Let me walk out of this place,
run if I have to,
hiding in your darkness.
Cover my ears to block the wailing;
that smell, still pungent and unmistakable
as I cross the threshold into sky.
(I’m one of the stars, you know.)
Throw what you can on my back
made broad and strong for this
(four hundred years will do that);
take my hand and all that
your trembling arms will hold.
Not an eye or a thought is on us tonight.
Walk quickly ahead and believe
when I say
this is free.

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Last week I was invited to join a Facebook group celebrating my 11th grade English teacher and his classes.  He was that great, fun teacher, letting us write quotes on the walls and sit on an old couch.  He introduced me to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Pat Conroy, and to Toni Morrison, who helped me fall completely in love with words and language.  He also gave us vocabulary, and lots of it.  I still have the stacks of index cards, cataloging words that I’m pretty sure live only to be used on the SAT and in The New Yorker.  The invitation’s timing was a fun coincidence, because I’d just been remembering all that as I considered naming this blog.  I really wanted it to be “Searching for Propinquity”.

propinquity (n.) – proximity; nearness in space and time

I’ve always loved that definition, the picture it gives, the idea it represents:  being close to something in multiple dimensions.  Sadly I think the word itself is just a little lacking in finesse and a little too much for what we’re doing here.  For a while a few years ago, I actually convinced myself that the word was propensity, which I promptly began using incorrectly and is something else entirely.  I also recently discovered through a little Googling that propinquity is a big concept in social psychology, including something called the propinquity effect.  It sounded kind of fascinating, and maybe it’s relevant, but in the end it was just too much to sort out for naming a blog. 

Still, it’s kind of what this is all about.  We want to be near, to be close, and even when we’ve found that closeness, it draws us in and we want other people to have it too.  I think often that’s why we’re so struck by writing or music or art.  I hear or read or see something and the distance between me and the creator disappears, because it’s explained me better than I can explain myself.  In that moment we’ve been seen, understood, and connected.  And then we want to share, post it, tweet it, pass it out – “look at this, listen; this is me. ” We see and feel and know, and want to know that someone else does, too.

It’s a tricky desire, this need for closeness, and it’s full of dangerous points that I still only navigate with moderate success (I’m remembering Relational Dialectics theory, but we’ll save that for another post, maybe after the one about why I’m having all these school flashbacks!).  

The point is, I think (and write) on these things a lot – relationships, connection – sometimes obsessively, because I know when we get them right, they’re amazing and worth all the effort.  If you get tired of hearing about it, or have it all figured out and can fill me in, let me know.  I’ll switch topics to being the father of a two-year-old girl, which makes all this seem easy.

How many hours have you
let me think you didn’t see me
blinding yourself in love from
the eyeing I could never stand.

How many days have I survived
mostly, surely by my ignorance
and grateful now for it
for what I didn’t see you see.

How many lives have I spent
concealed in your view and
eager for you to pretend me alone
for your consent to my hiding game.

How many more times around the sun, knowing
it’s only time
until I’ll let you tell me
I’ve been found.

This wasteful thing
my wasted life
such wasted love

Nothing to show-
glory or triumph;
riches or praise.
Just what’s left of me.
exhausted
poured out
barely recognizable from before,
when I was strong and potential
fierce, beautiful, and compelling.
Now I am without.

spent and at rest;
I will waste myself.

          How are you this free?
          Unbound and untouched,
          with gravity’s lightness.
          No clasped hand to hold
          something precious,
          moving like you’re nothing.
          What’s that in your eye
          in your hand
          on your lips
          that you drop off so casually,
          as if you have endless supply?
          Why, so weightless, does your
          vanishing remain on me
          like lead
          pulling me to earth?
          While you slip free.

Because I love something else;
wasted and gave myself away.

Since it’s nearly spring, it seems like a good time to start on this New Year’s resolution (I like to feel things out a little).  I have been working on it.  I’ve reformatted it and changed the name.  I’ve tried to figure out every little feature in WordPress, and waited just long enough between each attempt to make sure I have to re-learn it each time.  I’ve agonized over each of those choices, all while fully aware that I’m the only one who will even see their results at this point.  I’ve read lots of other blogs and decided about weekly that this is a bad idea.  I have plans for what I’ll do if no one reads this and if so many read it that the server crashes (I’m sure that could happen!). 

So now we’ve come to the point of write and post and see, or leave it and move on to another item on my “Things That Will Make Me a Better Person” list.  I know my copy of Learn Spanish in 24 Hours is around here somewhere…

I do know that there’s a great sense of possibility these days.  We depend a lot on hope, which can be hard to see, so I’m learning that sometimes we just have to start. 

This idea began with poems, unmanageable, indulgent, and persistent, so it only seems fair that they go first.

An article of mine recently posted on New Heart Gathering’s website

http://www.newheartgathering.org/articles/111/if-the-son-has-set-you-free-you-are-free-indeed

With that sound I stopped
like a seal in water,
the turns and twists
stilled, suspended
in a moment,
considering how it came to this place.
How far left to swim.
 
 I looked at your face and thought I
might know you,
once had a conversation,
yelling a little over the din of a crowd
to be heard. I would have offered
a cordial greeting
and an assurance to keep in touch.
 
 But I never thought I’d see you here;
You would speak
and remember me. So I was shocked
to hear my name,
see it formed on your lips with such ease
as if you’d given it to me.
I looked at your face again, remembering
and wondering if maybe
we should talk some more.
 

I’m planning  to start blogging next year. I’ve been rolling around ideas, figuring out how to get started, and getting ready for the right moment. Looking back at this last year, my track record for actually following through and getting things done isn’t so great, so if I want a real chance at this happening I better get a head start.

At lunch on Christmas day, after watching it rain all morning, my brother said it was a fitting end to the year.  He may be right.  It’s been hard.  I think it’s the kind of hard that leaves you with some hope that things will get better, that you’re growing up, learning not to be afraid of hard days, being made ready for what’s ahead.  It’s good hard, hopeful hard, but still hard.  It’s been really good, too, which is easy to forget. 

It’s been an exceptional year, and as such, it brought heartbreak and healing, blindness and new vision, captivity and freedom.  I’ve seen dreams come true and seen people fight to even imagine a dream. I’ve watched people struggle, wrestle to believe, to see, to find a way through new land.  They are people I love.  A lot.  I’ve helped them some, and sometimes made it worse.  I’ve learned that some things are too big for my to-do list, and just need time.  And prayer.  And that the real joy may not be in resolve, but in looking and waiting for resolution together. 

I’ve watched the annual dance with illness and death, the limitations of our physical selves. I’ve had days that seemed like they’d stop or last forever, and I’ve wanted them to do both.  I’ve done all of it while watching my daughter go from one to two, unstopped, unmoved, unconcerned.  She’s often my liturgy of the hours, keeping me going, refusing me the indulgence of considering, of stopping, or of becoming too absorbed in myself.   

I’ve realized that loving people is dangerous, really loving them is potentially devastating.  It’s also worth it, because when it works, and even when it doesn’t, it’s still better than being alone.  Even the hope that it will work makes it worth the risk.  Love really does cover a multitude of sins.  It really is patient, kind, and all those things.  It has little choice but to be.  It must be true that faith, hope, and love are all that remain, because when things get rocky or cloudy or impossible, they’re all you have.

My wife and I have walked through foggy streets in London and a thousand times through our hallways , and  in both I’m awed by how much we’ve seen together, how much we have to do, and how exciting it all is. 

I can’t remember reading a single book, except for Goodnight Moon and Dont Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. That bothers me a little, but I know it’s partly because whenever I try, one walks up to me, takes it from my hand, tells me I’m “all done” and to “play”.  She’s usually right and it’s hard to resist.

I’ve taken a great technological leap forward, gaining a Blackberry, an iPod, and a DVR; I’ve discovered Twitter and blogs.  All of that may have contributed to my book problem slightly.

I’ve been to the Caribbean.  I’ve seen U2 in concert.  I’ve discovered that I really love to cook.  I’ve acquired some great shoes.  I’ve let my hair grow out.  I may cut it off again soon. 

I’ve realized, again, how much I need Jesus, that it makes no sense for Him to call me a friend, that He could do better, but I’m not going to tell Him that.  I’m going to get away with it as long as He’ll let me. 

I’ve found some voice and a few more words, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them.

It may be a bad idea to make the first post this much about myself.  I don’t really know how this works or what’s expected. I also don’t know who will read it to care.  Regardless, we’ll let this be our introduction.  As we see where we go from here, this is where we’re starting.  We’ve not yet seen what we will become.

Tomorrow we’ll start a new year, and I’ll be 32.