Saturday, December 25, 2010

corso tintori.

Our last whole Sunday allotted a pause in finals cramming for one last initiated roomie-tea. We sat around the snowflake in Maeg and I’s room as laughs quieted and the silence spoke for us all. Then, as we watched the dream of our semester through Maegan’s artwork, tears began to fall…
What has this semester truly been?
After watching Maegan’s stop motion summation of this season, we decided to praise each other on paper. Our few “last words” quickly spawned into life-giving dancing. The dance was Terra’s present-it’s how she talks-and it was so clearly understood. As she spoke, she told of Maegie’s constant love-her mesmerizing spirit that we all draw from. She accounted for my heart, almost prophetically, offering the beats of her own to fill its weakness. She knelt before Maya, the greatest servant of us all. She welcomed Emily’s openness, sassed with Isla’s transparency, un-layered Hil’s spirit and defined Ethna’s loyalty.
And then she embraced her deep-loving, soul-friend, Brooke.

Favorite memories and untold stories evolved into deep affirmation-moments void of any catch. Genuine, pure love and called-out spirits with freshly aided understanding of what we each saw in and loved about each other.
As we recounted just how much we enriched each other’s lives, I met Maeg’s understanding gaze with a shared feeling of sweetness and heaviness all at once. There were no falsified promises of reunion, only a mutually residing, quiet hope.

I will never forget this night, as I continue to see it as a revealing benchmark in my life. It was a night that could not be captured by cameras or videos, and cannot even be captured in words.
Yet, as the Little Prince says, it is the unseen secret underneath that makes something special.

Chaotic closure sealed our final weekend, yet from that sacred Sunday onward, we walked through it together. Literally all in one room – moved mattresses, piled bodies, talks and dances – all in desperate attempt to absorb what was left from each other. And as I wrestled with the intense reflection on my days since August, I suddenly grasped a hint of what this semester was about. As if a faint but penetrating whisper uttered the simple reminder- “It’s not about you.”

And as I accepted that statement, “It is not about me” the threads of other semester thoughts strung into accord….
I re-understood the sacrifice of the cost of following Christ- the dying to myself: It’s not about me.
I re-realized the importance of relationship and community. The unexpected yet deeply intricate shared life that sanded and sanctified and served through the surrounding comrades: It’s not about me.
I re-wrestled through a need for kenosis-to surrender all my vain hopes and expectations of these last moments, allowing room for the Maker to unravel each minute in Divine Design: It’s not about me.

So as Maegan and I walk away from this place- this intangible place we will never be able to return to- we accept the ironic banner “It is not about me.”
May we be Transcendently led in this difficult claim through the Christmas season and whatever “next” awaits us….

Thank you for your prayers. This semester was more than we could have ever imagined.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

awaited Noel.

Waiting and waiting, a unified anticipation-
Of the drawing familiarity, breaching culture and country and family,
Of the commercial hustle against the subdued tempo of routine,
And the muted bell at the entrance of a drab department store door.

Waiting and waiting, a childlike gleam-
Of stockings and sweaters and reindeer and wreaths.
An uninterrupted hum of a carol, and the reassurance of its words,
Shared over sleigh-shaped cookies and gingerbread houses.

Waiting and waiting, a subconscious countdown-
For the benchmark date that halts all transitions,
And offers reflection of 365 days lived fully, or fully survived…
Though the candied calendar only measures 25.

Waiting and waiting, as Winter raps on Falls door-
Prompting the effortless downslide into the celebrated season.
Waning temperatures met with warming sentiments,
And the shiny wrapped shoebox on its way to Niger.

Waiting and waiting, do you see what I see?-
With each florescent twinkle or warm chimney burn,
Growing and glowing larger with gaining cheer,
Full in the streets, composing the lightest nights of the year.

Waiting and waiting, a heightened nostalgia-
For the grandfatherly tales of ‘how it used to be’.
A return to traditions: the old and the new, ensue
A reunion of cinnamon nutmeg and peppermint pine in Papa’s mug.

Waiting and waiting, a formal appeal-
To the fading days of school, and pausing labor of vocation,
And the yearly service of miniature wax torches,
As the white overspill melts into the recycled candlestick net.

Waiting and waiting, an intangible resound
For the advent of the MORE.
In the layered notions, in the hushed moments, 
The weary world rejoices.
A sacred stillness, inevitable, of desperate need fulfilled,
In universal understanding and resonating agreement
Of goodwill toward men, and inspired hope for Peace on earth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

vineyard interview.

His name is Aldobrandino, but I call him “Aldo,” like his friends and family do. He lives on the Ghirlandaio family vineyard, in the Tuscan countryside near San Gimignano. After 87 years, this inheritance rests completely under his charge, and he proudly leads me through his cultivated aisles of interconnected vines and enormous grape clusters. After a settling afternoon of effortless dialogue and generous samplings, both of the dark juicy fruit and their fermented elixir, I route our conversation to a continually burning question…

Aldo: The harvest is good this year. We always do our best, but you just never know with Her… (Aldo faintly gestures to the sky and smiles)

Tired, we sit down in the middle of a row between thick vines.

Aldo: Rhythm. It is only a rhythm. We always do the best we can, and respond to the elements we cannot control…sometimes we lose more crops than we want. But there’ll be more next season. Grapes keep growing.  –Here, have a few more.

Me: Thanks. They’re so delicious...  (He smiles.)

Aldo: And if I lose too much, I know my family will help me out, just like I helped Paulo last October when he produced little harvest.

(From an earlier conversation, I know that “family” really means the surrounding farms and farmers. The Ghirlandaios live in a deeply interdependent community…
After a short lull, I decide to be blunt.)

Me: Aldo, I have been so many places this semester… But when I travel, I always think about the same kind of question, and I wish I could ask it to everyone I see. Maybe you have your own answer. But after all these years, what would you say our purpose is?

Aldo: (he chuckles warmly, then finally speaks after a drawn-out silence)

…. I’ve been doing this whole life. Just like my father, and his father, and his father. This…I love. (he leans over and gently grabs a vine)
See these leaves? They’re young. Soon, we’ll have to cut them off, though, along with the grapes. But the roots (pointing to the dirt) these roots are older than me! Much older. Molto vecchio. They know my great Nonno, and I have only met his picture. The one hanging in the kitchen, did you see it?

ME: Yeah, I think so.

Aldo: Well he was good friends with these roots. They’ve been here forever. They hold the whole crop together. And even when the young grapes grow up, and get pressed into our vino, you can still taste the roots and soil. These roots are important…to everything.

Me: Interesting… I like that. Have you ever left the country?

Aldo: I have.  Yes, I left around 1941 for about two years. I left these beautiful hills to fight in the war. That is how I met Elizabeth. (he looks at me for the first time and smiles) But I never stopped missing this place. My home. My soil. My Nonno’s soil.

Me: …But I heard that lots of people WANT to leave… just like I did. From my town. I wanted to come here, to see another world. I heard they sometimes feel trapped in these fields, and in these villages. I thought you might feel the same way…

Aldo: (he’s already shaking his head) Bah… they do. A lot of my amici could not wait to enlist. All they wanted to do was leave-to get out! And I enjoyed my time in other countries… But I wanted to come back, too. And I wanted to bring her with me. She didn’t understand why for a long time… but now she gets it. Now she loves these roots too. And she’s made them better.

I look at the flimsy sun-stained cap that now rests in his lap, then up at the tiny tractor standing in a field beyond an opening in the lush “hallway” where we sit. These images in my line of sight only seemed to emphasize the tense juxtaposition of my thoughts….

Me: But things are changing, they always are. I bet that’s why people want to leave. Like the kids I saw in Pitigliano. They want to get out and see what else is going on. They want to keep up. They want to figure out what bigger life is….somewhere else…

Aldo: That is true. And Roberto is the same. Roberto, my son-I hope for you to meet him. He is always asking your same questions with his eyes. He does not want to live here forever.

Me: Will you let him go?

Aldo: Of course! It is not bad to journey. My grapes travel in their bottles all the way to America. But they take the flavor of their roots with them. Without the roots, they will not grow correctly. They will not make sense. Without the roots, they will be no different from your grape juice, and when you drink them, you will only think of your grocery store, not my Nonno. (he sighs and picks up some dirt that runs back through his fingers) These roots are important.

Me: I’m starting to see that…

 After wiping his hand on is faded blue button-up shirt, he takes a deep breath and sits back. Then, patting my head he says,

Aldo: Start with your roots.

So life is about roots, the reason you are who you are, and where you are. It’s about adapting to change, yet valuing the foundation of tradition. It’s about a shaping of character, and contentment in simplicity.
However, I still wonder at (and even envy) this resolve.
I’m not sure that Aldo’s words of wisdom will subdue internal longing to seek and explore that forever sits inside. 
But for now, I don’t think it has to…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

die way.

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words."
-Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis

Monday, November 22, 2010

again Merton.

"Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair." 
— Thomas Merton 

Sunday, November 21, 2010


"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." — Thomas Merton