i went to the trees to tattle

i went to the trees to tell on you
for being happy without me.
they listened and let me cry,
but they didn't join in.
"we are taller, we see further,
there were two somethings in the distance approaching.
his just arrived first."

Building a Life

I have rolled along believing in a power who controls all and acts upon me versus within me.  I have comforted myself with the assurance that I am adaptable and, with enough prayer and assistance from above, I could take wave after wave of whatever happened to and around me.  Often, it felt bad, except for the certainty that this approach was god's will.  And that was enough...almost.

However,  in an effort to honor his sovereignty, or the universe's destiny, I think I skewed truth.  I don't think his will was for me to live passively - to be like an empty shell on the ocean floor moved about with waves and currents - or to be like a dead leaf detached from it's life force, blown from spot to spot, all the while saying, Thank you, Thank you.

Those objects have their own sort of beauty and purpose, but first, they had a life, that god or the universe gave them, and that was created with delight.  That shell held a creature once.  That leaf sprouted on a living tree.  THAT life - THAT purpose - that's what I should be doing and living and building.

I didn't know a life was something I helped build.  Regardless, life has been happening.  I've had sooo much.  I couldn't be more grateful for and in love with my kids and the people around me.  I just didn't know I had power or choices I was supposed to use.  I thought making choices was selfish.  I thought it was competing with or insulting god's power.  I believed he'd make all of the choices for me if I just sat still and prayed.  Sometimes, he did.  But when he wants you to choose or live, and you don't, someone else will.  And you can become lost in the waves and the wind. 

I don't think he's angry that I've been confused, but I think he's been waiting.
But, it's time.

from Mary Oliver's "Upstream"

A Tale of Two BIddies

Crystaline was fancy and fluffy and fly.
If she hadn't been a chicken, she'd have been the kind of girl who could pull off a Kanga and Hammer pants.
If she'd had ears, she'd have been the kind of girl who would strut down the street in 2017 wearing her uncle's old Walkman and people she passed woulda assumed it was the iPhone11.
Had god given her arms, they'd be bangled and jangling as her hips swayed left and right to her inner keytar rhythm.

Daphne was bookish and softish and shy.
She'd shoulda been born in the liberry stacks.
You could tell in her eyes, she'd have sneaked down to the poetry section on her breaks and crawled into the 811s to hide.
If she'd had shoulders, they'd be inked in Rilke and Dickinson quotes.
If she coulda held a pencil, the walls would've been covered with words upon words.

But alas...
They were just chickens.
Pecking at the ground, dodging the rooster Caesar, bokking and squawking, and being startled constantly by that lady's new Bichon Frise.

use your daughter-voice, because that's what you are after all

if you want to know how
to speak to yourself
when your heart
has been sprained,
ask yourself what you will tell
your daughter one day
when her heart aches...
then your words stream out:

"do you know that
you are a MARVEL?!
with sun in your face
and stardust in your heart!
i do.
i know.
i've seen.

you are a blast of
light and love on this earth
with art streaming out
i was going to say something
about that person
that hurt you, but
let's not puzzle over them.
i decided they need not
be addressed after all.

who do you tell secrets in the blanket fort?

I share this because I know I'm not the only one.  Maybe I can take the pressure off someone else.
I've met a handful of humans with similar experiences, and I don't even get out much. If I frequented somewhere besides coffee shops and laundromats, I'd probably know even more similar humans.

Some of us were deep in conservative Christian churches, deep in the bible, totally committed to the gospel, even teaching it to groups. 
Then something happened. 
The people I'm thinking of underwent some sort of life tragedy or a significant experience that made them question their theology.  Again, I only know a handful, but I have big hands. The ones I know, for one reason or another, began wondering if they'd mixed up their beliefs about god in their own minds.  They aren't always sure whether they sat under confusing bible teaching, or just skewed it in applying it to their own lives.  These friends aren't always anti-religion, but they are wary.  I hear them say things like, "I may go back to church in the future...but right now?  No.  I'm just not ready."

The friends to whom I'm referring, end up feeling more open to the idea that god can be in more than one religion, or in no religion at all.  They find themselves using terms like "tolerance" and "spirituality even outside of god," which frankly would been taboo in the past for them...signs they were "back-sliding" and "watering down their faith," traveling down a slippery slope to no good.  The new feelings for them are simultaneously good and weird and naughty.  That's confusing, because these were the "good girls and boys."  In the past, their only intentions were to follow god and try to do his will in their limited, "sinful" ability.  But at some point, they feel like they got burned by life, and wonder if they had their doctrine mixed up.

As someone who has taken a break from church for awhile, I admit, I both revel in the break and miss it at times.  I feel right; I feel wrong; I feel neutral, depending on the day.  And that's okay.

At times I have felt guarded against god, afraid to read the bible, and untrusting of myself to be able to discern and apply what's in there.  But because I was such a committed bible student, without that regular study, I feel lost at times not trusting myself to know...well...how to live.  It feels like having a rug yanked out from under you, but knowing you don't want to re-tuck that rug exactly as it was.
That's an uncomfortable feeling, but that too is okay.
I don't want to talk about reading the bible really; I want to talk about Jesus.

I wasn't raised in a conservative church.  I really only delved into conservative doctrine in my 20s and forward.  But boy did I delve.  Because when I delve, I DELVE.  For the last two decades, I was taught and believed, you have two choices in dealing with Jesus:
1)  You can believe he is the messiah and son of god; or
2)  You can believe he was a mad man who was crazy and just claimed he was the messiah.
The idea is that you choose him as savior, or you don't because he was crazy.  The teaching is to point out that religions or people who say they respect Jesus as a person, but don't believe he died for their sins are wrong, i.e., "You can't have your cake unless you eat it" (or something like that).

This has caused a lot of angst for me recently.
Until Friday morning.

In the past year, as I've been leery of the bible and doctrine I believed so fervently the last two decades.  I've shied away from Jesus.  When I pray, which I do even though I feel a bit confused about prayer this year, I haven't really addressed Jesus.  I used to picture him standing at the right hand of god, listening and advocating for me.  Now I'm not sure where god is...where Jesus is...whether god is just everywhere or specifically in heaven...whether Jesus is everywhere or specifically in heaven. Or maybe he roamed off to the break room to get a snack and give me some alone time with god, because he knows he's making me feel squirmy.

But see?  That's the thing I've decided about Jesus.
He's the kind of guy that would understand if you feel squirmy.  People might say, "NO.  HE DEMANDS YOU MAKE A CHOICE ABOUT HIM.  YOU CAN'T STRADDLE THE FENCE."  And you know what I say to that?  Screw you.  Even if you're right, you aren't in charge of his timetable or mine.  You've got a book, but you aren't him and you aren't me.

This is what I do know.
I've been squirmy for months.  But Friday morning when I was really struggling and kept thinking, "No one knows exactly how I'm feeling this moment.  I know some great people, but there really is no one I want to tell about how I'm feeling just now."  I pulled the blanket over my head and cried and smelled my smelly dog and talked to Jesus.  And whether he heard me or not, whether he is the son of god or not, from everything I know about him as a person, I just know he'd come right under that blanket fort and smell that dog and not complain.  He'd say, "Keep talking.  I get it.  I understand the pain and the filth in this world." And I do not believe he'd stand outside the blanket saying, "First tell me your theology about me before I decide to come into that fort."

And for the first time, I understood why Christians and non-Christians can feel comfortable with him.
I don't know how I'll feel about religion or church in another month, year or decade.  But I think I feel good about Jesus again.

And that's enough.

*footnote:  my dog smells exactly like Old Bay seasoning because I tried a new flea medicine.  while it's not the worst smell, it's disconcerting.  however, it keeps in theme with the fishes and loaves I suppose.

the women

this morning i went back to my woods,
woods that feel so very me because they are natural yet
within sight of a strip mall.
oddly, I don't mind a strip mall.
for me, "sprawl" is just code for "people nearby."
i'm not sure whether the trees were left there and cleared around,
or planted for aesthetics,
but it doesn't matter to me really.

what matters, is they stand
some spaced away, some paired like friends
no obvious pattern that I have found...

today I named them sisters,
they're female I just feel it.
each beautiful in her own way.

one at a permanent lean like the friend that listens hard to you
leaning into your experience, bearing it with you.
another, bark burnt and peeling, but still standing strong
as if no end is in sight.
her neighbor, a short oak, leaves springing out,
lively and alert, the extrovert watching for any chance of a party.
all still leaved, even in October,
which seemed cocky of them in a fun way.

now that I think about it, the grove seems too established to have been planted recently,
some older than others, which is how women should live in a village
the older and the younger reminding each other of wisdom and fun
trading it back and forth, not necessarily according to age

my favorite (today) is the only one I named:
kakini:  the dancer.
curved with branches bending but reaching up
the way I dance when I can stop thinking.
she was cheerful, but in no way simple.
she knows things.

she stood close to one you wouldn't notice at first,
slim, but not an eye-catcher, demanding no attention.
but looking up, I saw she was the only one in a grove of thirty with large leaves,
really large...distinctive,
like magnolia leaves on a different trunk
impressive, but not noisy about it.
maybe kakini knew and was drawn up close.

or maybe she didn't know.
I stood there and wept feeling at home,
speaking to them and thinking I'd known for awhile now that were I a tree nymph
so many more things would make sense.

I was content at first enjoying them, but eventually wanted them to speak and be sentient
I wondered if this was the beginning or end of my sanity.
wanting for a moment to be the kind of person who believes nature speaks, then feeling
disappointed in myself because I don't think that's really quite how it works.

but the disappointment passed quickly, because something is going on there,
something beyond the tangible and stationary.
I saw, and that matters.
I see often, and I'm grateful. 
I see with my heart and I know that place is special.
something meant for me I uncovered--
or maybe I even made it something,
and that's no small thing to begin to believe I am not passive in this world.

the women
the grove
five months ago, I came thinking the women were the fairies who might flit among them.
That's a lovely image, but now I see us as the trees.
something has changed in me.
I felt it in my feet planted solid on the ground, straightening my shoulders
and turning my face up into the mist,
noticing they were doing the same.

maybe in five more months, i'll return and see half the trees as men living and sharing and being friends with us,
I can see the edge of those feelings some days, fear fading,
other days not at all.
if it happens, it will be okay for me...by then.

but today, I will take my daughter, a lithe little tree in her own right,
to play a sport with her peers.
I will watch them move and play and work and laugh
laughing and smiling,
noticing and encouraging each other even in the missed shots
a totally communal experience.
some slightly apart by choice,
some paired with friends, the arm patters and huggers
but all a part of that little grove in their own way.