Sunday, June 22, 2008

Subtlety Thy Name Is God--NOT!

I recently e-mailed my pastor, lamenting my feelings of directionlessness and how they fly in the face of my strong sense of being called in some way. We enjoyed a candid exchange on faith, ministry and mission, service and purpose in life. I wondered if I shouldn't be attending seminary all the while suspecting that ordained ministry isn't where I'm called. Pastor Rob verbalized my misgivings, lovingly cautioning that seminary isn't necessarily "the answer." Finally, I wrote, "Maybe I just need a reading list."

After hitting "Send" I turned my attention to a new e-mail from my best friend, Susan, who lives a thousand miles away from me in Maryland. It was a forwarded message from her sister-in-law's pastor and it contained--wait for it--a reading list.

On that list was Walking On Water by Madeleine L'Engle, a work about faith and art. The description spoke to me. Still reeling from the "coincidence" of receiving this email, I buzzed out to my local library's web site wondering if the system had a copy and how long it would take to get it if I reserved it today.

There were at least a dozen copies in the Hennepin County Library system and my local library had one. Checked in. Right now.

I noted the Dewey Decimal number and hopped into my car. Upon arrival at the library, I bee-lined for the proper section, found the general area and looked down. The book fairly jumped off the shelf at me. I am dead serious. It was smaller, thicker and more colorful than any of the books around it and it was literally the first one I focused on. For good measure, I perused the rest of the section to see if anything else was screaming to be picked up. Nothing. I was home fifteen minutes after I'd left.

I am halfway through the book. My conviction that creativity is a divine call has been reinforced. My faith in fiction as an acceptable Christian discipline has been restored. My reading list is suddenly longer than I can possibly imagine, yet I am excited to tackle it.

One unexpected side effect of this everyday miracle is a feeling of bereavement. I deeply regret than unlike my mother or my best friend, Susan, I will never have the opportunity to meet and speak with Madeleine L'Engle in the flesh. I recall my casual reaction to her dying as just "one of those things" and now I fervently wish I could write her a letter, send her an e-mail, somehow physically acknowledge this profound connection to her I suddenly feel.

If nothing else, I can write. And likely, she will know it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My Grandmother's Hair

Somewhere I have a photocopy of an old newspaper clipping announcing my Grandmother Fergus's graduating high school at the top of her class. Though her photo looks more like a drawing in my nth-generation copy, it's clear enough to notice her striking resemblance to me. Or mine to her, I should say.

There was a time I was not so pleased about this. My grandmother had a strong German nose which, more obviously than any other feature, I inherited. The memory of walking into my bathroom at eight months pregnant, in a cotton night-gown with my hair in a bun and being startled to see my grandmother looking back at me from the mirror will always stay with me.

Which brings me to her hair--that bun I mentioned. My grandmother never had one of those old-lady short perms that halo the head in order to hide the thinning. She wore her hair in a bun at the base of her head all day every day. Only rarely did I see it any other way, and then it was down. At bedtime, once in a great while, she would emerge from her bedroom at the cabin in her nightgown and when she would turn to go back in, I would see her long hair trailing down her back. It was fine and gray, and it was wavy from having been bound up all day. It must have reached close to her waist. I remember thinking how cool it was that my grandma had long hair. Not even my mom had long hair.

At the moment, my hair is longer than it has ever been. It has reached the point where I can no longer braid it without bringing it forward over my shoulder. It is so long that when I roll over at night, it gets caught under my shoulders and needs to be pulled free. Sometimes I worry about snagging it in the weight equipment at the gym. And I adore it! Because just recently I realized that I have my grandmother's hair. When I pull it into a bun it has to be wound at least four times and with each twist I think of my grandmother and smile.

Someone once told me that I was lucky I was still young enough to wear my hair long, because at her age (40-ish) it just wasn't acceptable to do that anymore. Hah! My grandmother was 84 when she died, and I assume her hair was as long as ever. How cool is that?

Although there are still moments I think it might be nice to have a nose job, by-and-large I have "grown into" my face and my grandmother's nose suits me. Not the inheritance I might have chosen, perhaps. Her hair, on the other hand, I adore, just as I did in those childhood moments at the cabin. I am grateful to have it and I only hope I can do it justice.

And anyway, wearing my hair long makes my nose look smaller.