Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Brick Wall

I awoke this morning, stretching luxuriously in my comfy bed and smiling at the prospect of a day off. My waking head full of dreams, I gradually noticed that Tama and Ita, my parakeets, were uncharacteristically quiet. I stumbled to feed them.

Tama sat close to Ita, quiet and nervous. Ita had one foot on a perch, the other on a hanging treat stick. I put food in their dish, and Tama edged up and down the perch but didn't make any move toward the food. Ita didn't move at all. I saw why, and my stomach lurched. They love to shred things, and they had turned the ends of the nylon string holding up the treat into a fuzzy cloud. Ita's foot was tangled in the poof. How long he'd been there, I could guess from the state of his foot. All night. His foot was swollen and blue, his leg raw where the thin strand of nylon had held him while he tried to free himself. 

Ita has never liked to be handled. Tama will perch on my hand, but Ita? Never. His leg was going to need some close attention, so I found winter gloves to save my hands multiple peckings. I cut him free, then grabbed him in one hand. He unleashed an angry wood-packer act on my finger within the reach of his head. My heart sank at the sight of his leg. The fragile thing looked almost nearly severed, the nylon almost totally embedded. 

Talking constantly to keep Ita calm, I armed my free hand with tweezers and nail clippers. Little by little, the fibers were extracted while I tried not to think about how my proddings with metal must feel in the wound. Suddenly, Ita flexed his foot, which had been frozen in an extended position. It was free! 

With great relief, I returned Ita to the cage to rejoin Tama, who had squawked his resentment at my removal of his inseparable cagemate. Happiness reigns again, and I think Ita's foot will heal just fine. 

I love putting things right. (And I will never again allow my parakeets to play with nylon strings.)

I hate when things are not as they should be, and my attempts to rectify things are futile. Like running full-speed into a brick wall. Repeatedly.

Every morning, I greet her cheerfully. She glares in return. She doesn't talk to me any more than absolutely necessary, and I often hear a hissed "b****" thrown in my direction. 

She hates me. There is nothing I can do to change it, because I can't change the color of my skin.

I've seen racism, and I hate it. I've often taken pains to value people who assume I might discriminate against them, to make sure they know I love diversity... that I find beauty in the range of color we all wear.

No one has ever been racist against me. 

Until now.

I want to scream sometimes. Can't she see beyond my skin? Can't she give me... ME, not just "the white b****" a chance? Is it my fault my skin is so pale, not a beautiful ebony like her own? 

Every day, greeting her cheerfully. Every day, finding compliments to give her. Every day, trying to show her I love her. Every day, met with silence, glares, and hissed hatred. I'm starting to feel cheesy and stupid. 

But I've read her story. She has a right to be angry. She has seen enough pain and hatred to last ten people each a lifetime. It's alright if she's chosen to hate me for my lack of melanin.

But this is not how it was meant to be.

And I still wish I could change it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Signs and Wonders

My next-door neighbor turned on his car. Music, like a detonating bomb, exploded into our street's afternoon quiet. For an inch's length of time, Meadville seemed to be what its sign blusters: "CITY of Meadville." And then I realized the music genre was country. Nope, this isn't a city.  

Having lived in the ghetto before I moved here definitely earns me points with the kids at work. They miss their city, love their ghetto. I understand. 

But I love my little house in Meadville. Lying barefoot in the grass of my backyard and watching the clouds is definitely one of the perks of living on the edge of a town with a deluded sign.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


hold up your hand
to block out the sun
put your hand down
and look what you've done
i know this talking wasted someone
i know this time was wasted hating me
and killing me
you know it's sabotage

you know it's sabotage

why does that snake
keep hanging around?
here comes my girl
to show what she's found
we went down that road
looking for a new sound
looking for peace
but that's not what we found
we found sabotage

we found sabotage

-"sabotage", by james clay
Just like Adam and Eve, we think we have The Alternative. For countless generations, we've demonstrated an astounding propensity to sabotage ourselves. Trying to protect myself, I find my heart numb. I watch those I fiercely love make devastating choices, chasing happiness. People killing each other over land and prejudice. What does it leave us? Shrunken, tired, listless.

My heavy heart and I sat in church last Sunday, trying to stop processing the sad events of the previous two days and actually listen to the message on the feasts of Leviticus. Suddenly it dawned on me... the feasts were proof of the GOOD that God wanted for His people. The celebrations of harvest, the remembering of deliverance... times of celebrating God's abundant heart toward them, times to spend time with people... times to draw near to God. Funny, how my alternatives usually expunge one or all three of those necessities.

I, for one, am tired of sabotage. Instead, I want to "run the way of [God's] commandments, then [He] will enlarge my heart." (Ps. 119:32) That's what I want, a heart that keeps enlarging... a heart big enough to love all people, all creation... a heart that lives increasingly in the presence of God... a heart able to believe and rejoice in Redemption, no matter how broken I... and those I love... are.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This is all...

... I can think right now:

"Oh My God", by Jars of Clay

Oh my God, look around this place

Your fingers reach around the bone

You set the break and set the tone

Flights of grace, and future falls

In present pain

All fools say, "Oh my God"

Oh my God, Why are we so afraid?

We make it worse when we don't bleed

There is no cure for our disease

Turn a phrase, and rise again

Or fake your death and only tell your closest friend

Oh my God.

Oh my God, can I complain?

You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief

Weddings, boats and alibis

All drift away, and a mother cries

Liars and fools; sons and failures

Thieves will always say

Lost and found; ailing wanderers

Healers always say

Whores and angels; men with problems

Leavers always say

Broken hearted; separated

Orphans always say

War creators; racial haters

Preachers always say

Distant fathers; fallen warriors

Givers always say

Pilgrim saints; lonely widows

Users always say

Fearful mothers; watchful doubters

Saviors always say

Sometimes I cannot forgive

And these days, mercy cuts so deep

If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep

While I lay, I dream we're better,

Scales were gone and faces light

When we wake, we hate our brother

We still move to hurt each other

Sometimes I can close my eyes,

And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,

What makes me so badly bent?

We all have a chance to murder

We all feel the need for wonder

We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder

Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven

All the times I thought to reach up

All the times I had to give

Babies underneath their beds

Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,

All the comforts of cathedrals

All the cries of thirsty children - this is our inheritance

All the rage of watching mothers - this is our greatest offense

Oh my God

Oh my God

Oh my God

...but even songs that give voice to pain are proof of beauty, of redemption. Somehow, wordlessly, so is the sunrise in the east this morning.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence
but also internal violence of spirit.
You not only refuse to shoot a man,
but you refuse to hate him.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, June 11, 2010

summer, simplicity, & surrender

As I write, I have dirt under my fingernails and a bloodied toe. I feel like a kid again. It feels so good that I'm not even thinking about how ghastly my toe is going to look when the injured nail takes its leave. So much for my French pedicure. It's quite laughable, actually. Who sustains injuries while mulching their flower beds? Well, obviously...

Did I think the aforesaid information necessary or enlightening to your existence? Hardly. But if you want a synopsis of my life at the moment, there ya be... Discovering a deep, saturating joy in simplicity. Like being good and dirty for a change.

I learned it from the birds.

No beaks about it.

While watching the nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, purple finches, sparrows, and the resident pair of cardinals visit my backyard feeder, a peace stole into my complexities.

They don't have to be right all the time. They don't try to see tomorrow. They don't wonder how or what they SHOULD be feeling. And yet God sees them. And they praise Him just by LIVING.

Is this called surrender? This stillness in the wake of letting go?

It gives me ears to hear the heartbeat of a creation being redeemed... and the sacred opportunity to play along with its music... just by being who He made me to be. And knowing He sees me.

The rewards are abundant.

The simple joy of
local strawberries,

EATING the strawberries with homemade egg custard on the porch in the evening...

making bread... (sorry the picture is so grainy; my only camera is my phone right now. Ha! Get it? "Grainy?")

Turning this:

into that:

to sunny up my room.

I saw the idea on Folding Trees and knew that's the inspiration I was waiting on to add some texture to that wall. Not having any pipe cleaners on hand, I threaded a needle with heavy thread and knotted it on the back of the flowers. The thread tails made for easy hanging, too. Aren't they fun?

Coffee filters I had on hand + scraps of fabric from a dress I just finished + a wavey-glassed, peeling-painted beauty of a window I scored for FREE on Craigslist (happy day!) = a room that makes me smile.

"Love conquers all; we must, too, surrender to love." -Virgil

...and it is in that surrender that we find what it is to live the day one is given as the person one is made to be.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010