Saturday, August 08, 2009

8/8/09 Steve's Birthday

Sitting at MVA...on a Saturday.

Walking in, there was an older woman walking out with a dull-looking teen in a backward-facing ball cap, horizontal striped polo shirt and long, loose denim shorts.

"She can't find it, because she never keeps her papers in order." Her thin wrinkled face wore a grim expression, and her husky voice and Baltimore accent reminds me of my mother-in-law.

We wind up sitting in the second row. Within a couple of minutes the grim woman and the dull-looking teen join a woman sitting in front of us, who appears to be the teen's mother. Apparently Maryland requires multiple evidences of your identity before allowing you the privilege of a drivers license, and the two women are griping back and forth about the papers required and what it will take to meet those requirements and not have to return. Or rather the older woman snips and gripes and the younger one occasionally defends herself or tries to get a word in edgewise.

Their discontent and animosity toward each other is making me ill.

From the lines on the older woman's face, it's obvious that she has spent much of her life unhappy and upset. The younger woman keeps her face turned away from her most of the time, and from their manner toward each other it is clear that this is just a new chapter in an old quarrel.

I can't figure out who these people are to each other. This could be mother-in-law/daughter-in-law or mother/daughter. I don't know which thought makes me sadder. Just having both these women tied to each other in some way is sad enough. It appears that they all live together, as grandma leaves briefly and returns with a copy of her lease to prove the address of the boy.

As I watch them the reason for the boy's expression becomes clear. Remaining disengaged is his way of surviving this constant state of misery. Living in his own world is his way or avoiding his grandmother's wrath and caustic words. It makes me sad to watch what is part of a continuing drama. Even though the players seem accustomed to their parts and their reactions dulled, there is a sad and pained expression on the face of the mother. Her eyes carry a sheen of unshed tears and her face is beginning to set in lines of pain and disappointment.

Watching them I want to reach in with my Jedi mind trick: "You aren't angry at her any more." I whisper toward the old woman, waggling my fingers toward her. "She doesn't bother you," I am at the younger woman. They are not receptive to Jedi mind control.

Then their number is called and they head to the counter, taking their oppressive and depressing mood with them.

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Point of View

The whole trip here to Maryland I had a nagging sense of wrong-ness, that I couldn't put my finger on for quite a while. Then it occurred to me that it was the bit about heading East. "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country." the quote goes. Throughout American history, we struggled to go westward. West from England across the Atlantic, before that West by Northwest, braving Arctic seas from Norway to Greenland and down the Atlantic seaboard, my people came. And while some reached the Atlantic coast and stayed, those compelled to brave the new frontier headed west.

So facing a new adventure, it seems odd to head East. Stranger still to have this adventure land me somewhere that I have already been, but still feels so unfamiliar.

This is the only place I have ever been where I felt lost. Completely lost. I don't know where North is. I don't know where my position is on the planet at any given time. My internal compass is whirling as if placed on top of a strong magnet.

I have no one to go meet for a cup of coffee. No one I can drop in on when I feel the need for a hug or a kind word. My Monday nights are free for football once again, but I do not want them to be free.

So the Israelites longed for Egypt. They forgot, perhaps of making bricks without straw, forgot their cries to God to be released from their bonds of slavery, but instead remembered the familiar. They remembered planting leeks and onions. They remembered where they had gathered their herbs, threshed their grain, gathered with friends for supper, and where they had met to worship their God.

They did not know where they were going. They did not know where they were, just as I have no idea what I am doing here or where I am. They only knew that they followed the cloud.

My illusions of safety are being stripped away. My illusions of comfort in my surroundings are being swept away. I am walking through the desert (metaphorically speaking, of course) and get to drag my friends along only through facebook, email or phone calls, imperfect mediums all.

I have taken my eyes from my Creator for a time and in that time become discontent. I have no cloud visible outside my window telling me that today I stay or today I go, but imagine this...the cloud is ALL you have of God. He speaks, but it is to others who relay His words. Instead, we get to hear from God directly. We have His Spirit living within. I have sometimes envied the Israelites that cloud--that visible reminder of God's presence, never thinking that the cloud was a reminder of God's presence because they could not know Him as you and I can know Him. That indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the communion between God and man is a thing I take for granted and far too lightly, I fear.

I do not know what tomorrow holds. But for today, and this moment, there is a critter or critters in the tree outside my balcony--squirrels perhaps--that are jiggling the leaves and making the branches dance. There is a gentle breeze stirring the top of the pool just across the fence, there is a constant chattering or clicking noise that I think may be insects of some kind, and the forest is barely held back by the encroachments of mankind. The dog is laying peacefully at my feet, and I am once again content. Homesick, but content.