Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sight to the Blind

My Irish Breakfast tea tasted like Lawry’s Taco Seasoning the morning we came back from our vacation. The tea and the seasonings were zip locked together during the fumigation. The apple jelly’s top wasn’t on all the way, and it dripped down my loose-leaf Oolong bags and pooled on the bottom of the plastic sacks; and the bottle of picnic-sized balsamic vinegar leaked black dots on my spice jars.

The burning-red Kangaroo Paws that I’d planted below the freshly painted staircase don’t look like they’re going to make it. Their leaves are half crispy; their flowers, all faded. The Boston Ivy is a stubby bush again; all its fingers that had crept over the ugly wall outside our studio door are chopped. The furniture was sprinkled with dust; dust bunnies rolled over the laminate flooring upstairs.

I guess nothing can be good after coming back from a vacation like that. Nothing at all.
Phil and I have been suffering from post-vacation blues. I want to see the mountains again. I want to hear the sea lions barking from the backyard, smell the pines and the salty ocean, and see deer on an afternoon stroll. Dear God come back now!

The alley trash-diggers, our tenants’ riotous laughter at the T.V., and this tiny home with windows that aren’t big enough doesn’t make for a happy homecoming. I’m alone now, but every day of our vacation I spent with family.

We drove over the Tioga Pass, into Yosemite where we stayed for 4 nights with the Coxes, Stevens, and Deharts, then we drove across to Monterey and stayed with Ed and Barb Dickenson (My Grandpa Taylor’s cousins) and Terri for two nights.

We ate home cooked meals almost every evening, breakfasted at the Ahwahnee Lodge, stared into the fire listening to family jokes, tasted the soda springs water, felt the mist of Yosemite falls on our faces, soaked our feet in the chilly glacier melt, biked through Pebble Beach Golf Course, watched a whale breech off the coast, toured the Aquarium 30 minutes before it opened, and drank tea by the Dickenson’s fireplace.

And Half Dome.

I’ve not forgotten Half Dome: that 15-hour leisure stroll up misty rock-stairwells, alongside gushing tributaries, and under the beating sun. My shoulders have just begun to peel and my ankles are still numb from where I deadened the nerves from tightening my boots too tight. Tom Cox was our patient guide who never ran out of topics of conversations, and Kirk Stevens set the pace, taking one step at a time.

I don’t see how I can talk about this hike. I can share the facts: we started at 6 am, took breaks every other switchback, ascended the cables in an hour. I felt queasy holding my camera over the edge for a picture; the Mahogany Smoked Beef Jerky hit the spot; my contacts went blurry until I washed them with saliva; one by one we ran out of water; twilight fell; we biked back in the dark; the Deharts kept dinner hot for us; the line for the women’s shower was ridiculous at 9:30 pm, and Gretchen bought us T-shirts the next day.
But how can I tell you about the goal itself?

You see, before the dome I talked with God. However, the trouble with praying about Half Dome was having prayed for humility several months ago. How could I ask God to give me humility and then in the next breath, give me Half Dome? I was afraid God would honor my request for humility over my request for Half Dome.

I imagined how God would do it: a sprained ankle, altitude sickness, or maybe we’d all have to turn back like Kurt Plubell did when his daughter couldn’t make it. I imagined God toying with his torture devices, wondering which one he might use. Because humiliation gains humility right? That makes sense.

I still don’t understand what happened. We made it. We all clung to the cables together and told jokes and solved riddles as we waited for someone further up the cables to move. Phil and I clung to the outside of the cables to move the line along a little faster.

There were pauses enough to snap some photos. And at the top we celebrated that we all made it together: all four of us! Kirk called Grandpa Stevens. I ate an apple that Phil had carried in his camel pak for me. We rested, but weren’t restful knowing we still had to descend and it was about 2pm.

The trek down was a blur and not just because the sun was setting and we were tired, but because my contacts started to dry out and everything went into a fog. When we were 9/10ths of the way down I tried the old spit trick and I felt like the blind man that Jesus healed. The trees, rocks, and falls had a form. I could see! That sight was more glorious than the view at the top of Half Dome.

I think I’m saying something profound, but my mind is running circles around it. What did you do God? How have you opened my eyes? What was glorious? I think I need to think on it some more.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Know How It Ends

     “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

     “Poor boy! How little you know about things! Mr. Coleman’s lost all his money, and your father has nothing to do, and we shall have nothing to eat by and by.”
     “Are you sure mother?”
     “Sure of what?”
     “Sure that we shall have nothing to eat.”
     “No thank Heaven! I’m not sure of it. I hope not.”
     “Then I can’t understand it, mother. There’s a piece of gingerbread in the basket, I know.”
    “O you little bird! You have no more sense than a sparrow that picks what it wants, and never thinks of the winter and the frost and the snow.”
     “Ah—yes—I see. But the birds get through the winter, don’t they?”
     “Some of them fall dead on the ground.”
     “They must die some time. They wouldn’t like to be birds always. Would you, mother?”
    “What a child it is!” thought his mother, but she said nothing…and was silent for a good while. I cannot tell whether Diamond knew what she was thinking, but I think I know. She had heard something at church the day before, which came back upon her—something like this, that she hadn’t to eat for tomorrow as well as for today; and that what was not wanted couldn’t be missed. So instead of saying anything more, she stretched out her hand for the basket, and she and Diamond had their dinner.
At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

“The story has already been written. I know how it ends.”

Some authors are safe. I know by the writing and the tone that things will be okay. Brian Jacques may let a creature die here or there, but I know the weasels will lose and the mice will win in the end. I knew that Harry Potter would triumph over Voltemort even when the story told me that he couldn’t do this without sacrificing himself. Even in Jean Valjean’s death, there is beauty in the masterpiece. There is redemption in the priest’s final words in The Scarlet Letter.

These writers have a particular tone to their work. There’s something rhythmic and comforting about the way they put words, and I find myself trusting the author with my emotions. I fall in love with the characters, and I will mourn for them as I would a friend, if they die, but I don’t stop trusting the author. I know these kinds of authors. Things will be all right in the end.

Why can’t the analogy work for real life just as easily? I know the author. I know how the story ends. Why am I stuck here in the details? Why do I keep doing tomorrow’s work today?

How easy, I thought, it was to believe God when I was younger? I had nothing to worry about, but— what did I worry about when I was young? Who knows? I don’t think I worried about anything. Oh, wait! No. I worried about the dark void under my bed. I worried about the eyes that might appear at the dark window. I worried about getting lost. I worried about the dog when Daddy punished him.

But now my world is larger. I have house payments and binders for each bank account and plants to water and food in the refrigerator, and computer updates, and bricks to replace, and flooring to tape off, and outlets to change, and other’s finances to keep straight, and reimbursements to make, and counters to clear, and pictures to transfer, and school is coming, and hurry, and birthday’s too, and lists, lists, lists. Is my God not great enough for all the details? Has my God grown as I have grown like Aslan did for Lucy in Prince Caspian? But there are so many things to remember, to remember, to remember.

I take all the worries of this month and rest them on today’s thoughts, so that my mind is like a swarm of bees and I can’t think and feel as I ought, as I would if I lay all these things on a being who is big enough to support them, big enough to swallow them in his greatness.

“But if I don’t who will?” I ask.

Haven’t we answered this question already?

“But I’ll fight to keep them. I’ll fight to have them until I’ve had a sore throat for over a month and I have only enough energy each day to work until noon.”

Is that how you wish to be taught?

“I can go to the doctor. He’ll tell me its allergies or something like that.”

"You better now that you’ve come this far.”

“But Lord, can’t you just heal me? “

It’s much more than that. It’s a day-to-day casting your cares upon me.

“But everything I see: every assignment from my parents, every pestering piece of paper and left out juice bottle and pair of forgotten shoes. It all gives me something to do. I’d need blinders over my eyes not to start these mental lists. I’d only need to see one thing at a time, and that thing to be the one thing that I am doing.”

Do you think that I’m not big enough?

“Of course I don’t, but how will you do it?”

When you trust me from the start.

“But lord, it’s every moment and every instant of every day. With some rest, yes, but not much. This is how you always do it. You just tire me out until I’ve got nothing else, but to turn to you.”

You refuse to give up sooner.

“Oh God. I give up. I give up. I give up. I can’t do it all and you know I can’t. I don’t know how to trust you at every moment at every time of every day, but I know how to do it now. And I don’t want to take on tomorrow’s trusting, today. So, I give you all the worries about worrying, please give me your peace as I go to bed.”