Thursday, April 9, 2015

Blog in Three Parts

My iPhone has proved helpful in a great many ways, but toward the top of the list is its allowance to write when I have no pen, when I barely have time. Mostly, when I am squelched into a seat designed to hold a 7-year-old child comfortably, surfing over clouds and miles of open air.

Unfortunately, those snippets of writing end up sitting on my phone forever, going nowhere, feeling unloved. So today, they get their moment in the sun--err, on the blog. The "suffered a loss" one is from Thanksgiving 2013--I remember clearly stewing in O'Hare, waiting for my connection to Iowa;  "And here again" would have been around that same time, shortly after hearing some of our authors talk about hyphenating adjectives; and using context clues, I think "To sit up here" was from last April or May, one of my flights to/from New Orleans.


To sit up here above the clouds, clenched and white-knuckled, is as foreign to me as not enjoying cheese.

With half a handful of exceptions, this is the most restful, peaceful state I have: a row of seats to myself, a window revealing a geometry of landscape edged by puffs of cloud. A literal and imagined removal from earth, and every care that goes with it. Even a depressed mind or a broken heart seems partially numbed this skyward--the extra oxygen in the cabin, or just the childlike understanding that the pressing, breaking agents have been left miles below.

I flew as a child, before my father left, before we would trade four airfares for a double-double at the Motel 6 outside Toledo. I flew this banner proudly as a teenager, when my wealthier friends would disbelieve my chronic earthboundness. I would insist that I had flown... I just didn't remember it.

A short trip to Dad's at 15, across the Atlantic at 17, and to Alaska at 18. Those were the first trips. Even then, I don't remember fear. The flight to Maine, I don't think I did anything but press my face and fingertips to the window, and there are still trips like that: crossing the full-moon-bathed Rockies, or last year's Vegas-Denver connection where twilit landscape seemed straight out of a NASA transmission.

This trip I've spent reading, but with the book propped to the window to allow for seeing what lies beyond. I remember, as they fall below, the strange linear hills of western Virginia and Tennessee, and my book falls for minutes--10? 20?--on end while I gaze out.

Some turbulence shakes the plane. The pilot comes over the speakers, but there is still no fear up here--it, too, was left down on the tarmac, too sloughing to keep up when the engines roar and we are pressed backward and lifted up into sky.

This is where I write most predictably, too. Even when I have nothing to say. Down there at home, with ergonomic laptops and comfy couches, I cannot be bothered; but even crunched diagonally across the seat, the iPad propped on a crookedly-crossed leg, I type even when words fail me. Somehow, unsurprisingly, that part of me is most buoyant, and once so much else falls with gravity, it floats.


And here again Your truth settles over me. No metaphor fits it, much as I search it out. It is not my mother's voice, long-memorized and watermarked with tears; it is not the rain, soaking but brief; it is not an old familiar song coming to me unwarranted and incomplete.

It is not my view from this plane--how Portland was in one moment shrouded and dark with fog, in the next, lost in white-gray, and in the next obliterated with blue sunlight refracting off pristine cloud. It is not this, but it is something in its direction, something coming to me as a thing unmoving, ever-present, that I re-find and treat as newly-arrived. That You have been the Love that Would Not Leave, that You have never known failure, that even in the face of my long absences, my infidelities, my faithlessness, You will not be undermined. You remain--not passively, not out of size or weight; and not out of duty or stubbornness. You could leave--it is not impossible, and is certainly not unjust.

But You choose to sit here with me. To listen to me mouth words I do not live and scarcely understand, to watch me cry and fume at enemies real and imagined, to wait for me to remember. To lift my head from my own shrouded world, to raise my shoulders through white-gray unknown, to seek out the blinding, obliterating oneness of You, this truth that radiates and refracts off each thing--the good and the hard, the buoying and the breaking.

You don't break me for breaking's sake. You do not hope to see me like this, busted and leaking on the floor. But You will have me, come what may, and every time I'm given the chance I'm clinging to every other thing but You. Even good things. Beautiful, holy, You-given things--I kill these things by turning them into false Yous. And joy turns to ashes.

So here I am, breaking again. I have gripped too hard, and You have given me time and a thousand chances to let go, but I have had none of it. You did not come to wound and destroy, but to seek and save--not only what is lost, but what continues to lose herself in every thing she can find until she finds herself broken by it, desperate for something higher, truer, still. And here again, Your truth settles over me--like cloud, and nothing like cloud. Like warmth and soothing coolness, like the surprise of familiarity, like the roaring stillness of refracted blue-white sky.


I have suffered a loss--a small one, and the pain will be faded to gray before the day is over, but for now it still smarts. I had had hours to lose that day, but spent pieces of a few of them carving words into something better than reality--because at a hard glance, reality was not much to remark on: airport, crowds, noise.

But I had worked words, choosing and removing and shoving them into place, my best attempts at pottery. (How I love that the verb is "throw"--because that's so much of writing, throwing things out across a page like flour, like Legos, and seeing how they want to come together.)

Now all I have are snippets: something about the cold Midwestern wind seeping through glass, something about a woman's smile and insistence as she thanked a maintenance man, something about us hunching ourselves and choosing against the drift of cold and isolation. It was art, or something approaching it, and now it is a vaporous thing I can't quite hold, with no memory of the file in this machine.

It is a small loss--so tiny a thing that a few paragraphs seem too much to give in mourning--but it was mine and now it's gone and no one asked permission. Like other small losses, it will be forgotten, the place it held taken up by the grocery list or the email I need to send on Monday--but for just a few minutes, the silence aches where words should have been.

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