Sunday, June 17, 2012

Baby Taylor

Today she spent her last waking hours walking in the park with her family, being fed her favorite: McD's vanilla cones (in excellent taste -- she always was so finicky with her food), and fell asleep in the company of those who loved her most.

Taylor, when you moved into our Harlem home, you became Taytay. How pungent you were! Thanks for the year of cuddles, for warming my feet with your furry butt, for teaching me compassion by your fear of rain and baths, for entertaining me endlessly when you'd scamper away in fear of fart noises, for always staying to listen, and for walking me around the neighborhood (literally). Most importantly, thank you for being the object of such high affection, for showing me her beauty. You brought your family much loyal joy, manipulative cuteness, and miraculously perpetual smelliness.

I'm so glad your last day of cuddles and lovely lady lullabies was not your first. Baby Taylor, you were loved by the very best. See you at home Fluffymuffinpoo (all dogs go to heaven--I think they made a documentary or two about that), where we'll be stinky/sick/sad no more.


This bed is my resting place for the next months in a 1925 Victorian-style house in upstate New York. I wear the floppy flower hat when we work on the organic biodynamic CSA farm and in the community gardens.

Living in intentional interfaith community, and sharing a 2.5 bathroom house with 18 other bodies, is quite a joyful task and learning experience. The biggest challenge for me as far as dialogue with Muslims, Jews, and Christians of other stripes and scales goes, is in reconciling our similarities, not in living with our differences. I am confronted again and again about how much my "faith" is merely about feeling good about being good, and feeling bad about being bad, and how much I still practice vague spirituality, legalistic morality, general psychology, and wider mysticism, rather than hope in Christ alone.

Everything else is common ground: religious goodness. And I must say, most of my new friends do it better, dress and pray and eat and hope and work and sing, with more piety and skill and religiosity than I. There must be more. Kun said, these are realizations you can't make unless you interact a lot with people of other faith, and that every religion has good principles to live by, and that it is good for me to be put into that context.

Put into that context? How is it that we are not already in this context all the time? We have managed to withdraw, somehow, from this pluralistic world. I suspect that as Christians, we should encounter this conflict far more often than we actually do, and that it would drive us to Jesus Christ each time confessing "I need Thee every hour!" As it is, our cloisters blind us to how un-distinct and ironically un-set-apart we are, how much we are not in the world.

Father, save Your church from mere moralistic therapeutic deism, give us Jesus, fill our discernment with You, and send us out in Jesus' sweet saving name.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Potholes, 2.

The great thing about a stiff old-lady-hip is that I get to feel younger every day.

While I was injured, black people were saying the funniest things to me. Direct speech is a hilarious and lovely feature of African American Vernacular English. It took some years in Harlem to adjust to it, but during awkward furtive grocery store stare-and-averts back in the midwest last weekend, an unexpected trip, I realize that I much prefer the frankness.

Terence, my UPS guy (since I've lived at the same address for three years now, there are many familiar faces in the neighborhood) chided, "ESTHER! You get in a fight again?" A bike accident, I clarified. "With what, a rhino?! Damn."

And my favorite incident--a run-in at the corner deli with an older black woman, in a house dress and curlers. "Giiirrrrrlll, you gotta leave his broke ass." Let me tell you, the "No, no, it's not what you think" that I meant in reassurance was not what she wanted to hear. "Ohh honey child, you don't gotta cover up for him! You don't gotta put up widdat shit, y'heard? Now you run on home now and you think bout what I says. Mm-hmm!"

What laughing, coughing, and sneezing had in common: They hurt my hip. A lot. The other thing they had in common: They're involuntary. So as much as laughing hurt the last two weeks, I remember a long long season, of recent vintage, in which I did not laugh at all, and that hurt even more, even though sometimes it felt like nothing at all.

While I was getting discharged from the hospital that Sunday, my best friends' father was being pronounced braindead after a sudden and severe asthma attack a few days prior. Mercy bowed me. It's why I was home for those silent suburban stares that dared not ask, of the splotches and bruises on my face, what happened and if I was okay.

Lord, let me never pretend I've not seen. Sometimes asking real questions is awkward. But so was hanging naked on a cross, probably.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Potholes, 1.

I'm 22. For a few more weeks. A good year of bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.

On Sunday, I had a minor bike accident. I was in the bike lane, there were cars in the road, so I didn't swerve to avoid a big pothole. I hit the pothole, and unfortunately, I also hit my handbrakes. I flew over the handlebars in Superman fashion (right arm extended, left hand in since it was pulling the handbrake), volleysprawled, rolled, recovered on my feet, and went back on the ground because everything stung. Asphalt is not as friendly as a gym floor. The skin scrapes and road rash tell the story -- left knee, right hip, right chest/shoulder, right palm/elbow, chin, forehead. The brim of my helmet, and my glasses, which snapped in half, probably protected my nose from breakage and eyes from gravel. It could have gone a number of other ways, but my bike is fine, and I will be too. If I must describe the discomfort--I feel very elderly (stiff and sore from the impact, some hairline fractures in hip and elbow, moving about slowly and gingerly) and extremely sunburned (I eagerly await the formation of scabs, which means my skin won't reopen when I move anymore).

Kind bystanders insisted on calling an ambulance, though I did not black out and did not wish to go to the ER. One lady drew a compact mirror out of her purse, showed me the unicorn-horn-goose-egg forming on my forehead, and I said okay, okay, I'll go. External swelling, as scary as it looks, is good; the fluid is draining out instead of swelling in the brain. I called my friend who I was on my way to meet, before church. Rachel, her husband, and two of my other friends were going to visit EPC for the first time. I told her to go ahead into the church, find Scott or Kathy, they would know what to do. Meanwhile, sitting on the curbside, terribly nearsighted, I cancelled lunch with the Dalberths (we had a good laugh later at my text: "Bob actually I just got banged up pretty bad after hitting a pothole while biking. Maybe dinner?"). I called my old coach to tell her she was going to be my emergency contact since she lives in the heights... and that she had ingrained that ninja sprawl quite well, apparently. Rachel met me at St. Luke's. Her MD-PhD husband stayed as well; they were supremely heroic and reassuring.

They got to meet many from my church Family in the waiting room including the four elders who visited. I was glad. That they were church both in service and in the world of tetanus, potholes, bike accidents, bad decisions, emergency brakes, broken glasses, broken skin, slow and smelly "Emergency" Room service... in this world, that Jesus moved into. in this world He so loved. All four friends said they would come back next Sunday.

My little sister doesn't like hospitals much, but she was brave and wanted to visit (she brought me soup and she liked my monocle). Her mommy was very kind to me, so is she. She got to see me walk out of the hospital alive and well!