Archive | July, 2011

Briar Rose

30 Jul

The smartest thing I did recently was to check out of a bland Marriot hotel in a suburban environment and check into a bed and breakfast in Boulder since I was heading in the directions of the mountains anyway after a week of teaching out of town. As anyone who has done a fair amount of business travel knows, hotel air-conditioning air (as opposed to air from open windows) can get pretty stale. Enter Briar Rose, a bed and breakfast that I found last minute on the internet that exceeded my expectations and desires.

I believe Briar Rose is another name for Sleeping Beauty in the Grimm Brothers version of the story. Regardless, I arrived last night at a charming Victorian house with the nicest college age kids running the place. As I walked through the dining room to check in (at the kitchen), I could smell delicious breakfast smells that must live in the walls of the house long after meal time. I was taken to my room where I found a country style bed, roll top desk, couch and balcony patio. I dropped my bags and then walked into town to the tea room – (it has a more formal name that I can’t recall) – where I had eaten a few days ago. A light rain started to fall but who can resist a summer shower in the mountains?

Although the tea room has an exquisite interior, I preferred the outdoor patio along a river so opted to sit there again. The waiter my colleague and I had a great chat with a few days ago was working again, so although dining alone I was still able to talk about a range of subjects – theatre, the fringe festival, Ireland, Hawaii, San Diego and surfing because oddly enough, the waiter and I shared many things in common. I’m always amazed by the interesting people one meets when traveling.

Boulder reminds me of my birth city, Madison, Wisconsin minus Lake Mendota. It’s a university town, has quaint old houses with worn out couches on the patios, bicycles parked everyone and a tremendous sense of hippie, intellectual chic. My kind of town.

But more than that, the energy here is somewhat slow. Quiet. The mountains hovering in the distance speak of a tranquility that makes me want to move somewhere the middle of nowhere and write books. But for now, I’ll take a bed and breakfast in a pretty spot and reading the NY Times.

Meanwhile, my little guy awaits my return. He wasn’t a happy camper last Sunday morning.

Primal Sea

23 Jul

Summer in Southern California means beaches are mobbed, parking near the water a nightmare and if one surfs, the danger increases two-fold due to all the fin traffic. So for that reason, plus a bad surf-board scare and pressures in my schedule, I’ve stayed away for a few weeks. But ultimately, I can’t.

I don’t know what it is about the sea. I just know that I need it. Need to be in it. To feel it. Smell it and even taste it. Yesterday, I was so in need of salt water that I said, “F— it!” and jumped in the car. I didn’t bring my board or wax. Just me.

For the first time in a long time, I simply swam in the ocean like I did when I was a little girl. But because of my two years surfing, I wanted to ride the wave. So I imagined I had my board and as each swell came, I got into position with my body. Paddle, paddle, paddle. Ahhhhhhh. I can feel the wave’s motion even as I type. While not as good as the real thing, it’s still a blessing to know the water intimately enough to be able to take a pilgrimage to it in one’s head. All you have to do is close your eyes and there it is – that serenity. That peace. That primal thing that is the sea.

We are made of water. We floated in water as we were formed and our descendants arose out of the water. And Yahweh tamed the waters.

So there it is. I need salt water waves. Whether I’m on a foam board, real board, boogie board or simply riding the thing with my body, I need to be in it. A part of it. That primal sea that I’m starting to think is part me.


22 Jul

A few months ago I had a unique opportunity to consider possibly living in Seattle. I was contacted about a teaching position that had some wonderful aspects but nonetheless would have turned my life upside down. Although I flew out for the interview, during the two days I was in meetings about the position, I couldn’t look the interviewers in the eyes and say, “Yes, I’d love to do this. I’m ready to leave the life and work I currently love for another life I would probably also love.”

When I was contemplating all of this, a friend of mine said that although he believed in opportunities, he also thought roots were important. His comment echoed a bizarre sentimentality that was simultaneously welling up in me. I have always been as mobile as a tumble weed, loving the thrill of a new locale and life, but suddenly I felt panic at the thought of pulling up the few roots I have. How many times does one pick up and move like the Juliette Binoche character in “Chocolat”? When I boarded the plane for home, I started to cry at the thought of potentially leaving my home.

None of us are getting any younger. Both of my parents are dead. Only one grandparent remains and right this minute a dear friend of mine battles with cancer in the hospital. How can I honor the relationships and lives that are precious to me, right now before they slip through my hands?

Yes, roots are important.

On Dating: Works or Faith?

9 Jul

Awhile back, someone told me that if I invested as much time and energy in dating as I did in my studies or career, I would probably be in a relationship. I remember feeling a bit irked by the comment. Was this a subtle way of telling me that if I just worked harder at it, I’d have success in love – or that it was somehow my fault that I was single? (And if this is the case, why do all the passionate-about-their field, neurotic heroines on television have men falling for them, not in spite of their quirks but because of them?)

I know this person just meant to be helpful and in actuality, I could be doing a little more to widen my social circle so that it included more single, available men. But it raised a very interesting question. Is love something we orchestrate through “works” – i.e. internet dating, speed dating, taking up golf or sitting at a bar, or do we leave the phenomenon of falling in love to cupid, thus engaging our faith and surrendering the whole thing to God?

Pretty much every time I’ve been in love, the process has happened completely out of the blue. Sure, I may have been out with friends or taking a class but it wasn’t anything I sought out. So, I’m a little more in favor of “faith” vs. “acts” and the importance of just living one’s life and doing things that one finds enjoyable. Yet time and again when I speak to people about being single, I feel like I’m thrown a little bit of retribution theology – i.e. if you only did more, you’d have a man by now!

Okay. I get it. The older you get, the harder it is to meet people. You have to be strategic in widening one’s social net so that you actually get out there and meet large sums of people. This week I went to a business/social networking event and it was interesting to have so many people in one room to talk with and possibly share a connection. Likewise, I know I should take up tennis or sailing or both – activities that would be fun regardless of the match (pun intended). And just sitting around praying to meet someone, (no disrespect to miracles), hasn’t been the answer either, for God helps those who help themselves. We need acts and faith.

But at the end of the day, maybe I’m a romantic after all for I think there is something inherently mysterious about falling in love – romance is a gift from God. No amount of retribution theology or formulaic living creates it. And like Job, sometimes we do everything right, and we just strike out.

So, I’m leaning towards a progressive theology. If “happiness hit her like a bullet in the head” why can’t love? Ultimately, I’m going to go with faith and trust that like God’s grace, we can become filled with the Spirit at any point in time. Amen.

Mutually Chosen

8 Jul

I read something recently that equated singles with being like widows. The analogy was that single people, like widows grieve the loss of relationship. Only in the case of the single person, it is a double loss in that there was never a primary relationship to grieve in the first place. While I appreciated the acknowledgement of pain that sometimes occurs for singles, particularly since this sadness is often overlooked, it also implied that singles are doomed to a loveless life and that finding a mate is no longer a possibility.

My reaction to this example was mixed. On the one hand I can relate to grieving something that hasn’t been -i.e. a marriage. Likewise, at family gatherings, I have noticed that my 91 grandmother and I have something sort of in common. In her being a widow and my being single, we are the only people at family gatherings who don’t have mates to share with or sleep next to at night. And interestingly, we are often paired to drive together or sit together (mostly because we enjoy each other’s company but also because we have this in common).

On the other hand, although there are some occasions such as holidays and weddings that can bring up deep feelings of sadness, I hardly feel like I’m in mourning on a daily basis. Furthermore, I took issue with the author’s claim that single women (as opposed to men) bear the additional grief of not being “chosen” as someone’s special one. While once again I can relate to his analogy on some levels (particularly on days when I’m feeling on the pity pot), I can hardly equate these feelings to what a five year old feels on the playground when not picked to play on a team. The reason for this is because in relationships, it isn’t about being “chosen.” It’s about choosing – i.e. two people mutually choosing to relate and commit to one another. And when it comes to marriage, it’s also about God choosing two people that are right for one another to embark on life’s journey together.

So yes – sometimes it is sad to fly solo in a couple-centric world and in a larger church culture that often equates marriage as the end all-be all to knowing God intimately. For instance, over and over I’ve heard that marriage is the closest thing to God’s love one will ever know or experience. Does that mean one doesn’t know God’s love as profoundly as someone who is married or that one hasn’t lived a life of compromise and service for the good of others? And what of the person who presses into God when alone in one’s deepest sorrow? Does this negate the faith and comfort one experiences when God reaches out his hand and picks you up in his embrace?
τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη…

Barre Exercises

2 Jul

When you take ballet, you learn right away that an enormous amount of discipline is required. You spend hours practicing exercises at the barre that are designed to strengthen one’s leg muscles and that form the basis of dance steps one will later learn away from the barre. The ratio of barre exercises to actual choreography in a beginner class is about 45 minutes to 15 minutes, but without the basics, one never learns to dance properly. The same goes for dancing on pointe. You can’t even begin to take pointe classes until you’ve had a few years of flat feet ballet and then you have to be evaluated for whether your leg muscles are strong enough. After that, you spend hours at the barre learning the same said exercises but this time doing them on pointe. And then years later, if you’ve hung in there with it all, you not only have amazing leg muscles (at 42 I still do), you can actually dance.

The reason I’m going on and on about all of this is that I believe in this type of discipline. It’s crucial for the artistic process. And yet I forget sometimes how much sweat is shed in the process of learning to express ourselves with grace, beauty and truth.

I’m in the process of trying to write a book and I’m still at the barre – in a major way. I want to prance around – I want a book in the bookstore – and yet I must remember that I need to get back to basics. It can take a lot of time laying a foundation before we have an artistic product suitable for an audience. It also takes training. I did not learn to dance ballet on my own. I took classes twice a week and practiced at home.

So, I’m back in training. I’m working with a coach and I’ve signed up for a writer’s workshop later this summer. And I’m doing exercises about what it is I’m actually going to write so that I can eventually move out to the floor and write the thing. I’m also studying a foreign language which reminds me of the complexity of communication and the messages we most want to convey.

The word discipline comes from the word disciple. And yes, discipline is its own form of discipleship.