Sunday, October 28, 2012

in search of the elusive whales (what we need is here)

I cried almost every day of my honeymoon.

I love telling people that, especially in front of my husband, who just smiles at the sweet memories we share from those early days of marriage.  I didn't cry because of him, per se, but more because of us.  Us together, sharing money and space and money and sleep and money.  Yes, mostly money.  There was me waking at 6am to hand-wash his shirts and underwear and hang them all over the huge bathroom in our extremely nice hotel rather than let him send it to the hotel staff to wash for $7 an item; there was me sobbing on a bench in Victoria because I didn't want to go for the $55 per person afternoon tea for which my eager husband had just made us reservations.  We've come a long way in our nearly 3 1/2 years of money-sharing.  Yes, we have.

There was also our whale-watching excursion.  The first thing Chris wanted to do upon landing at our beach side fancy hotel (seriously, we stayed here, thanks to some generous family) was to visit the concierge (I had never heard that word before, you say it with an accent) and find out about seeing whales.  I'm fairly neutral towards animals, my husband can get obsessed.  Whales, his dream come true, to be on the water seeing the majestic creatures dancing and jumping around us, oh my goodness.  It was $70 per person (cue the tears) but you were guaranteed to see the whales, and how could I break his heart?  Truly, this is what my husband was born for.  He almost became a marine biologist, you know.

So we went.  The early May Canadian coast was fairly chilly.  We were given red waterproof snowsuits and met the other folks on our tour - another newly wed couple from the lower mainland.  As we were just about to get on the boat my husband turns me to me and says, "Oh, I forgot to take my pill.  Sometimes I get a bit seasick."  Then he popped in some motion sickness meds and we boarded the big zodiak.  As we took off Chris' face started to fall, slowly, onto my shoulder - and the quiet moaning began.  He didn't feel very good.  The freezing wind and water whipped us, Chris continuously threatened to vomit while trying to stay awake and the other couple joyfully laughed and stood together at the front of the boat, taking in the view as we zoomed past islands covered with sea lions and eventually found our whale.

By that point my husband didn't even care, he felt so sick.  In fact it is the only time I have actually heard my husband, in reference to a living creature, say "I don't care."  He wanted to go back to the hotel.  I had to find the situation comical, or I would have started to cry, of course.  $140, wasted. The whale didn't really do much anyway and it's breath smelled pretty bad which increased Chris' misery.


This morning we left before 8 to see whales again, this time from the shore, close to our home.  Many friends saw many whales yesterday and my husband was nearly green with envy (rather than seasickness, fortunately) as we have yet to see any whales in the three years we've lived here.  We drove to a great look out spot with our offspring in tow ready for our whales.  We watched.  And kept watching.  But whales, we did not see.

I felt slightly sad for my husband, squinting and hoping towards the oceanic horizon, but I knew the view itself was breath-taking enough, with or without smelly whales.

I was reminded of a passage in Annie Dillard's "Teaching a Stone to Talk"; she writes of driving five hours inland, determined to see a rare total eclipse:
"When the sun appeared as a blinding bead on the ring's side, the eclipse was over.  The black lens cover appeared again, backlighted, and slid away... I remember now:  we all hurried away.  We were born and bored at a stroke.  We rushed down the hill.  We found our car; we saw the other people streaming down the hillsides; we joined the highway traffic and drove away.  We never looked back.  It was a general vamoose, and an odd one, for when we left the hill, the sun was still partially eclipsed - a sight rare enough, and one which in itself, we would probably have driven five hours to see.  But enough is enough.  One turns at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief.  From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home."

 Sometimes the whales or the person or the change we long to see can keep us from being enraptured by the beauty which is now, which is right here.  I imagine my children older, fantasize about the nights when they will sleep unassisted, days when I can write without numerous interruptions.  But those days will be hard too, won't they?  And then what will I wait for?  When we do catch a glimpse of the whales in the distance, it's often not quite what we hoped, never as fulfilling as we imagined and our desire is quickly for something else or some other time.  We will never catch it really, that missing piece, even when we think we have.  What we need is here.



What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

- Wendell Berry

Saturday, October 20, 2012

words on the interwebs worth your time

A few blogs I've read this week that I emailed to my husband, I thought I'd share with you as well - enjoy!

How to Annihilate your Out-Group (like Jesus did) - Dr. Kelly Flanagan at Untangled

(We love this guy - I'd very much recommend subscribing to his blog.)

from the post:  "I have good news. Great news.
Humanity is the last in-group you will ever need to join.
And the membership application is simple. Because you already belong. All you have to do is embrace it. Decide you are going to end your attempts to fix your shame with competition and victory and dominance. Realize it doesn’t work. Decide you will silence the ghosts in another way."

Walking to Church: Sometimes the Hard Thing is the Force that Makes the Beauty - Micha at Deeper Story

(Sometimes we dream of having a place with a backyard and a fence but this post made me appreciate how much time we spend at parks and friends' houses and generally roaming the streets :)

from the post:  "We moved back to San Francisco two weeks ago after being away for a little over a year. And there’s something I have been noticing in these short weeks back in urban living: This overwhelming city is beginning to feel small.
There’s something about being forced outside—outside the house, outside the (now nonexistent) backyard, outside the car—with your kids, that makes you talk to people. When there is no yard, you go to the neighborhood park and you interact with kids and parents and caregivers you never would have met otherwise. When your kids are going crazy in the afternoon and there’s nowhere for them to play, you head out for a walk in the neighborhood and see what you can find. You talk to the old lady with the cute white dog that she has crowned, “Princess of the Castro!”"

from problem to solution: practical ideas for an ethical halloween  - Kristen at Rage against the Mini-van

(We live in Australia and Halloween isn't as a big a thing as in North America, but this post is very practical concerning holidays and chocolate and how we can take steps (whether small or large) towards supporting fair-trade products.)

from the post:  "For our family, the response to learning this has been to limit our chocolate purchases to fair-trade chocolate, which is a system that ensures that workers are paid and treated fairly.  I believe that our purchases have the biggest impact on corporate change.  The chocolate companies are well aware of the human rights abuses in the farms they are buying from, but unfortunately it is the profitability that is driving the ship, not ethics."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our hearts heal wide open.

October 15th:  Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  My husband has had a reminder in his calender for the past few years - it was one of his survival skills with his newlywed bride being slowly covered over by sadness.

The first weeks of marriage was a celebration of finally togetherness after 21 months of long-distance loving through a thousand emails and equal hours on Skype.  And all of that celebrating made us a baby.  We were shocked and down right scared by the two blue lines and the future-altering reality they represented.  We cried.  We turned to one another.  We invited God to come.  And everything changed. 

We became that new creation; the two became one and then so quickly three - it was a whole new world out there, our eyes were awake and we relinquished the control we never really had in the first place.  That baby changed us, changed the whole world for us.  We are grateful to this very day.

And as abruptly as he came, he was gone - our three back to two with this fresh black hole of pain and bleeding and secret ache.

The seasons changed and healing came through raw confession and community, we brought two more babies into the world and they sleep in my bed now as I write.  But there was something so desolate and god-forsaken in those bleeding hours.  It resurfaces when I hear the breaking news of unforseen tragedy in the lives of people I know and don't know.

We are dreaming and twirling and preparing and hoping and suddenly the wave of chaos crashes; those of us left standing are disoriented in this new terrible world and we can't get home.  Even in the past few weeks friends close by and online have suffered these shocking waves of loss and pain:  the ends of precious pregnancies, tragic car accidents, bad news from doctors - we are all affected at some point, our own wounds gaping or we're trying to bandage the people we love.  The world is much more dangerous than they told us, spinning off it's axis again today.  What is gravity's part, where is God's will, who the hell is responsible for all of this?  We blame ourselves, our enemies, we blame God - but none of that stops the bleeding, we are all covered in it.

We can let our experiences of pain harden our soil, put up our fences, we can cover our ears.  Avoid pain at all costs, stop risking in love for friend, neighbour and self.  We piously throw up our hands to fate or the will of the gods, or just slowly retreat behind shiny smiles, empty eyes and skinny jeans.  I'm fine.  I told you I'm fine.  Let's just get back to how things used to be.

Or we get honest.  We get loud.  We wear black on the street corner holding signs that rage against all that is wrong in this moment, in the world.  We cry and swear and let the labour pains of creation finally find a body in our own; we bear them with her, we groan and writhe.  We might say things off the record, things we don't mean, things we will regret.  God can handle it.  Love and truth have nothing to fear.

Instead of desperately plastering our heart back together we let it go, be split wide open in grief and disappointment and loss.  And our hearts eventually begin to heal that way - wide open, with room for the world.  Our grief, as painful and tragic and devastating as it is, can set us free to love in powerful new ways. 

Most women who have lost babies in pregnancy are amazed at how it welcomes them into this underground world of other mothers with their own stories.  You rarely hear of these babies until you've lost your own and then it all spills out, giving these mothers a space to share and you're not in this alone anymore.  This isn't comparison, it's solidarity.  Our hearts heal wider together, and there is room for more.

The only time my heart was broken by a boy, the woman who carried me through  those trenches had just spent the year in the shadows of her own broken relationship.  She understood, she had room for my fear, she had time for my rambling and my sobbing.  Her heart had been enlarged and she welcomed me in.  She died in a tragic car accident (that I survived) the next month.  Her mother told me later that in walking with me through my heartache my friend finally felt as though she had been healed, defiant flowers calling her winter's bluff.

I don't believe there are "good reasons" why bad things happen, but I do believe that grief and pain can change us in really beautiful ways sometimes.  That's not vindication or explanation, but it's the way of a vulnerable God who suffers with us, first one at the scene, hands covered in our blood; God with the widest heart of all.

"We wait for you to ache" -- Walter Bruegemmann

With the energy we have,
we begin the day,
waiting and watching and hoping.

We wait,
not clear about our waiting.
But filled with a restlessness,
daring to imagine
that you are not finished yet--
so we wait,
patiently, impatiently,
restlessly, confidently,
quaking and fearful,
boldly and daring.

Your sovereign decree stands clear
and we do not doubt.
We wait for you to dissolve in tender tears.
Your impervious rule takes no prisoners,
we wait for you to ache and hurt and care over us
and with us
and beyond us.

Cry with us the brutality
grieve with us the misery
tremble with us the poverty and hurt.

Attend to us -- by attending in power and in mercy,
remake this alien world into our proper home.

We pray in the name of the utterly homeless one,
even Jesus.