Tuesday, October 11, 2011

i've carried

 . . . three - no, four - images with me for the last six years or so.

The first came compliments of college.  "Duc in altum."  Call it latin, call it generic catholic.  It was a summons to action given freshman year, very first day.  

"Go out into the deep."  Follow Christ, sacrifice the cost.  Walk the water knowing you'll sink and fall through.  But move.  Go.  Dare.  Drown to lift your head above water.


Second: sitting silent in a car with my best friend, lives intertwined at the time, looking at a bottle of water from Lourdes—and time standing still.  Lourdes represented every moment of forgiveness, healing and peace that I'd  been gifted in my life.  In my life, I tried to give every ounce and nuance of that understanding to him.  Three years later, it was and is a mystery why that reality was ripped apart.  But in those silent moments, there was no thought of repercussions.  No doubt—just joy in the grace and gift that was given.  Trust was a given.  Abandonment had reward.  Sitting still was an advancement in grace.

Third is, and will ever be, a roller coaster.  That term was a freaking mantra.  ALL, and I mean all, was chalked up to it.

When the safe box of: [history, call it smugness, call it everything I-thought-I-knew-so-well] - heh, call it a relationship - fell to pieces, there was nothing left to do but take a seat on the ride of life's brutish realities and peek open an eyelid with white knuckles.  I did not deny an emotion I had.  When I loved, I loved.  When I hated—and yes, I did—I saw it wide-eyed and pushed forward to peace.  I cried when I needed to cried; I dared to smile when sorrow started to drip away. It all was unpredictable in its motion, but reassuring in that yes, I knew I was on a ride.  Rides tend to go up and down, as rides do.  Who could expect less or more?  At some time the ride would halt to a stop . . . 

And now, creakily crawling off the nauseating, strap-you-in form of hell's amusement, I lurch to find the legs under me: shaky.  

Duc in altum?  I've been on dry land for a long time.
Forgiveness, healing, the goodness of what was?  Sure, those ideas can knock on my bullet-proof vest.  Take a number.
Who would've known that one can get used to a roller coaster—that the jolts can become meaningless next to hardened bones and skin, that a numb body no longer cares what it goes through?  It is what it is.  No discovery to be had.

I admit to it.  I am a gasping, shuddering, numb creature who sort of wants to crawl into a nice, motionless hole.  [Boring].  But isn't recognition the first step to recovery?

Fourth image—for oh, there must be redemption if I am writing this—is of the tomb of a slightly crazy little Italian.  

I consider him a good friend, and friends are allowed to tell their friends when they're being a little b*s* weird sometimes.


I spent hours being still there, closing eyes and saying hello, scribbling out thoughts to heaven and to Earth, smiling with the promise of things to come, bawling with the question "why" (mentally underline that a thousand times), returning again and again with gratitude to be there and hope in a promise.  

I move a lot, I go up and down, and I drown.  A lot.  Some days more than others.  

But in Assisi, I sat still.  

In my mind, I call back the sense of being there, miss it, and sit still once again.  

I get a little of the passion back again and say ~DUC,~ wooooooooo!!  and then drown (heh) and then remind myself again.  And sit still.

The essence of Lourdes and the sharing of that gift lose their sting, and I can look at their beauty once again, look again at the memory and the reality that is my life past.  And sit still with peace, once again.

The roller coaster soundtrack plays once again and the ground starts to lurch once more, but memories of truer knowledge, better promises, hustle in and drag me to solid ground.  And I sit still . . . prodding that calloused skin once again, opening those eyes closed shut to what could be ahead, taking those baby steps to trust little by little.

Waiting for the day when I can go back with the fulfillment of that promise and say: 

Here we are.

There you stand.

We rest and take a pause with you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

unlike some people

I am not what I eat.

I am what I think about and the words I throw at the thoughts.

Work.  With spaceships, shuttles and robots (yes, robots - oh my).  With the odd mix of conformity and independence that come with it, because I will never really fit in and I like that.  

Work, with the engineers who swear every 2 minutes, which are absorbed by moods where I humor it and moods where the image of disgust shadows slowly over my rigid face (and I know it and don't care).

Work, with the buzzwords that I put on like a stiff uniform . . .words, reflections of a bureaucracy* that start to chaff and straightjacket my struggling thoughts after awhile.  

Work, with its winging it.  

The word of this two-year working trend has been "output."

Lord help my soul.  But I did love seeing that shuttle move slowly through the night.

There are other thoughts, when they let me and I let myself.

Like the conversations you have with yourself in the car in the morning, when you have too much time to muddledly think.  They are defined by the hypothetical.

Like the threadbare scenarios and motivations that you still can't comprehend, because something in your way of thinking was shattered by their entrance. 

Like the Grand Points you wish you could make.  If you could see the person that you don't want to see.  (Logic — not so much).

Like the conversations that you have in your mind and disappoint you, because they scream that you still haven't healed all the way, still haven't moved on as you should.  That the seed of disappointment and betrayal grew into a tree.  Damn it.

I poke my head around that unholy bush and I perpetually carry my feet around it, trying to find the new road home.  But I'll never get there until I chop down the tree and look away to see the new road.  Still in the distance.  

I "know" that, but I have a hard time believing that.  Still.

The words of this three-year hurting trend have been: "questioning, numb, dulled, defiance."

But other words do come in as well.  Need to come in.

Joy.  Peace.  

Forgiveness (for realsies this time, going biblical).  Patience.  

These happy words hit me like flung bricks, because I know I do not have them organically anymore.  Their existence reminds me I'm failing.  But they need to be there.

They need to be trees.  They need to be thought of.  They need to make themselves cozy in the rooms of my mind and maybe even pour me a cup of comforting tea (ok, so they're not trees anymore in this analogy) when trends 1 and 2 start to  raise their frustrating little heads.  

Two phrases of of this trend: "Duc in altum."

"Moving on."

*Side note: I will die before I will be able to spell that word correctly the first time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

there and back here again

I dunno, but I'm starting to get this nagging feeling that when I get back to the office on Thursday (Lord have mercy on me, coincidentally), a bunch of coworkers are going to jump out at me from behind Star-Trekked doors and say SURPRISE, WE'VE BEEN TRAINING YOU TO ENTER THE AMAZING RACE!!!


Since October 5th, a mere 20 days ago, I have hopped from:

blessed home of the free to

Germany (home of the amazingly adept robots and dang good sausages)
Austria (ALPS.  nuff said)
Verona Italy (you know that part of Lord have mercy?  Avoid driving in Italy.  Because it is full of Italians).
Murano (oooo sparkly pretty)
Austria again
Munich again
London (hi, layover in Terminal 5!  We meet again!  Maybe one day I'll actually step foot onto the land outside of you!  What's, it's only been 8 times, right?)
Venice.  Again.

20 days.  6 hotels.

Tomorrow is the last full today.  Pictures and updates from the past week to come.  Stellar Rome shots to share.

Rome was the best. 

Rome let me be still and listen and be.  

But more on that later.

Now I'm in Venice again and it's been raining.  

Really raining.

As in, happy little rivers of water leap over the stoney low canal walls and gush merrily through the streets before rejoining their big happy canal water family on the other side.  I thought I was being all suave and smart by noticing that one street was bare of water.  I proudly avoided the raised walking platforms that all the other tourists were jumping onto, the platforms that Venetians promptly erect when blue wavey nature invades their city.  The platforms that are 2 feet wide and clogged by picture-taking tourists.  UGH - those tourists.  :)

All smug, I moved over sliiiiiiiightly to the left to avoid a crowd of similarly minded platform-avoiding folks headed full force and streaming dead towards me. Look at those Venetians avoiding the platforms too.  Oh, I am SO SMART. Look at me looking at all the pretty things in the city.  

I promptly land left-foot first into a cool 4 inches of water.  Oh OH.

I yelped very loudly in front of Prada.  I scowled very decisively past 3 insanely feathered Valentino gowns.  And by the time Louis Vuitton was reached, I can tell you that I was ON that dang platform staring at the six inches flowing merrily under me and wondering WHAT possesses a tribe to build on a marsh.

In other news, I got to do something incredibly dorky but REALLY fun today.  The kind of thing you can tell your grandkids about one day sort of thing.  More on that later too.  It involves a million dollars times twenty.

(Basically, I'm too lazy to upload photos.  Why use a thousand words).

Before I turn in, I would like to state for the record that Truman Capote short stories are the bomb. 

But more on that tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

almost. up. to. date.

Today I slept in.  Till the MOST glorious 10:30 am.

I have not slept in since roughly 3 weeks ago.  I barely knew how to function with that much sleep inside of me.  (As I type in a hotel lobby at 1 am.  Hypocrite, here you sit).

I took my merry time getting ready inside of my ridiculously decked-in-red room.  Because.  I.  Could.

And then I went and stopped by the conference to meet my boss.  We scooped up an astronaut for lunch.  I didn't say much during the lunch, except to the waiter (yay Italian skills that won points with the astronaut for getting our lunch super speedily).  More observation mode.  I don't talk that talk.  I felt kind of small and insignificant.  But maybe it was just that plethora of sleep.

So after lunch, my boss, myself, and a very nice big whig went to San Marco's to actually see the inside.

I loved the inside.

 I love these kinds of floors.
 I love the mosiacs on the ceiling (oooo, shiney).
 I love the saints!
 I love dark passageways!  I can do anything good!  Wait . . . .
 But seriously - take a LOOK at that window.  I could have looked at it all day.
 Umm, so I kind of ignored the "no foto" thing.  So this is a shot looking into the left transcept from the other side.
 And here is one of the side chapels (again, look at that glorious floor).
 So here's the dome without a steeple, open it up, and 
 yeah, no people, just a bejeweled gold screen that was completed in the 1300's (ummm, people who went to Venice with me 6 years ago, we REALLY should have paid the 2 euro to see this.  It would have been worth not eating a gelato).
 And here is Saint Mark.
 And here is a baldachino carving.  I love cartoon-like mediaeval art.  The quirky, personal, bulky simplicity of it appeals to me like none other.  I think that's the holy family below.  With Jesus taking a bath and slipping out of St. Joseph's hands while Mother Mary is distressed?  Hard to say.
 Umm, I have no idea what is going on in the picture below, and I don't think I actually looked it at before I took it.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.
 Yep, it's a pretty church.  I'd forgotten how much I love Byzantine art.  Must be Turkish somewhere in my mediterranean mutt heritage.
 Just look at how glorious and transcendent that is.
 So then we went up to the Loggio and to see the horses, and holy moly, was it worth the 4 euros.  

Because we got to look down.
 and across (magnificent pieces.  I want one)
 and then out.  Why hello, piazza.  My, you look gray and big.
 The real ones are so much shinier and better.
 So, do you think there's any chance I could get a table-sized edition of that incredible clock?
 The figures hanging out in the stonework entertained me to no end.  Each one is so unique and teeming with personality.
 Again, WHAT is with dropping the children?  WHAT is that child doing?  Do they not realize they're 30 feet up?  And that it's cold outside?
 Fun little birdie that randomly appears in the midst of all the spikey things jutting out.
Another memory shot - there is a picture of me from 6 years ago with my face covered in gold and blue Carnivale paint next to this lion.

Having serious, serious bang problems with no-workable flat iron here.  :P  Dang different wattage!
 Look!  There's a poster for the Hubble talk on a regular old store!  That's us!
 Caught our astronaut ducking into the church to prep for the talk.
 The talker and the translator.  And priceless artwork behind in San Vidal's.
This part of the talk was awesome.  Dr. Grunsfeld explained that while astronauts had not officially visited Venice before his talk, they had certainly seen it.  From the International Space Station.  Umm, yeah.  How does that Brian Regan skit go?  "Yep, so when I was taking a walk the other day - AHEM - on - - the - - moon - - - "

 Proof that I do hang out with astronauts occasionally.  
Contrary to this picture, I have not gained 40 pounds on this trip.  I just wanted to state that for the record.  :P

The evening ended with the most wonderful, incredible dinner with a Nobel laureate in physics and his lovely, lovely wife.  By far one of the golden evenings of my existence.  They were real, warm, and delightfully human.  The two men chatted science while the wife and I compared notes on favorite childhood books, what it's like to grow up feeling like the odd one out, why self-knowledge and expression are essential to the human soul, and why the Emily series were superior to Anne of Green Gables.  And why I need to re-read the Shoe Books.  And what it's like to cook haphazardly without a cookbook, and why cooking is such an intensely human and intimate thing.  What makes relationships and marriages work.  I could go on and on.  She was my pre-birthday present from God.  It was most intensely wonderful evening.  And the meal was a masterpiece in itself.  Prosecco is a gift of the gods.

She made me remember what makes me passionate.  One year it took to forget and then remember it.

But like all good revelations in life, it begs the question.

Where do I go from here?

Quo vadis, Domine?


Cerco e penso.  E prego.


There are some moments that you stop during, while they're happening, and know that you'll remember for the rest of your life.  They are surreal while they are occurring, and they are just as surreal afterwards.  They are exquisiteness contained in minutes and seconds.

Unfortunately, this businessman growling at the Americans who had invaded his trachetto (gondola that takes you from one side of the canal to another for 50 cents) did not know I was about to experience such a moment.  But HAD he known, I'm sure Mr. Gorbachov-wannabe-man would have smiled just as much as I was smiling.  (As I tried not to think of what would happen if I fell into the Grand Canal in a satin dress.

 Oh, the old goldonliers are so cute!

So here we are, arrived at San Rocco for a concert and a dinner.  Sounds pretty basic.

 Oh, this used to be a church.  

Oh wow, these are massive paintings on the way up to a gilded room.  

And this is when the jaw started to drop.

There have only been a few places on this Earth that have made me stop in complete, transcendent wonder.

 This room was one of them.

Woodwork (with nautical themes) and oversized lanterns lined the grandness.
 The ceiling was painted by someone whose name I will know tomorrow when I pick up the art book I forgot to get.
 This is what greeted our eyes (better picture below).  And then we sat down for some music.  The most extraordinary, beautiful, wonderful music I've ever heard live.  The sort that transports you.  I have never experienced anything like it before in my life.
 This is the back of the room.  For an idea of the size, my head came up to about the top of the lanterns on the bottom.
 And then there was what we all referred to as THE OTHER ROOM.  Oh my goodness, that other room.
 And the ceiling!!  That glorious ceiling!!
 It made me sad that everyone was admiring the paintings and ignoring the crucified Lord.  I took a minute to say a prayer, and wondered when the last time was that someone had said a prayer in front of it.
 Turning my back on The Other Room, I made my way back the The Room.
 They had brought out mirrors so that you didn't have to cran your neck to see the ceiling.
 But I did anyways.  It was worth it.
 I loved this one.  Maybe for all the wrong reasons.
 One of those shipman-like carvings and the line of lanterns.
 A shot of the stairway that we came up from.
 The front of The Room, where the musicians played.
 Pondering for centuries.
 This photo is so blurry that I wish I could go back in time to take it over again . . .and for other reasons too.
 Finally, a good shot of the room and the musicians.  Blew.  Me. Away.

I have a wee video of the music, but the thing is being stubborn and not uploading.  Tomorrow.

In sum: the music was extraordinary, the food was amazing, and having an astronaut at our table was the icing on the cake.  I was at home with the music and the setting. I didn't feel quite as at home with the people.  

I'm an observer with such a crowd. I don't have the know-how to talk-the-talk about detectors and space deployments and all that jazz.  But I did love the music.  I loved experiencing something that I knew immediately that I loved.  And it was one more piece placed in my puzzle of figuring-myself-out that I have made the task of this trip.

What was not photodocumented was hanging out in the teenager haunt's piazza and watching mid-20 year olds play spin the bottle.  For real.  Oh, Italy.  I happily sipped my tea and laughed at the world.

For there would be no sublime were it not for the ordinary.  God bless that ordinary.