Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Visual Adventures

Although I spend a significant part of every day with my eyes closed in sleep, I do have some choices to make about what my eyes do the remaining sixteen hours. I say I have "some" choices because I am not totally free on my commute to and from work. I am required then to “keep my eyes on the road” – usually the same road I travel four other days of the week. Likewise, the earliest minutes of my day work best if I watch my step even on routine travels from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen and the other rooms in the apartment.

There are things I have to do in a day, places I normally need to go, and I am limited in the scope I can give myself for visual adventures.

The way my home looks – isn’t that an interesting way to talk about what I get to look at in my home? The furnishings of my home, the hangings on my walls do not “look” at me or at anything else, do they? I can muse, however, over what other people might think or what comments they might make if they were the ones looking at a framed photograph I have hung over a work area I arranged in a backroom.

That photograph and its framing resulted from a gamble I made six years ago. I was making choices then about another set of rooms where I would begin single life again after more than two decades with a partner. The particular wall hanging about which I am speaking – a “found object,” a vintage snapshot of a family posing for a casual picture in their side yard – did not have to pass muster, so to speak, with anyone else living daily in its presence.

That photograph is one of the visual adventures I safeguard for my occasional pleasure these days. I do not have to look at it, but something I can only call love makes me attend to the adventure that someone else had with a camera one day decades and decades ago. I love the ease of the people gathered before that camera, their ease with one another and their ease with themselves. Nothing about the wooden fence along which they stand suggests a home that others would automatically envy.

My attraction to that picture is one of the loves with which I happily choose to surround myself these days.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

White Roses

It is a preference of mine at this time of the year to bring roses into the apartment. They are so clearly alive.

There is a softness to the curves by which they loosen, moving from tightly enclosed bud into blossom.

The white makes the green look greener. When I have branches of pine or fir to tuck around the white roses, something complicated occurs. Some collaboration between the ways nature grows and matures -- green needle, white petal -- seems a human thing to contemplate.

A shrine emerges to the heart. Something very personal, very individual -- a question feels posed for which the heart tries to be ready, winter or no.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Full Story of Our Hearts

Last night I took from the shelves a book that I had been given in 1978. The man I am living with these days searched out his copy of the same book.

At the midpoint of Advent, I had the occasion for the first time to pray with him in our living room the Evening Prayer for Gaudete Sunday.

Richard and I had spent our Sunday afternoon in a movie theatre. Arriving early for a screening of The Imitation Game, we had found seats in a still empty theatre and eaten an easy lunch that we picked up on our way there. Each of us had brought an expectation of finding entertainment in the film about Alan Turing, British World War II code breaker. I am sure we did not expect to emerge from the theatre as moved as we finally were by the story of a brilliant man whose same-sex attractions had forced on him great loneliness and – eventually – criminal charges.

Both Richard and I at one time in our twenties had studied for the priesthood. Exiting formation programs well shy of ordination, we had each of us devoted ourselves in later years to teaching religion. We each of us were cautious about who in our separate schools would know the full story of our hearts.

Briefly last night I stepped back into the words of an old school of prayer. It was not reverie I encountered but words that I had read before. It was not happenstance that I had read them before. When a tradition has trained you in a rotation of scripture, you are not surprised to meet yourself again in this way. December – Advent – a familiar set of psalms and canticles and antiphons awaits you each year if you are prone to pick up a breviary.

For some, Christmas remains stubbornly and irrepressibly theological.

I do not mean to suggest the kind of debate that occasionally erupts when denominations or traditions meet. Or do not meet.

I do not mean angels in disguise descending into the midst of troubled families in Christmas movies and television specials.

Christmas is theological because it expects no surprise at the prospect of a God who takes serious who we all might possibly be.

Something like Christmas gets Richard and me thinking afresh about our true selves.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If I Had the Time

If I had the time, I would sift through all the boxes and shelves at home where it is likely that I have stored Christmas stuff in years past. I would sit on the floor and create piles – gift bags and rolls of wrapping paper, ribbon and ornaments, snowflake-shaped punchers and gift tags. I know where to find envelopes with the remainders of card designs that I once selected – sometimes created – to convey various years’ greetings.

If I had the time, I would scroll through the camera roll on my iPhone for images of Christmas trees and crèche sets. Advent wreaths and Christmas cacti and the occasional roses from men I would have been dating in December are recorded there as well. Then I would go through the desktop at work and the laptop at home and hunt for jpeg’s of various holiday foods – fruit cake and clementines and peanut butter cookies and the one-time Christmas dinner at the dining-room table in a house where I used to live.

If I had the time, I would re-read all the posts on Writing Cabin that touch on the weeks leading up to December 25 each year. I would page through journals and notebooks in which I have attempted to capture the mood of certain Christmases. I would comb the pages of prayer books for cards that I had used as bookmarkers and on which I may have written an intention or recorded an inspiration from Advent meditations.

If I had the time, I would let my mind travel casually through the memories – car rides past the stone houses of a Pennsylvania countryside on Christmas Eve, meat dressing mixing with sweet-potato casserole on the edge of a dinner plate, the scratches on an LP of carols sung by "60 French Girls."

So what makes a claim on me this final month of the year?

A part of me just needs to write and find out.