Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mrs. McDuff

Real Magic

Mrs. McDuff was sixty years old and she still loved magic—not that Wiccan voodoo crap or Ouija board nonsense, but the real kind that makes sentient vines creep into your bedroom and announce in the existence of fauns and fairies; that the old stories have come true; that legends have come to life; and that adventures are afoot to make your blood boil with all the best kinds of emotions like courage and wit and freedom—while ignoring the jeers and eye rolls of the more mundane folks about town who read their newspapers and drink their beers (or wines or rums or what-have-yous) in the peace and quiet of normality without once considering that crazy old Mrs. McDuff might not really have lost her marbles when her husband left her back in ’62 for his secretary, but instead lost the one thing that was keeping her back from true magic of the sentient vine sort, and created a new way for her, one in which she was free—when the sky was clear and the moon and stars just right and the breeze slipping between grey strands of hair—to smell the possibilities in the air and turn her face to the east.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


knock, Knock, Knock!

“Come in?”

No one comes in. Buddy, the fluffy white cuddle terror of the neighborhood barks, warning passersby that he’s ready to give them a cute puppy smile and curl up with them until their souls are filled with puppy love.

“Coming! Quiet, Buddy.” I pat his head and grab the dog’s collar so he’ll quiet down. From my bent position, I glance out the screen door. Since only half of the door is screen, I can only see the nappy head of our little neighbor, Sean.

“Kin Budshau?”

“No, I can’t come outside right now and watch him. Sorry.”

He turns and scuffs off down our front porch, and I give Buddy another pat.

The resident Cuddle Master
The first time Sean said, “Kin Budshau?” I had to ask him to repeat the question at least six times. He patiently did so, but it wasn’t until I stopped thinking about his words and about what he always wants when he on our door that I made the linguistic leap to “Can Buddy come out?”

From then on, Sean and I have understood one another for the most part, although I think he finds my constant refusals to let him drag Buddy around the neighborhood without supervision a little onerous.

Now that I’ve moved out, on to a new apartment for the summer, I realize why I thought this little snippet was important enough to write down.

“God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of humankind; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Luckily a lot of books and movies are variations on this Ecclesiastes theme. They have prepared me for what the Russians call “toska.”

The closest word in English is “angst.” But of course, this word has traveled far from its German roots and has become more than a little cliché in describing the woes of wealthy teenage girls.
The opposite of toska. Apparently sea otters hold hands
to keep from drifting apart while they sleep.
The cutest thing in life just got cuter.

As Vladimir Nabokov says,

“No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

God has set eternity into our hearts, but the life we live is ephemeral, cyclical. We meet new people; we settle into a comfortable friendship; then maybe we run up against a little contention. By the time we finally figure it out and learn to speak their “Kin Budshau” language, it’s time for another goodbye.

How unfair. How beautiful. How toska.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Shout-Out

The string section can start swelling because I’m pretty sure this is going to be a sappy post.

I have finished college. And all it took was:

     ·         four years
     ·         unnumbered papers
     ·         a large chunk of cash
     ·         a forced cross-cultural engagement experience
     ·         many overpriced books
But there were some perks, too:

     ·         amazing professors
     ·         brilliant fellow students
     ·         Calvin College cookies (pretty sure they have crack in them)
     ·         a competitive soccer team
     ·         5 jumps into the seminary pond
     ·         Several rain dances and mud-frisbee sessions

Unfortunately, I never learned how to procrastinate. I never felt what 3 a.m. is like when you have a paper due in six hours. I never pulled a single all-nighter for the sake of a test (I did pull a most-of-the-nighter before a test, but I definitely wasn’t studying).

Gaps such as those aside, I still have managed to scrape up a degree. But I dread graduation weekend where it’s all about the young’uns accomplishing things and getting degrees. It’s always seemed to me that I’ve only ever accomplished exactly what has been given to me. For me, graduation should really be a bigger and ritzier Mother’s Day and Father’s Day rolled into one.

Because for starters, I didn’t pay for my college. Also, I didn’t drive me and my suitcases to and from college. I didn’t give myself good study habits or a healthy, competitive mindset. I didn’t answer my tearful phone calls about shameful B pluses on papers. I didn’t drive all day and night to watch a bad soccer game or a boring concert. For that matter, I didn’t drive myself to anything in high school and I wouldn’t have had a car for college if it weren’t for a couple of music educators in northwest Indiana who raised me.

So thanks, mom and dad. Graduation’s great, but I’ll keep working on what I know you really care about.

Proverbs 23:24-25
Quoth the raven: "Honor thy father and mother."
The father of a righteous woman has great joy; he who has a wise daughter delights in her.
 May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!

After all, I have some great, Biblical motivation.

Proverbs 30:17

The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Creepy Sort of Peace

“Patience is a virtue!” Rachel Weisz tensely mutters as she fiddles with some ancient mummy artifact.

“Not right now, it isn’t!” Brendan Fraser rejoins, having seen an army of mummies break through the door.

Is it sacrilegious to tell God I think he sounds a lot like Eve and I’m Rick O’Connell in The Mummy? It seems while everyone around me is mourning the end of their undergraduate studies, I’m praying that God will 
end this year of patience-training.
And yet I've felt like this a couple times today.

This year’s theme?

Wait. Wait. Wait, and—oh wait—wait some more.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not much of a fan.

And yet God does enable his people to wade—and wait—through it all with an inexplicable form of joy. For some reason, I’m happy. It’s not because:

·         My novio is coming home this weekend (he’s not)
·         I don’t have homework to be doing (3 tests, 2 papers by next Monday, whoo)
And like this, sometimes!
·         I have a summer job (I don’t)
·         I have a fall job (I don’t)
·         My friendships are stable (The girl I’ve slept next to, cried with, hugged, punched, and skinny-dipped with and who drew Calvin and Hobbes on the inside of our door and the gateway into Moria on the outside freshman year—Elvish script and all—is moving across the country the day after graduation and I’m leaving the rest of my friends behind in three months.)

But I’m happy. Content, even. Even as my being aches for some sense of stability it rejoices (about something) in the fluidity of things.

And this is my favorite feeling.
Not having a job is not fun, but knowing God will provide the best situation for me is a pretty good second best, I suppose.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Man Is an Island

Ignoring the gender-discrimination of John Donne’s little aphorism, I like the quotation. Unfortunately, it contradicts every fiber of my nature and nurture. I was raised to be independent. I like to make my own choices, keep my own schedule, go where I want to go, and say what I want to say.

But some things are so much better than that. All of my favorite books are former recommendations from someone else, books I often was reluctant to read (The Thief). Same thing with favorite movies (The Lives of Others or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog). The tv show I’m currently wrapped up in has me captivated partially because I know one of my best friends would absolutely love the main character. Some of the best days of my life have happened on someone else’s whim. And most of the best decisions I’ve ever made are the ones God already made for me.

People are tiring sometimes. They let you down and let things separate you. Maybe that’s what relationships are: collapsing, colliding, contorting. Constant circling around until you realize that despite the bumps, the contortions were the best part of it all. At least I hope so. I’m still pretty young, for a hobbit.
Hilary and I know about co-dependency

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee