Between Earth and Heaven

1.09.2015


"I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky though
a notch in the valley-side,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth from myself and be free."

Wendell Berry
The older I get, the more I realize how I crave nature. The allure of a shiny bright city still remains, of course, yet I cannot ignore the quiet way solid packed earth and trickling streams and gentle rolling hills twist their way around my soul and ground me. A mountain man (woman) I am not, and, although it has crossed my mind once or twice, I don't think you'll ever have to worry about me disappearing to live in the forest. Still, the great outdoors always beckons...

New Year's in my family is one of the most low-key holidays and I like it that way very much. It has become a tradition to escape to a cabin and live off the grid for a few days. It's a beautiful, grounding way to send off the old year and ring in the new. This year was especially special, reunited safe with four out of my five siblings after a heck of a year. Have I ever mentioned how thankful I am for my weird and wonderful family? Competitiveness and all. See, this year we all split up into teams and competed very (very) fiercely in a breakfast competition. Shrouded in a thick layer of secrecy, each team was assigned a morning. No one was hampered by the limited cabin-provided utensils and each breakfast seemed to be more elaborate than the last, I swear: freshly baked bread and homemade potato pancakes and parfaits and hand-embellished menus. It was impressive. In the end, my sister Mariam and I won the competition by a mere four points and we gloated more than we probably should have. Like I said, we're a little competitive.

Between eating and reading and sleeping, we filled our time with cave exploring and long hikes in the misty rain. If I squinted hard enough I could pretend I was in the Pacific Northwest instead of southeastern Oklahoma. Wendell Berry was right, this is one of the thresholds between Earth and Heaven.
 

A small golden light

12.28.2014


"I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.
"And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, 'It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.'
"And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, 'This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.'"
Iain Thomas, I Wrote This For You
The mystery of a golden light has remained with me for weeks. What if there were a light indicating the people I’ve met and places I’ve been that I will never see or return to again? A sobering thought. And yet—life without a golden light suits me just fine. I like being surprised, and returning to a place to which I thought I’d said goodbye, and discovering that what I thought were lasts weren’t lasts after all.

The United States of America and I are still reacquainting. I don’t want to forget what it felt (feels) like to see my home with eyes caught in between two worlds. There is a lot wrong with the land I live in, but there is a lot of wonder, too. Broken and wild as the country is, I am grateful to be American. Living in Kenya was harder than I let myself admit, but the good, refining kind of hard. Some days I swear my life overseas was a dream, and others I wake up startled to be in Oklahoma.

Life lately has been so full I can hardly write about it. I met a boy, for one. He is kind and gentle and we are embarking on a hard and slightly scary but happy journey. It simultaneously surprises and makes me giddy every time I think about it. I’m happy, I truly am. A year from now I have no idea where I’ll be and depending on when you ask me, I’m either terrified or absolutely thrilled. Mostly the latter. There was Christmas, and it was beautiful. I’m reading five books at once and laughing a lot and making time for people I love and cracking stupid jokes and drinking more coffee than is probably healthy (or necessary). Cleaning out the excess, cleaning out my soul. Relishing in a hug here, a hand held there. I think, how stupid I was to take it all for granted.

2014 cracked me open, broke and rebuilt me, refined me, rooted and grounded me. Again the golden light. Reading through journals from one, two, three years ago and I think I must be living some sort of wonderfully impossible dream.
 

A Holy Journey

12.08.2014



"Oh, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be a stronger man. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks."

—Phillips Brooks


This ground I walk on—it is good. It is sacred. My “flesh gets numb, but the soul doesn’t.” * 

Home was a place to which I knew I would return—didn’t I?—and yet words betray the feeling of boarding my final flight home to Tulsa. Thirty hours of travel makes you think about much. Mostly about gratefulness, and grace. Contentment, too. I am happy, here at home. Have I said that before, I wonder? I was unsure how I would adjust to being home. There has been reverse culture shock to overcome, but mostly being home is safe and warm. For now I am back in the fold.

More clearly I am realizing the inevitable changes of being away. For myself, I know I am more appreciative. No, not simply appreciative—I am extraordinarily grateful, the kind that causes you to gather everything you hold dear and grasp it close close close. 

The end of this journey, I will never forget. What a gift, reunion. Beyond exhaustion, in need of a shower and a clean set of clothes, and yet there was unspeakable joy bubbling within. Smiling at the businessmen too busy to look up from their phones, smiling at the little girls clutching their mothers’ hand, smiling at the man selling newspapers. At first I walked fast to my family standing at the other end of the airport, then slowed a moment to take it in. A holy journey. Remember this, I told myself. This is sacred ground you walk on. 

*Book of Sketches,  Jack Kerouac

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