t ask to be born who I am, where I am. Why am I not a dead Syrian child? Why am I not a billionaire? God, you’re inconsistent and nearly inscrutable. What am I? What am I supposed to do?

“Enough,” God said. “You’re enough. You’re a stitch in the quilt I’ve been working on, a glimmer of light through water, you add to the harmonics, and help with the boredom I face occasionally. I set you free before you knew what that meant, and I’ve been trying to teach you ever since. Most humans are frightfully slow learners, but luckily, I invented education, and if you’re willing, I’ll keep teaching you.”

“Ok,” I said meekly.

“Good to hear,” God said. “You can back off the statistics. I was enjoying your revelry before you drifted. Do what’s in your heart to do. Let your joy make you brave, compassion make you strong. That’s how I do it, and remember, we’re a lot alike.”

“Yeah. I hate when you point that out,” I said, loosening up a little.

God laughed and blew me flirtatious kisses, like fireworks on the horizon. I blew some back and began again to praise the blue, blue sky. But frankly, it didn’t seem like enough. I crossed my arms, ill at ease with my comparative wealth. God laughed again. “Keep trying,” God whispered. “Keep trying.”

Sad

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This morning, long before daylight, I woke to the sound of someone crying. It was God. She’d been crying quietly all night, but as the wee hours waned, her sobs grew louder. The darkness just before dawn is a tough time for a lot of us. Years ago, when I first heard God crying, I was shocked. If anyone should be able to cheer themselves up, wouldn’t it be God? Just go make another planet or something, I’d thought, wanting to get away from that oceanic, gripping sorrow.

But if you’ve ever loved anyone or anything at any time, you know that backing away from the sadness only twists and distorts—it doesn’t make it go away. So after I realized I wasn’t going to abandon God or hide from the grief, we made a little deal. God doesn’t back away when I’m sad, and I try my best to stay present when God’s heart is breaking. The roughest times are when she considers how much hatred is leveled in her name, how much suffering we inflict on each other, or how trashed this stunning little planet has become. These things catch up with her sometimes.

I often find comfort in the lap of God. It’s far more awkward when God tries to fit on mine, but that’s what needed to happen. My lap expanded to the size of a mountain range, my arms grew a million miles long, and I wrapped them around her, nice and snug. Then I swayed to the subterranean beat of the cosmos, murmuring the bits of hope I could muster, singing fragments of lullabies that came to mind.

“Sweet Lord,” I whispered. “You try so hard. You love so deeply. You’re a worthy, excellent God.”

Her head was tucked, body curled. Her vibrations were pulling me to pieces. She was in real pain.

“Gentle God,” I said. “Remember the good old days? When you were having so much fun, setting earth in motion, and sprinkling stars everywhere. Remember that? It must have been awesome.”

“Yes,” she said, her voice murky with grief. “So much I remember. So much I hoped.”

“And you can still hope, right? I mean, it isn’t over yet, is it?”

“I don’t know, my friend,” she said, with a deep, unsteady breath. “I honestly don’t know. You tell me.”

Dawn arrived. God wrapped herself in light, splashed her face in the falling snow, and thanked me as she became the song of the great horned owl, calling it a night. Heading for bed. This was good. We both desperately needed some rest. And then, it’s clear, I have work to do. We all have work to do.

Brown God, White Bread

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Dear Brown God,

I ate white bread for you today. Yes, I did. I swallowed my aversion, draped a delicate veil of righteousness over my shoulders, and let the elements slide down my throat.

I did this without expectation. Frankly, it was mostly for show. But suddenly, there you were, sidling my direction. I shook my head, signaling you should leave me alone. My face said, “Do not sit anywhere near me.” You ignored my face.

We sat in uncomfortable silence on the back bench. When the time came for confession of sins, I scratched you a note, “Do not expect much from me. I’m white like the bread, inside and out.” But I didn’t have the courage to slide it over. We stared straight ahead. I felt myself starting to come apart. Like a shy lover, you gently took my hand, entwining our fingers one by one. No one noticed this merger, this complete dissolution of boundary and intent. In what was left of my center, a longing welled up to be poor, and brown, and hungry. To be courageous, worthy, alive. There, amongst acquaintances, I was a refugee—landless, homeless, stripped of my claims to humanity. Then I was a snowy owl, a field of lilies, a night, blackened by the turning of the earth, given a small reprieve by galaxies that refuse to be silenced.

A ragtag choir rushed to the front and began to sing the haunting plea, Dona Nobis Pachem. They were joined by the Gay Men’s Choir from San Francisco, and then by what appeared to be German children, mostly blond, and an orchestra, complete with a massive section of violins. They played. They sang. They begged for peace. You and I, God. You and I. We drank the music in like water. We sang until we dissolved, flowing in harmony toward the rising sea. All that remained was a little smear of hope on the new carpet. It glowed iridescent beneath the worn boots of those who will always stay faithfully behind.

And now, back in my tentative body, a howling wind is blowing me sideways. The evening is falling hard. I’m writing you this note to say I’m sorry. No matter how many times you stop by and remind me to be brave, and to eat with joy, I’m still a bit selfish and afraid.

Dona Nobis Pachem, Brown God. And rest well. Tomorrow will be another day.

Yours,

Rita

Longevity

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Out the southern window, eleven Canadian Geese sliced silently through the sky in a straight dark line. But it only looks straight. It’s curved like the earth, curved like all who dwell herein. An orange school bus glides along the distant road, carrying tired values and outdated ideas back and forth while unruly children bounce on the cracked leather seats. I’ve ridden that bus all my life. The back window rattles loose and I occasionally escape, but I don’t get far.

To mark the path home, I’ve rolled large stones into a curved line, and stacked smaller ones on the rounded tops, held in place by gravity, spit, and Zen. When the wind howls through the valley, some of them tumble off. These are local river rocks, but I drag stones home from wherever I go. Alleys, beaches, roadways, mountains, even other continents.

Decades ago, I rescued a collection of agates that had been buried by debris in the back yard of an old Forest Service office. I imagined the collector, likely now dead, watching from beyond. I wash them occasionally, and put them in new buckets, but at some point, I’ll do something more fitting, more spectacular with them. They seem content to wait. If anything can grasp the term geologic time, it would be rocks. When I was a child, I thought trees lived forever. Now I know they don’t, and I’m glad. I’m warmed by their cast-off bodies, sheltered by their harvested limbs.

And rocks don’t last forever either. But their comparative longevity is comforting.

And what’s forever, anyway? The little God on my shoulder—the one that ordained this moment–whispers something in my ear. “It’s music. Or another name for winter.”

Ah. I see. Listen to me all you fireflies and buffalo, nymphs and gnomes, wind and sun, seeds and stones. This is the gospel for today: Trees don’t live forever. Rocks don’t last forever. Bus rides eventually end. The earth is a circle moving in circles, creating the cradle, smoothing the grave. And that is how it should be. Amen.