February 16, 2016 § Leave a comment
“…for now, this is what I want to say, and it’s important, so pay attention: I’ve got the best friends in the entire world. I have sought and found the truth in faith, hope, and love. I’ve seen the sun rise over exotic shores and strange lands; I have realized my home is where my heart is. I’ve cried tears of joy at weddings and sobbed my guts out at a funeral.
I have learned that you can desire something with your heart and soul and the very weight of your bones and still lose it, and when you do, the loss of it will not kill you.
I’ve felt that peculiar ache that comes from yearning: I’ve felt it when I was outside in bitter cold winter air and heard the wild cries of Canadian geese flying far away above me, felt it when I rocked babies to sleep and wouldn’t put them down even though my arms were shaking, felt it in the living silence of Eucharistic Adoration as I knelt in the dim light before my God.
I’ve dreamed too small, drank too much, written midnight poetry, called my mom crying over boys, held my girlfriends as they cried, made dinner for the homeless, talked desperate people off terrible ledges, given money to gas-station strangers and car rides to meth addicts. I’ve looked for the beauty in commonplace scenes and discovered it in human souls. I’ve got hockey, hipster glasses, and a future in books and beautiful words.”
If I were to add anything further to this after another year, it would be about forgiveness, and the constancy of God’s mercy. I have expended so much effort searching for the ability to forgive, never realizing it has been inside of me all along. I have pursued it like a deer longing for water, thinking if I could only forgive, I could let go and live again.
But now I see more clearly than ever the paradox of love: we must die to truly live.
Forgiveness has often seemed to me to be a pearl just beyond my reach, a golden feeling I could not create within me. But I needed to “put away childish things” – this search for a feeling, this elusive, darting emotion. Forgiveness is already- always- within love, held by it, and strengthened with it. If my love is a true sacrifice of self, then forgiveness follows from it in a way utterly natural. To paraphrase Caryll Houselander: if you have hurt me, you have hurt Christ, who is within you. I see the wound in Christ, in you, and I reach out to comfort that wound, because He is in me also, and wounded. Therefore forgiving becomes not about me and my feelings, but about healing the wounds our sins have left on- in- the body of Christ. This is letting go, or rather dying to my own self, my own need. This is love, poured out like liquid gold refined in the fire of God’s grace.
Not I, but Christ who lives in me.
This is sometimes harder to apply to our own selves, whom we need to forgive just as often as we forgive others. Every sin I commit wounds Christ within me, and my sincere contrition for them gives me the opportunity to say to Him, “Let me comfort you.” I sometimes think of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, looking in agony at our sins and what He must suffer to expiate them. How He must have longed to hear those words of comfort from us as He prayed. My despair and anger wound the eternally loving heart of God, and after I realize this, I turn to Him inside me and repent. But forgiveness of self is still necessary after the repentance, or else I run the risk of denying God’s utter goodness and mercy. He forgives and we are cleansed, and our sin is made white as snow. This must be acknowledged by me. I cannot cling to my sorrow, wearing it like sackcloth and ashes. We fall, we repent, we rise. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is especially necessary at times when I cannot forgive myself. We call it “Confession”, a little nickname, but should not forget that a Reconciliation between ourselves and Christ occurs as well. We are not merely depositing our sins in a darkened room; we speak- we run, we press ourselves- to the Heart of Christ through His servant the priest, and He in turn absolves us, washes us, revives us. He heals the death of Himself in us. The tomb- the darkened room- is empty. He was dead but has risen.
We live the Resurrection of Christ within us every time we forgive.
If I could choose one thing to do better as I enter my thirties, it would be to spread the knowledge of the constancy of God’s mercy. Pick your head up, my friend. Let your heart be glad. The mercies of the Lord are renewed each morning, so great is His faithfulness. You do not need to search for Him; He is already waiting for you. Open wide the door; roll away the stone. Forgive yourself. We are all darkened tombs until we allow -for He will never force Himself- the life of Christ to shine through us. We were dead but now we live.
January 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
Here’s a little secret about me:
I have never felt a strong connection to the feast of Christmas. I understand the significance of it in my faith, of course, but it’s never given me the same kind of spiritual lift that Holy Week and the Easter feast do. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a baby? Maybe it’s because I’m just so incredibly familiar with the story, it’s hard to make it new again every year? Or because the older I get, the busier the holiday season becomes, even when I try to keep it simple? (Everyone’s in town, everyone wants to hang out. I want to hang out with everyone! I want to bake cookies, to wrap presents and play all the Christmas carols!) I don’t know. Regardless of the reason, the birth of our Lord is a feast I struggle to make holy. That sounds terrible but it’s true. Really the only part of Christmas Mass that means something more to me than any other Mass is the second reading. I was lucky enough to lector at Christmas morning Mass this year, which meant I got to say those words out loud to the congregation. Hebrews 1:1-4 (emphasis mine):
“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,
who is the refulgence of his glory,
the very imprint of his being,
and who sustains all things by his mighty word.
When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels, as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Refulgence is defined as “shining brightly, radiant”. And I love that word. It’s rich, it’s lavish, it resonates. I love the idea of the Son shining the glory of God the Father over the earth by His birth. “The very imprint of his being” is another beautiful phrase, all full of power and emphasis. Especially for me as a Catholic who believes Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist at each and every Mass, it’s a weighty and phenomenal statement. The imprint of God’s Being is at Mass, for me to take into myself.
Those are beautiful words, phrases, powerful sentences, and I love them all year round, but they don’t speak “Christmas” to me in a special way. I just love the beauty and truth of them, the way I love all beautiful true words, the way the prayer “Look not upon our sins, but on the faith of your church” hits me in the gut every single Mass, and I always, always think of those I love who have fallen away from their faith, yet who still have that indelible mark of Baptism upon their soul. Look not upon their sins, I pray every Mass, but see my faith, here it is, as small and weak and fragile as it is, it’s here. Let my faith protect them. What are we but oblations, after all? Sacrificial love made real in our daily lives. An offering in spirit and truth.
I’m getting off-topic. I began re-reading Caryll Houselander’s spiritual classic “The Reed of God” again to try to get a little more in tune with the Christmas season. It contains such moving reflections on Mary, it’s a perfect Advent read.
“He was completely her own, utterly dependent upon her: she was His food and warmth and rest, His shelter from the world, His shade in the Sun. She was the shrine of the Sacrament, the four walls and the roof of His home.”
In regards to Mary and Joseph losing the young child Jesus for three days:
“Christ suffered the sense of the loss of God, of being left, forsaken by God.
Our Lady, therefore, suffered the same thing: the sense of the loss of God. And of all the sufferings of human nature, this is the most universal and the most purifying.
Therefore she lived through this strange, baffling thing for the love of God and for the love of us; she suffered it in Christ because Christ suffers it in human nature.
We have seen that her “Be it done unto me according to thy word” is uttered again in His “Not my will, but thine be done.” Just so is her “Son, why hast thou done so to us?” repeated in His “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”
Everyone experiences this sense of the loss of the Divine Child.”
She talks of Mary’s sacrificial life, of idols, grace, emptiness and faith. She says in regards to speaking with people caught in sin:
“We should never come to a sinner without the reverence that we would take to the Holy Sepulchre. Pilgrims have travelled on foot for years to kiss the Holy Sepulchre, which is empty. In sinners we can kneel at the tomb in which the dead Christ lies.”
And in regards to the times in our life when we are seeking God and cannot find Him:
“He goes away that we may seek Him. The sense of loss, the awareness of insufficiency, makes us long for Him as He is; it makes us willing to go out from ourselves and find Him where He is.
He wants us to seek, because he wants to give Himself to us. It is an experience like the experience of emptiness: the emptiness must be there that He may fill it; and we must be aware of it in order that we may want Him to fill it.”
I love Caryll Houselander for the same reason I love Emily Dickinson: because they both possess a strikingly paradoxical way of writing about the loveliness and drudgery of life. Mysticism and the matter-of-fact combined. Her words paint a picture of the toil of daily life limned with the grace of Christ, refulgent with His presence. And so perhaps Christmas is real to me after all, because these words bring Christ fully into my world, enfleshed in the souls around me. I see Him not just in the faces I love, but in all I encounter: in the utterly familiar faces of my family, the faces of all my friends near and far, in a dear face now lost to me, in the homeless men on the Square, the drunken girl at the bar, the irritable couple at table 43, the refugees in the news, in all the faces of humanity, I see His face. His humanity. Every time I stop seeing someone as merely an object, and instead view Christ in them, He is born to me again in the flesh. In this way, I receive the gift of Christmas every day.
“The gift of Christ’s Body makes everyone a priest; because everyone can offer the Body of Christ on the altar of their own life.
But the offering must be the offering of a human being who is intensely alive, a potent humanness, great sorrow and great joy, a life lit up with the flame of Love, fierce fasts and thirsts and feasts of sheer joy. […]
It is not in making our flesh unfeeling that we hallow God’s name on earth but in offering it to God burning with the flame of life. Everything can be put into the fire that Christ came to kindle; and whether it be the bitter wood of sorrow or the substance of joy, it will burn upwards with the same splendor of light.”
December 15, 2015 § Leave a comment
Costa Rica was hot. And beautiful, humid and brash and bright. The sticky-sweet heat fell like a blanket on my shoulders every time I walked outside. But it wouldn’t have been the same without it. The ocean water, green and warmed through with sunlight, would not have been nearly as refreshing without the humid air. And the icy margaritas definitely wouldn’t have been as delicious.
A few weeks ago, Channing and I spent 5 days down in Costa Rica visiting our friend Jess. The heat hit us for the first time when we stepped out of the airport, but it barely registered because Jess was waiting for us already, grinning and waving from across the sidewalk. Channing and I were practically giddy with excitement (and a little vodka & club from the flight) as we ran over and hugged her. We couldn’t stop smiling and talking. It was hard to believe we were actually, really here in Costa Rica, after hearing Jess tell us so much about it. She had hired a local man, Diego, to pick us up and drive us around for the day. Diego didn’t speak any English, but with Jess translating, he was still a great tour guide, showing us the palm tree forest where he works, and buying us Imperials, the official cerveza of Costa Rica. The drive from the San Jose airport to Manuel Antonio- the little town where Jess lives- was just over two hours, and I loved every minute of it. I’m sure Channing would have too, but she slept most of the way. She managed to wake up for a few minutes when we stopped at the Crocodile Bridge, though. The muddy brown waters flowed placidly underneath the bridge, and the enormous crocodiles slept placidly through our excited photoshoot.
The Costa Rican mountains are sharp and jagged, rising in steep folds from the tangled jungle below. The highway wound up and down through them and then flattened out along the coastline to give us our first glimpse of the shining Pacific Ocean. We stopped briefly at a stand of trees overlooking the Pacific, where scarlet macaws flashed their blue and yellow wingtips at us as they settled onto the branches.
The sun was setting by the time we arrived at Jess’ apartment, and we quickly decided to catch the bus down to the beach for the rest of twilight. We dropped our suitcases in the living room, threw on our bikinis and flip-flops, and headed back out to the bus stop. I thought we were about to run off the road at least half a dozen times as the bus lumbered its way down the twisting mountainside, but the driver remained stoically indifferent, even yawning as he wrenched the wheel around in one direction and then another. After a few more hair-raising curves, it finally deposited us on the side of the main street running past Manuel Antonio’s beach. I stepped off the bus and onto the sand. Palm trees rustled over my head and the sound of the ocean boomed hollowly a few yards away.
“We’re here!!” Channing, Jess, and I immediately ran down to where the water came foaming up over the soft, dark sand. The spray from the crashing waves was warm as bathwater and tasted of salt and fresh wind. I couldn’t stop smiling at my friends. The purple and gray clouds on the western horizon were shot through with pink sunset remnants, the ocean washed all our weariness away, and we laughed in joy.
Over the next four days, I realized that Costa Rica was special. Not just for the exotic and lush jungle landscape- although that was astonishing in its loveliness- or in the friendliness of the people, but in some indefinable way I spent hours trying to pin down. The food was fresh and delicious, filled with just enough different flavors and ingredients to make a meal surprising.
We ate at Barba Roja on Saturday night, where I had albacore tuna seared medium-rare with some sort of creamy orange sauce, smooth mashed potatoes, and coconut curry kale that nearly made me (me!) a vegetable convert.
Emilio’s Cafe was our breakfast spot for two out of the three days, and the only reason we didn’t go on Tuesday was because it was closed. I sipped a smooth, rich cappuccino at Emilio’s, looking out over the ocean view, spearing chunks of fresh papaya and banana to go with my croissant. There were eggs, rice and beans, and fried sweet plantains that tasted like candy. On our last night, Jess cooked us a fantastic pad thai, full of chicken and veggies. I would like to say I helped, but really all I did was crush the peanuts and drink white wine.
We took the bus to the beach every day, usually arriving around 10 AM and grabbing some chairs by Marco’s surf school. The sun’s heat was fierce, tropical and heavy, but the ocean… oh, the ocean more than made up for it. Channing and I slathered each other in SPF 70 diligently and yet I still burned red in streaks and spots. She developed a lovely tan, much to my envy. In the hot, hot afternoons, we would cross the street and get margaritas at Las Gemelas, where the bartender John would mix mine extra strong and gently tug my blonde hair from across the bar. He told me stories about his life and asked me to marry him on my second night there. My hair stayed curly the entire time I was in Costa Rica, and lightened with sun so it was even more blonde than usual. Three different men proposed to me during my stay in Manuel Antonio. I blame the sun streaks in my hair, and my big blue eyes. Las Gemelas was one of those places, you know what I mean? Where you instantly feel like yourself, only a happier, lighter you. Maybe it was the margaritas. I don’t think so, though. John played thumping Latin American music on his laptop behind the bar and I couldn’t keep my feet from dancing every time I went in there. The crowd was friendly, always talking and laughing in the heat and rhythm of Spanish, and I realized even more what it means to be an extrovert: how I felt energized and joyful, just from being surrounded by the chatter and music and people, and the constant boom and fizz of the breaking waves, always, right across the street.
On the first day at the beach, I got Channing to put down her book and come out to play in the waves with me. We waded out past the breakers, deep enough that the rolling waves only collapsed on us every now and then. When a huge wave crested right in front of us, she screamed, “AHHHH WHAT DO I DO!?” and I promptly -and unhelpfully- screamed back, “JUST DIVE UNDER!!!” and did so. I popped back up out of the wave, laughing so hard I almost swallowed saltwater and saw that she had survived the pounding surf. This was only the beginning of Channing’s dangerous encounters with the ocean that day, though, because later we went on the banana boat. The banana boat is basically nothing more than a giant inflated tube which you straddle, while a jetski pulls you around the ocean. It’s fun and fast and hilarious, especially when the guy driving the jetski decides to cut a sharp turn and you, Jess, and Channing all go flying off the tube and into the water. Channing basically landed on my head in the water when this happened, and my hard skull bruised her hip. Sorry, Channing. She got me back later that night though, when we were sitting inside Las Gemelas watching a tropical downpour outside. Some of the guys were trying to teach me how to roll my r’s, which is apparently a necessary skill for speaking Spanish well enough that the locals don’t dissolve into laughter when you attempt it. I couldn’t do it, though and in despair, I turned to Channing, sitting next to me on another bar stool. “Chan, do YOU know how to roll your r’s!?” “Rose,” she grinned, because she knows me well, “the only thing I’m rolling right now are my eyes. At you.” In my defense, I was on vacation. In a tropical paradise. With margaritas. And salsa music.
On the second day at the beach, Jess’ friend Alexandra joined us and we drank coconut water out of coconut shells and Channing tried to convince me to ride a horse on the beach in my navy blue one-piece bathing suit. I politely declined. We walked down to the souvenir stalls on the side street and bought pretty sarongs and seashell earrings. Channing wanted to buy a machete for her boyfriend, but we weren’t quite sure how to get it through Customs in a carry-on.
Jess showed us the monkey wires installed overhead, so that the little titi monkeys have somewhere to run other than the power lines. The tropical rain began hissing down as we sat at Las Gemelas, and I couldn’t stop staring at the ocean through the gray evening light. “Jess… can I go run out into the ocean?” I didn’t want to seem like a weirdo, but Jess just laughed at me. “Do whatever you want, Rose.” So I grabbed Channing and we ran across the street and down through the soft sand. The rain fell in chill slanting sheets upon our shoulders, giving me goosebumps on my arms and neck as we waded into the warm surf. Jess got an action shot of us during the storm:
We ate dinner that night at the bar at Hotel Byblos, where the television was showing the Texans/Bengals Monday Night Football game and there was a foosball table tucked into the corner. It felt like the Valley, until we ordered shrimp and rice and beans instead of hot wings.
On the third day at the beach, Jess’ 3 year-old daughter Alana decided it would be fun to dribble sand all over me and Channing. She pulled us down to the water’s edge and laughed the whole time she plopped handfuls of the soft gray sand on us. The sand in Costa Rica has a dark tint to it, and I was pretty sure that was due to volcanic rock. I asked Jess and Marco, who both confirmed that I was correct in my geological assumptions, which was almost as enjoyable as being proposed to. Alana called the sand “poop” the entire time she was covering us in it. After I jumped into the waves to wash the sand off, Maykoll, one of Marco’s friends, took me out into the ocean on a paddleboard. Once we swam past the breaking waves, he had me sit on the front of the long board and he jumped up and paddled us all the way out into the middle of the ocean. This was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. The sun was hot on my back, but the water washed cool and sweet across the board. The green waves sparkled in the sunlight, throwing glints of white like diamonds off their windswept tops. We paddled all the way out past the twin rocks that Las Gemelas is named for, and we dangled our legs into the water, floating in the center of the horizon with nothing but emerald green ocean and sapphire sky stretching out before us. I kept going back and forth in my mind the whole trip, on what color Costa Rica was: vibrant hues in the sun, dark and rich during the rains, neon at night, but there in the middle of the Pacific ocean, all I could see were jewels.
Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s why I couldn’t quite pin down what it was about Costa Rica. Because it kept changing on me: it was flickering green shadows in the jungle inside Manuel Antonio National Park, it was white hot sunlight on the speckled beach, it was darkened, drenched hair and neon signs while the wild rainstorms pounded at night. The whole country buzzed and murmured and sang around me in a language I could not understand. I stood in the middle, surrounded by life in every color, and I drank it in with the sun and the salt and the water.
October 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
Today I was thinking about my old pet rat, Mervy. Mervy passed away in January 2013, so this definitely counts as a throwback. I wrote about him here when that happened. He was the most affectionate rat and the friendliest one out of the 6 that I’ve owned. (Charlie was the sweetest to me, but he wasn’t as good with other people, so Mervy gets the crowd-pleaser title.)
But today I was really just remembering one Merv incident in particular, the one that makes me so glad I have pet rats, because they’re smart and hilarious and sneaky. It was mid-December of 2011, and I was still living at home with the rat cage in my bedroom. I had a box of Gertrude Hawk chocolate Jordan Crackers in my closet, to keep it safe from the rats. (Yes, I keep snacks in my bedroom. No, those snacks are never healthy.) One day, I let the rats (Bob, Merv, and Willy at the time) out of the cage in my room to have some play time, as usual. I left the room for a few minutes, shutting the door tightly behind me, and went to grab some laundry downstairs. Mom distracted me on that fateful day, asking me a few questions in the kitchen, so that it was about half an hour before I made it back upstairs. I went back in the room and immediately saw that my closet door was open. When I poked my head inside, Mervy came scampering out of the closet, right between my feet, a Jordan Cracker firmly held in his mouth, and sticking out both sides. “MERVY!” I exclaimed in horror and pounced on him. He squirmed in my grasp, trying desperately not to relinquish his forbidden treat. I pried it out of his mouth and then promptly popped him into the cage and latched the door. Turning back to the closet, I saw he had chewed a hole through the bottom of the Jordan Cracker box and left cardboard pieces scattered around. I picked a few up and turned back around to laughingly scold him again.
And there he was, sitting in a corner of the cage, gnawing happily on ANOTHER Jordan Cracker!! “Mervy!” I yelled again, and reached in and tugged the second one from his greedy little paws. I turned around and dropped both chocolates in the trash, picked up more cardboard and threw that out, and then spun back to properly scold my sneaky little rat again. And there he was, eating A THIRD JORDAN CRACKER.
“WHERE ARE YOU GETTING THESE FROM!?” I shrieked, feeling baffled and dismayed. Mervy’s twinkling black eyes laughed at me as he eagerly nibbled the chocolate treat that was bigger than his face. On a hunch, I reached into the cage and lifted up their little sleep hut. Sure enough, there they were, a whole treasure trove of chocolate goodness. Mervy had hoarded at least fifteen Jordan Crackers inside the opaque walls of the sleep hut. He must have ferried them each individually into the cage from the closet while I was downstairs. In half an hour! I started laughing so hard I cried. The image of him trotting back and forth across my room with these giant chocolates sticking out of his mouth was too much. Then I took them all out and told Mervy he was a hilariously, adorably misbehaving sneak of a rat.
I don’t keep snacks in my room anymore.
Mervy snuggled up with Fred and Bob
October 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
“I wish I could explain being here to you. These woods and the paths winding through them, the pond and the wetlands. It’s like- do you know what a gyroscope is?”
“I know it helps keep a plane upright!”
“I think we all have our own gyroscope places. Places in our lives that keep us balanced, bring us back to an upright and secure position. Our axis points true north here, holding us firmly as the world spins around us, reminding us of the steadying truth found in simple joys. Grace, peace, fellowship, rest. In the midst of our swiftly tilting days, these are our lodestones. They draw us back ever and again. Their beautiful gravity is not temporal; it is an inward reality, unchanging in the seasons and years that may pass between our visits. While our wandering lives dance like the moon across the sky, all changing shape and face, these polestar places never waver. When we do return for a visit, we are more ourselves here than anywhere else. We find a firm foundation beneath our feet. We can hear our hearts, each shushing beat. Reoriented with our guiding lines, we squint and smile in the fading light, and it does not hurt to say goodbye, goodbye and goodnight.”
October 8, 2015 § 2 Comments
Wild grapes are the best scent of fall. Pumpkin is fine, I like pumpkin very much, but nothing says fall to me like clambering through the woods and catching that elusive tang of wild grapes ripening somewhere nearby. The annual hayride at Zelinkas is coming up soon, so I’ll probably ride the wagon all the way into the woods and then jump out (setting a terrible example for the young children… “Kids, do NOT jump out of the moving hay wagon.”) and tramp around the forest looking for the grapes and all the other ephemeral childhood memories hidden within the Z’s woods. So many ghosts of my friends and myself, running through the trees, playing Manhunt and Soccer and Orphans, telling secrets in the rowboat on the pond, daring each other to eat a tiny bite of the horses’ molasses-sweetened grain.
Although autumn in Pennsylvania is pretty as a picture and twice as interesting- what with the constant fluctuation between delightfully blue sunny days and “let me snuggle under a blanket with a book” dreary gray rain- I have to keep my mind in summer mode for a little while longer. Costa Rica beckons, a mere month (and 6 days) away. Jess has been in NEPA from Costa Rica for the past week or so, and we’ve been talking about our plans for me and Channing’s visit, and how I’m going to build sand castles with little Alana and drink mango margaritas all day long. And do yoga overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Insta-worthy, indeed.
November is shaping up to be a wonderful month. My little niece Yeardley will be turning 1, and I’ll probably pop down to Erica & Bryan’s for her birthday party during the first week of the month. Channing and I leave for Costa Rica on the 14th for five days of sun, sand, and fedora. And by the time I get back, Thanksgiving will only be a week away. That means pies, cakes, and whatever slightly more technical desserts I decide to bake this year. Last year, I made every single dessert my family enjoyed on Thanksgiving, and I am rightly still proud of myself, especially for that chocolate torte. I also still have the burns to prove it. “Forever Scarred (From Caramel Sauce)” will now be the name of my autobiography. Sadly, the Michigan family probably won’t be making an appearance in PA for the holiday this year, because I don’t think Jul will be up for 18 hours in the car when she’s three weeks away from giving birth. She’s having a little boy in the beginning of December, and I’ve already told her she’s not allowed to name him James. (My favorite boy’s name… after Jamie Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, of course.) Cathy and I have been having virtual Taylor Swift jam sessions on Facebook. Mainly we just post lyrics on each other’s wall with a bunch of sobbing emojis. It’s not nearly as fun as real life. She needs to come back home. Who even likes Michigan, anyway? Dang it, Michigan!
If November looks to be fun, well, September and (so far) October definitely were. I started September off in the best possible way: by spending Labor Day weekend down at the beach in Longport. Gin & tonics, sunset bicycle rides, and lots of reading books on the beach. My aunt and uncle spoil me when I’m down there, and I love them for it. Later in the month I went to the Breaking Benjamin concert at Montage with Mike and some friends. Breaking Ben played a lot of their older songs, so we were all singing along at the top of our lungs. It was a great show, except for the $15 beers once you were inside. A few Sundays ago, (yoga) Erica and I went on a bike ride on the Back Mountain Trail. Or, to more accurately depict our day, I should say we: ate giant burritos at Chipotle, drove through Starbucks for sugary caffeinated beverages, and then decided it might be a nice thing to ride bikes for two hours. There is a method to our madness, but I am not quite sure what exactly it is.
On one of the more humid September days, Ron and I went to a swimming hole near Laflin. It was a pretty little spot, tucked into the woods after a fifteen minute drive down a rutted and winding dirt road. Luckily his Jeep is a beast. The hole is made by a creek that slides down some rocks into a large, almost perfectly circular pool, then spills over another bank of rocks at the end. When I sat on the rocks at the edge of the water and looked up, all I could see was a round little cup of blue sky, encircled by the tall green pines. It was deep too; neither Ron nor I could touch the bottom in the center. I asked him if he thought there’d be any water snakes, and he said, “No, of course not, the water’s too cold for them.” So we swam around for a while and got out when the sky started turning gray with coming rain. As we were standing on the rocks, discussing the odd conversational style of his ex-girlfriend, I noticed small ripples on the surface of the water. “Ron,” I said calmly, “what is that?” “Probably a…fish?” He peered at the water. And then we both saw it. A water snake, gliding sinuously through the pool, heading in our general direction. I shrieked like a steam engine (a girly move on my part…the snake was literally nowhere close to us) and ran up on top of a giant boulder where I could see it coming if it decided to eat me. Ron gave me eighteen heart attacks by going down to the water and saying he was going to try to pick it up. Apparently he has handled water snakes before. I told him I considered him a great friend, and I enjoyed his life advice and our long, rambling theological discussions, but if he came near me with that snake, I would murder him, and the 5th Commandment be darned.
He did not pick up the snake.
Near the end of September was the long awaited PAPAL VISIT. I went down on the bus with Kevin, Rich, Paul, Pete, my mother, and a few dozen other people from our church. We didn’t even make it through security. We got stuck in a huge line of people for three hours and then ended up watching the Mass on television at the Comcast building. But it was strangely moving, being in a completely secular place, surrounded by thousands of people who are all saying the same prayers, participating in the same Mass with you. We went out to the parkway to receive Communion. So I’ve received Communion that was consecrated by the Pope. How many people can say that? (Also I got interviewed for the Citizens Voice because of it, and now I’m a local celeb.)
To start October off right, Channing, Jess, Missy, and I had dinner at Thai Thai. The red curry was as delicious as ever. We’ve done brunch at River Grille a couple Sundays in a row as well. Sunday afternoon football on the television at the bars is always the best part of September. I don’t follow it as much as hockey, but every time it starts back up, I’m reminded of how much I really do enjoy it. Football around here is a BIG deal. And if I still feel a little stab of pain every time I hear someone mention Eli Manning and the Giants, well, that too shall pass. Fly, Eagles, fly. Another nice thing about September was spending more time with my older brother. Dan is recently single, and we’ve been hanging out a lot more than we used to when he was visiting Christina every other weekend. Although I miss her, I have to admit it’s been hilarious good times to go out again with Dan and see old friends, be goofy in the Babetski way, talk about life and love and being grown-ups in this wide, wide world.
I guess if there’s a point to this rambling post, it’s this: my family and friends are an incredible gift to me. I have felt such spiritual silence in the past few months, such a weight on my soul. I just keep going back to the basics of my life, saying to myself in the words of St. Pio: Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Use this time to stay close with your family, to build your friendships and shine your nerdy little light out into the world. I am happy here in Wilkes-Barre; I want to spread a little of that happiness and peace to the people I love. And if that sounds cheesy, well, I’ve always been a romantic at heart.
Here’s to fall in the Northeast. Let’s go run around in the woods and find some wild grapes.
September 18, 2015 § Leave a comment
On my bad days, I think about all the strong things I’ve done in my life lately, all the things I thought I would never, ever be strong enough to do. I think of them and remember how much I dreaded them, how the thought of doing them made me sick with fear, but they’re done now. They’re in my past. I survived. I am okay with where I am in my life right now. I got myself to this place, no one else but me. Obviously I had help but the decisions and the carrying out of them were mine. So I think to myself: I am strong. And that is a wondrous thing.
I had an old poster from when The Fellowship of the Ring was first released as a movie, and Frodo was on the front, holding the ring in his palm and staring down at it. It said “Power can be held in the smallest of things.” I think of that poster, and I look down at my skinny little chicken arms, no biceps to speak of, and I laugh out loud in delight at the odd turnings of the world and the keenness of minds who find wonder in paradox.