As most readers of this blog know, I’ll be leaving the United States to live in Europe for several months, at least, so next week’s posting will be spotty. Please bear with me. I’ll be living in the centre of Paris. If you wish, contact me via email when you’re “in town.” We’ll converse over coffee.
I’ll be honoured to meet you.
I desperately need a break. After many years of caring for my father full-time without any support from other family members, I’m worn out. Europe will revive me. I know I’ll be flying back to the United States for emergencies — he’s fallen twice in the past two weeks — but hope to have some unbroken time in Paris.
During the dull, seemingly endless caretaking years that have passed so slowly, I tried to be productive. Writing this blog was a part of being productive as well as ghosting several longform projects. I also bought a puppy — my first dog — who is now my constant, loving companion. I refinished all my modern furniture for the concrete house I’ll be building in Idaho someday, God willing. This furniture is now boxed, along with my art. I learned some french. Painted lousy canvases. Made better mosaics and sculpture. I have even been knitting with several strands simultaneously which gives the appearance of weaving as the yarn colours change. Knitting is zen-like, a time to think and pray.
On a more serious note, during these past years I dealt with the deaths of two individuals who were extremely dear to me: Paul, who died in New Zealand a few years ago, and Matt who died last week.
Let me tell you about Matt. He was my buddy at Yale. A few years older than I, he was further up the intellectual ladder. We shared an advisor — Hans Frei — as well a house with nine other students. Ours was not a romantic relationship, but a close one nonetheless. For two years, we sat across from each other in the library as he hand-wrote his dissertation with a fountain pen on long pads of yellow paper while I studied material that was new to me. Had our advisor not died, I would have returned to Yale for my doctorate, but God had other plans. Those were happy years. Very happy. I loved Yale.
I’m sure you’ll understand how disconcerting it is to see text messages on my phone Matt had sent me a couple weeks ago. He didn’t know he would die. Some people seem to sense their own mortality — not Matt. We had been planning to get together in Scottsdale to share a meal and catch up with each others’ lives. He said he had a lot he had to talk about, that his “heart was heavy” and “change was in the air.” This, obviously, proved true, but not for the reasons he thought.
After the deaths of Paul and Matt, the ground of life has been cleared. I have very tenuous ties, now, to people and places. Something new will surely happen but I have absolutely no idea what it could be. Since I don’t like it here, I’m leaving.
To sum: my closest friends are gone, my youngest kid is in his twenties and independent, my father is soon-to-die, and I’m finally divorced, thank God. I’m truly FREE … free(!) free(!) free(!) for the first time in my adult life. This is a great feeling, though unnerving. I keep praying for guidance and direction and, well, nothing has percolated to the surface. Still, the incredible liberty that’s about to engulf me suggests God has something up his divine sleeve. Though I have no idea what it may be, I am pretty sure it involves writing. And travel.
Today, I bought some good luggage just in case. I’m looking at them now — they’re leaning against the closet doors. They’re very functional, sturdy and boring. Just perfect.
Makes me smile.
Spiritually, during the past few years I matured slowly, like a good wine. I developed a routine which helped me with doubt (doubt still plagues me, but less). I have hundreds of thousands of pages of written prayers and thoughts that had been recorded during the wee hours of the morning. This is not an exaggeration.
Writing clarifies my thinking. Later, if I have the time to edit, I read through what I had written earlier. Mostly, what you read here is raw text. It’s a primitive form of writing.
Writing is NOT like knitting. There’s no zen. No creative urge. This may sound strange, but is true. When I make art, I zone out. My mind is somewhere else. My hands and eyes disengage from my mind. It’s a great feeling.
When I write, however, my mind is hyper-alert. Even when I read other people’s prose, particularly if beautifully written, my mind is fully engaged. But, like art, writing is creative. There are times when words gush out of me so fast that my fingers can’t keep up — at other times, digging for the right word is a detestable chore. Both feelings are a part of writing. Both happen often. I don’t know why.
Writing can be praying on a keyboard. It’s not LIKE praying, but IS praying. It connects me to God. My fingers, mind and the inner Holy Spirit somehow conjoin and interact. It’s terribly intense. Focused. I’m not focused on God as much as I am focused on the text that’s emerging in front of me and yet I feel His presence ever closely when I write.
I pray to write much better than I do now. This may sound egoistic, but I want a literary award. Goals such as this are good, even when not achieved. They stretch and make me better at that for which I’m striving. So, here is my plan, my confession — I want to interview many people from different walks of life about how they perceive the political/cultural/religious atmosphere of Paris. (Remember, my passion is the junction of culture, religion and politics.) I want to probe their hearts as well as minds. Every night, I’ll transcribe these interviews. Later, I’ll put them together within a longform structure … a book. I hope that the political situation moves quickly, that there’s a substantial change in the way things are done and conceived which my book will explore and record. Change could provide the structure of the book.
I pray that this book is so well written and insightful that I get a Pulitzer, or something big like this.
I’m praying for change. For writing skill. For opportunities.
Please, Lord! I’ve waited long enough.