Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Invisible Friend

Raw tears
run to clenched jaws
and angry fears...

'This is your own fault,
your foolish choice'
whispers that
nagging voice

'You chose to care,
chose to listen,
now you'll tear.'

Tear into pieces
by unreasonable

Why does it never 
align? My desires
left severed

Just a friend again,
just someone to spill
your thoughts on—
invisible still

You know, I'm so
dissatisfied in the role
of come and go

Tired of being unloved
and unseen,
yet feeling small
and mean

Wishing gladness
to any friend
is not sadness

Or it shouldn't be.
Who have I become?
To be ungenerous
to anyone?

Dry eyes,
turned down, ashamed
of my lies

I've lied to myself,
that I am okay
when I'm not,
not today

And not any other,
without beholding
my Lover

Who may not appear
by my side,
but He will be
my faithful Guide

Truth will not
staunch the blood,
it spills hot

Healing could arrive
in this life,
but I may have to bide
until the Kingdom

I choose to love,
choose to care,
with Help from above

If that makes me
a lonely fool,
choosing to rejoice
rather than being cruel

Then let it be,
my only prayer:
Blesséd, blesséd, blesséd be He.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Genesis Two

Because he fell short
God caused him to fall asleep
—a death—to rise
to new life: two life.

From enticing sleep, deep
God took a wife
from the Dustling's side,
a beam from the Holy Space
filled with brooding Spirit;
He joined the beam
and breath into body,
built before the face
of the one (now two)
where he stood entranced.

They stood face-to-face,
she opposite to him—
the first step in the dance,
the resounding hoofbeat
of the self.
The essence
now substance,
soft body
laced over bone
in concert—

For the Creator took fullness
and split it in two,
making wholeness
until all comes together anew.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

You Feel It

It's a curious thing, being alive—you feel it.

You feel the aliveness even in decay, in aches and pains.
You know life when the wind whispers in your ear,
and when the sun runs its fingers down your cheek.
And you feel alive when the wind is stiff, tries to tip you off a cliff,
when the sun burns your skin red and stains you with pain.

You feel the aliveness in beauty, in the ecstasy and the ache.
When music courses through your body to the gas pedal,
and when it courses down your face in briny drops.
When the sunset and the stars sing a symphony,
and when the storm clouds rage against your pane.

You feel the aliveness in the fear, propelling and suspending.
When terror races through your veins, pumping your legs,
and when it stings like ice, freezing your flight, your mind.
When you're so close to trepidation you can taste it,
you find that you feel frighteningly alive, alive, alive.

You feel the aliveness in hope, in its shock and comfort.
Someone offers a hug, a kind word, an unexpected gift,
and it jars your heart, opens eyes wide in surprise as they cry.
How can something so soothing still stun your soul?
See—impetuous generosity can change your life.

It's a haunting thing, being alive—you feel it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

You Have Come to Journey's End

 Dear Aaron,

I didn't know how this day would go; but I've known it was coming. . . I've known it for nearly a year now. Today is September 3rd, you see. A year ago today you thought your final mortal thought. Breathed your last breath. Faced your final fear. Was your parting thought a Switchfoot line? Was it a prayer? Were you afraid? Determined? Relieved? I don't know—and on this side of the Kingdom coming, I can't know. 

What I do know, is that for the last twelve years, I have thought of you as my elf-friend. How could you be anything but kin of Legolas, with your tousled blond hair and impish grin? With your skill in music and lyric-verse? With your love for the stars and the sea? You, a tree-lover and earth-wanderer, you must be of elven blood. So what song is more fitting in memory of three hundred and sixty-five days ago than this one?


Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
The night is falling
You have come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

How desperately I wish you were only sleeping. Sleeping—to awake at any minute and laugh with mirth over simple joys. . . Sunsets, snowflakes, songs strummed on the roof. I want you to be safe in my arms, no more clamouring fears, no longer weeping over your lost Love. But, oh! You sleep a different sleep. The unwaking-on-this-side sort of sleep, where you no longer dream of those who came before—you have crossed to the distant shore.

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All Souls pass

You, who spent so many years along the edges of the water, you know the mournful, lilting—haunting—cry of the gulls. Their voices break my heart and comfort me, all at once. Can you hear their calls? Perhaps for the rest of my life, whenever their voices reach my ears, I will think of you. You, battling the noise and wheeling confusion in your own mind. You, with a whoop of delight, rushing to ring a solitary church bell. You, taking a wounded gull to the bird lady, even though it cost you your job. You, your soul home at last.

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West

The last year has felt like one hell of a dark night. Like hope fading and shadows falling. So many memories have crowded in on me—or eluded me. For months (and even still), I wanted someone who knew you to talk with me about you. I just wanted to hear a new story, an old memory—something tangible to remind me of you. My grief is different than the ragged storm it was in those first weeks and months. But different doesn't mean absent. Sometimes the storm redoubles and leaves me gasping for breath. Sometimes, just beneath the calm surface, grief runs hard like a riptide. 

Don't tell me we have come now to the end. It can't be the end already. It's too soon. Too soon, can't you see? I don't want you to be across the waters, I don't want you to have answered the call of those gleaming, distant shores. I don't want you to be there without me. So many years ago you set sail, away from me and from unmoving earth. You sailed out into the pitching waves. Did you ever look back? Or did you set your face, unyielding, toward the sunset? 

A lithe grey ship has passed into the West. Yet you and I will meet again. You better be ready for a bear hug, O Westward One. Do you remember quoting Wordsworth to me, years ago? Let me return the gift, as tears of rain pour blessed relief upon this night. . .

‘What, you are stepping westward?'—'Yea.’
—'Twould be a wildish destiny. . .

The dewy ground was dark and cold;
Behind, all gloomy to behold;
And stepping westward seemed to be
A kind of heavenly destiny. . .

— William Wordsworth, Stepping Westward


"Into the West" Songwriters: Howard Shore / Philippa Boyens / Annie Lennox

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I miss him in the weeping of the rain

Dear Aaron,

It rained today. Spicy pine-scent lingers about my porch. . .can you smell pines in the Kingdom? A few days ago (and for the first time in weeks) I went hiking away from my little valley. I saw wildflowers, dark clouds, and green, green fens. I breathed deep, sniffed in the sweet scent of the douglas pine. I heard the breeze fluttering through the aspen trees—could you hear it too? Today I saw, really saw for what felt like the first time in weeks. The lowering sky, dark, with one hill all crested, crusted with tawny light spilling over it. Everything else was in shadow but that one, golden place. What are sunsets and summer storms like in the Kingdom? The Big Dipper is hanging close enough to touch, just off my porch; each star bright, crisp, and close. What are the constellations like in the Kingdom?

It's coming up on a year. Sometimes I can talk about you without crying. Sometimes I'm a little too far removed, too numb. And sometimes the tears well up in my eyes when I hear a song, or when I realise how long and fast this year has been. Today it was kindness that caught me off guard. Just a kind word of thanks and encouragement from a stranger. . .and it made me think of your memorial, where people I didn't know came up to me and comforted me like I was family. The kindness is unbearable, because in that place I can't be numb—the feelings come, and in them there is sorrow, there is pain.

A whole year. . . Grief swells and ebbs, it doesn't go away. It is etched on the inside of who I am—even when others forget, I remember. I remember your smile and your voice. I remember that I forgot to tell you how thankful I was for your friendship when I had it. I remember that miserable day in the airport in Anchorage, feeling like the person I knew had died—like our friendship had died. And I ached, feeling abandoned, feeling unwanted. These last eleven-ish months have dug up those buried feelings, only to wound me afresh. To kill the tiny, internal flame that still burned—the hope that one day, somehow, we would be friends again. That somehow the medicine would help you become you again, and you would remember that I was your friend. But that day didn't come. A different day came instead. A day that I didn't expect to wound me so deeply. A day that cut my heart open in a way that nothing else has in all my life.

Sometimes I think of life being divided before and after 9/11 (nearly half my life ago this year). And sometimes I think of my life as pre and post Summit, or Semester, or Oxford. There are several lines of demarcation in my brief existence. But now there is life before and after 9/3. Few others will recognise that date as a timeline. As an arrow lodged in my heart, and in the hearts of your parents and your sister, and the few others who were part of your tribe.

Did you know that I almost called you? Either last summer or the one before. I found out something. . . Something kind and generous about you. And even though I had no reason to believe you would speak to me, I almost called. I still wish I had. Even if you wouldn't talk to me. I wish I had said thank you when I could. I wish I could have talked with you one last time. But then 3 September came and there is no two-way phone line to the Kingdom. Not for non-Incarnate mortals to one another. And that's good. . .I suppose. I know I can talk any time to the Incarnate Mortal who lived and died and stood death on its head. I know He speaks to me.

Maybe I've been too busy, too pulled in every direction to really feel much this summer. But the wind whispers your music in between the aspen leaves. The stars in the sky reflect the laughter and fun in your eyes. The warm sunlight takes me back to a hayride on a different Monday that was also the third of September. I have wondered what it will be like to go back to Pagosa after 9/3... I haven't been there since... For a while I couldn't sing the Doxology at church without ending up in tears. It made me think of meals at the lodge. But now it feels like a friend taking my hand and walking me through the pain. Will going to the lodge again be like that? But more than the going back to a place where I remember you is the going to a place where you should be and aren't. Briarwood Ave. The woods at Fort Barton. Sunset hill. Your room. . .your roof. Your memory (in some way) is there—even though I never saw you in those places, you wrote or talked about some of them. But you aren't there. Now comes a different hard. What about your sister's home? What about when your parents move? What about all of those places where you never will be? What about my own home and town, where I hoped to show you my bookshelves and my friendly walking paths and all my favourite things? You should have been in those places, too, but you never came. . .

Time does not bring relief, you all have lied Who told me time would ease me of my pain! I miss him in the weeping of the rain; I want him at the shrinking of the tide; The old snows melt from every mountain-side, And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane; But last year's bitter loving must remain Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear To go—so with his memory they brim! And entering with relief some quiet place Where never fell his foot or shone his face I say, 'There is no memory of him here!' And so stand stricken, remembering him!

—Edna St Vincent Millay

Thursday, July 25, 2019

This you taught me beyond the grave...

Dear Aaron,

The wind is sweeping through the pines tonight,
rattling my windows, whispering 'round the trees
The sky is weeping rain tonight,
Pouring out its pain upon the needles and the leaves

Always, always these are the nights I want to write
a letter to you, but where would I send it to?
Instead, I find your old letters,
weeping o'er their leaves, seeing your words anew

Tonight you reminded me that Despair makes a
show of his strength—or of our flaws—
Yet all the while he's trembling,
Fearing his bluff is up, but if we pause

And listen to his terms, with bowed heads
and hopeless hearts, saying
"These we will take!"
He confidently assumes we are paying

Paying the price of defeat, when really
we are rallying to fight his prideful will
to the bitter end,
Making the end less bitter on that battle hill

The Dark Lord wages war, precarious,
He doesn't have the upper hand,
But he uses our doubt
against us; yet wavering, we stand

Willing to sacrifice ourselves;
Even when hope has died in our hearts,
We will go down
Fighting against Despair and his darts

And unbelievably the eagles come,
Hope beyond hope—unlooked for—
Holds out a wing
To cover and to carry us once more

But when everything sad doesn't come untrue
under the sunless sky and the lidless eye,
Still we press on
Toward journey's end, by our living Despair dies

This you taught me beyond the grave,
Across the years you reached out to me
In red ink written
Ages ago, when we were younger and free

Free in ways we didn't know and often shunned,
You were wise, I was naive as could be—
Behold, time reveals truth
If only we have the eyes to look and to see

Friday, June 14, 2019

Summer Eyes

New glasses and maroon mascara... Happy Summer!

Edit: Something I noticed the other day (while looking through old photos)...

 It took until I was in my thirties for my face to be clear on a regular basis. There is hope!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

He Makes My Griefs to Sing

Wounded I sing, tormented I indite,
Thrown down I fall into a bed, and rest:
Sorrow hath chang’d its note: such is his will,
Who changeth all things, as him pleaseth best. . .
. . .I live to shew his power, who once did bring
     My joyes to weep, and now my griefs to sing.
— George Herbert

“...Songs, like trees, bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.

—Treebeard (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King)

And so it is with people. Sometimes they are withered untimely. 

Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

Nine months have gone by, and still the fallout of your untimely withering haunts me and hurts me. I saw who you could be. The poet you were...the poet you could have been, the world will never know. You died untimely, Aaron. I feel the tension of who you were and who you became—and who you could have become if...if 'how it is' and 'how it should be' somehow were different. What if how it is were changed to how it should be? You would still be here. We would still be friends. 

Or would that be how it should be? 

No one is ever told what would have been... And who can say how it should be, except the Maker Himself? You would still be here, I believe—but perhaps we would still be separated. Friendships grow, but they can also change and they can wither, too. I know that is okay, but sometimes I really hate it. I don't want to not be friends. I don't want you to be gone. I don't want to bear this perpetually bleeding wound... Because I want you to still be you. I want you to still be alive and 'normal.' I want to still be friends. I want that to be how it should be. But I don't get to be in control.

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?

Salvation is here

"Where can you run to escape from yourself?" If only I knew. I think you wanted to know, too. To escape from the torn, tortured part of your mind. And honestly, I want to run from the ugly, mean, revolting me that I too often am. I want to escape the things and the people who overwhelm and suffocate me. And I think you did, too. I evade and hedge and hide... You took a more drastic route to escape from yourself. I think I understand, a very little bit. I am trying to forgive you for leaving me...for leaving your family...for leaving a broken world that needed your songs. 

Only God's forgiveness to me in my brokenness fuels my love, my ability to forgive. And I know His forgiveness inspired you. Do you remember penning this: "Unmerited favour is my only remedy"? You did...and it rings in my memory like a clear bell-cry. Unmerited favour is my only remedy! Indeed. 

When Redemption is fully perfected in the Kingdom-coming, I want to hear its stories. I want to hear redemption in your story...to see how it threads through and plays out. Will you tell me the story? Will you teach me the language of the Kingdom? Will you help my tongue and heart live the words and ways of the Kingdom? 

When it feels like surgery And it burns like third degree And you wonder what is it worth? When your inside's breaking in And you feel that ache again And you wonder What's giving birth?

If you could let the pain of the past go Of your soul None of this is in your control If you could only let your guard down You could learn to trust me somehow I swear, that I won't let you go If you could only let go your doubts If you could just believe in me now I swear, that I won't let you go

Nine months later and this song still makes me cry.

Jon Foreman said this about I Won't Let You Go: "If the Author of time and space, the one who breathed my soul into existence, were to sing me a song about trust, it might go something like this, 'I love you and I won’t let you go.' I believe that where you put your trust begins to define you."

Where you put your trust begins to define you. I've put my trust in myself, in my friends, in my family. I've had friends leave me, annoy me, and/or smother me. A friend recently asked if I got tired of them... My response was honest, "I get tired of myself and can't get away from me. So yeah, I get tired of everyone I know at some point. The only exception is God. I don't get tired of Him." I've put my trust in people (myself included) who let me down, who don't satisfy, who don't know what to do or what I need. For a season of my life, I even put some of my trust in you, Aaron. I trusted that you were a first-friend—someone who understood gloaming and poetry, who had seen the grey-green wave in the sunrise, who would be my friend in rough times. In many ways, you were and you did.

But my ultimate trust can't be in any creature or creation. As wonderful as people are, as much as mountains and pine trees and rivers are 'home,' they will fail me, even hurt me. It isn't that we shouldn't trust others or not revel in creation. If we first trust God to love us and to not let us go—even when we want to let go and are tired of ourselves—then we can trust others and love them and creation. But if we don't truly trust God first, how can we trust or love anyone or anything else?

There ain't no darkness strong enough
that could tear you out from my heart There ain't no strength that's strong enough
that could tear this love apart Never gonna let you go

It's still true. Though Treebeard also says, "Never is too long a word, even for me" I dare to say it, with God's help. Because eternity is both now and to come. And for eternity I will hold on to the love and friendship you gave to me. Not in a grasping, hoarding way, but as a handhold on the face of the mountain as I climb toward the Lord. I will hold on for dear life—because life is dear. Your love, your generosity, the beauty and wonder of your soul are supports for me on this path. I could not proceed—I would not be where I am today—without those holds you provided. Your friendship has changed me, deepened me, strengthened me...made me more like Christ. Thank you, Aaron. I love you and I miss you, friend.

~ Me

Friday, May 31, 2019

Mum's Birthday!

Over Memorial Day weekend, I flew home to celebrate Mum's birthday. I believe a good time was had by all—as evidenced by these photos.

This was the beautiful cake (it was yummy, too)!

The birthday girl!

Dad and Mum

The birthday girl and the grandlings

Mother and daughters

Not the best-quality photo, but I liked my new dress in this one.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Filled with Celestial Fire

Dear Aaron,

In the Friday evening gloaming  I sat down with an English supper—toast with butter, cheese, grapes, apples, toasted almonds, and much-less-than-a-pint of stout. As the purple drained from the sky and faded to grey, I picked up a slim volume, mossy green, inked with vines wrapped about a torch or two. It is a poetry book I purchased at a Kansas used-book store that Chelsea took me to years ago. Probably more than a decade ago, somehow. This little book is still my favourite poetry book that I own—though I dearly cherish your copy of Whittier's poems. 

It is apropos that I sat down with this very book; for it was from The School Poetry Book (published in 1911) that I copied out James Russell Lowell's The Fountain, which you memorised and quoted on my voicemail, ages ago. How I wish I still had that voicemail. I can hear your voice in my memory yet, but I miss hearing your voice in my ear.

Another poem, however, was what I read softly in the gathering dusk. This time—of day and of the year—is when I think of you the most. When the birds are making those loud, final calls for the night. The sky is waxing toward starlight, but it is still just light enough to make out the words on the page.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
         The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, 
The plowman homeward plods his weary way, 
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

I hadn't read Thomas Gray's most well-known poem in years, certainly not since you went beyond where I can reach you. There are a lot of things I haven't read in quite some time, since before. . . Stories or poems I have long-loved for their melancholy, for their grasp of the twilight of this world. Once I read those words with a different ache—a young love crushed, a heart-sore pain. But they stab more deeply and truly now than ever they did before. Now it is not first love for another that has died and been buried in a narrow cell; now Death has marked you, my friend, for its own. You, who, like the village forefathers in the poem, seem little known, cared for, or remembered by the world.

Can storied urn or animated bust 
         Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? 
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust, 
         Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death? 
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid 
         Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire. . .

Once the Breath of Life exhales the final YHWH, once we no longer draw another, once the burning heart stops beating, what could re-animate flesh and bone? What could breathe life into dust? Only the Word of God. The ruach, the Spirit, of God (Ezekiel 37.5). You have indeed been "recalled to life"—the Spirit of God has breathed eternal life into you, on the other side. Nothing here can re-enchant those ashes that were once you. I am sick with grief at the very thought.

Yet the lines I rolled along my tongue were those last two: Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid // Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire. Wherever your earthly remnants are finally laid to rest, Ev'n in [y]our ashes live their wonted fires. People may not stream to your grave as they do for Lewis or Chaucer, Wordsworth or Gray himself—yet it will not be wholly neglected. Your heart was indeed full of celestial fire, blazing forth in kindness and generosity, in poetry and song. Even in the ashes of your life, the fire burns on in your family, in me, in others. It is the fire of creativity, of beauty, of largesse, of Love Himself, burning white hot in you.

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth 
       A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown. 
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth, 
       And Melancholy mark'd him for her own. 
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere.