The sky is shaking,
Falling an earth that’s aching,
It’s been about a month now. The intensity of my life in the city seems far away, farther than the few weeks that it is. Sometimes I don’t like how far it seems and I reach back and pull memories close. But whether or not I like it, I’m moving on. When you leave a thing it becomes part of the past and no matter how much it has changed you and still winds through your thoughts, it is done. And gone. But I spent a whole year there, living, struggling, growing and it seems sad and wrong to let it slip behind me out of reach. More and more colors of that life are blurring into one subtle hue. A summary. And yet, so much of it stills lives in me. What makes it seem different from any other year? What makes it seem like another life instead of just a difficult and intriguing twist in the road? It’s just as much part of my life as any other year. But it’s the sudden disconnection that makes it seem cut off and separate from this. And it is the familiarity and returning to a well known path that makes coming home seem like going backwards. But both are illusions.
I feel kind of like earth that this past year has dug up, watered, enriched, planted, and unearthed things I never knew existed. There were long droughts where I hoped that I would last till the rains came. And what was planted reached its roots down deep, searching for water. But above ground the leaves are browned and ragged and the wind has swept the dust around in confusion. But I believe the rains are still to come.
So I am home. Home where the monsoons twist clouds into wild flashing things and lay soft rich light on an evening. Home where we rejoice at every tender green thing the cracked earth pulls from its heart. Home where eyes run wide and far, going miles before finding rest. Home where the moody mountains wear scarves and carry you to wild heights. Home where 105 year old Pearl still lives on, but needs more care. Home where dad and mom and the sisters and brother are. And they name home wherever they are. So I name this home too.
I felt the house growing dark like night and went to look out the back window. The bright sky was pulling a cloak of brooding gray over itself, like a dark curtain drawn over a sunny window. The whole atmosphere took on a moody, testy air, like a cat with its hair standing on end. It felt electric. Fuzzy pollen was falling up instead of down. The air was bronze, full of mystery and finicky currents. A strange light danced on everything. There was a flash of white, then another. A guttural rumble reverberated in the distance. Like a play where the scene changes, the scene from my window was changing and only a small golden gap along the horizon remained of the last one. Then the gap closed. A drop was hurled from a sullen cloud. Then a blinding sheet was let down. For several minutes raindrops sprayed like bullets into the earth from the army of dark clouds. Slowly it stopped. Everything blinked back their tears, looked into an emerging sun, and laughed softly. Water gathered into pools, turning concrete to sky, or drew itself into beeds on the underside of leaves and petals. Each drop held a sun. The curtain had been swept back. The storm was over.
8:00 p.m.– A sinking airplane, shrunk by distance, drags slow along the horizon. Birds dive down in clusters and scatter across the bed of sky above me. Flames of light lick the windowpanes of a far-away building. Leafy sentinels guard the streets, some bowing solemnly, some standing tall and stiff, some shifting restlessly. I sit crosslegged on the roof, above the world. Writing.
If I didn’t know better I would think the horizon was the edge of the world, and that the world was made of blocks and legos. When the light outside recedes, the light inside grows brighter. But right now is the time between, when the sun is gone, leaving only its dove-gray memory, and the windows have not yet found their light, so confused they are not to have it shining in from the outside. And they stare bleakly, gray and blank.
Crinkled face of water
flashing eyes of sun
Water stirring, swirling
tossing in its sleep
Boiling water woken
coughing, spewing phlegm
Rabid water snarling
foaming at the mouth
Dying water sinking
cut deeply at the throat
A gaping wound broke open
by knives from my boat.
We drive into the traffic, pushed and pulled by the throng of cars heading deeper and deeper into the heart of a smog-buried city. The thick gray-brown air wraps heavy arms around the waists of tall skyscrapers, choking a city into oblivion. The dull blue of the sky and the grungy brown of the air give the sensation of Summer and heat, but in fact it is just the beginning of Spring and quite chill. Birds sail, leaving a smooth sea of sky in their wake. Some of the sky falls into rivers which hold it like a mirror, except for where the finicky winds disturb it in patches, chopping and breaking up the sky’s clear reflection. Light plays with everything, running around one side of a building to burst like a surprise on the other, hiding among leaves, pushing shadows into cracks and corners, painting, licking, spilling, scribbling. Sometimes I wonder how Earth can hold the weight of the world, and if it gets tired. I wonder if waves happen when Earth heaves weary sighs, if night happens when Earth closes heavy eyes, if sinkholes happen when Earth’s strength caves in because it can no longer hold the weight of the world.
Bridges wrap like vines through a forest of high rise buildings. Scarred trees, like beggars, thrust gnarled hands under streetlamps to seize their meager light as the day dies. Vacant-eyed buildings stand tall and desolate. The skyline is now dark blue and glittering and the thick sediment of the day sinks down between the huddled buildings. A tired sun leans heavily against sidewalks and walls, stretching and kneading shadows until an evening breeze sweeps it into the horizon and it falls into Tomorrow. The last of it is still draining from the sky, leaving behind Tonight. Memories and dreams sift through me and settle deep with the night, feeling so far away and yet so much a part of me, making the distance hurt.
Feature photo credits: Priscilla Weaver
If light were wet I’d drink it
If light were wet I’d cry it
If light were wet I’d swim in it
Light slipped and fell in a puddle tonight
This morning I saw it fall and break
Now it falls and drifts from a solemn moon
Again the tide of light has come in and again gone out.
We are all living trinities. You are a body, soul, and spirit deeply entwined together, so thickly woven that none can escape without a death.
Our souls give life to our bodies, our bodies give flesh to our spirits. The soul can break free and go where the body cannot go, but the body must first die. Or the body can choke the spirit with it’s needs and desires and the spirit dies. A body without a soul can only live on earth. A spirit without a body can only live in eternity.
We are born body, soul, and spirit, each wrapped up in the other, humanly inseparable. Physical pain affects our spirits. Spiritual pain affects our souls. And we are a race of pain. We are born through pain, we inflict pain on ourselves, on others, and others inflict pain on us.
Some people are dealt so much pain that it becomes abuse. Some are abused physically, their bodies taken from them against their will and used and abused. And the soul and spirit are woven so tight with it that they suffer with the body. And often they try to break the bond to protect the spirit and soul at least. They may end up severing the tie so completely that they actually offer their bodies to be used. It is what they are valued for and we all want value. They come to believe it is their only value. And they think that they have separated that part of themselves so well and built walls so strong around the rest of themselves, that they are safe. But remember how there is always a death?
This breaking apart happens in many different ways on many different scales. But it happens to all of us. It may happen when our perfect performance is demanded, but our hearts are not wanted, not valued, not loved. So that our hungering spirits, our lonely souls become disconnected, until what we value ourselves for, as well, is our performance. If we don’t perform satisfactorily, we are a failure. But again, there is death somewhere. We become machines. And it is terrifying to stir up our spirits again after we have silenced them. It gives us both inexplicable hope and terrifying dread to discover that we have not actually killed it completely. We have found an identity in it. We know how to perform. This is what we are accepted for, needed for. And to find out that it gives us no value is horrifying. But to find that God is who gives us our value and he wants to have your soul and live in your spirit and breathe life into you, that is wonderful beyond words. That we can do nothing to be worthy of love, to earn it, is despairing. But that we are given love unconditionally and abundantly anyway, is awesome.
When a fragmented human turns again toward the light and seeks to be whole again, it is a long, painful, grueling journey of risk and fear. Fearing to feel again, fearing to live again, fearing to be hurt again, as your broken trinity reunites and begins to grow and intertwine again into a glorious, alive, dangerous human.
We don’t like feelings. Especially we Mennonites, I think. We treat them like parasites. Something that you don’t talk openly about. Something gross to be gotten rid of. Something that eats you from inside. Preachers say, “don’t go by your feelings.” People say, “I shouldn’t feel this way.” I say, “I don’t want to feel this way.”
But what if we cannot help how we feel? Am I the only one that has tried to manage how I feel inside, to stomp out feelings, to hide feelings, to ignore feelings, to pretend they aren’t there, to kill them with poison or logic or neglect or shame? Am I the only one who has had no success? Please, I’m not to the point yet so don’t assume I’m saying we can do nothing about our feelings.
I’ve had a canyon of feelings ever since I can remember. I was one mess of a baby. One mess of a child. One mess of a teenager. I am not a teenager anymore. And you are wanting to know if I’m one mess of an adult, I guess. I’m not telling you. But I feel like I am slowly discovering something that is slowly changing me. May I tell you?
What if I would suggest to you that feelings are not a sickness, but a symptom? What if feelings are the irregular heartbeat to a heart that has broken somewhere? Can we regulate that rhythm without mending the instrument?
Feelings are reckless, illogical, powerful, controlling. Who wants something like that? And yet we are born with them inside ourselves. As children we are driven by them. We wear them on our sleeves, unashamed. They affect everything we do. We do what we feel like and complain when we are made to do what we don’t feel like doing because we feel like complaining. Slowly we are taught to ignore those feelings. And suddenly we are adults among seemingly unfeeling adults. And we feel very alone and many other things, but would never admit it to them.
I say “we” as if assuming that is your story too, when I know nothing about you. You may as well know that I am including you because it feels less personal. Just be glad I don’t say “you”. But maybe I’ve still gone too far. Maybe you don’t understand at all what I mean.
So many feelings have swept through me. Rivers of them, leaving behind leaves and things till I’ve become choked with these memories. I call it baggage. Grownups are baggage carriers. We think carrying all this baggage makes us strong. But it actually just makes us weary and worn down when we could be happy and dancing.
And it all starts with those feelings. We don’t understand them and they are so strong that we fight against them and try to shove them into iron cages. And then we make these iron cages stronger and stronger to hold in these feelings that only seem to be getting stronger and more deadly. We begin to see them as our enemy, our ruin. And we are only as strong as that iron cage. Behind the bars the ugly feelings grow cold and dark and toxic. Every time we peer through the bars we are more sickened and terrified than we were before. Every time those feelings are harder to admit. And sometimes they break forth and murder everything and everyone in their path, including us. Of course they are our enemy.
But what if we would stop throwing every bad feeling into this poisonous pit? And instead, we would say with our words what we feel, in all its horror. What if we would weep for those we have hurt and for those who have hurt us. What if we would let that pain blind us with tears and rip up that mask we have perfected so carefully. What if everyone would see us for who we are. What if we would look ourselves in the eye and not look away again.
What if we would begin again, like a child. We would love openly, but like one who has found Love, we would never demand love. We would cry without shame, but like one who has felt other’s pain, we would never manipulate with tears. We would laugh without fear, but as one who has walked through deep darkness, we would not lose our calm. We would do what we love with inspiration, but like one who has learned joy, we would live for other’s joy. We would live in wonder, but like one who has learned more, we would see more. We would live fearless, but like one who knows our own selfishness, we would never become confident in ourselves.