Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010: best of...moments

This is the last bit of year end navel gazing, I promise. My hope is that this daily writing - while self absorbed and inward facing - will work its way out into some real words on something with more bearing than the things that make me smile and keep me somewhat sane. We'll see how that goes.

There are so many moments of surprise and delight and warmth to celebrate this year. Of course there are a million corresponding moments of anxiety and lament and darkness, and despite my daily discipline of recognizing and remembering the former, I often live all too heavily inside the latter. The darkness takes more work to access and to commit to words, and besides, it's still Christmas for another 5 days. We'll keep this the season of Light and save the lament for the season of Lent. So. 2010: best of...moments:

1. April: Wandering into the Orangerie in the Parisian Tulleries and being actually struck dumb by Monet's gigantic Waterlilies. The paintings themselves are actually murals, hung on curved gallery walls. I'm not sure exactly what I'd expected them to be - maybe washed out, postcard sized reproductions like the prints I'd seen all my life - but the real life immensity of size and depth of color actually made my knees go weak and forced me to flop down on the bench in the center of the room. There I sat for half an hour, drinking in color and light and wondering why I hadn't ever before entertained the possibility of that kind of surprise and beauty.

2. May: Bringing the matrimonial heat at Daniel and Erin's wedding. Not too many of my favorite moments happen in places that one might expect a minister to make note of - that is, I don't often feel the Holy Spirit showing up in church or liturgy or official responsibilities. I'm fairly certain that we've planned and committee'd ourselves out of practice in those places, effectively blinding ourselves to God's presence. But every so often, the veil of all our human hubbub and fuss-making gets swept aside and there it is - that thing, infinitely larger than us but moving around and between and within us nonetheless. Daniel and Erin's wedding ceremony was one of those rare times that what we were doing there in that place (celebrating and blessing and communing and covenanting) got caught up in what God was doing all over the place, and I got the best seat in the house.

3. July: Flocks of fireflies filling my front yard. Working diligently at some project in my living room, I happened to look up and out the front window to see a tiny flash of lightning bug, and then another, and another...and another. I walked outside and into the grass and was surrounded by fireflies blinking on and off amongst the old growth trees and lawn, and suddenly remembered running through the summer dusk when I was a kid, clutching lightning bug catchers or waving open palms for the bugs to light upon. A forgotten childhood portal into so many magical worlds.

4. October: Staring at stars in Jon's Oregonian front yard. I read an article recently reporting that light pollution is so rampant and dense on the Eastern seaboard that there's literally no place to see the night sky in its natural blackness. Not so on the left coast, y'all. I cannot describe the fullness of that night sky, and I honestly had no earth- or heavenly idea that that many stars even existed. Laying on a quilt on the other side of a long and high swinging footbridge with a beer and a kitten in utter darkness underneath all those stars rearranged my brain matter and my idea of just what kind of place it is within which we exist.

5. December: Asking Elizabeth Strout how faith informs her writing and getting the most honest and confounding answer. First, let me just gush about how ridiculously amazing it is that Elizabeth Strout was reading right here, in Roanoke. If you haven't read her books, go find them, now. Abide With Me ought to be required reading for every seminarian, Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer, and Strout herself is sort of what I wish I were. She read at Hollins in December, an Olive story about a young man on the brink of suicide that ended - like so many of her stories - with a messy and honest resurrection. I found my arm shooting up despite my bashfulness and asking her that since so many of her writings dealt in themes of salvation and resurrection, how was it that faith contributed to her art? Her answer was muddled and unpolished and confounding and sort of fascinating for the fact that she obviously struggled with it but couldn't articulate exactly how. "Essentially," she said, "I don't know." Amen, and amen.

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