Two amazing things happened to me on Good Friday as I was driving to meet some friends after a crazy 36 hours. The first was that I passed Jesus on the street. Actually, he was on the sidewalk. He was walking east down Windsor Avenue, wearing a white robe, the crown of thorns, and carrying a cross. A small robed woman wearing head coverings was walking next to him. On the other side of the street going west was a jogger with no shirt on, and coming up towards Jesus on his side was a guy on a bike. I felt concerned about the biker because there’s not a lot of room on the sidewalk, and it seemed like it could be awkward trying to bike past Jesus with the small woman and the cross. Also, if it had been me, there was no way I could just RIDE PAST Jesus, especially not with the cross and the crown of thorns. Maybe on a normal day, i.e not Good Friday. But no, not even then. It would feel too disrespectful. [note: my dad said he didn’t understand this part of the post. It ACTUALLY happened! Exactly this way. It’s a TRUE story!]
The other amazing thing had happened a few minutes before as I was waiting to go through a four-way stop at the corner of Florida and Vine. The car opposite me was taking forever to get through the intersection and I was impatient to get to my friends. I sort of edged into the intersection while she was still making her turn and I thought I recognized her. “That looks like my friend Jessica,” I thought. It wasn’t, but it could have been. It could have been any one of the many, many people I know who live in these two strange little cities in the middle of the cornfields (corn and soybean fields, I should say). And I didn’t want to be edging her out of the intersection just because I was impatient to get somewhere. I didn’t want to be driving like a jerk.
And all of a sudden a tremendously protective feeling came over me, a deep love for this place where we ended up completely arbitrarily. I had the feeling, “This is my home.” My eyes opened a little wider, my breath slowed and my skin started to get all tickly. “My home. This is my home. I belong to this place, these people, and they belong to me.” Everything became just a little more beautiful, and the air started to smell like love.
For someone who has never been quite sure where “home” is, this is an incredible blessing. While our families have stayed where they are, we have not, so there’s always a fractured feeling around the idea of “home.” Also, feeling like I belong somewhere is elusive for me. And I’m so incredibly grateful, because I am completely sure that the feeling of belonging that I experienced is directly related to writing this blog.
Writing is literally a way to create yourself, to write yourself into existence, to claim your place, to say, “this is me.” The very best writers do this in a way that makes you feel, as a reader, like, “that’s me too!” I’ve learned that blogging is not the easiest way to do this because it can lend itself to too much focus on the ME and not enough on the YOU. In other words, there is a difference between being a “blogger” and a “writer.”
I started this blog with the vague sense that it was a step towards owning my identity as a writer. And 40 posts, 270 comments, and almost 5,000 “views” later, I feel like I could actually say, in a conversation, “I’m a writer.” I’m not really sure yet, and there’s WAY more work to be done, but it’s possible. I was sitting in the driveway on Friday watching Gabe play with soapy water and the cappuccino milk frother. I noticed the pale green leaf buds on one of the trees near the side of the house and thought, “I knew those were there. I’ve been waiting for them, and there they are.” I know that sounds weird, but I felt part of something because I had been paying attention, and I had been paying attention because I had been writing. Consistently, intentionally, and with a clear sense of commitment.
In that moment I knew what it meant to be grounded by the consistent dedication to something that is your very own. And the absolute best part of this has been you. Every single person who has read something I’ve written here has given me 100 times more than I can ever give back. Knowing that someone was there, on the other side of the screen reading, made it possible for me to keep writing, and writing has made it possible for me to become myself in a way that makes the rebirth and utter astonishment of Easter very real for me.
When the women come to the empty tomb where the angel has rolled back the stone, they are terrified. But the angel tells them not to be afraid. How many times, I wonder, does God give us the message, “Be not afraid” in the Bible? I don’t know, but after hearing the news of the resurrection from the angel, the women leave the tomb, “afraid yet filled with joy” (Matthew 28:1-10). There is so much unknown, so much beyond what it is even possible to know or understand, but so much hope. The possibility that the promise has been fulfilled.
In Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she wrote for Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 (and which is, by the way, absolutely astonishing, and in case the first 40 times weren’t enough, let me say again, always LISTEN to a poem when you have the chance), there are lines that describe an important belief, one that she refers back to often, in interviews and speeches:
“Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for”
“I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.”
Our passages have been paid.
Knowing that, believing that, means that we can finally stop worrying if we belong, if we matter, if we are good enough. Knowing that and believing that means that we NEED TO stop worrying about ourselves and if we matter, because there is SO MUCH more important stuff to worry about. The world needs people who are alive, awake, present. The world needs people who can do what Maya Angelou describes in the last lines of this poem:
“Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
For people who have been kind enough to ask, yes, I will definitely keep writing this blog. The Radical Lent Project is over for this year, but something new is beginning. Writing is and always will be about connection for me, and connection is about commitment and responsibility. Relationship. I’m still going to be here, and I would sure be honored if you were too.
If I could, I would give each and every one of you a ticket for a David Whyte walking tour through Italy, every single one of Carrie Newcomer’s CDs, recordings of all of Bailey White’s essays, and free ice cream from Baskin Robbins for the rest of your life. AND, I’d make it so the ice cream had NO calories! In other words, I can’t thank you enough. Here’s to us: “To the words and how they live between us, and to us and how we live between the words” (Carrie Newcomer, “Two Toasts”).
Today’s poem is by Nina Bogin. I hope you love its vibrancy, its sense of belonging to life, and its joy of being exactly where you are supposed to be.
At the crossroads, hens scratched circles
into the white dust. There was a shop
where I bought coffee and eggs, coarse-grained
chocolate almost too sweet to eat.
When I walked up the road, the string sack
heavy on my arm, I thought
that my legs could take me anywhere,
into any country, any life.
The air, dazzling as sand, grew dense
with light: bougainvillea spilled
over the salmon walls, the road
veered into the ravine. The world
could be those colors, the mangoes,
the melons, the avocado evenings
releasing their circles of moon.
I climbed the pink stairs, entered
the house as calm and ephemeral
as my own certainty:
this is my house, my key,
my hand with its new lines.
I am as old as I will ever be.