Thursday, December 24, 2009

wings, crooks, straw

These are the draft texts for the three stories I'm going to tell tonight at the First Baptist Church of Berwyn Christmas Eve Service. So, if you're coming, don't read them.

Merry Christmas, internet.


tone: regal, bold, ancient, majestic. Stand tall, move gracefully.

I've been an angel since the dawn of time, but I don't pretend to understand the mind of God.

Look: being an angel is pretty simple: you adore the throne of God, and you deliver messages for God.

I was good at it, I guess, as good as you can be at something that's just in your nature. Are you good at breathing? Then, I guess I'm good at delivering messages for God.

Most of the time the messages were pretty straight-forward; You, So and so, daughter of such and such. Go to this appointed place and do this appointed thing.

Other times, it was giving someone a message to pass on from God. Tell Pharoah to let my people go, that sort of thing. Big things and little things, scary things and hopeful things. Since the dawn of time, as I said, I've been delivering messages from God.

Things were always straight-forward: people were people, God was God, and I was an angel. You could tell I wasn't one of the people, because I had wings. You've seen them in paintings, but mortal paintings don't do angel wings justice. They are pure reflections of the glory of God. You can tell when you're seeing an angel, because of those wings.

Then came that night. That terrible, holy night. For the first time, since the dawn of time, I didn't know what to do when I got the message. It didn't make sense. It's not like I always know why God wants so and so to go do such and such, but this!

God was becoming incarnate. God was going to have a body. God was going to be a human being, a person.

I would have argued with God, but such is not in my nature.

And there was more- the people I was supposed to tell about it! Sure, God talks to all kinds of people, and I've delivered some messages to all kinds of people, but this! The most momentous event since the dawn of time, and I wasn't supposed to tell the rulers- the kings, the emperor. I wasn't supposed to tell the priests in the temple, and I wasn't even supposed to tell that many people. Just some homeless shepherds, out in the fields.

But I went. Because I am an angel of the Lord, and I've been delivering messages from God since the dawn of time.

Look. I should mention this other thing.

I like being an angel, I do. But it's often kind of lonely work. You're delivering messages to people, you see, you know, once. And you're adoring the throne. And there are other angels, but you don't ever see them, really- it only takes one of you to deliver a message, after all.

So the first thing that night, was what I was proclaiming.

And the second thing, that night, was who I was proclaiming it to.

And the third thing, that night, was that after I gave my message, I looked and saw another angel, there in the sky, and another and another until the sky was full.


So... After that night, after that child, things have been different.

I don't know about the wings thing, anymore. Used to be there were clear differences: God and human beings, angels with wings and people without them.

But now...

On that night, heaven and earth kissed one another. And they haven't stopped embracing since.

And now, whenever I see people: all people, any people: I see them all with wings.


tone: almost broken, tired, world-weary, unflinchingly tough. Shrug a lot.

I suppose I shouldn't have been suprised. It's been happening this way for hundreds of years. When I was a kid, things were okay for us. I was the only daughter. We had a little farm. But the Romans said my parents owed too much in taxes, and they sold the farm to a big landowner. Whether they actually owed the money or not, what could we do?

So, with no land there was no money, and with no money there was no dowry, and with no dowry, I didn't have a lot of options. I'm grateful for how it worked out, I guess. The shepherd job I got, for that same big landowner, is much better than what some women in my situation have had to do.

But it's not a great job. The pay is lousy, just enough to scrape by, and you're deeper in debt every year. The conditions are bad, too: sleeping out every night. It gets cold, even this time of year. You can never really sleep when you're looking after sheep- you never know when one will get attacked or injured or sick. And there are other dangers, for a woman shepherd, in the wilderness. It got to the point where I was a little bit cold all the time, and tired all the time, too.

The other shepherds were alright, some of them, but they didn't really think women should be shepherds so they were allies at best. When I was a kid I would have laughed at what shepherds thought: dirty, poor, foul-smelling shepherds. But now, here I am.

And this is all to say nothing of the sheep. Dirty, stupid, mean. Just as soon bite you as look at you, these sheep anyway. So, I was surviving, but...

And then that night. I don't know whether it was more miraculous that God became a human being or that God wanted to tell me about it. Me and my shepherd friends. Angels came. To us. To us!

So we went, to see the child. What else could we do?

When I went to see the child, I didn't feel tired. I didn't feel outcast, I didn't feel poor, I didn't feel foul-smelling.

Instead I felt faithful. I felt joyful. I felt triumphant.

And it's how I feel now. (shrug.)


tone: nervous, anxious. Excited, a little bit. Until the end. Wring your hands and scratch, awkwardly. Talk kind of fast.

I guess the funny thing is that I was feeling like everything was coming together for me. I was starting off in my father's business, and like, I finally had some money coming in, and my family set me up with this girl, that everybody said would be, would be a good wife.

But then, the girl- Mary- she got pregnant, and it wasn't my baby, I knew that much, and people were saying all kinds of things about what I should do, but I decided that I should just you know, break things off quietly, not make a big deal about it, not get her into trouble. I was just trying to do the right thing, you know? And she had enough problems without me adding to it.

So that's what I was going to do, and I was all set to do it...


I had this dream or this vision or I don't even really know what it was, but after that it seemed like I should stay with her, like I should still marry her.

But then, right away, she left for three months to visit her relative, and I don't blame her, but it was just hard to be on my own in all of that, and people in the village were talking about her, and us, and they were talking about me. And I was worried that it would hurt my business, hurt my family, and everything...

So when she came back, and then things looked like they were going to get easier, then of course the romans decide they haven't been keeping us under control efficiently enough, so there's this whole census thing and I have to go back to where my family is, and of course Mary is just so pregnant, and I don't have to tell you it was a difficult trip for her.

And through it all she was just remarkably calm, you know, even when we got to Bethlehem and I couldn't find anybody who knew where I was, and nobody would let us stay in their inn because I think they were waiting for somebody with more money because it was crowded there from the census and anything. And pretty soon we were desperate just to find a place out of the noise and cold and awful of the streets. Nobody wants to sleep on the street, and definitely nobody wants to give birth on the street and Mary was pretty sure it was her time.

And the way she looked at me, when we walked into the stable, as it was becoming apparent that it was this stable or the streets, and the way she looked at me, the way we looked at each other. It was like, “well, here we are, and we sure as hell didn't plan it to happen this way, but this is what's happening, so hey, here we are.”

Because there were animals everywhere, and it was out of the wind, sure, but it wasn't all that warm, and it was a stable, you know, which is to say it was filthy, and there was straw on the ground that was matted with dirt and muck, and that was going to be our bed, that was where she was going to give birth. Not a bed, or even a mat, but just dirty, smelly straw!

And all through that night, while she was in birth pain I was just worrying. I mean, I was trying to help, but there was only so much I could do, and so there was a lot of time just to worry.

And I worried about my business.

And I worried about my family.

And I worried about Mary.

And I worried about the Romans and their census and their taxes and their soldiers.

And I worried about this child, this baby, I worried about whose it was, whether what the people said about it was true, whether what I dreamed about it was true, and I just worried, all night long.


After the baby came, there was a moment. There was a moment that seemed like it was going to be brief, but truth be told, it has continued. When I saw the baby, when I held the child still covered in blood from the birth.

I knew that things were going to be different. That all of the things that I had been worried about- my job and my family and the Romans and who the father was. All of that didn't matter. This child, this baby scattered all of those worries to the wind. He scattered them like straw.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apocalyptic Love Song Stop-Motion Animation

Lisa made a killer (ha ha) stop-motion animation of the love song that Corrigan and I wrote.

Monday, October 26, 2009

dispatches from the bad-ass side of the family

My sister started a blog. Lately, she's been talking about her trip to Greece for climbing. If you want to see pictures of her halfway up a cliff looking totally badass, and/or read a story about cute kittens, see below:

Friday, September 25, 2009

yes we can: my forehead is in the new york times

The New York Times published a photo of an action I attended last night in Chicago. You can see my eyes and my forehead. The hotel management in Chicago is trying to cut health insurance for many of their workers, and the workers are fighting. Some of us from the seminary went downtown to get in on that. The article (and photo) are here:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

anniversary powerm

so, i definitely counted wrong when i wrote this. but what's a month between friends? or maybe it's just almost a month late, i don't know.

three months feels appropriate.

like the rule of threes the law of threes, the one that echoes so resoundingly in jokes, in legends, in mediocre sermons.

the city clicks and whirs like a great machine starting up. the pieces of my life shuffle and blur a little bit at the edges, but maybe it's just the coffee they have downtown, downtown where I can see the ley lines, which is to say the el lines, start to come together in the city of chicago.

the lay lines which are the el lines, the great veins of mystical elven power which are the great waves of people power, political power, “power for social movements,” a force more powerful.

and here we are in the midst of it. you are starting seminary, and i am starting whatever this thing is that comes after seminary. things shuffle and grow.

you married trickster energy, and so did i. adam kotsko messaged me on gchat:

did you know

he said

did you know that your new chosen name can be read as “weasel-like.”


I gchatted back to him.

that was entirely on purpose.

and i sent him a link to the wikipedia article on the least weasel, and gchatted back to him:

“as wise as weasels, as innocent as least weasels” etc.

so, the city whirs and clicks, kind of like my camera when you first turn it on, and you should hold the button down halfway before you take the picture

so that things can come into focus

and you should turn off the flash.

And you're written everywhere I go in this city, as the Holy Spirit inscribes her name way down low in the edges of planters, in the edges of dying rhododendron leaves, in the edges and sides of towering skyscrapers, towering libraries, towering academies and seminaries, that take the script like paper drinks up ink when you leave the pen on the paper, until it is a great dark well.

and when i turn my head right, catch the light on the harold washington library

on the rockefeller chapel

on the trump tower and the business school and lowly old demolishable haymarket

i can read the script

it's three months we've been married, and three months i've been in chicago, and things are starting to whir and click, or I'm hearing them whir and click a little more clearly. loudly. brilliantly.

and every step i've taken in this city has been holding your hand. the places i walk, the great lines of bus and train, you've been sitting next to me, or your absence which is also your presence has been sitting next to me.

in some ways, when i go to the public library, to my favorite spot on the literature and language floor, by the microfiche machine that i've only seen used the once, where they have the outlet, where i can teka teka teka and the only people who smile at me are also working on their own projects, their work projects, their school of drama projects their filling the homeless hours projects their grinding the mental illness gears projects- in some ways, when i go to this place, and others like it, i am by myself.

and in other ways, there you are next to me, reading jerry spinelli or psalms or that ruth duck book you haven't read yet or anne.

because you're on every page, and you're in every sermon, and you're in every book i read. even the crappy superhero comics that i'm not sure why i read, and maybe there especially.

am i forcing this into a love poem when it's just more of an ecstasy, a prophesy?

(because, just so you know, i've been reading this dnd book about the eberron campaign setting, and they've got this draconic prophesy, you know, and sometimes the words of the prophesy are inscribed on human beings and elves, and sometimes they're foretold in the movements of fabric or the stars, but sometimes they're written “in no human hand,” in actual ancient script, in tiny or giant letters on rocks and bushes and cliffs, and boy howdy shazam motherfucker is that a cool idea, and also one that is true.)

but this is true about you, whether this is a love poem or not.

but you're on every page of my constructive-ordination-novel, and when will tanzman came to my room last night and we were talking about hope, and i started to give the book tour to someone else, and will tanzman asked if i knew any hopeful novels, i flailed at the bookshelf for some time, and i gave him stargirl, and secret life of bees, but i wasn't really happy with it until i remembered, and my eyes got wide, and i said, “o will,” and i went to my closet and pulled down my butterfly-clipped folio of my novel, with notes in blue ink, and every page has you on it, and that is true about you.

so i could start calling you hope, and that would be true.

and i believe in buying a gallon of paint, and you help me trust that. i believe in planting jeremiah's field, and you help me dig there. make the furrows from wounds into fertile places, in all that complexity and problematicness and aw and awe.

so i could start calling you ruach, and that would be true.

and that tattoo, which i drew on your back: yes, it's important that the mustard tree is a home for all the birds of the air, but it's also important that it's a home. for. me.

and so that's an appropriate thing for you to have on your belly. because i could start calling you home, and that would be true.

i don't know what our ven diagram looks like, but the fact that we have half (or a third or whatever) the same name now, that's alright. that's all right. which is what i say at the end of men's group when i don't want to say 'amen.' i hold hands with my siblings, and look around at each one of them. and things whir and click like holy batteries, like holly batteries, like visions and bus cards and the kind of dancin that looks like lying on the floor. and i say:



Friday, August 28, 2009

honeymoon photos


I just posted a bunch of photos from our honeymoon. It was a pretty great trip. Included in the photos are: a week at the Glasco family cabin (most of the photos), visiting the Arbogasts, falling water, and the Fayette County Fair. Not included in the photos are Wii bowling against my grandmother, an awesome exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago (free on Tuesdays!), Oberlin, the new Harry Potter movie (so many weasleys!) and Poseidon!: An Upside-Down Musical.


ps- For some reason, I had trouble posting more than four at a time.

Honeymoon Photos 4

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honeymoon photos 3

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honeymoon photos 2

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Honeymoon Photos 1

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

carolyn is going back to seminary: a song

My friend Carolyn is going back to seminary for her phd. We've been talking and thinking about it, and it was her birthday recently, so I wrote a song about it. The chorus is inspired by a capoeira event that my friend BJ was in. May there be more theology like that.

Here it is, and maybe I'll post a singing version should I record it. It has a lot of Carolyn-specific stuff in it, but a lot of it is true for all of us. So there.

"Carolyn R. is going back to seminary"

C Am C G/
Am F C G

It's kind of like fighting
It's kind of like dancing
and when the Spirit starts to move you
you'll find it so entrancing

we don't need more dead white guys
or more bad ideas
we need all our bodies
and better shmideas*
This path won't be easy
and not always fun
but Jesus fights with you
until you are done

It's kind of like fighting
it's kind of like dancing
and when the Spirit starts to move you
you'll find it so entrancing

if you're not enough mighty
or not enough bold
then just be enough clever
just be enough bold
This work is for trouble
this work is for joy
this work is for playing
with a new set of toys

It's kind of like fighting
it's kind of like dancing
And when the Spirit starts to move you
She'll find it so entrancing

The women are hungry
the children need fed
so return to the tower-
and come back with bread
In writing and teaching
you'll nurture deep roots
show up with eyes open
and teach us some truths

It's kind of like fighting
It's kind of like dancing
And when the Spirit starts to move you
They'll find it so entrancing

And when you are ninety
and backwards you look
you won't just have children
you won't just have books
These are your blessings-
these are your glories-
so go make some room for
some yet-unheard stories

For Laurel and Leanne
for Mike and for me
for yourself and for Hazel
for mountains and trees

It's kind of like fighting
it's kind of like dancing
And when the Spirit moves you
we'll find it so entrancing

it's kind of like fighting
it's kind of like dancing
And when the Spirit moves you
you'll find it so entrancing


*long story

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer: What they didn't teach me in first aid merit badges, polity without a polis, etc.

I've been planning to post for something like six weeks. So, here's something:

I went to street medic training this past weekend. It was pretty awesome. It was only a twenty hour course, but it was a good first-aid review, and I learned some stuff that they didn't cover in first aid merit badge. Street Medic training is designed for folks who want to be medical resource people at large-scale and small-scale non-violent political actions: protests, demonstrations, etc. Turns out that the major difference between first aid merit badge and this particular training is that it covers a lot more herbal medicine, and a lot more about how to respond to injuries from police violence: flushing pepper spray out of folks' eyes, etc.

There were ten or twelve of us, and we sat in a circle on the ground in Humboldt Park, and listened to the trainers. One of them worked for an ambulance company, and the other was an herbalist. It was a pretty good mix. I think this training will be really good for the next time I attend a large-scale protest, particularly if I'm, say, bringing along a church youth group. If you ever have the chance to do such a training, I'd certainly recommend it.

In other, perhaps related news, I'd been planning to write here about some of the stuff I'm reading this summer. The one that comes to mind right now is Here Comes Everybody, which is allegedly about "organizing without organizations." It's primarily focused on crowd-sourcing, and websites like flickr and wikipedia that enlist volunteers on a massive scale, without worrying too much about bureaucracy, hierarchy, or structure. It offers a pretty starry-eyed view of the situation, without much attention to the way such power can be mis-used (eg, the opening chapter includes the story of a wealthy woman losing her blackberry, and then using crowdsourcing to harass the young, lower-class woman of color who found it in a cab into giving it back.) However, there's definitely some interesting stuff going on. As new media, new communications, new networks develop and mature, it will be interesting to see how things go. It comes to mind in relation to the street medic training because of how little infrastructure there seems to be in this particular movement. Apparently, if I want to help out with medical stuff at, say, the big G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September (Sept. 20-25, for those playing along at home), I just show up, find the clinic, and find somebody else who will help me out. There's no certification, there's no single organization; there's just a listhost and a bunch of people who kind of know each other. It's inefficient, sure, but that kind of cellular organizing might make it really hard to disrupt.

So: what does a church without organizations look like? And what does this movement ('here comes everybody') mean for, say, the American Baptist Churches, which recently voted against a big structural overhaul on the denominational level?

Vamos a ver, right?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three Times Under

Going under is a scary feeling. I can imagine that it feels close to death—as the light and faces fade around you and your thoughts drift to memories and white lights. To be afraid of this feeling requires experiencing it more than once. The first time, it is only fear of the unknown, but the second, you know the loss involved. You will lose your time and space, your friends and relatives, your beliefs and values. For the time that you are under, you are just a speck of sleep on God’s realm of surgeries.

Tomorrow, I will go under for the third time, and I am scared to death. I remember the night before my gall bladder surgery, David asking, “Megan, do you want me to stay?” At first, I said, “No!” After all, I have experienced BRAIN SURGERY! Surely a little cut along my abdomen isn’t going to phase me. But as the nurse put morphine into my I.V. I panicked, “Yes, yes, please stay.” For the first time since my brain surgery, I was reminded of that “going under” feeling. I needed David there to keep me in the present. He was my connection to the living world, when the rest of my mind and body felt only the dead.

I don’t think it is an accident that I have been so fascinated with graveyards. The connection I feel with the dead is indescribable, and most would consider it crazy. When I feel that sinking feeling of “going under,” I feel death with me, on the other side of the door, just waiting to be greeted. At the same time, it is scary beyond belief. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to be with those people. Studying them, writing about them, that’s all okay; but I don’t want to be them. And as I sink into the deepest sleep, I beg for life.

When Mike Young saved me from the Mediterranean Sea in Italy, I didn’t know that I was yet to encounter two surgeries that would put me at the pearly gates. Looking back on that experience, it was the sinking feeling I related to in all of my surgical conquests. The closing of the eyes, slowness of breath, and ultimate relaxation of body…all of it made me afraid and yet, at peace. That is what is so frightening about going under: it is scary and peaceful.

I have been told that given my history with brain surgery and emergency gall bladder removal, my wisdom teeth will be a breeze. I didn’t hesitate at all when asked if I wanted to “go to sleep.” I know what’s coming, I guess, and I also know that I shouldn’t be afraid. The sinking feeling is a memory, now, and unlike its one time occurrence amongst most people’s souls, this will be my third. How many times can I escape the drowning purgatory of anesthesia? The more I experience it, the more I fear that moment.

And then, as all liberals might do in such a situation, I realize my privilege. I have dental insurance. I have medical insurance. I am privileged enough to get my wisdom teeth out. I have a father to drive me to the procedure and stand by my side. It is selfish to be afraid, when I have been so lucky in the past. After all, after tomorrow, I will have had three procedures that could have been pushed aside due to financial conflict. Three procedures that made my life easier and made my heart stronger. Three procedures that, though many of them might need it, most of my students will never even get the option to have.

So, is it okay to be afraid? Can I justify my fear of the drowning of elements? Can I cling to my father in immature, unneeded anxiety? I have to. My fear overwhelms my liberalism and nests in my doubt. It conquers my past experience and settles into my worries. What if I just keep sinking? What if I never wake up?

Daddy will be there. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

wedding stuff


There's some other wedding stuff up at our wedding site here, notably a couple of the speeches about why we should get married, and liner notes to the wedding cd. Also, if your cd begins with a half dozen hip-hop songs, congratulations on receiving the rare variant version. Actual Rachael and David tracks follow those. If you have not yet received a Weasley Wedding Album, let me know and I'll mail you one.

Perhaps soon I will post on the existential new realities I face as a married and graduated person. Or something more interesting.

Speaking of more interesting, a couple of nights ago I dreamed that Bean (haymarket's dog) and I successfully robbed a bank in a scheme involving pneumatic tubes. See, it's always worth reading to the end around here...


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Top Ways Married Life is Different from Before

1. I no longer return home from work and spend the rest of the night on wedding prep (YAY!). Also, my wedding dress is Done instead of In Progress.

2. David and I have joint bank accounts

3. I wear a wedding ring

4. My Spanish students now call me Señora Raquel instead of Señorita Raquel

5. David and I have lots of candy and quilts and honey and seasons of Simpsons and sweet cards from lots of people. :)

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Well, I thought it would be cool to set up an auto-post thing that would post right about when the gathered community is pronouncing Rachael and I married. So, here it is.


(That's right, you just heard about a wedding on google reader. Welcome to the stupid future.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

from the back cover of 'recipes for disaster: an anarachist cookbook' by crimethinc

"You must always have a secret plan. Everything depends on this: it is the only question. So as not to be conquered by the conquered territory in which you lead your life, so as not to feel the horrible weight of inertia wrecking your will and bending you to the ground, so as not to spend a single night more wondering what there is to do or how to connect with your neighbors and your countrymen, you must make secret plans without respite. Plan for adventure, plan for pleasure, plan for pandemonium, as you wish; but plan, and lay plans constantly.

And when you come to, on the steps of the presidential palace, in the green grass beside the highway, in your cell's gloomy solitude, your secret plan finished or failed, ask your comrades, ask your cellmates, ask the wind, the waves, the stars, the sea, ask everything that ponders, everything that wanders, everything that sings, everything that stings- ask them what time it is; and your comrades, your cellmates, the wind, the waves, the stars, the sea all will answer: "It is time for a new secret plan. So as not to be the martyred slave of routine, plan adventure, plan pleasure, plan pandemonium, as you wish: but plan, plan secretly and without respite."

This has been resonating in my head lately.

Happy planning.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

New PCC Church Website

My church in Oberlin, Peace Community Church, has a new website. You can check it out if you live in northeast ohio, or if you like church websites. Or if you're coming to the wedding and looking for a nice place to be Sunday morning.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

homebrew wedding, aka 'sorry, wedding industry.'

So, as most (both) readers of this blog likely know, Rachael and I are getting married in May. We've got a pretty simple shindig planned, but this stuff is all really expensive still. Turns out we're going homebrew on a lot of stuff. B and T might loan us their lovely car as a gift, to save us from renting one. Digger and I are just going to build a tent, rather then renting at exorbitant rates. And everybody's bringing potluck food to fill out the meager restaurant food we're buying.

I like the improv, medi-awesome aesthetic that is slowly arising out of the muck of phone calls and emails to various professionals and acquaintances. Rachael's making her own dress. Everybody's making their own parade costumes. It's more work, in some ways, but only in some ways.

It also highlights my own resources. In some ways, I don't have a lot of wealth: I don't have too, too much money left in the bank, and I work minimum wage these days, mostly. However, I know a lot of great and generous people, and that social wealth is not to be underestimated. Moreover, it is entirely tax free.

I like this rising aesthetic also because of what it signifies: our wedding is not going to be traditional, and it is going to arise out of the sweat and creativity of those closest to us. (And some helpful strangers.) Similarly, our marriage is not going to be traditional, and instead of coming as a packaged deal, it will arise, slowly, messily, and organically, out of our creativity and sweat, and out of the joys and sorrows and gifts of our community, and of the strangers that also surround us.

I feel grateful about it, lately.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

13 Homes

Jotted down in an annoyingly small journal, too late at night, on Friday, March 13, 2009 by Megan Highfill.

Moving out on my own has already proved both rewarding and disappointing. Now, as I sit in my bed, I’m realizing that this is the last time I will probably call this house my home. The house itself is no big deal—houses come and go, and I’ve seen seven do as such in my lifetime. What terrifies me is that this may be the last time that my true home is the same place as my mother, father and brother. Even in college, I “came home” for Christmas and over the summer. Now, there are two separate entities: My home and what I’ve tried to start referring to as “my parent’s house, a reference that is proving to be more emotional than expected.

I’ve felt this once before—when I was driving out of Oberlin for the last time, on a cold December morning. After that morning, I would never again call Oberlin my home. It’s the feeling of never coming back as more than a visitor that really gets to me. And though I can return to “my parent’s house,” I can’t do so in the same way I’ve done for 25 years.

Perhaps this is why I cling to the artifacts of my parents and grandparents and hesitate to store anything of my own as a keepsake. Home is the people in it, the things they say, create and use. So I am faithful to every dish, every gift, and every old piece of furniture. The things that are now mine that were once my mother’s, my grandmother’s and even great-grandmother’s—they are a way for me to maintain that connection. That human emotion that molds, breaks and puts back together a home.

I’m not sure if I’m ready to create my own building blocks here. Seeing that empty space makes me expect aspects of Oberlin and Kansas to walk in the room and start constructing. Surely Leah, Matt, Rachael, David, Megan and Beth are on their way. Of course, Mama, Daddy and Tavy are right outside the door. If they aren’t there, then why am I not hightailing it back to them, back to my home?

To some, this may seem silly. Why am I so emotional about a move that takes me less than 10 miles? In my new apartment, though, my mother seems just as far away as in-Guatemala Beth Peachey.

So, I draw them close. Steal a bit of the homes we have already built together. For Rachael, I have the books and the scriptures we shared, strategically accessible on my bookshelves, complete with the Secret Life of Bees. Megan, remember those plates we made and mine said “Your mom”? Well, don’t worry—I won’t be putting your mom in the microwave. Matt, our kitchen in Oberlin, including the plastic Sesame Street cups, has been reincarnated in Mission, Kansas. David, I have an original NES hooked to my TV with your name on it. The heartfelt, thoughtful style of Leah Faleer has affected just about every aspect of my apartment, and I will sit close to the television to watch So You Think You Can Dance. Bethy, your kindness and genuineness is so much a part of me that the picture of me eating ice cream and playing Super Mario Brothers on my computer can’t explain it. Daddy, I’m pretty sure a 6-pack of beer will be christening my refrigerator very soon. Tavy, the TV is in a central location and you have your own TV tray and chair. And Mama, well, that place is a glowing representation of how well I was raised. A girl couldn’t ask for a better mother.

There are touches of others, here and there, of course. And a rice cooker large enough with rice enough to serve this 10+ person family. In 2009, on March 13, I brought the total number places I’ve lived, including college, to 13. I hope to make this one as awesome as the first 12.

Thank you for my homes.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Clarence Darrow!

Today I went to a wonderful event, namely the Clarence Darrow Memorial Celebration at the Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge.

Yes, it had a retired alderman with a wheelchair and a megaphone. Yes, it had haphazard throwing of flowers into the lagoon behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Yes, it had invocations which were not prayers, because prayers would be inappropriate at the Clarence Darrow Memorial Celebration. (All of these, especially the last two, made me wish my Ritual Studies professor was there.)

It also had this story:

Apparently, one time Clarence Darrow was hanging out with some spiritualists. (At this point, you might be thinking that I should be posting this to the Spurious Facts About Long-Dead Famous People blog, but the retired alderman with the megaphone said it, so I believe it.) He told them that he didn't believe in their spiritualism, but in case it was true, he would show up on the bridge behind the museum at ten'o'clock in the morning on his birthday.

And so now, and for the past fifty years, a small but formidable crowd has shown up, at that time and location, to remember Clarence Darrow and to celebrate his life and work.

And to see if he shows up.

It was bizarrely similar to an Easter-sunrise service, and the invocation used a formula that I've heard at those services. ("We're gathered to remember, but also to think about the future...)

This post doesn't have much of a point other than to celebrate this lovely and localist little observation. Except this:

Last night, in preparation for attending today's celebration, I read Darrow's wikipedia page. You should too, he's a cool and interesting guy, and it is his birthday.

Then I read William Jennings Bryant's Wikipedia page.

And I felt oddly sad. Because, like: all these early Christian opponents of Darwinism were largely objecting on social justice grounds. Darwinism must be opposed, yes because it's against the Bible, sure, but MOSTLY because it justifies the strong oppressing the weak. Bryan, and many others like him, opposed teaching human evolution in order to guard against teaching social Darwinism. I think this is fascinating, and I mark it as a place where American evangelicalism kind of lost its way. I don't hear much about this critique in contemporary Creationist arguments. (Now, granted, I haven't been to the museum...)

When you read their Wikipedia pages, at least, Darrow and Jennings both seem like heroes to me. And it's sad to think of them as opponents.

Maybe they are friends in heaven, and if I am to believe what I say about the dead, then they work together with us in the struggle, both of them, different as they are.

And maybe the meet at the bridge and hang out, when nobody else is around. And admire the flowers that we dropped in the lagoon.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Three Ways to Carry a Futon

I just moved into the cooperative house where David and I will live for the next 3 or more years while we're married and I'm in seminary. As part of the move-in process, I helped two other women carry a futon mattress up 3 flights of stairs. We lifted it onto our heads and the mattress hung down toward each shoulder. I was the third woman in single file; all I could see was the back of the person in front of me.

At first, it was like being in a fort. The soft (if heavy) mattress fell tent-like around me. We were sort of huddled inside; the mattress ceiling was too low, just like a sofa fort.

Then, it was like being on an amusement park ride. As we went around a corner, there was the exhilaration of my head being squeezed between the futon and the walls. We slowed down to go around the turn and then-- free again! Just like a roller coaster slows down before a fast part. Or like a log canoe ride going around the bend in the river.

And as we went up the last flight of stairs into the attic, pushing with all our strength to get through a soft but narrow tunnel, the narrow staircase made me think of being born.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Constructive Theology: Special Guest Star, Bob Dylan

So, my friend Lauren sent me a link to a youtube video, with the advice "long but worth it."

Today I handed in my Constructive Theology paper, the major systematic work which I've basically been working on since June. You can read the paper if you want, but you might get a better idea of what I'm trying to say with it all if you just watch this youtube video.

Thanks to all for your prayers and support as I worked on this project. Next up: ordination paper, then novel revisions. But first: goofing off!

Friday, January 09, 2009

by popular demand: spurious facts

Look, there's been a lot of clamoring in the comments thread (read: none) for an internet blog-related home for daily posts of spurious facts about long-dead famous people. And that said blog should post daily for at least a week and a half.

Well, clamor no more! My first spin-off blog: Subscription recommended.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

eschatology and gaza

I've been writing the eschatology section of my constructive theology. It is a hard and appropriate time to do it, focused as I am on Israel's ground invasion of Gaza. (A friend of mine works for, if anyone wants to read about it from a Palestinian source.)

It's pretty weighty to try to write about the coming new creation when there's so much of the violent, senseless one going around today. Here's a quote from an old friend I keep coming back to:

"Give me a hundred preachers... who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of God on this earth."
- John Wesley


[Thanks to Noah and Emily for the address correction. The above link should work now.]