Caramel Sauce

I

“God,” I said. “Could you pass the caramel sauce?” We were enjoying bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. It seemed a small request, so when God grabbed the jar, tipped it to his lips, and chugged the contents, I was astonished. Caramel doesn’t usually flow like milk, but God’s hand was so hot, the sweet sluggish sauce thinned, and he gulped it down, just like that.

God put the empty jar in front of me, looking decidedly sick. My ice cream melted as I stared at him and considered what to say or do. Clearly, this wasn’t about the caramel. Was this a lesson? A parable? A joke? Had God lost his mind? Was God going to throw up? It looked possible, so I slid our silver garbage can toward him.

Sure enough, up it came. God dropped to his knees, clutching the garbage can, retching and sweating, pale as a ghost. The smell of caramel-tinged stomach acid wafted through the air. I wanted to move discretely away, but I would’ve had to step over him. It is never wise to step over the heaving body of God, so I waited.

And waited. I was trying to remember the symptoms of rabies. There were bits of foam on the sides of God’s mouth, and he looked miserably deranged. Why had I asked for that caramel sauce? My ice cream was fine without it. Why do I ask for anything? As minutes gave way to hours, God swelled into swarms of bees, throngs of refugees, herds of cattle, sprouting seeds, and the vast undulating sky. The soft perimeter of what appeared to be reality gave way and I began to fall. “This could be my final fall,” I thought to myself as the lanolin scent of wool filled my nostrils. But it was not my final fall. Not my last bowl of ice cream.

II

In the wake of the caramel incident, God has been more circumspect. “I may not be as stable as I think I am,” she admitted. “Maybe I need more rest.”

“But you’re the definition of rest,” I countered, hesitant to upset her but unwilling to let go of my favorite idea about God. God stared straight ahead. Words ground to a halt and the long overdue ice age arrived.

We froze solid, but God’s eyes burned from within the glacial temple. Brightly winged beings touched smoldering coals to my lips and lifted the sun back into place. This was good. In fact, this was perfect. I had raspberries to transplant, and they need the sun. There’s nothing better than raspberry sauce from the hardy heirloom varieties I love so much.

The Words Live On

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This past week, Ram Dass died. He’d had a stroke in 1997, and his acceptance of that disabling event was inspiring. This morning as I read over quotes that capture his sensibilities, I feel envy. Don’t we all want to be a guru? An old soul? But I say to myself, “Choose your poison, choose your longings, choose your savior. But most importantly choose your words.” Ram Dass knew the power of choice and the power of words, especially after the stroke. Words are part of the way we build up or tear down. We can hurt each other with a simple twist of the tongue. We can speak vicious untruths.

One of the reasons I like God is that God lives so far beyond words. Sure, she stops by, and we chat in English (I am hopelessly monolingual), but sometimes she lifts me by the back of my neck and nestles me down in something indescribably warm and delicious. “What is this place?” I ask by lifting one eyebrow. She laughs.

“I call it forgiveness,” God says. “But you might think of it as gratitude. The place where the best ideas are born. I don’t know. Call it whatever you’d like. Use your words.”

I throw a holiday pillow at God. She’s put a Christmas stocking on her head and wrapped solar LED lights around her waist. “In the beginning was the Word,” she says, teasing, almost giddy. “Why do people ignore that? Word. Word. Word.” She then begins singing. “All you need is Love…da da da da da…All you need is Love. Love. Love is all you need.” She leans in, holding a golden microphone. In the glow, I feel old. Unshiny. Words are escaping me at ever accelerating rates. I want them back. I want fresh starts, clean sheets, no scars. And lots of fancy words. But God just shakes her booty and turns up the volume.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy…Love is all you need.

“Lennon and McCartney.” She kisses her fingertips and takes a bow. “Brothers from another planet.” Again, envy. I want to be a brother from another planet. I want to be Ram Dass, Maya Angelo, Sir Paul, Lady Gaga, Nancy Pelosi, Mother Theresa, and Harriett Tubman. I want to matter. The glib assurances of salvation from a distant God, formulas and pat answers—I spit them out. I want to eat first fruits from the magic tree.

“Oh, no you don’t,” God says, suddenly quite serious.  “No, you absolutely do not want to do that. Why on God’s green earth do you think such things?”

“Because someone has to save us from ourselves,” I say. But I know that isn’t true. It’s already too late, and the saving has been neatly wrapped in the dying for longer than anyone but God can remember. God grins at me. “Been there, done that,” she says. “And to tell you the truth, sometimes I wonder if it was worth it.”

Now I’m the one who is suddenly serious. “Oh, it was, baby God,” I say, letting those words take my entire being. “It absolutely was.”

Envisioned but Unexpressed

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I have a lot of sway-backed shelves sagging under the weight of my various anxieties and accumulated supplies–tins of sardines, bags of rice, quinoa, pasta, and popcorn. My internal ambiance closely resembles my outer surroundings—disorganized abundance within and without. For instance, you would not believe my hoard of art supplies. Found objects. Brushes. Half-used, mostly dried paint and ink. Reclamations and creations at the ready; envisioned, but unexpressed.

“Nice,” God says as she surveys the scene. “Envisioned but unexpressed. I like that.”

“I don’t,” I say. “How many recycled canvases, wooden boxes, odd-shaped bottles, and smooth rocks do I need? What I need is time. Inspiration. Discipline. Not more words, and definitely not more clutter.”

“You sound like your own mother,” God says. “I’m a little jealous. Isn’t that my job?”

“Maybe,” I say, in breezy tone. “But I don’t mind. I’m highly skilled at self-denigration and shallow despair.”

“Oh good grief,” God says. “Some days I don’t think you’ve even made my acquaintance. Shut up already.”

I’m a little startled. Who wouldn’t be? But after I get over my surprise, I feel honored. How many people does God tell to shut up? Maybe I’m special. I wait, respectfully silent. Expectant. Ready to hang on every word.

And…you guessed it. Silence. Utter silence. The kind of silence that waits on the other side of the mirror. If you’re brave enough to hold your own stare, you’ll learn a great deal from the pigment in your irises and your soulful black pupils steadily pulling the outer light in. We’re momentary shades of inherited longing, hoping for an impossible permanence.

Oh so gently, God takes away the mirrors and windows. The shelves and drawers are bare. No canned milk, no lentils, no cereal, no chocolate. My closet echoes in its emptiness. My art supplies are gone. I have nothing left. Even the walls are gone. I stand stark naked, unable to move or see.

“God,” I whisper. “What color am I now?”

“Baby blue,” God whispers back. I can see it in my mind; the delicate color of untouched sky.

“And God,” I add. “Are there any words left?”

“One,” God says. “There’s one. There’s only ever been one.”

“It’s my name, isn’t it?” I ask, stricken. Terrified. It’s the name I can’t remember. God shakes her head.

“Not now, sweet thing,” she says, handing me my T-shirt and jeans. “But someday. And when the time is right, you’ll remember.”