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Tilt and spin

April 20, 2019

Life is full of interesting experiences, but not all of them are experiences I care to repeat.

Two days ago I woke up as I normally do. I checked the time, then rolled over to get my bearings before getting up. When I did that, the entire planet tilted off its axis and refused to un-tilt.

Vertigo.

From that point on, every little movement set off extreme spinning, and extreme spinning set off nausea. If you want a scientific analysis, I will simply tell you that this registered approximately -46.8 on the Fun-O-Meter, give or take a couple wooden nickels and an unmatched sock.

I’d never had this happen before. Oh, sure…I’ve stood up too quickly and gotten hit with a little wobble, but this wasn’t that. This was full on carnival ride spin, but there was no greasy tattooed man with a cigarette dripping out of his mouth for me to signal to let me off this crazy thing. Fortunately, because my brain is a junk drawer full of odd and ends of “hey, this could be useful some day” information, I knew there were physical therapy moves to alleviate vertigo. I looked them up on YouTube and halfheartedly gave one a try, but I was really feeling too dizzy and sick to do it properly. After a couple of hours, it was obvious this wasn’t going to just go away. I knew I was in over my head and signaled my distress to Mr. Sparky, who graciously came home from work to give me a hand.

Several Epley maneuvers later and the planet was still doing The Wobble. The next day we switched to the Foster maneuver, which seemed to correct the side we treated but also set off the other side in the process. We repeated it for the newly affected side. Vertigo gone, but now I was experiencing a whole new realm of equilibrium disturbances caused by having pollen-cranky inner ears upside down for prolonged periods of time, and it was almost worse than the vertigo. I was bent on attending a wedding later that afternoon, and thanks to Mr. Sparky and God (and a dose of less-drowsy motion sickness medication, although less-drowsy than what I can’t say), I did exactly that. Then I came home, slept well over twelve hours, and woke up pretty much fine.

*insert Happy Hallelujah dance*

I seriously hope I never repeat that experience. But truth be told, it’s how I sometimes experience our current culture. It’s as if somehow the planet shifted off its axis and everyone has gone dizzy in the brain, and I am constantly dodging folks who can no longer think in a straight line. Gravity becomes intermittent, and critical thinking and common sense have gone spinning off into space.

I have no stones to throw. Surely I’ve been there myself, temporarily lost in the centrifugal force of The Crazy and waving at the Martians on my way to dance on the rings of Saturn.

But wisdom.

I’ve found myself fascinated by what scripture says about wisdom. I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Proverbs using The Passion Translation, not just reading it, but reading it with Holy Spirit and giving Him permission to interrupt my progress and tell me things I don’t know. The book of Proverbs is good in any translation, but I like how new language can give me new ways to think about a thing and open my mind to receive new revelation about a thing. In this case, that thing is wisdom…God-sized wisdom based on a perspective vastly superior to my own.

So here’s to the wisdom of positioning. Here’s to my mind being set on things above, my tush being seated in heavenly places, my feet being set on a Rock higher than I, my eyes being set on Jesus, and my heart being set on God’s goodness, glory, and promises which are beyond my ability to fully fathom (but I’m gonna give it the ole college try anyway!).

And here’s to my inner ears staying clear of anything that doesn’t belong in there. No more endless rides on an invisible Tilt-o-Hurl.

May it be so.

The Glorious Undone

April 17, 2019

Day by day,
moment by moment,
I walk about
without a second thought
concerning my respiration.
Air in,
air out.
It’s not on my to-do list.
It just happens,
even if I forget.

But then there are the moments
of holy ambush,
of heated intention,
of surprise-by-combustion,
when I casually exhale carbon dioxide
but then inhale fire
straight from your lungs
and it rushes at once to my bones.
Instantly I am burning alive,
my knees weak,
my marrow white hot,
and I am undone
as all I once held dear turns to ash
and is gone with a windblown kiss,
and all I now hold dear
is alive and coursing through my veins
like a violent river of flames.

This is my cremation,
ignited from the inside out,
desperate to exhale these furious flames,
desperate to die on this altar,
desperate to live for this burning.

Lost in translation

March 5, 2019

It would be nice to say I packed the basket neatly, but the reality is that I threw in everything that reminded me of once-upon-a-time and I didn’t much care how it landed. I was beyond making anything look pretty.

Five years. Five forever years. Five years of pushing, prodding, praying, needling, cajoling, dragging, forcing, begging…five years of mostly silence, occasionally broken by fleeting hope. Enough to keep me hanging around, watching for signs of life.

Five years to the day.

He walked up and I handed him the basket.

“Pretty crappy” were the only words I could muster. He smiled a little, neither agreeing or disagreeing, and said “I’ll take it”…and he did.

I watched him poke around the contents of the basket, wondering why he even bothered. What was that thing he pulled out and wadded up and tossed away? I didn’t catch what it was. And why pick trash out of the trash anyway?

He looked up and fixed a kind but direct eye on me. “You have any dreams you want to throw in here while you’re at it?”

I thought for a moment. “No. I don’t think so.”

“Then make up a couple and just toss them in.” He stood still, waiting, so I figured I’d better do it.

I pulled a couple of ridiculous dreams out of somewhere in the thin blue air, and dumped them on the heap in the basket. Strange. Why was it painful to discard something I’d only possessed for a few seconds? Nevertheless…it was better to let them go before getting attached to them.

Satisfied that the basket was ready, although I did not know for what, he produced an entire bottle of red wine, uncorked it, and began dousing the contents of the basket until it was dripping. Then I watched him drizzle an entire large jar of honey over it all.

“Wait!” I said, pulling a full ring of keys from my pocket. “I have all these keys. Should I throw some of them in there?”

“Hmm. What do you think? Should you?” He paused, waiting for me to decide.

“I don’t think so,” I said slowly. He nodded and turned back to his work.

He opened and glugged out a large bottle of what appeared to be olive oil, turning the bottle up until every last drop drained from its depths. The basket was a wet, slick, sticky mess.

I don’t know how, but a box of matches appeared in his hand. Without a word or a pause, with one swift strike a spark leapt to life, and he dropped it straight into the basket. I watched as it immediately exploded in flames.

It burned furiously. It burned hot. It burned as if it couldn’t burn hard enough, flames reaching and dancing, making the very air around them boil.

He handed the basket with its roaring contents to his assistant, who had quietly appeared at his side. “Tend to this,” he directed, and his assistant nodded and carried the basket to the burning pit where it continued its white hot dance of sparks and fury.

I stood watching, torn between grief and relief. It was over. It was out of my hands.

I once translated glory and dust. But that was then.

And this is now.


Refuge

November 14, 2018

My eyes slowly drifted open and struggled to focus. Had I been dreaming?  Where was I? I looked up and saw a ceiling that appeared to be thatched with large feathers.

Wait—a ceiling of feathers? I blinked and the room swam a little before my vision began to clear. Why was I so groggy? Were those really feathers? My eyes scanned the ceiling and moved to the wall. Those still looked like feathers. Very large ones.

I tried to push myself up on an elbow for a better look and was instantly overwhelmed with pain. I gasped sharply before an involuntary groan escaped my lips and I collapsed onto my back once again.

Immediately a face appeared over me. “Shh. Just be still. It will hurt less if you remain quiet.”  The face belonged to a young man I’d never seen before. I saw him glance toward the wall. I turned my head slightly to see what he was looking at. Another young man dressed in similar clothing was peering through a very slight separation between the two largest feathers I’d ever seen, intently watching something outside. Even though I’d barely moved, the motion made my head pound.

A large hand gently covered my forehead. “Really,” the young man said sternly, “you must be very still.” I glanced back at him. He had kind eyes. He also looked very fierce, like someone you really didn’t want to make angry.

I suddenly became aware of a terrible noise outside. It seemed to be getting louder and coming closer. My heart began to pound; I wanted to get far away as fast as I could. I began to squirm, panic overtaking pain. The hand on my forehead increased in pressure.

“Shh. You are safe. They cannot get to you in here.” He locked eyes with me as the sounds grew louder and took the form of words whizzing through the atmosphere like spears. Tears welled up in my eyes. “Focus here,” he said. “It’s all outside. You’re safe in here. And we’re not going to leave you.”

The sound began fading a bit. The other young man let out a low whistle as he threw a glance at me.

“Wow, you really got them riled up. Good job!”

I blinked. What was he talking about? “I did that?” I croaked out, my voice raspy and dry. “How did I do that? I didn’t mean to do anything!”

The young man turned toward me with a chuckle. “Oh, I can guarantee you most certainly meant to do that. Just as you will do it again, once you get rested and healed.”

Why did I need to rest and heal? Why was I in so much pain? It felt like every cell in my body was broken and bruised. And it wasn’t just my body. Somehow the pain went deeper than that, as if every fiber of my being was shrink-wrapped and squeezed by a membrane of agony.  Suddenly I began to have flashes of memories that quickly became full pictures. Violent sights and sounds, the subterfuge of hand-to-mind combat, the intensity of the onslaught that seemed to go on forever. But how did I get in here?

The young man beside me answered my question as if I’d asked it out loud. “We were watching you. We saw you holding your position, but reinforcements were coming in against you and you didn’t have enough backup or rest for what was being launched. We let you hold out as long as we could, but when you were showing signs of exhaustion and taking too many hits we had to bring you in. That was our assignment, to let you fight but to protect you if things got out of hand.”

“Thank you,” I whispered hoarsely. And then in spite of the screaming of every cell in my body, I pushed over onto my side away from the young man and curled up as the hot tears began to flow. I fought a wave of nausea from the pain.  The young man beside me started to chide me again for moving, but the one near the wall cleared his throat, and nothing more was said.

I had failed. My tears were bitter with disappointment and grief. I had failed and I had disqualified myself and I had to be pulled from the field. I knew my dad wouldn’t be angry, but I was sad that I had just demonstrated to him and everyone else that I could not be trusted. I had failed the true test of my training: actual battle. I was supposed to handle this better. I was supposed to overcome. I was supposed to—

“Victoria…”

The young man beside me sat down and wedged himself up against my back to support me as I laid there.  My own name mocked me as he spoke it again.

“Victoria, you are very tired and you are not seeing this rightly. It is time to be still and rest. What you have just experienced is significant, and you did a phenomenal job. You were pulled according to your father’s rules of engagement, not your performance. You will rest now, and our friends will take care of that noise outside. Everything will be clearer when you wake up, and we will talk more then, I promise. Will you trust me?”

I sniffled. I had no idea how I was going to rest with this much pain running roughshod over me. But the kindness and the fierceness of the one who had my back as I laid there somehow drew me. “Yes,” I whispered.

I felt his hand on my head once again, and he began to gently stroke my hair. Every pass of his hand felt like it was pulling something out of my mind, like briars, or maybe more like tugging on knots. As my eyes began to close, I noticed smoke beginning to rise from a low bowl on the floor a few feet in front of me. Incense. As the fragrance reached me, someone began to sing, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough to see who it was.

Going low

September 11, 2018

I’ve often heard it said

that you are up high

and you sit on the clouds

to oversee the affairs

of mice and men

But it is on the days I go low

that I find you most near

Slipping into the space

between my chest and the floor

Hovering over the waterfalls

in my eyes

and making rainbows in the mist

When I have no words

to stitch up the jagged edges

you breathe into my lungs

until I exhale hope

Wonder and glory

mark many kinds of days

and some of them do feel like flying

but if I am honest

they more often mark the days

of lower still.

Mixed media

August 26, 2018

You came looking for color.

Many do, and who could fault you? I’ve given you reason to expect it.

But some days my pen is my paintbrush, and the flow of black and white bleeds across the page. The sun rises, the sun sets, and in between are parties and storms and rainbows and sunny patches of flowers left by some previous gardener. In between are death and life, sometimes keeping company in the same room, trading gulps of oxygen.

On the canvas behind your eyes I paint laughter and tears, rage and sleep.  My ink never changes; it is carbon on ivory, rather like the bones tucked neatly inside your earth suit.

I paint blindly, really. I cannot see your canvas. I can only see my own and hope that my brush is accurate enough to provoke you to adjust your glasses, or at least squint a little as you take note of the pictures that dance by—some in delicate pointe shoes, and some in half-laced clodhopper boots that smell like the dead cow they’re made from.

You aren’t likely to understand my ink stains perfectly, although I applaud you when you try. Parties and storms and rainbows and sunny patches of flowers are simply patterns and symbols on a page, and it is you and I who give them meaning…and color.

The pen is my paintbrush, my thermometer, my spear, my lasso, my key ring, my fork, my knife, my prison warden, my instrument, my canister of tear gas, my bowl of incense. Once you receive its fruit, a piece of me lives on your canvas.

You can always paint over it if you like.

But it will still be there.

 

 

 

Vertical hold

July 23, 2018

I can’t tell if the earth is quaking

or if I’m standing in some sort of whirlwind

My feet are planted as if buried in cement

but my teeth are rattling in my head

and I’m fighting to keep from bending

breaking

Invisible forces press in

An uppercut here

a sucker punch there

but the worst is the kind that threatens

to blow out my ears

I don’t like this war

I never have

It is the violent ambush of malevolence

no holds barred guerrilla warfare

Yet here I am

front row seat at the rock opera

But those stones will not be singing today

I may hum along through sobs

but that’s ok because

I may be holding onto you with a death grip

But you are holding onto me with a life grip