Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Back to my roots

Skills I’ve been brushing up on since visiting Minnesota (thanks to the Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine):
  1. How to tell Ole and Lena jokes
  2. How to talk about the weather (100 degrees = “a little toasty” and 40 degrees = “T-shirt weather”)
  3. How to buy a cabin up north
  4. How to maximize your state fair experience
  5. How to laugh in the face of adversity
  6. How to walk in the skyway
  7. How to give a gift (with a gift receipt, of course)
  8. How to accept a gift (by denying your desire to actually accept the gift)
  9. Bonus: How to make Jell-O

Monday, July 20, 2009


The weather has been cool and gray the last couple of days. While this is weather that I generally appreciate, and will probably be begging for come late September in Los Angeles, I came to Minnesota in July hoping for some heat, some humidity, and, most especially, some thunderstorms. If you are from the Midwest, you will remember summer evenings and the power and show of a summer storm, the drama of the darkening sky, the smell of rain in the air, the stillness just before the skies unleash their fury. I’d like a little weather drama, please. Los Angeles provides nothing so exciting (in terms of weather).

This evening, Aaron and Zoe and I took a walk around my parent’s neighborhood, after Haven had gone to bed, after we finished watching a movie and yet still before the sun set. I forgot how long the summer nights are here, how it takes seemingly forever for the sun to slide down the sky and how it seems to do so with such quiet flourish here on the plains. We walked in the cool and quiet of the evening, listening to the junior high kids playing around at the park, watching the younger kids bike, with training wheels, down the street yelling that they’d just seen a cat (I know, so exotic), smelling a backyard bonfire, walking past a little backyard palm-tree-themed celebration. The evening light dimmed with each turn we took through the neighborhood and when we passed by the park on the way home I noticed the last flames of magenta the sun was shooting out in the northwest sky. We stopped at the park and took a spin on the swings, Zoe whining at us to give her a turn too. My hips don’t fit in the swing as well as they once did, but it still felt good to swing, to fly in the cool stillness of the evening.

We walked the long block home after that, with my mother slowing down and waving a cheesy hello as she drove by (on her way home from the grocery store – she had to get bread as Zoe helped herself to a loaf when we were gone yesterday. Rookie mistake). The front yard trees on my street have all grown up and our neighborhood looks older. It’s not changed much, for better or for worse. Perhaps for worse. I spend the walk wondering what it would be like to live here, now, in my 30’s with a family. I don’t know.

I’ve been asked a couple times this week what I miss about Minnesota when I’m not here. Evenings like this make the list.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A new compass

Last month, Haven and I along with my best friend Joy took a road trip up to the mountains of southern Oregon to participate in a contemplative retreat. This was my third year at the retreat and I love it for more reasons that I can name or for which I even have words, but generally I walk away feeling so revived, so deeply in touch with myself, with the world, with the spirit of god. Two years ago, I felt such a deep sense that I was okay, which is what I needed, and last year I left feeling so deeply connected to the little baby growing in my belly and the image of the labyrinth ended up being a sustaining and empowering image during the delivery of Haven.

I had thought I would walk away this year with some other profound sort of nugget of wisdom, some life-giving morsel that would enliven me and keep me going for the year to come.

But I did not.

From Road Trip to Oregon

It was a much different retreat for me this year – still good, but different. I’ve been trying to unravel it, figure out which morsels I can savor, what I can write about, what I can share, what life-giving nectar I can keep on sipping. But instead of large, meaty cuts of meat, I instead am picking the meat off the bone. It’s not that there isn’t meat or flavor, it’s just coming in much smaller pieces and with a lot of hard work.

The big difference was having Haven along for the journey this year, which was great and yet hard all at the same time. While I still had the morning silence to myself, the morning silence still involved getting Haven up and ready and out the door to the (very kind and wonderful!) babysitter in time for me to hear the Jubilate Deo of morning prayers AND figure out how to fit in a nap, a shower, pumping, some time to read/write/reflect/be still and, oh, maybe a nice walk, too. Before lunch. I found myself running up against the limits of motherhood that I’ve been bumping up against lately – the diminished flexibility and the growing responsibilities and the (seemingly) never ending to-do lists. I LOVE Haven and, honestly, don’t always mind these new aspects of parenthood, but I also miss some of the old life, and I missed some of the old retreat life too – being able to have long conversations, to eat my food slowly enjoying the company around me, taking a nap here, there and everywhere, going for walks, and having just about no responsibilities for the week.

From Road Trip to Oregon

And so this is why I haven’t written much about the week, because it sounds like I’m complaining about my daughter. I emailed one friend about my experience and he was kind enough to offer this response, which I think sums things up pretty well:

“the crazy thing is that we are hit with a baby suddenly but we don't suddenly forget what life was like without one. and we are so totally overwhelmed with feelings of love and loyalty and yet we find ourselves in an odd place of loneliness and disorientation because our compass from the life before no longer works but we have become so good at reading it to help us navigate life.”

I’m looking for a new compass and the retreat was more of the re-orientation that I’m in the midst of at this point in my life. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it is downright beautiful.

I do not regret the retreat – I’m so grateful to have had a week of having the mornings to myself, for having a week with my dear friends Joy and Colleen, for having a week with people who loved on and adored Haven (particularly the Aunties), for having a week in one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, to have wonderful conversations, to meet new people and see familiar faces again, to have the space (albeit a little less space than before) to learn more about myself and to foster a spirit of compassion, and to learn once again that god is present to me even in the midst of finding a new compass – these, and more, are things I treasure.

To Oregon. To grace.

From Road Trip to Oregon