Thursday, August 30, 2012
It was lovely and full and set my head doing circles around itself (as it is wont to do). I know I'm forever writing about the sky, but there's this: driving back around dusk, the sky a Chinese watercolor, I thought, this could be Wilmington. I know this place. And so I said something, only because I'm nostalgic, only because the lines constantly draw themselves to other places. (You see what you end up with? It's a tangled mess, but it's a mess in which you can have your heart stretched between places, on and between so many continents, and yet have it whole.)
The person I was riding with surprised me by saying that the sky there is actually different than it is over continental Europe. This is an Atlantic sky, he said. A wet sky.
I'm back in Pitesti now, the place where the sky was the first thing I loved, and for a while, the only thing. But this place is teaching me about willful love, about the decision of it. How many opportunities have I had to practice this in these last six years? How many more will there be? I think of Abram, of God pointing him toward the stars: "if you can count them." This is a loose idea, one I'm writing as I think, but there's the idea of that too being an inheritance.
My mind is wandering now, landing somewhere near a conversation I had a few hours ago with two students from Palestine. You come back to the question of home and place, of being pulled asunder. Could there be wholeness? I have a place I've grown from and another I'm growing toward, and meanwhile there are roots shooting outward, everywhere. But this, what they are saying, this is something altogether different. What if you believe there is a hope for both home and reconciliation, that in fact there is a great reconciler? That "if you can count them" is a promise fulfilled outside of yourself?
But living it--that is something else, isn't it? For me, the hope of a true home and a way to persist in love only come together. They come out of the words it is finished; I am reminded of them as I turn, surprised to see across Pitesti to the hills in the north, a teeming sky above Rasnov, tekhelet. But I wonder. These answers are easy--they are true, yes, but they're also easy. And living it, knowing it in the face of much harder things--it's something beyond having a right theology. And how on earth do I point people to it?
The thread is gone now, I think, all frayed out into more questions. And they keeping coming.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
On the way back from camping the other day, when we stopped at the dam, I saw a sign that said: Pericol de cadere in gol--Danger of falling into emptiness, into nothing. Maybe it's my English ear that makes it sound more poetic, that double took at the sight of this rusty, bent sign bolted into concrete.
But gol here is the perfect word if you've ever seen this place. It just opens up. You're leaning against the equivalent of the concrete guardrail the runs down the middle of the interstate--it comes up to your lowest ribs--and then: opening onto gol. Romania does this to me sometimes. Often, even. The surprise of poetry in places just getting on with life, with the business of the mundane. Between a greasy shaormerie, a middle aged man with his shirt pulled up over his beer belly, scratching it, and a dirty, tiny girl running around barefoot, her skirt brushing the ground--there is this sign. I think it was yellow, but faded, a dull mustard seed. You might not have seen it, and certainly there are bigger things to behold there.
I think of this, Musée des Beaux Arts, probably my favorite poem:
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
I can't get this out of my head. That sign, this poem. I'd typed it in Courier and had it taped beside my bed when I lived in Pinewood in college, that ghetto that constantly surprised me.
It's a different sort of surprise, it's a different thing altogether, a cool morning and a bright sky after all those months of heavy heat, but every time the weather changes, gives way to something new, it catches me. I know how it would feel right now, right this very moment in Pinewood, the little girls who'd offer to take out our trash for a dollar knocking at the door. The things they said. The between-the-lines of the way they talked--this juxtaposed with a city that will be beautiful, whatever you do to it, sprawling between the river and the ocean.
There's this, too, by C. S. Lewis:
That is the real explanation of the fact that Theology, far from defeating its rivals by a superior, is, in a superficial but quite real sense, less poetical than they. That is why the New Testament is, in the same sense, less poetical than the old... That is the humiliation of myth into fact, of God into Man; what is everywhere and always, imageless and ineffable, only to be glimpsed in a dream and symbol and the acted poetry of ritual becomes small, solid--no bigger than a man who can lie asleep in a rowboat on the lake of Galilee. You may say that this, after all, is a still deeper poetry. I will not contradict you. The humiliation leads to a greater glory.
Monday, August 13, 2012
So we woke up Friday morning when we were supposed to leave and it was pouring and it was forecasted to for the rest of the weekend. The heat had finally broken the night before which meant I spent the night watching it storm like it was the last thing it would ever do and also not sweating. Glorious. Except that it wasn't done when we got up so a couple of phone calls were made and it was decided that we were canceling the trip and instead would meet together in town for the day.
An hour later we get a phone call saying, okay, we're un-canceling, but we'll just go up for the day and then come back. Just bring a few things. And be ready to come down when we call to pick you up at 11. Two hours go by, and at noon I get a call saying, actually just kidding, we are going! And we're staying! But just for one night so pack for that and we'll be there in half an hour. A good Romanian start.
We get there, we camp, we discussion vision, we grill, we pee in the woods, hang out around the campfire and look at the stars. Lots of fun. We also joke a lot about bears coming to eat us--we're joking because it's a distinct possibility that a bear might come and wanna hang out with us and what are you going to do? But we're careful, we put all of our food in the car, all the necessary precautions. And then bed, in the tents, five girls in one, three guys in another.
Around four in the morning I wake up because a dog is going crazy in the next camp over. I fall back asleep. Wake right back up again because one of the guys in that camp is setting the alarm on and off in his car. And every time here turns it off, he starts making car alarm noises with his mouth and clapping. Well there's only one reason he'd be making that much racket at four a.m. So I'm lying there in the dark just listening and I could hear a couple of the other girls shifting around and dude with his car noises starts to get funny to me so I decided to say something:
"Mama, parca vorbeste cu masina..." (Good gracious, it's like he's talking to his car.)
The other girls who weren't already awake wake up then. We hear our guys talking with the neighbors and hear that, yes indeed, a bear has come to visit. One girl gets scared. It's quiet for a while and then the dog starts barking again. And the car starts alarming. And the dude starts talking to it. If the bear came back, he never got close enough to us to hear him. So we all go back to sleep, snuggled up and toasty and crammed all in our tent. Happy ending.
The next day we got to do more retreat-y stuff and the rain held off until a little after we left. We were pretty close to Balea Lac, this lake way up on the mountain that you get to by driving along the world's curviest road (see here) with eight people squeezed into the little car. Super pretty. We took pictures, left, drove until the gigantic dam in Vidraru with all eight of us in the pouring rain. Once we got there, it stopped, so we let three out to hitchhike back and went on our way again.
So there we are, speeding along in the dark, when our general secretary slams on the brakes. We skid around a little (the road's still wet) but stay on the road and finally stop. He then backs up about thirty meters because apparently we hit a bunny, which, yes, he had tried very hard not to hit. (The girls next to me are squealing iepurasule! iepurasule!) And here is the best part:
He gets out of the car to look at. He then picks it up by its little bunny ears--it's definitely dead--and holds it in the headlights so we can see it. Then he puts it back down, gets back in the car, asks his wife if they can take it home to eat it, they can wrap it up really well and put it in the trunk. She refuses, says he's making her sick! I mention how Alaskans harvest fresh moose roadkill and donate it to the poor. The girls next to me start to hyperventilate. And then. Then. He gets back out of the car and says he wants a picture with it. So there now exists a picture of our general secretary, one hand over his heart, the other holding up a run-over rabbit whose (sorry) insides are dangling about six inches below it, still attached of course.
In the end we all get back in one piece, minus our rabbit friend, plus our hitchhikers. Always an adventure. Love this place.