Monday, July 28, 2014


What to write?

I want to write about our trip, which was another chance to spend a few days with one of the few people in this world who really understands me. We spent the days filling our lungs with dry mountain air, driving around town, laughing loudly at outdoor cafes as we won and lost board games, sharing a bowl of ice cream. It was satisfaction and exhilaration and comfort all rolled into one- vulnerability over a walk and a drink paired with sweet silence while munching cereal and watching 30 Rock.

I want to write about contradictions. That I can hike a glorious mountain path while bombs go off in the mid-East or that I can savor a blueberry lavender cider in one of my best dresses before walking past homeless men on the street are tragic mysteries. I still can't figure life out and it breaks my bones with the weight of it all.

And I want to write about how love and friendship are both beautiful and terrifying- a true contradiction. They are a risk and a gamble that I have lost in the past. Underneath the trust and confidence, I am afraid to lose what I love most. I fear that I won't be enough or that I will somehow break it. Hell, I fear that I'm just plain boring.

But mostly I want to write about how trust wins in the end. Every day I rediscover that what I thought was fragile as gossamer is actually stronger than stone. I trust her.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Raw Beans

I have vivid memories of growing up with two gardens in our backyard. Memories of walking down the rows with my Opa or watering with my Mom or washing produce at the spigot with Oma- memories that are sometimes forgotten, only to be resurrected when I bite into a pea pod or smell wet earth or pull a raspberry off the bush. Back then, I didn't notice the magic of a garden's yield or food straight from the ground, streaked with dirt. It was just part of my life. I relished the taste without recognizing the beauty of it. But that has changed. These days, the sight of a garden row fills me with soul-aching pleasure and snapping beans off the vine is as satisfying as eating them. I may not have a garden of my own yet, but I take what I can get, and this summer that means getting food and picking food from a farm near my home.

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Photo by my talented friend!
Yesterday, I walked down long rows lined with beans on one side and sage on the other, bags in hand to gather dinner. My best friend and her kids were with me and ahead of me, picking beans and then finding the pea patch. One of her little ones, a blond two-year-old boy with a sharp eye and a vocabulary to match, held my bag of beans, watching me select the biggest ones and twist them free. He wanted to help and I showed him how to grip the bean and pull, scootching his hand closer to the top of it, lifting the leaves for him. He dropped a few of the beans he picked in my bag. I plucked another bean and took a bite, the crunch reverberating through my teeth. Raw beans are a weakness of mine. Watching me, he asked for a bite too. I handed him my piece and watched him chew it. "I can't believe he likes that," my friend said as he took another bite. While we picked, I selected a few to eat, sharing with my picking buddy, smiling at his new-found love of raw beans.

As I worked, I thought about my childhood and the moment that had just passed. I don't know who first gave me raw beans from the bean patch, but the love for the taste has stayed with me into my adulthood. My need to walk barefoot on hard dirt, my appreciation of the feel and smell of dirt on my hands are all remnants of the childhood I had and the lessons I was taught by my parents and grandparents. My knowledge of gardening is still rudimentary but my appreciation for the power of soil, sun, and water and the resulting bounty that grows from the earth is something I learned early and learned well.

There was a tightness in my chest as I realized how much I want to pass those experiences on to my children. How desperately I want a child to pass experiences on to. Kneeling in the bean rows, I was overcome with an ache for them, these unknown people that I already love. In my bones, I can feel how much I am ready to meet them- to give them the world and for them to change mine. Yesterday was the day I discovered that all I want in the world, it seems, is to give my children the taste of a raw string bean.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


When was the last time I took a minute to watch a cloud move? I ask myself as I watch a white shadow scoot across its wide ocean of sky. A few years ago, even a few months ago, this thought would have spiraled into some fierce self-condemnation, into frustration and anger at myself for not noticing the clouds every day, as I added one more thing to a vast list of everything I'm supposed to remember and accomplish that filled my head. I realize now how much has changed as I watch this cloud, just glad I took 20 seconds to notice it as I moved through my day.

For most of my adult life, I have found it easier to notice and fixate on what I am not, rather than what I am. Keeping track of what I don't do, rather than what I do. It's truly exhausting- mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And it has worn me ragged like an old dishcloth, left me crying on the bed in the middle of the afternoon, spent and empty. But in the last months, I have found myself slowly revolting against this inclination of mine, tired of being my own worst critic. Little by little, I have forced myself to see me as my loved ones see me, as God sees me. I have forced myself to accept that I am loved, not because of anything I have done, but because of who I am, as I am. It's a hard lesson to learn.

And self-love can be hard for one who is not very used to it. I take it easy, noticing little victories. Like being on a diet, I make great progress only to relapse and gorge myself on self-loathing. But I rebound more quickly now, stronger than before, more accepting and less harsh than I would have been before. For years, it felt like my inner peace was dried up like a lake, barren and empty, full of creatures of my own making. But lately, the water has started to flow again, for real this time, like a baptism, cleansing and pure, washing away my guilt and self-criticism, making things grow so that I can in turn water the soil of those around me. Things are changing. Water will do that- the holiest of the elements. I am no more perfect than I was two years ago but I love myself more. I see God in clouds and I feel him in that lake of inner peace. Finally, finally, I relax into who I am, not worried anymore about who I'm supposed to be.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Glory

From my balcony right now, I find myself surrounded by growth and life, from the buzz of a fly to the cheep of a blackbird across the fields. Summer is here in all of her fullness, swollen with heat and rain, bursting with plants, food, and life. My cat keeps me company out here, stretched out on a chair in the semi-humid breeze of a July afternoon. I do my homework, sporadically looking up to watch the leaves of thousands of corn stalks sway and flutter, like a vast undulating sea of green water, never still, always moving. It's July already.

I think on the summer so far, of watching fireworks from this balcony with Nathan, huddled under a shawl against the unnaturally cool July evening. It has been days of satisfying work and getting through school, punctuated with memory-making, sweet as a ripe peach. Exploring the Art Institute with a dear friend while baring our souls on a train. Looking out on the swollen Mississippi with two of my best friends. Meeting my mom for ice cream. Watching a best friend walk up the aisle to her new husband. Spending days at a living history museum with my sister and family, pretending we've gone back in time. Reading more Barbara Kingsolver. Picking up fresh vegetables from a local farm, my arms laden with greens and beets and summer squash galore. Dancing with Nathan. Baking my birthday cake with my friend's sweet little girl.

I find myself giving thanks much more during the warm months, when the world is luscious and generous. Today, I'm thankful for fresh food on my plate and warm breezes through the screen door. I'm grateful for support systems, for the friends and family I don't deserve who care for me in big ways and in small. I'm thankful for morning sunshine, little adventures, driving through farm country, zucchini muffins. I breathe in the world around me and exhale my thanks, wrapping myself in summer's glory, in all of the possibility she offers.


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