Saturday, April 25, 2015

atlas

Today's adventures took us outside the city of Algiers and up a twisty mountain road in the Atlas Range to a national park at 5,000 feet.  It was a long ride, especially for my poor, prone-to-carsickness tummy, but it was totally worth it. 

There's always something amazing about climbing higher than the clouds. 


I love the wrinkly ridges snuggled up close to one another.


The exposed rock faces reminded me of those visible in the Appalachians in Pennsylvania, although there was greater evidence of regular rock falls than I've ever seen there.


It's the height of spring in Algiers, and these lovelies grow everywhere along roadsides.


On the way back, we stopped at a scenic overlook that included monkeys. They just wander down the hill and wait for the travelers to share food.



This snap is washed out, but I wanted to show you this mother and her baby hanging underneath. It was the baby's job to stay attached as the mother moved around the rock face and gathered the croissant and cacao nibs on offer.


The image of Atlas, the defeated Titan, holding the weight of the world on his shoulders kept spinning through my mind as we rode through his mountains today. With it came Ayn Rand's image of Atlas shrugging, thereby shifting the foundations of life as we know it. 

Our hearts broke at the news of the earthquake in Nepal earlier today. With so many buildings shattered and lives destroyed, it would be easy to lose hope, but today we had driven on roads congested because of the work of rebuilding after earthquakes in this region, and yesterday we had seen scaffolding supporting earthquake-damaged buildings in the casbah. Resilience wins and life continues even when Atlas shrugs.

Friday, April 24, 2015

further in and further up

I've been thinking a lot about perspective since I arrived. Algiers is one of those cities in which private life happens behind layers of walls: rooms inside apartments inside buidings inside courtyards. From the street, the city looks plain, forbidding even.

the street from my friends' apartment

entering the casbah, or the old city

Upkeep on the casbah's buildings is a constant need.

a mosque in the casbah

The courtyards offer beautiful tile-work and gardens as well as the privacy in which to enjoy them. We had a lovely lunch here yesterday while the birds punctuated the calls to prayer from the neighborhood mosques.


The greatest creativity appears in the interior, private spaces. Today we walked through a historic palace in the casbah which now houses art exhibits, and we joked that one could enjoy the visit even if only looking at the floors and ceilings. 

inside a palace in the casbah

a wooden door inset in a marble doorway


fountain inside the palace in the casbah
My friends' apartment is, of course, not as ornate as this palace, but it shares the openness of design with high ceilings and large doors as well as marble floors, which are pleasantly cool underfoot.

While in the casbah, we also climbed to the top of a house, which offered another shift in perspective. the confusing warren of streets have a sort of beauty from above.
the casbah from one of its rooftops

the port and admiralty


a mosque complex near the port

the most inland sweep of the bay

The day's sights were punctuated with surprises, too.

Pack donkeys collect the trash in the casbah.

A mama cares for seven (we think) kittens. 

A glance down a side street reveals a mosque.
Further anon.





a glimpse of blustery

I did some hiking in Michigan recently. 


It was a beautifully blustery day. 


The kind of day where the clouds roll around and the dry grass sussurates.


It was a day between winter and spring.



Saturday, April 18, 2015

a glimpse of beginning

and there was morning

   

 and there was evening

   

 on the first day

Monday, March 30, 2015

uncertainty and the purple

Lou says that uncertainty is a good thing, that it challenges you and teaches you things about life. I can grudgingly agree that Lou is right, but I would add that a little bit of uncertainty goes a long way.

Lately, uncertainty has dominated all areas of my life: sale of Rustic Lakehouse, finalization of Adam's estate, transfer of our wordily possession to our next home, a place to live while the girls finish the school year, when my dissertation will be ready for defense, when my committee will be able to convene, job(s).

In some cases, the events are certain, but the timeline is not. The current buyer definitely wants Rustic Lakehouse, and I want to sell it to him, but he and I don't get to agree on a day ourselves. We have to wait for his bank to work their underwriting magic and assign us a date. My moving company has agreed on a day to come load the truck, but only offered a delivery window for unloading at our destination.

This storm of uncertainly feels a lot like the dark wilderness of instant widowhood with one major difference: this time, I put myself here. Each of these uncertainties is the result of a choice that I made. I did this to myself.

Sometimes I wonder what I could have been thinking.

But the one thing that I was certain about when I started making these decisions is that I can not stay here. Staying put feels like stagnating.

A little over a year ago I wrote about the importance of dwelling in the purple times of the Christian year. Always for me embracing the purple has been about an increased commitment to overtly spiritual practices: more time praying, more attending terce and mass at the abbey, more reading scripture, more doing church.  

This past Advent, I was frustrated that tasks related to the sale of Rambling Farmhouse consumed my mental and physical energy and kept me from being present in the purple. Then, Julie pointed out that sorting through the contents of a house collected over fifteen years of life was a very Advent thing to be occupied with. And she was right.

And here I am again in the purple time of Lent not doing more church, but instead doing more sorting, more introspection, more decision making. More discernment.

More preparation for the moment when my life begins again.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

a glimpse of certainty

Every time I come to Washington, I try to be on campus for a worship service. When I come to this city, but not to this space, I go home feeling like I have missed something.

This time, though, even as I was happy to be here, I was asking myself why I do this. United Methodist worship services happen on Thursdays at 11:00 PM and Sundays at 7:00 PM, neither of which is particularly convenient for travel.

Photo credit: AU Ambassadors
https://auambassadors.wordpress.com/tag/kay-spiritual-life-center/


As I was standing on the quad on this most recent trip, I realized why.

When this was my home, I was happy, I felt safe, and I knew where I was going, and when I come back here my self remembers that identity. It's comfortable, like favorite clothes long lost in the back of the closet.

Putting that identity back on is, of course, impossible. When I leave, I’m still the same nervous, fearful person who has little idea where she’s going, but I have a renewed sense of what that old certainty felt like.

Somehow, having that memory like a token in my pocket makes the uncertainty of my present world more bearable. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

all year long

Lately, in the corners of the internet that I inhabit, I've seen a lot of this sort of sentiment:

"We don't celebrate Valentine's Day in our house because my partner and I love each other all year long and give gifts when we feel moved."

It reminds me of the people who said things like, "December 25th is an arbitrary day. Even if Jesus was born, it wasn't in December, and we should work for peace on earth and goodwill towards men all year long."

Or the ones who said, "What's up with 'Giving Tuesday'? We should be generous to the charities we care about all year long."

How does that work, even? So, we should be nurturing our relationships with those nearest to us, reaching out in peace to the wider world, and remembering to support those who are less fortunate all year long? That's a lot to do every day. I'm not up to that task.

While I totally understand rejecting the consumerism that so often accompanies holidays in American culture, I'm having trouble following the logic of repudiating the holidays entirely.

I'd be lying if I said that the romantic rhetoric of Valentine's Day didn't make me feel at least a little bit lonely. I have a lot of love to give to a partner, and I hope to find someone who has love to return in equal measure, so I'll spend some of my meditation time tomorrow directing that love toward myself and also making space for a partner to step into. Then, all year long when the lonelies attack and I despair of ever meeting anyone ever again, I'll have this Valentine's Day meditation to remember, like a token in my pocket.

I will be celebrating love on this Valentine's Day, too.  Sofia and I are babysitting so that my best friend Erin and her husband David can go out to dinner. Because even though we all agree that going out to eat on Valentine's Day is insane, sometimes it's fun to embrace the insanity. I'm not sure what they'll be eating, but Sofia, Margaret, Blaise, and I will be having a pirate meal complete with octopus (hot dogs cut specially before boiling), doubloons (carrot rounds), seaweed (lettuce), and yo-ho-ho punch (sparkling juice). You should totally be envious.

If we reject holidays completely, consumerism wins. Subversion is a much more effective way to reclaim the values our holidays claim to celebrate.