Friday, July 19, 2013

A Little Garden

It feels like generations of cats have pooped here.  While I was cold inside, out in this small slice of sun, I'm hot and sweating.  The flies buzz.  The poop hangs thick in the air.  My plastic bags rustle as I gingerly pick it out of the dirt, my hands swathed in the plastic.  All the dogs I never walked, all the cats I never owned, they seem to have chosen this small space by my front door to exact their revenge.

Yet when I'm done, this small section is reclaimed.  Not perfect, but at least it is my trash bag that wreaks, not my front patio.  I cover it with a tarp, a quiet "no pooping here" sign, if I spoke cat.  Even better are the smells of my new plants. Mint, lemon balm, daisies, the fresh potting soil.  For now it looks mostly like I've stacked rows of pots in the way, but eventually... eventually this little garden will look like a garden. Eventually it will be a small green place of peace.

I feel a peaceful joy tending this small patch of earth.  Watering, touching the soft green leaves.  It is small, like my new beginning here in Salem, but the Christmas cactus is about ready to bloom and the daisy has flowers.  I’m not sure what it will be come eventually, but for a beginning, it’s a hopeful one, one open to my dreams.

I come back inside to the novel.  It’s rough, newly transplanted as pieces of scene are tacked together.  It too is a small rough beginning, but I hope it will grow faster than my little patch of earth. I have, after all, been working with it for far longer.  Still, with patience, I sit down to write and edit and hope, and the same quiet joy makes me smile.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Wasteland

By Ikiwaner (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Some days are dry.  I sit down, eager to write, but as I still and open up, all I find is sand.  The imagination feels thick, hot.  My mind rubbery.  Has creativity forsaken me?  Just yesterday she was there, covering her mouth as she laughed, whispering secrets to me.  Now she is gone.

Endless sand stretched out.  I am parched.  Alone.  I want to cry out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me."  And yet I know, God is here, it just creativity that has disappeared.  In the stillness God smiles, a little bemused at my melodrama.  While he doesn't mind, I feel rather embarrassed, awkward, but at least my writing has finally turned to prayer.  Perhaps that was all it was every waiting for.  Perhaps it was for lack of prayer it took the Israelites forty days to cross the barren sand.

Instead of fighting it, grasping at the sand, I let it flow through my fingers, sift in my mind. I smell the hot, dry air around me.  I resign myself to this dry experience, a place of prayer.  If I spent my writing time in prayer, it is easily time well spent, isn't it?  I feel the peace, the quiet, the heat, and wait.

I don't need to wait long.  The voices come.  "You are hungry.  Get up, make some toast.  Those raisin cinnamon bagels you bought yesterday are delicious."  Or "Come now, you have orange juice in the fridge.  A quick drink will make things better."  As I ignore them, they get more insistent.  Phone calls to make, shopping to be done, floors to be vacuumed and dishes to be washed.  They clamor for my attention.

You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.

I smile, raise my hands to the keyboard, and type myself across the rippled sand.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Death, Rebirth, and the Pascal Mystery

Life is a series of deaths and rebirths. A series of lents and easters. Of winters and springs. Last Thursday was my birthday and I said goodbye to living in the Columbia River Gorge for the second time. It was a hot day, but I couldn't stay inside the lovely library or cafe where I've spent most of the last two months, not on a day of goodbye, a death, a Good Friday. So I climbed Mitchell Point Overlook. Up to the top. I sweated, my breath coming short, adrenaline pumping every time I brushed a bush wondering if this would be the time I'd get poisoned oak for the first time.

Oh, and I took two people with me.

But we lived, breathed, worked. And owned that mountain. At the top the air was crisp, the infamous wind blowing, and the sky like a huge painting, the clouds spread out in abstract puff and smears to the east and west. Up there I was alive.

And then I left.

It was glorious, the evening sun turning the water white. The twists and turns, ups and downs of the mountains. The legs of the mountain chain spreading out to give birth to Portland. Yes, I was sad, but I knew my death was necessary—so that I could be born in Salem.

It is hot and sticky here too. Cars and asphalt, cigarettes, humans of all sorts, old, young, drunk, sober, pink-haired, and dressed in sparkling slinky drag. The apartment is sticky, dirty, smelly, nowhere near as pristine as it looked on our brief tour when we picked it out. It is a hot, dark tomb, lying empty, waiting to be filled with life.

In darkening, cooling evening, I play Vivaldi and clean. Bringing to life this place, and with it my new hopes and dreams. I scrub counters and shelves, unwrap dishes. Each one is born, a dish I packed away months ago, now alive again, now in my own place once more. I stack boxes, bags, papers, shift and move the mass of stuff beneath me, and slowly the kitchen emerges, the living room, the bedroom.

Can this resurrected apartment glow with the life of the immortal Christ?

At moments I doubt it, but then that hope burns within me and I know that eventually it will be shaped, born, and live, that it will become the home I hope for. No longer will I wander like Jesus without a nest or den. As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling.