it probably is.

November 7, 2008

it’s on nights like tonight that i find myself dreaming. it’s as if i don’t really have much control over it – the dreaming – on nights like tonight. the wind is twirling around the house, so much so that the walls seem to be creaking in defense. the rain is hammering down, large raindrops splattering against the window leaving thick wide trails as they travel down the pane. the fire is dancing and crackling, creating a room filled with warmth and comfort. steam rises from my mug, sending autumnal scents wafting through the air. and on nights like tonight my mind floats into a dreamy place saturated with storybook images and romanticized notions. it probably is girlish and silly but i don’t care. i like nights like tonight. and even though it almost seems cruel, i like the intense sense of longing these nights create deep inside me…

on nights like tonight i picture myself in a big ol’ farmhouse, built hundreds of years ago. the house is quiet, and dark. only a few lights are lit throughout it, casting shadows and filling everything with coziness. there is a fire in the woodstove – a real one of sticks and logs and newspaper – and its heat radiates throughout. i’m curled up on the couch, smothered in a blanket. i’m probably writing or reading or simply staring at the flames flicker behind the small square window on the stove. with me in the room is the love of my life. whom i imagine i met later in life…when simplicity had become all i wanted. he smells the way the wind does when it comes rushing through the door on a cool winter morning. the dishwasher drums on quietly in the kitchen, reminding both of us of a meal just shared. we are quiet together, speaking only occasionally of the rain or the wind or the need to chop more firewood soon.

on nights like tonight i imagine myself walking, in warm wool socks, down a hallway of hard wood floors. i stop in a doorway to silently peek into a room lit softly by a half-moon nightlight. i hear the heavy breathing of a small child, and see the outline of her small body under a heavy quilt. the room is warm with her sleep and i tip-toe closer to her bedside. a small stuffed monkey [tattered and worn] lies on the floor. i pick it up and tuck it close by her side.

on nights like tonight i dream of a kitchen noisy with the clanging of pots and the chatter of familiar voices. i imagine a kitchen filled with old friends, the friends we’ve known for what seems like forever. a big ol’ loved dog underfoot. the small children making their way around on the floor serve as delightful entertainment for us, and we could watch them for hours. red wine fills stemless glasses and sloshes as they are picked up and placed down in between laughter. i can smell our meal cooking in the oven.

on nights like tonight i envision us lying in our bed, swallowed up by mounds of covers. breaking the silence, we begin to talk – sleepily and slowly – to one another. the warm summer sun beats down on us through the picture window on the wall, and we talk about what things might be attempted that day. we talk about going to the beach and mowing the lawn. we talk about finally getting those boxes of old stuff out of the garage. we talk about cutting the kids hair and tying up the green bean plants that have gotten out of control in the backyard. we lie there, warm and comfortable, talking about all the ordinary stuff our lives are filled with.

and it probably is silly and girlish, dreaming up these scenes in my mind on nights like this. it seems futile and pathetic to spend time in this fantasy land. but on nights like tonight, i don’t care. alone on evenings like this one i give in to the desire to imagine and hope for imperfectly perfect moments. i cast aside my usual striving to be independent and stoic. for just a moment tonight i allow myself to enter, guilt free, into a world that may or may not exist someday. and i think i have realized that the strongest draw to these thoughts is not their storybook qualities, but rather the small sliver of hope i hold that they could actually be possible.

it probably is girlish and silly…but i honestly don’t care. not on nights like tonight.

mungu ata kusaidia.

November 2, 2008

i used to love to take long drives. before the oil crisis and its unreasonable gas prices. before my conscious became green and i realized that caring for mother earth required more than a specific bucket for tin cans. before i had a more-than-full-time job. before i entered the glamour-free world of graduate studies. before all of it i used to love to take long drives. it started in high school on the afternoons when i just wasn’t ready to go home quite yet. those days when i needed to be quiet for a bit before i entered another environment which would beg my interaction. those driving times grabbed hold of me like a drug, and i continued the luxury beyond the days of my youth and into the early years of adulthood. i used to find solace in a few hours spent with only my thoughts and my favorite musical companions. alone in that car i was granted the freedom to cry out or just cry, to sing at the top of my lungs or smile at the beauty of the passing scene, to be courageous enough to hope or safe enough to fear. alone in that car i was free to ache without the guilt of how it affected others. those hours, smoothly tracing the county roads, gave room for my emotions to leak out. they gave room for my thoughts to settle and clarity to slide in.

today as i followed the winding path of the mount baker highway, i felt like i used to on my long drives. it was early morning. the dew was still frozen and covering the earth like a silver blanket. the gleaming light of the new sun was simultaneously harsh and gentle as it flooded everything. the colors in the hills tricked my mind into thinking the trees were on fire. the leaves literally danced in the center of the road in front of me. it was almost hypnotizing to watch them. as i looked in my mirror i could see that the passing of my car only sped their dance up. the world, in all its death, was radiating life. the music coming from my speakers was familiar and comforting. heading away from my literal family and towards my figurative family on this sunday morning, i was grateful for the quiet in between. in those forty-five minutes of twisting though the heart of autumn, i found solace in my own thoughts, the courage to hope and the safety to fear, the freedom to ache, and i sung at the top of my lungs.

and i thought about the chalkboard hanging in my bedroom. the chalkboard that i have written different collections of words on over the past year. it’s been used to remind me of questions, truths, and beauty. i thought about the words that have been resting on that chalkboard for the past two months: mungu ata kusaidia. this summer in tanzania there were a small number of volunteers who spent significant amounts of their time making home visits to people who were sick with, or dying of, AIDS. they would sit with them, talk with them, listen to their stories, attempt to comfort or offer temporary relief from their pain, and touch them. sounds basic enough, but in a world where having AIDS propels you into social exclusion – where you are no longer listened to or spoken to, where you are not offered comfort and never touched – these home visits were anything but basic. as the volunteers left each home, they would speak these words: mungu ata kusaidia. it’s the swahili version of God bless you, but literally translated it means God will help you.

my heart is weighted down. not weighted down in the sad, heavy, burdened sense. but rather, it’s weighted down because so much is resting there, in it, right now. last summer changed me. it must have. because i am in a new place. inside of myself i am in a new place. i have returned to a familiar home, but inside i am in a foreign land. seeing new things. feeling in new ways. believing differently. loving strangely. listening distinctively. i seem to be speaking a new language. i am at peace. i am hopeful. i am feeling brave. and my heart is weighted down. most of what’s resting in my heart is beautiful and warm, only small bits are sad. but all of it makes me ache.

and today, as i drove, i thought of the words written on my chalkboard, mungu ata kusaidia. in english we say, God bless you, but isn’t the blessing God’s help? God will help you. how nice to say that, to remind someone of that. when you’re grandparents bodies are betraying them and you don’t know how to not be completely sad about it, mungu ata kusaidia. when you feel yourself changing directions, and you’ve lost the map, mungu ata kusaidia. when you discover you might not be in love with someone, mungu ata kusaidia. when your country is in despair, mungu ata kusaidia. when your world is at war, mungu ata kusaidia. when you miss so much you physically hurt, mungu ata kusaidia. when you want desperately to tell the story of redemption to others, or even yourself, mungu ata kusaidia. when you forget, mungu ata kusaidia. when you see something so beautiful you want to remember it forever, mungu ata kusaidia. if you’re not sure you’re doing it right, mungu ata kusaidia. if you wish you loved better, mungu ata kusaidia. if you’re tired and want to quit, mungu ata kusaidia. if you’re full of life and want to keep going strong, mungu ata kusaidia. when you are feeling alone, mungu ata kusaidia. if you are an orphan in tanzania, mungu ata kusaidia. if you are rich, mungu ata kusaidia. if you think you may be falling in love, mungu ata kusaidia.

and I will keep those words on my chalkboard. because i believe they are reminding me of truth. that my God helps. and that is a blessing. and it may seem simple. offensively simple, almost. but i don’t care. as I drove the twisty road, watching the leaves dance and the earth glisten and the trees burn, my thoughts settled and clarity slid in. the place i am navigating these days is foreign because suddenly i am acutely aware of mungu ata kusaidia, God will help you. it’s coloring everything: my vision, my feelings, my words, my love, my beliefs. it’s coloring my peace and hope and courage. and most of it is beautiful and warm, only bits of it are sad.

but all of it makes me ache.