Saturday, January 31, 2009

Zwischenraum (the Space Between Things)

The space between is air, light, silver, shadow. It is silence, solitude, alienation.

Feeling the space strips you down to bone and nerve. The silence oppresses once your ears forget what sound feels like; the darkness terrifies when your eyes strain to remember light. But when, finally, the scream has boiled up from inside you, and shattered the silence, you don't feel the space any more. A flash of light is enough to bring back your skin and muscle and organs and blood, because the space only has power when you cannot see the things the space lies between. You feel distance when the wind freezes your skin and you cannot even see the building you must walk to; you feel alienation, the space between souls, when the person you tried to know is no longer even imaginable.

You feel the space between things when some particular thing won't come. But really, there is no space between things. Even air and light have substance. Sunlight burns, wind shoves. Everywhere, photons are flying, oxygen and carbon dioxide are swarming. Even if I slip between the lines of a poem, the paper is pregnant with meaning. Pay attention. No space is empty of things. It is merely empty of things we care about. There is space between the things we notice.

[from a free-writing last October]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Blood

Snow, then rain, then the cold night, and now ice glazes the road. The sky's tears have sculpted the snow on either side of the path. In the bright sun, it shines like sea foam frozen in place. I walked along the path through the woods, where the normally dark ground gleamed silver and white with ice and snow.

At the end of my road stood the glass doors of the SAC. I went in, checked some boxes, signed my name. A series of blonde matrons pricked my finger, cleaned my arm, stuck a piece of shining metal into a vein. Then I lay back, and blood began trickling through the tubing. I have never seen anything quite the color of blood. Wine? Too thin. The ruby I saw in a glass case at a museum? Too bright. The flesh of the blood orange? Too luminous. The blood was alive, but not lively. It was viscous, dark, secretive. It didn't belong in translucent tubing, exposed to the light; my blood belonged in veins, flowing through a million divisions in the darkness. I watched the dark red liquid rise in the hanging sack, until finally it was full.

The nurse came back, severed me from the sack full of blood that was no longer mine, led me away, fed me cranberry juice and oreos. Then I put on my red coat, and went back out the glass doors, into the cold.

The sun had set long ago, while the blood was still warm from my veins. Now the sky was dark, the air brutal. The snow glowed in the pale moonlight. The moon was the sliver of a smile that hung under a black circle, barely visible against the deep blue sky. Walking through the woods, I couldn't feel that I had lost blood, and it seemed strange that part of me could vanish from my very veins, and not be missed. The snow shone the same way, the ice shimmered the same way, the air froze my skin the same way. What else have I lost, and forgotten?

Back my room, soon enough, I shed the red coat, and forget the ice and the blood. Outside, the moon kept still its Mona Lisa smile.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sometimes I Do Miss California Weather

The snow tumbled from the sky for hours, blanketing the ground and transforming cars into mounds of white. Then the rain came. Each drop burrowed through the snow, leaving the white covering full of tiny scars. Rivers formed. The piles of snow decayed into translucence and began sloughing off layers of melting flakes. We all clutched umbrellas or jammed gelid hands into coat pockets. The world outside turned to slush, and the sky wept relentlessly, and the icy ground betrayed each footstep: suddenly the dullest building was a blessed sanctuary.

Absurd Problem

I have more friends than I know how to deal with.* I wake up and talk to my wonderful roommate, and walk to class with a hilarious suitemate, and sit in class next to interesting classmates, and meet my surrogate "mother" or adoptive "son" for lunch, and come back to my wonderful roommate again, and go out to meet someone for dinner, and come back into a common room filled with still more friends. . .

I am blessed to have so many friends, and they are dear to me like a family. But the difference between family and friends is that you can sit in a room with family and without talking, for hours. After a month of mostly family, I need to relearn how to be with friends. I have to remember how to talk. I have to remember who I am when there are people all around me.

*This statement pertains more to my introversion than to my "popularity".

Monday, January 26, 2009

Huh, Weird

A few days ago, I had a long conversation about, well, sex. I was talking to a friend who takes a materialist view of the world (as opposed to dualist, I mean).

Christians and many other religious folk take the unpopular view that physical involvement outside of marriage should be severely constrained. Depending on who you ask, the rationale varies:"sex is only for procreation", "sex is inherently sinful/shameful", "the Bible says so, and that's final!", etc. Most of these responses typically don't make sense to the non-believer, who usually feels that what people do with their own bodies is purely their own business: It's not a moral issue because it isn't hurting anyone. (The validity of this definition of morality, and the accuracy of the statement that sex between consensual adults doesn't hurt anyone, are contestable, to my mind.)

The conversation was so long because we just weren't getting through to each other. But finally, I figured out that we have fundamentally different views of how powerfully a human's body affects that person's emotions. My rationale for abstinence is, effectively, that the physical skews the emotional far more than the will can control. (Perhaps I should say, really, that that is my rationale for why the Bible commands abstinence.) My friend, on the other hand, has a much greater faith in the power of conscious choice to determine emotions and govern the body.

Here, one person believes the body (its nerves and hormones and organs and fluids) is all that exists. But that same person believes that the body has only a limited effect on its human's emotions and thoughts, even though those are purely the result of physical changes (on a molecular level). Meanwhile, the person who believes a soul governs the body, fears the power of the physical level to determine emotions, even though those are not merely the product of physical changes. The materialist is implicitly recognizing the power of a non-physical spirit; the dualist is recognizing the potency of the material realm.

Now I need to figure out if this thinking is just ironic, or also inconsistent.


Each week:
5 posts
1 hour of exercise
24 hours without AIM
1 hour of praying

Each day:
3 chapters of scripture

And the most impossible one:
0 new book purchases until I finish reading the ones I own already (This may be a resolution for the next 3+ years.)

Ask me if I'm doing these things, someone, please!


In my little room here, everything is in the spot it belongs. It is orderly, predictable, safe. Laughter waltzes in through the open door: bubbling giggles that explode into shrieks. I can go join in the wild dance of hilarity, but I can also stay right here, and chuckle to myself.

I had forgotten how much I love living with these people. Greeting these people is greeting family, even though the people I left are family, too. Coming back is coming home, even though the place I left is home, too. Where do I belong? Nowhere, everywhere.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I want badly to be a person of integrity.

Integrity is wholeness. There is a lot of overlap between being a person of integrity and being a person whose actions, thoughts and feelings are integrated with each other: if you act in complete accordance with the way you think and feel, you cannot lie, for instance. Deception fractures the self (indeed, perhaps the soul). When thoughts and feelings and deeds are aligned, though, the self is united.

I want to be whole badly enough that I disintegrate myself. In the moments--or dare I admit, periods--when what I feel (rejection) is divorced from what I know and believe (there is a place I belong), rather than recognize the discrepancy, I tell myself it isn't there. I know what I know. I believe what I believe. What does it matter what I feel?

That is the mantra in my head: My conscious choice is all that matters.

But when I step back from iron determination, I find that in my heart I do not, perhaps cannot, truly believe what I say I do. The words I refuse to say echo in my chest. "No, you don't."

Mostly I conceal from myself the discrepancy between what I believe I should feel and what I actually do feel. I pretend to be whole, even within my own mind. But pretenses make growth impossible. I have to expose the cracks if I am to glue the shattered pieces back together. I have to uncover the rips to sew the garment into a united whole. I have to admit: When you tell me you believe I am a good daughter, I don't believe you. (Sometimes I don't believe you mean it; sometimes I don't even believe it's true.) When I admit my brokenness, finally healing can begin.

So I confess--that I hurt, that I do not have my life together. That no matter how far away I go, your words always have the power to rip me open. (You. There are several of you, the ones I am vulnerable to. I confess--that I am vulnerable.) I confess that I don't feel as though my soul is hidden in the cleft of the rock, or covered there with His hand. I confess that there is a great chasm fixed between what I believe and what I feel, at times.

So hold me,
break me,
mold me and make me
more and more like You.
I've come to worship You.
To love You,
feel You,
draw ever near You
as I worship You.
I've come to worship You,
O Lord.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Small Messangers

A black squirrel stared at me from the split of the slender maple tree. Its gleaming eyes hardened. Tail rippling, it scuttled up the branch, launched itself onto the roof, and kept running.

High in the pine on the other side of the house, a bird was calling out over and over like a lost child. I shielded my eyes from the blazing sun. Its fierce light burst through the pine boughs, blindingly. But I could see: a huge black bird was cawing, cawing. Its beak looked ready to crush and tear and shred--but for the moment, the beak was not a vicious weapon but a sobbing mouth.

The mossy bricks had chilled my bare feet. I walked through the black shadows and into the silent house. I don't know how long the black squirrel ran up and down the roof; the scratching of its claws couldn't filter through tile and ceiling. Neither do I know how long the black crow kept calling. I had no answers for its questions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ramblings about Solitude

I wander through life wondering who is watching.

When the house is empty, I act differently, for no obvious reason. I sing more, sweep the floor, bake cookies, lie on the couch and read. I spend several hours embroidering a chessboard for three players. I don't login to AIM. Solitude is simpler than being an individual among other individuals, even when those individuals are my own family.

In "What Dreams May Come," the protagonist's widow can't tell when her husband's spirit is with her. She responds to his gestures, but doesn't see him, understand him, recognize him. Who haunts me? Do I look through God the way she looks through him?

Always, I act in response to the people around me. I don't realize it, but when they are gone, I realize: I am a different person. It's hard to isolate my identity. It's hard to see who is really there--inside and outside.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Loneliness is wanting to talk to you but not getting to...

I can fast from food, the thing my body depends on for its very survival, and barely feel it. I am fasting from you, in a way, but I can't escape your absence. It follows me like a persistent dog, like a melody stuck in my head. I don't need you, really. Life comes from Someone Else. But your absence is its own presence, appearing around unexpected corners. I open a book, read and read, turn another page--and you are there, suddenly, looming out of the print. I put in a CD, and sign along--and suddenly the singer's voice is yours. I go about my life, seeing you in the distance, fading into the horizon.

But I will remember to see through you, and even through your absence. I will see into the Presence, to the fullness of Him who fills all things in all ways. Lord, I will be still and know You are God.

After the Beach

There is something about driving in the dark. . .

Headlights questing, the car runs along the road through the trees. It is falling, falling, I feel, as the music plays. "Just like a faucet that leaks, and there is comfort in the sound." (Loneliness is the memory of a person I amputated from my life. Failure is the inability to forget.) Here, as dusk falls, we both sing.

Through the trees, the sky fades from pumpkin yellow to milk blue to charcoal. Soon, the feathery silhouettes of the redwoods are indistinguishable from the sky itself. We hurtle through the forest and never stop to greet the other travelers. The mountain doesn't seem to mind the tickle of tires.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


We taste your fear--
metallic, a crackle in the air.
We cower, cocooning ourselves
with a shroud of silence.

But fabric burns as easy as flesh
when the fear flashes.
Only tears can drown the fire,
we think, and weep.

we are all the more vulnerable
to the next electric spear-thrust.

With each bolt of lightning,
we become
the thing you fear.

[Needs editing? Yes. Is the raw truth? Also yes.]