Monday, April 11, 2011

The Good Race(s)

There’s a little sore spot on my heart that gets re-bruised every time I hear one of my married friends say things at a wedding like “Congrats! You've joined the club!” to the happy couple. It fulfills all my blackest fears about friends getting married, joining some club, and not being able to really be friends anymore.

This weekend I went to another wedding of a very happy couple…a wedding that has been long-anticipated and is a loving and wise union. I stood in the reception line, chatting with lots of different friends. I have known the groom since middle school, and the bride was a co-worker in my department at work for the past 3 years. In the reception line or when you are in the wedding party and sit near the bride and groom at “dinner” (where they never get to actually take a bite, due to the steady stream of well-wishers who keep approaching the table) is when you usually overhear these little barbs. This time though, I was near another old friend (going on 20 years now), and his wife. I hugged the bride and groom said congratulations-and-you-look-gorgeous-dear (as the reception line was already 30 minutes overtime) and started to walk away.

As I turned to join the line for cake, the old friend shook the groom’s hand and said “Congratulations! You made it to the starting line!” They laughed, and I found myself smiling as I walked away, because saying it that way put the idea in a very different light. Marriage shouldn’t be thought of as a club you join, but as a marathon…a race you prepare for and then consciously choose to enter into.

I think back to another friend who once told me I was giving singles a bad rep by making singleness sound like a disease, something to be avoided. The funny thing about that comment is that I--obviously--haven’t avoided single life. I have dated a small amount, and am all kinds of social, but I have not run from being alone. I’m honest when I say it’s not the life I expected or would have chosen off the shelf at the department store, but I’m doing my best to run “the course laid out for me,” as the author of Hebrews put it.

When I belonged to a health club (this was before the Wii fit), I would run on the elliptical machine. Being a person highly concerned with comfort, when I chose a “course” to run through on the machine’s digital screen, I would cycle through the options, looking for one that looked moderately challenging with no long hills, because the one time I did choose a course with a long hill, I nearly died. Ok, not really, but I hated the thing all the way through to the end, and hated my wimpy muscles for a few days afterward. Maybe people who actually run real marathons, like outdoors, can tell me that if they have certain courses or parts of courses that they hate while they are running them.

I think it’s ok to question or even hate parts of your circumstances while you are in them as long as you still trust that those parts of your race are there for a reason; that they are indeed part of the larger picture and that you may even be glad of them one day. I mean, it may seem weird when part of your racecourse seems to include a dry desert or a thorny forest or an impossible, stony mountain. You may question why YOUR course includes those elements. Hopefully you’re checking for the course markers so that you don’t get off track with the wrong choices, and you’re stopping for a cup of water and a bit of rest when you need it.

I can’t help but hope this particular long hill has an end in sight someday. Preferably it will lead me top of a hill town in Tuscany. But if it doesn’t, I’m still going to stay the course. I wouldn't want any other life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Act of God

Askew, it’s shaken,
A rag-doll temple
A permanent popsicle-stick
house, with foundations of
mud-slides held together by
my own hands,
security oozing between my very fingers.
This will stay. I will build here.

Avalanche, earthquake, rainfall...cancer
Tornado, hurricane, temper-driven child

I’m still here.
I’m still small.
I’m still lost within
the wreckage of my faith-step,
the ruin of my “it’ll be ok.”
I tried to pretend
But I still am

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Linchpin Weekend

I've been absent from the blog, but inspired in the mind. Check out the Flickr Photos I posted from the Encaustic Painting workshop and retreat I attended at the Grunewald Guild last weekend. Shannon, who organized the retreat and who connected me to the whole thing through her blog, also had her husband Eric document the weekend with some beautiful Videography. See the Wax and Wane Video on vimeo...and watch me play with fire at about minute 1:50. For a snatch of life at the Grunewald Guild, catch a few of the other videos on the Vimeo channel. These are wonderful, hospitable, and simply gracious people and I hope to go back to the Guild someday.

In the meantime, I got some of the necessary tools to work on encaustic painting at home. The retreat was a chance to get my feet wet with a new technique...I'm now captivated by the possibilities of this sculptural, painterly, scientific process of painting with deliciously honey-scented natural beeswax. I feel like this medium is what I was looking for in all my dabbling experiments with Acrylic and Watercolors. I feel in some ways that I've come home to this beautiful and ancient method. 

As I drove away from the Guild through the breathtaking could have been the snow-and-black-pine-tree dominated landscape, but every scene looked like wax etchings. I've woken up since in the middle of the night with ideas I just had to put down in my sketchbook and I've never done that before. 

Inspired isn't the word for it. I'm in awe.