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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Absurd: Subtitled : THE Tom Walker actually reads my blog!


Bathroom attendants at a port-a-potty. Absurd.
Getting to star gaze and shower at the same time. Beautifully Absurd.
Being made fun of because my nephew's shirt isn't ironed while we walk barefoot on a path covered in trash. Annoyingly absurd.
Importing custom hula hoops to haiti. Glow in the Dark Absurd.
Hula hooping at all...still kind of absurd.
A porch with a mountain view AND an ocean view. Majestically Absurd.
An art festival in a dump site. Artistically Absurd.
Trying to choose between “evil” Coca Cola in a reusable bottle or locally produced Star Cola in a disposable bottle. Environmentally Absurd.
Having an online blog from a home with little access to power. Electronically Absurd.
Offering water, crackers, and music to a 17 year old girl while you scrub the burns covering her arms and legs. Hospitably Absurd.
Sweeping water uphill with a tiny broom. Its absurd. And it is how I spend my morning and it is one absurd thing in an ever growing list of absurd things that are the sum of the life I have chosen. I love the way it entertains and surprises, and I know that God most effectively speaks and works in the absurd so I am usually pretty fond of it. But you wanna hear ABSURD, how about instead of getting a job after grad school, setting yourself up as the sort of invited “artist in residence” in the as yet empty library at a school built among mudhuts where students come wearing uniforms and empty bellies.
Its absurd.
And its what God has insisted that I do if I want to know what it is that I was created for.
And its awkward and extravagant and embarrassing and vulnerable and silly and scary. Absurdly so. Maybe that is why I keep avoiding my own dance classes. Maybe that is why I keep reading stories whose endings I care little about. Maybe that is why I am sleeping more than normal.
Maybe that is why the canvas we went to such great lengths to get into my suitcase is
still
in
my
suitcase.

Maybe. Or maybe it is because once I take it out...once I open those paints, get my brushes wet, and embrace the dance of covering that empty space I have been dancing around for so long, I will KNOW. I will know what it is going to take to make the dreams in my heart and the hopes of my soul into the life I lead. What if I actually let it out into my arms and legs, onto the canvas. What if I risk looking at it and seeing it and knowing what it is. Saying it out loud and admitting it is true. What if I let the picture form in front of me so that it is no longer elusive and exciting but simply an absurd and impossible instruction manual for a life of minute and holy proportions.

Because I already know. I know it in the deepest places of my bones that I am carefully crafted for something. Something I have never seen before and maybe don't yet know how to do. Something that may set me apart even from things and people that I love dearly, at least in some ways at some times.  I don't know what it is exactly but I know it is something small, and slow, and radically absurd.  God has been very clear about that, and very consistent. He has warned me that probably no one will get it, maybe even the ones i expect would, the ones i most desperately need to understand, and that I will have to totally own it anyway if i want it to work. and that it might be really hard to do sometimes. And he has given me the choice at many a juncture to pursue something easier, something more expected, something that will make sense.
He said it would be okay, he would understand.
But I said no every time.
I chose the adventure, the very edge of how he could be his most beautifully and magically absurd through me. The way that would be the most difficult to explain to my mama, to my friends, to most of my known existence. The way that would seem to contradict everything we know about how things work. The way that would be the most HIM, the most WHOLE, and the most ridiculous. Because most everything God has ever done that I have really loved was ridiculous. Absurd even.

Sometimes I wonder if God is ever embarrassed to explain how he is going to do what he does to love and care for us. Because it never seems to make sense to us at first, it never seems like the best or most practical plan. In fact, it usually seems so ridiculous to the point of unfathomable...so much so we often either ignore him all together or actually move in the opposite direction, sure that we misheard. Once in a while he must at least blush, or stutter, or hesitate before he reveals a real zinger like a boat built on dry ground to save all living things from a flood, or a middle school opera singer sent to bless a deaf Floridian, or telling a grad student to offer a dance (in a 4x3 foot space) in payment for a woman sharing her story as she sits dying of AIDS and malnutrition in a Kenyan slum. Surely he has a little trouble with the delivery of such out-of-the-box instructions.

Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, its too late for me. Embarrassing and awkward or not, the time for bowing out gracefully has passed. He gave me lots of chances to do something else. I emphatically declined in favor of this. This next thing. This thing that is so specifically for me that I actually fear it. I said yes and gladly took the many blessings and opportunities he provided to prepare me. To back out now will cost me dearly because I have created for myself a great debt, the kind of debt only repaid with a life devoted to the truth and treasure that was placed in me. The kind that makes embracing and even advocating for the WHOLLY and HOLY ABSURD
a
small
price
to
pay.

Its time to get ridiculous.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

lunch break lesson: love knows


last monday i happened to walk by just as the grocery cart that the guy who drums outside nico's pizza uses to carry his worldly possessions around in was run into, we will say accidently in the name of HOPE, by another guy also familiar to the streets whose ill health has him moving through the world on a sort of motorized wheelchair.
the drummer came up ready to fight, loud and belligerent and without thinking at all i just reached out and touched his arm and called out "hey warren, let him go, its not even worth it. there is a better use of you today." i didn't stop or even slow down, just kept on through the door to pick up my lunch order.  i wondered a little bit about coming in to buy myself 8 dollars worth of lunch when i usually only put a dollar or two into warren's tip bucket, next to the plastic daisy that i always mean to ask him about. i left about the same amount in the tip jar at the counter, which meant i had no cash to thank warren for his daily dose of rhythm, but the frazzled girl behind behind the counter was not the girl i know and she was in her own kind of need that day.  it felt like the right choice.

on my way out warren was settled into his familiar shape behind his duct tape covered djembe and was setting the beat of the downtown air, no trace of the tension and frustration that had so affected his cadence earlier.  as i passed he took the glove off his right hand and called me out by name to stop.  he reached out and shook my hand and said "thank you for that earlier.  i was ready to make a big mistake, i am thankful your vibes were here for me today. because no matter what i had a right to do...you were right, its not me.  not who i wanna be, casey."  we had just the briefest discussion of race and hate and carelessness and hurt.  of how all we get for impacting the world is what we choose to do with who and how we are, no matter what we have the justification to do.  we said friendly "see you laters" and "take cares" and i headed out of the sun into the florescent lit world where i supposedly do "the work" of a helping profession.  and i know i do.  but i was super aware that what could have been a really unpleasant and explosive situation was averted in that moment, not because i did or said anything so helpful or profound, but because i know warren.  i know him by name.  he listened to me, but probably not because he knew i was right.  he listened because he knew me, and i knew him.

this radical loving of the world thing that i think so many of us are trying at, its not fixing, changing, or even helping as much as it is KNOWING. knowing is the path to loving well.  maybe if i put my energy into knowing people, their lives, their views, their hurts, their fears, their stories, and in really wanting to know....then i won't have to wonder what to do so often.  i will just know.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

lexi and i wish dance studios were portable so i could keep one in my purse

so i had one of those moments when you know you have connected a truly critical movement with a string of sounds and time and space and rhythm that seem they each must have been created by or for the other...you know it because of how the movement stays alive in the muscles that unleashed a movement honest enough to keep calling out from inside your bones long after the music is gone and you are still..... i love choreography.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

yoga in a crooked room

my life lately has been consumed by stories...stories that were so important, so hard, so beautiful, so funny, so sad, so real...and so surreal...but despite all their value and their effect on my life...they aren't my stories to tell.  so i have been coming here with a full heart and only producing a blank page...i have filled other spaces...canvases...phone calls...skillets and baking dishes...but i realized i have been very still lately and that if i am going to live the life i have chosen...the life i love...it was time to make more room inside the spaces of me...

"..the time had come for the witness to move once more.." -some DMT and AM genius

so i have started  moving.  without the benefit of keys to a dance studio, or a college campus where i had access to a dance space, or a climate where moving outside doesn't require expansiveness impeding layers...i started moving in my little red nook (my upstairs apartment in south troy - south troy against the world!)

thing about my apartment...its crooked. 

after a number of late night revisions i pretty much have my furniture and my art supplies fashioned within the space to account for the slant and in such a way that things aren't rolling around or falling over...including me in my day to day activities...but this kind of moving proved to be a bit of a different story.

i think for a while this crookedness is part of why i was so still here..i was somehow conscious that the off center shape of my space was going to reveal something about me...i assumed it would highlight my own off centeredness...my own weaknesses...my own misshapen spaces...

eventually i came to a place where i was so crowded inside there was no room for a deep breath and i knew it was time to stretch, to realign, and to rediscover the spaces in me that i had allowed to shrink with disregard.  i simply needed the room.

i put on the mandala cd from this wonderful band  www.facebook.com/MomentaryProphets  and started with a familiar yoga sequence.  at first the less than square specs of my art room proved to be very much in the way and i was drawn out of my body into my head when my fingers would hit the parts of the ceiling or i would loose my footing on the tilt.  discouraging thoughts emerged that i just might not be able to do this very helpful thing i know how to do for myself in the space i call home.  that somehow the centuries of movement tradition that had served so many were somehow inaccessible to me because my environment was less than ideal. 
 almost in a gesture of defeat i let go of the yogic form and relaxed into a stretch that just felt really good.  one that felt solid and powerful on this unsolid feeling floor.  one that still felt like a stretch but also felt very possible.  without really being aware of it i fell into a new sequence, one that was unlike anything i had done in a class as a student or anything i had taught to students in a class as a teacher.  i didn't abandon the forms i knew but instead of trying to recreate them i connected to the essence of why i learned them..what they were designed to invite and encourage my body to do.  to expand, to shift. to twist. to open. to close. to lift.  to lower.  to release.  to hold. to let go. to be.
 i shifted my trust from the form itself back to my own body, trusting it to know how to use all my knowledge, experiences, and even the space around me in the way that would be most right. for. me.

without having to think or plan or figure or struggle i found myself immersed in a seamless flow of movement that both challenged and soothed me...one where the slanting ceiling served as a perfect place to lean for greater opening of my heart center and core and where the incline of the floor allowed for more consideration of an old injury in my left hip while giving me the fullest and most effective stretch possible.

weakness and strength, good and bad, right and wrong, hard and easy, these were no longer meaningful descriptors.  there were no categories or dichotomies to separate out the parts of me or the world around me.  all things in that moment became simply facets of my reality that had to be fit together in whatever way worked for the good...whether that fit had a recognizable shape or name or even an explanation couldn't have mattered less.

so this is the story that is mine in all that is going on in my world.  the details don't really matter, the message for me right now is that i don't have to fix it, i don't have to start it, or stop it,i don't have to change it, i don't have to understand it or figure it out.  i just have to keep moving in all of it.  moving according to the rhythm deepest inside of me even when that creates dances that i have never done or seen before. 

it is not for me to war against the imperfection of this space that is our world, or to hide from it, but to step down into its very cracks to find the spaces for movements we never imagined possible and to lean into its jutting surfaces to gain momentum for leaps and stretches we once thought were too far.  maybe the condition of my feet mean i will never be a ballerina, but maybe their odd shape is perfect for sliding into those cracks and blazing a trail for what will fill those cracks and bring wholeness.

only the dance between the imperfections of our world and the weaknesses of our own being, set to the music of love and faith and courage, allows the inconceivable work of a holy Choreographer to take the stage.

"and we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God..."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

my side of town

in haiti i love washing my clothes by hand...outside...among friends and neighbors...in the warm sunshine...sometimes even in a river...its lovely....
however, my bathtub in upstate ny doesn't have the same ambiance and i admit that i am thankful for the laundromat option.
when i moved to troy i started out at the bright and shiny one up near the bridge heading out of town, the one in one of those awkwardly unnecessary strip mall setups with too much parking, a tanning salon, and a recruiting office, the one recommended to me by co-workers.
later i happened upon one up the hill a little west of there, the one near a really great goodwill, a decent grocery store, and oddly enough an even fancier tanning salon.  this one had more traffic and more bells and whistles, and more folding tables...and don't forget the really great goodwill store.
but today i decided to go to the one on my side of town, the one actually closest to my house, the one with no name and no wifi and no super strength stain sensing washers.  i could describe the place but im sure you  have an idea in your head that is about right so i will skip to the important part. 
 as soon as i opened the door i was greeted with a friendly smile and hello, not by an owner or manager...just by the person who happened to be first to make eye contact with me.  i got an absurd amount of quarters and headed back out to start unloading.  as soon as the few folks gathered inside saw how long it had been since i had done laundry, they filed out into the snow without much ado to help me unload and assemble my bags and piles inside. not like it was a big favor, or like i was helpless...just like it was whatcha do.
once i got my loads going i learned the gentleman with the cane who had greeted me and carried my darks was named Paul. he served time in the Air Force and the Army, he has a niece playing ball at George Mason, and he thought my dog was quite handsome.  i moved a little closer to hear his story about Korea and was greeted by Jeff and Sam.  Jeff was rolling cigarettes and offered everyone in the place one before heading out to smoke one himself.  He thought it was amazing that Luke was being so good in the car and laughed at how he was tracking my every move through the windows of the car and the building.  He inquired about how old my four legged friend was and what kind of breed mix could have made him so darn big.  
later, when i came around the corner with a huge armload of sheets and of course my dear Purple, two young guys who had been having an animated conversation in Spanish since before my arrival conceded the last free dryer to me with exaggerated gestures serving to replace our mismatched words.  i thanked them with the same sweeping animation and moved to the window where a young man with a quietly familiar accent struck up a conversation that was immediately interrupted when we saw a face through the glass that we both recognized.  i knew the face as one of the bartenders where i work, and james knew it as the face of his new math professor at the college where he is studying to be a civil engineer when he returns to his home country in West Africa.  when everything was dry and folded, my new friends Jeff and Sam wished me well in my studies and gave Luke a goodbye scratch behind the ears.  i bought them both a slice of pizza. james helped me fill my car with clean clothes and walked my dog around the block while i picked up a bunch of stuff that i had dropped trying to operate pockets with mittens on.  
there is nothing wrong with those other, "nicer" laundromats...and certainly nothing specifically BAD ever happened to me at any of them.  but in 6 months nothing that has made me happy to be alive and part of the human race has either.  and certainly nothing worth blogging about in the middle of the night.  i like my side of town.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

momentary sanity

its a weird thing when you figure out what you are supposed to do with your life. 
especially when you never thought there was going to be "that thing" you were going to do with your life.  and its possible that even if there is "a thing," we are always doing something that will become part of "that thing" we do...and we will always be growing and changing in how we do "that thing" so i guess the moment i am talking about is kind of arbitrary...
but if you never thought there would be such a moment...
the one where suddenly everything you find exciting and magical and fun and important...all your talents and your passions and your quirky ideas...every cause on your heart and dream in your mind....your knowledge and your questions...your experiences and your wonderings....your light and your shadows...your fight and your fears...all fit under the umbrella of one thought, one concept, one vision...
the one where every mental snapshot you ever imagined of yourself and hoped might be at least in the realm of possibilities for how your future might look...and even most of the ones you never figured could be more than just dreams...all suddenly make up the pages of one album...your album...
the one where you suddenly feel every movement you have ever made in your body like the training and choreography that will become the performance that is your life...

well, its one heck of a moment.




Saturday, July 30, 2011

fear is paralyzing...humility is mobilizing.