Friday, August 30, 2013

The View from Here

Jonathan and I drove into Phoenix for the first time a few nights ago. We were going in to see a singer/songwriter friend play a gig at a bar downtown. It was a beautiful night--a haboob had just come through (our first!) followed by a burst of thunderstorm, turning the sky dull, and then brown, dark with rain and bursts of lightning. So the air was cooler, perfect for walking. Since a baseball game was just ending at the stadium, we got a scenic tour of the downtown area while we tried to find open streets. Mostly, the city felt empty to two Bostonians used to post-Fenway mayhem. But it was a safe emptiness, a street-lit, quiet stroll, a calm after a storm, like the city belonged to us and who else needed to be there anyway?

Driving home, I looked over at Jonathan in the driver's seat and I was taken back to when we first started dating.  On one of our first dates we went down to the North End in Boston and had pizza in a tiny Italian restaurant, where they seated us in the back next to the ovens and we sweated double from the nerves and the heat.  We ordered bacon pizza.  Later we walked down to Long Wharf and sat out by the water for a long time, then he drove me home.  But pulling into Cambridge around midnight, I somehow let him convince me to stay out another hour and drive to Norwood, so I could see where he grew up.  Maybe that's why I fell in love with him anyway, because he could get me to break a rule or two and do something spontaneous, to eat bacon pizza and stay out long enough to make my roommates ask questions.  
I distinctly remember driving down the highway with him that night.  In the blurry haze of newness back then I couldn't quite make out who it was sitting next to me in that car.  And he may have thought he knew me, even thought he loved me, but can't we see now that he could only knew such a small part of me?  The real knowing and loving comes on much later, and is somewhat less romantic, less hazy, more true.
I found myself thinking of these things as we drove out of Phoenix, as he played drums on the steering wheel to a Macklemore song, like he does all the time, like he always has (and sings the drum parts).  He still does sing me funny songs, even when I don't want him to (and makes me sing them too).  And its nice to remember that when it feels like everything has changed in the past two years, some things don't.  I still have the same view from the passenger seat that I did two years ago, and it's always been a good view from there.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I've never had the deep kinship relationship with the ocean that some seem to have.  Living in New England, there seemed to be this sense of binding to the sea, this craving to be near it, some inner connection to where the ocean meets the land.  There is, even for me, something deeply spiritual about standing with the water just lapping my ankles, the rhythmic in and out of the waves, like the breathing of the shore.  It feels right to be there, to stare out at the expanse before me and know my own smallness.  My favorite memories of the ocean are at dawn or dusk, when all is still, all is quiet, like the earth should be at peace.  All is right.  The infinite sea, blue as far as my small eyes can go, is something bigger than me, something no one claims to control, always ebbing and flowing, always there.
Maybe that's the draw for those who have always lived by the sea.  It never does change.

I remember that I used to go back home to Colorado on breaks from college, and take my dad's car and drive out to nowhere, out on the plains, where it was quiet and I could listen to music and think and feel small in some open space.  It was often late afternoon, when the light slants out of the west, from the mountains, and everything turns sweet amber.  I felt like my soul could open up there, spread out, not bound by the brick and bustle of my other life.
Every so often, I'd rise over the crest of a hill and suddenly I could see forever--blue mountains with a dusting of snow, and clouds that rose to points just above them, a mirror range in the sky.  And the light would break through the clouds, just turning pink, and light up the whole valley before me, a sea of civilization that was really only a foreground and a preface to the story.  I could see the light reflect off the skyscrapers in the distant downtown, making them look so small.  Making us all look so small.
My heart still feels at home there.  My Colorado is a golden prairie-land.  In my daydreams I run through wheat-colored fields and the tops of the plants just brush my hands.

Now I've made the desert my home, and so I must learn to see God in what is around me here, different as it is.  It is palm trees and cacti, and sparky orange blooms; rocks and puffy storm clouds and so much land.  There are hummingbirds here and there, and little mourning doves that populate the apartment complex where we stay.  And the sky--mostly the sky--so blue by day and any choice of colors in the evening, a display of God's glory.  And maybe that's where I'll find him here, if not at my ankles or brushing my hands, then up and out, in the expanse, where I can wonder at him in so many new ways.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Finding Family

Tonight was our second Sunday in Tempe, and so our second week of new church, new faces, new feelings, new friends.  I remember that I didn’t want to leave.  I had no one in particular to talk to.  I really only know about 20 people and I’ve never been the best at making conversation with strangers.  It makes me want to be invisible, mostly.  We had all milled and migled over nachos in little paper boats, some folks curled up on an assortment of blankets on the ground (fleece snowmen, knit ASU blankets, a tour of the travels of someone’s life).  I had chatted with most people I knew.  They had asked me about the job search, had I made any progress (no).  I had stood contentedly and watched a few kids playing together, pushing each other, spinning in circles, and I had watched the people I hadnt yet met, trying to guess who was in college and who I might meet another day and where had I met that one before?  The sky got dark, and I could barely see anyone’s face, and some were still wrapping cords and positioning chairs inside.
Jonathan asked if I was ready to go, and I had no one to talk to, but I wasn’t ready.
Travis talked about who our church is tonight and said he hoped we would find a family here.  And I only know 20 people but its true they are family.  Already nachos on the lawn feels like a reunion.  There’s nothing like leaving almost everything you know and have loved (so deeply loved) for the last eight years to make you learn quickly how you need a family.  This one feels at once familiar and new, old and comforting and uncertain and adventurous.  Who will I be? Who will I love?  It’s impossible to know.  But I didn’t want to leave, because I had the impression that another conversation, another connection, could be just around the corner, and it could be beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


It’s official: we have moved to Tempe.
We have no place of our own, and no jobs, and little to do but apply and pray and explore and hope.  Hoping is a big and important job at times like this.
Tempe feels so familiar and comfortable to me, in large part, I think, because it is like Colorado with palm trees.  Returning to the West feels like coming back to my roots, though I come back to them such a different person than when I left.
This is, in so many ways, not Boston.  It is not where I’ve been–not the history, not the inconvenience, not the quirkiness or the attitude or the accent.  I remember so vividly descending into Boston the day I moved there–the feeling of disbelief, of wonder, not having any idea what awaited me or what the years would hold.  But I was delighted by the possibilities and the unknowns.
It was a similar feeling landing in Phoenix, though more tempered and through older eyes.  The wonder, I hope, remains, because it is a terrible thing to lose your sense of wonder.  But now, of course, I have this man who is on this wild adventure with me (wonder!).  I have the weight of responsibilities, adult worries, complex relationships.  But mostly, I have hope.  That must be the most important thing, knowing that despite the worries and everything else, this is exactly where we are meant to be, right now, today.  That holds everything together.