May 31, 2003

here comes june.

jude has arrived! and i am so lucky to have seen her thus far every day. from greenhouse escapades with marlei to our friend, melinda's wedding, my life has been incredibly jude-full, and this is great news. part of the "friend exchange program", she is spending three months with us in nashville. jude brings summer. jude brings june.

jude also brings a black lacy dress, with little roses, and she lets me borrow it, so that i have a dress to wear to melinda's wedding. yes, a dress. on my body. a rare, rare occurrence; nevertheless, it happened today. (jude could quite possibly be making a proper lady out of me. time will tell.)

so, on this 31 may evening, i am procrastinating all the work i need to do before monday, which means that there will be no opportunity for procrastination tomorrow--the whole 11th hour phenomenon--and i will get everything done. ultimately, that means my night is free now, and so here i am, catching up.

bill mallonee played an impromptu show at jj's the other night. julie, tom, and i sat on the couch in front of him as he played, drinking beer from bottles. bill is such an animated guy: veins pop out of his neck when he sings and he points a tense finger to us, to the ceiling, to God. you believe every word he sings because he means it all so much. he sang a new song called solar system, with a line reminiscent of mother teresa: put your love where it hurts the most/ expect a visit from the holy ghost. oh my heart. such conviction. can i do that? is it possible to survive such vulnerability? i've thought about it all week. lost sleep wondering.

i got a new book this week. it's been nearly a year since sparrow introduced me to etty hillesum, the beautiful woman who put her love where it hurt the most. and now there is a new book, an unabridged collection of all her writings. new photos. new correspondence. i feel like i get to know her better. 800+ rich pages of etty.

i think i will turn the page on my calendar now, and count the days until i head north to erie. a good thing to do on the last day of may.

(how did june arrive so quickly?)

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May 25, 2003

these days

so it's been a week since i've written at all. some weeks there is nothing to say. but it's sunday now, and another week, and though i doubt i have many words at all, i'll give it a shot--if for no other reason than to please susan, who sent a hey-you-haven't-written email today.

so it is sunday now, and night. the rain has stopped long enough to give way for stars, and it is blanket weather. candles too. i'm rubbing my eyes, tired after a day in my pajamas, watching the E! true hollywood story marathon. i'm housesitting and susan's cd is playing through the dvd player, for lack of stereo.

everything was different when you went back home to town.

the week has been very grey, encapsulating; the green hills off I-65 wear grey hats like ireland. a year since curtis and i packed up our dreams and flew over the atlantic for two weeks. a year since i first experienced castle rock and came alive in ways i still can't get my words around. a year since some haphazard vision for a book woke me up in the middle of the night in belfast. since jayne said "why don't you come stay here for a few months and write?" the weather and music anymore are palpable memory. i am in nashville. i am in ireland. i am reminded of madeleine l'engle's philosophy of stars she talks about in her genesis trilogy: the stars we see tonight may have burned out a million years ago, but their light just now reaches us. we're watching the past like present and we cannot tell the difference.

i am realising more and more that my soul has not caught up with the present.
much of it is walking iona, is on the route 21 bus to city centre from east belfast, hoping to get a few words down over a cup of coffee at clements.

i think i'll listen to rosie thomas awhile.

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May 18, 2003

nakanawa.

it's nearly 5 o'clock in the evening right now, as i lie comfortably in a bathrobe and towel, feeling very, very clean. i've just returned from a weekend at camp nakanawa with the wonderful people at st. augustine's. it was a church retreat done st. a's style, with much conversation and boating and hiking and beer-sneaking. the beautiful women of magdalene were there too, enjoying a weekend of "healthy recreation" (as one of them put it) with friends and kids.

here are a few journal excerpts from my mud-caked weekend:

saturday.

"It's 3 pm now and I'm lying in my muddy jeans and muddy sweater on my corner bunk. Marlei is napping across the room. The big storm—with its white caps across the tiny lake—has passed for the moment. Already it has been a day of canoeing and hiking to a dam, hiding my cigarettes from Marlei's kids, conversations. Becca pointed out her favorite wildflower: the firepink. A fierce red flower in the middle of green and brown, forked-tongue petals: wild beauty to be reckoned with.

Becca just closed the afternoon meditation with a prayer: thank you for the darkness of this room. We were sitting in a circle, keeping warm by the fire started by my pink lighter. Katrina read a passage from the day by day book Carmon had given her. Prayer against over-reacting. Prayer for spirit ventilation and perspective. Patience in place of worry. Because she is HIV positive, this beautiful Magdalene woman, recovered and reclaiming her life. And like Sheila, her Magdalene sister, she chooses to stay positive. Her smiling face, her hopeful perspective keeps her healthy. It is the difference between life and death for her. Sheila says that she is not dealing with HIV; HIV is dealing with her. "I was here first," she proclaimed from the row in front of me, staring into the fire from underneath her blue hat. "Amen," we Episcopalians replied, revival-style.

Katrina's "mate" reluctantly cleared his throat to speak after awhile. His arm around her the whole time, he had massaged her back lightly as she told us her story. Now, as he spoke, he kept his arm around her, this time for his own assurance. He leaned forward, rocking back and forth a bit, his gold cross swinging from his neck. He had been a pimp. He had 'dealt with the ladies' in a different way. and now, he knows the ladies. One of the ladies is his mate. After visiting Sheila's apartment one day—the place in which she now lives with her son—he asked Katrina, "Is this what recovery affords us?" This man, who victimized 'the ladies' is now humbled by their strength. He broke down. Cried into Katrina's neck.

Thank you God for the darkness in this room, by which we comprehend light in a way we never knew possible.

I am content to be here, with Marlei, with these beautiful Magdalene women, with the many loud children. As Becca has said: there is no difference between a prostitute and a priest. So I am learning."

sunday.

"I don't know what to make of this day. It is early and my body aches from yesterday on the water. We will leave in a few hours. I worry about how I will spend my time. Sitting alone in a wigwam? Watching the water? The prayers of the people this morning were a circle of blessing and need, and I found myself blessing the lake and all its changes yesterday. Fierceness. Serenity. All in an hour. As the post-storm current settled last night, half the lake was still while the other half still moved. And under a dark dusk sky, the slow undulations looked white. "It's snow," the boys said. Caney, Levi, Chance, and Henry all stood on the dock watching with excitement. "The snow is gonna come cover the whole lake! And I'll bet it will turn to ice and we can totally go walk on it!" I smiled. Caney—who now uses my name every chance he gets after finally learning it yesterday—asked me, "Anne, is that snow, Anne?" and I said no. that it was sky reflected on moving waters. And the boys all looked at me, the grownup who had explained away their dream. I wish I would have said, "yep, it's snow," and walked away."

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May 16, 2003

the gospel of moments

back in nashville, marlei and i sat on the porch tonight with cups of tea. look at the moon, we said. it's convex and close, barely hung by some invisible string just to our left. it grew dark and red with each moment of conversation, covered by clouds sometimes. we had no idea about the eclipse. we had no idea about illumination and shadow as msn headlines, cnn articles. we just saw our moon, and watched it like a holy moment.

two hours later, the world is transfigured. the trees hang heavy with rain, bowing quietly while still peeking up at sky. because the moon has shed its red skin now and is shining white over the yard, a vision so stunning, we all can't help but stare. i stood barefoot under its wet light in the grass a few moments ago. the night is black and white and starry. the air is hazy and sluggish. the crickets, loud. no wind. cigarette smoke and breath linger awhile before dissipating. i stood in the middle of the yard with much trepidation. i let my tears sit on my eyes. i tried to utter prayers aloud but didn't get much past thank you. i thought of june carter cash, and how beautiful a night it is for her family to let her go. i remembered the last lines of johnny cash singing 'hurt': words like a prayer or promise or plea to start again, to keep himself, to find a way.

so many needs. so many shadows. so much light. i don't know how to reconcile it all, but i feel compelled to preach a gospel of moments.

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May 14, 2003

God bless texas.

so. it is wednesday night in frisco, texas, and i'm sitting in the one unfurnished room in my sister, eileen's house. i'm crouched in a dark corner, charging my computer. someone is watching tv downstairs, but otherwise the house is quiet.

it's been a frantically paced couple of days. i've watched constance speak aloud her vision to the morning tv-watching population of dallas. she has shown me her old haunts. her history. we sat last night with toes dipped into the manmade pond alongside the scroll-shaped thanksgiving chapel, and talked quietly underneath the downtown skyline. tall buildings bent their ear. we spent the night in a $1000 suite on the 19th floor of the adolphus hotel: God bless publishers who pay for nice rooms every once in awhile. we enjoyed complimentary chocolates served on a complimentary chocolate plate.

today, i gave a cigarette to a tall black man in an army surplus jacket and fluorescent pink skirt. do you need a light? i asked. "no ma'am, i've got one," he said and walked away.

this afternoon, nichole and i sat on mckinney street and enjoyed a mexican lunch and conversation. we caught up on our lives since july and i patted her pregnant belly. oh to see a friend after a long absence and not gush over how wonderful you find her to be. it was a happy lunch.

and then eileen made me sing karaoke tonight. i'm serious.
"sing 'dancing queen'" she said. anything but 'dancing queen' i said.

i sang 'sunny came home'.
badly.

i have not sung a semi-public note since i was 19.
i will never sing karaoke again.
but eileen (and constance) clapped and cheered.

and now to bed.
tomorrow is nashville.


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May 12, 2003

days go by.

where has the time gone? just yesterday it was may 4 and i was writing about my mother. and now it is may 12 and i'm waiting for clothes to dry, so i can pack my bags for dallas, where i'll spend the next few days with constance, nichole, and my sister, eileen.

the week has been one of taking care of many children. or hiding in the basement during tornado warnings. but the remnants of the storms are dragged into the boulevards now, tree fingers reaching into the streets, and the sun has come out. and our yard smells of honeysuckle and jasmine. such is capricious spring.

come on, laundry. there is so much to do in the next hour. for now, sandy and i are watching jay leno on the today show. and i must watch the segment on the matrix: reloaded. more soon.

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May 4, 2003

mother may i.

so this is may. 4 may. cinco de mayo eve. my mom is sleeping in the guest room, her head resting on a starwars pillow. it has been five days of adventure: horses and food and friends. taize service and improv. 3-d titanic imax and chicago. mom has ridden alongside me in my messy car, going deeper and deeper into this odd little life of mine here. i am thankful for such a gift, to be able to say: my mother stepped into my world and stayed a few days. laughed with my friends. drank my coffee. rolled down the window when i needed a cigarette, when she could have lectured me about my bad habits instead.

not every daughter gets such a chance to simply be with her mother, walking the line between the past and present with the one who remembers twenty-four year old childhood details, yet is willing to stockpile the new, unfamiliar adult ones.

another stone for my altar.

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