Tuesday, July 21, 2009

antelope canyons

there really isn't much to say about this place, except that i think it's the most beautiful thing i've ever seen in my life.
crazy rock formation outside of the canyons. a little thing i like to call rock / sky / God.
tire tracks when we were leaving the canyon. rainstorm drawing closer. us flying around the trunk of a truck. rain in our faces, wind, sand, more laughter than i've laughed in a long time - arms in the air, too. and sahra in her cute little cowboy hat.

through painted deserts, navajo reservation, to and from page

these are some pictures of the drive to and from page. unfortunately, there was a huuuge rain storm. which was awesome, in some ways, but sort of frustrating in others. i wanted to go swimming at lake powell (against edward abbey's guidance) and go to horseshoe bend, both are things that you can't really do in the rain. luckily, sarah and michelle kept me in good spirits and - also - in many ways the rain was the best part. driving to page was really hot - you're in arizona, like, the arizona you imagine and dream of. mesas, sand, and... nothing. so it's hot. after we got onto 89 north at cameron, the storm started forming. we could see the storm from miles away and when we finally got into the rain, we pulled over, jumped out of the car, and ran around in the rain and hail for a minute or two. i imagined myself as a hot skillet that you put into cold water and it sizzles. it felt good. there will be more pictures along this drive as the summer rolls on.
i don't think you can ever understand what arizona looks like until you come here. i just don't think it's possible for people, especially from the east coast, to understand.
little colorado gorge. the brown thing at the bottom is the river. since it's not as wide as the grand canyon, it especially just looks like just a big tear, crack, scar on the earth.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

thoughts on community, with reflections from independence day

i got to flagstaff on the fourth of july, parked my car and decided to walk around a little before my friends got there. i stumbled upon a protest of barack obama - there were mothers yelling, children chanting and american flags being waved about proudly. there were white people with white hair and white khaki shorts. i called my mom right away and read some of the signs to her and we laughed about them. after i hung up with her, i saw a sign for a fair in the park. i was immediately relieved and entered the park to find a strange mix of native people, hippies, families and artists. i even saw a girl dancing with a hoola-hoop who was wearing a bandana for a t-shirt. i got a call from my friend and left the park to meet up the people i'd been waiting for.

i went to the train station and found them. a girl from singapore, a girl from taiwan, a boy from italy, a boy from china, and ted. ted is my coworker, a 40-something from west virginia who was a familiar father-figure who liked to make fun of me, talk about my tattoo, and who often went out of his way to make sure he saw me speak at church whenever possible. he'd sit alone and smile at me with proud, happy eyes as i gave the message. when i saw ted, i mentioned the protest that i'd seen and he responded quickly with some comments about barack obama's policies and how he's robbing americans - and then i sort of stopped listening and started thinking. i started to think about christian community.

i thought about the two scenes i'd seen and participated in earlier. i wondered if the hoola-hoop girl and the white woman with white hair and white khaki pants would ever get along? i wondered how they could relate? would the old woman hoola-hoop too? no - probably not. i grew up in a home of democrats, surrounded by friends and family friends who were democrats. and although it mostly went unsaid, it often went said, that republicans were stupid racists who were incompetent and unworthy of being called friends. and i haven't found much deviation from this way of thinking among the "liberal" circles that i belong to. and to be honest, i've also found myself in pretty conservative groups who feel the same way about liberals. when i was in high school, i thought that the worst of these conservatives were the christians. i thought the christians were the most closed-minded people there would ever be - who could ever walk the face of the earth - they were the enemy, the republicans, the people who were going to good colleges and played soccer and wore tevas.

long story short, i turned out to be a christian. and i ended up, in college, being completely surrounded by a bunch of republican, central pennsylvanian christians who loved me better than i've ever been loved before. i mean, they hunted deer - and they loved me. they voted for george bush - and they also loved my neighbors better than i did. and they were pro-life, but they walked me home at night and gave me rides without grumbling. and when i needed food, they'd make it for me. and they thought i was fantastic - wonderful - beautiful. all of them. loved me as a ragamuffin, loud-mouthed girl from the city who was voting for kerry. the truth was that it didn't matter that they were republicans and i was a democrat - i think i wanted it to matter, i wanted it to be an issue - and it never was. it was irrelevant to the love, the grace, the compassion and the understanding that we felt towards each other. it was irrelevant when faced with the reality that whether i liked it or not, they were my brothers and sisters and regardless of our disagreements, we were commanded to not only "get along" but to love each other. and i'm not talking about the love the world talks about - i'm talking about the bible now. i'm talking about the love that means you serve each other, it means that i will consider myself less than you, it means that if you ask to go 1 mile that i go 2. it means that we can't be wimps - either: if you make me mad, i'm going to tell you, and it's going to be awkward and awful but it's what we're going to do. and it means that i'm going to forgive you again, and again, and again. i'm talking about the kind of love that loves long after it's easy, long after it's simple, long after everyone else has gone home, or stopped picking up the phone - i'm talking about the love that saves lives. the love that heals, changes, the love that redeems and reconciles friends and foes. i'm talking about God.

during college and since college i've been going to a church that lives this every moment of its being. put together about 300 people with nothing in common and ask them to worship God. and watch a beautiful chaotic mess begin. watch republicans, democrats, lesbians, punk rockers, middle class mothers, single parents, military men, motorcycle bike riders, teenagers, homeless, twenty-something soul searchers, college graduates, suburban families, conservatives and liberals, catholics and protestants, the unwed mothers and fathers, the sinners, the prostitutes, the drug dealers and tax collectors all come together, close our eyes, and sing songs to the same Jesus who loves us all - just as we are - beautiful, chaotic messes.

i interrupted ted and said, "well, i don't agree with what you're saying about obama, but all i know is that i'm glad that one day, you and me, ted, we're going to go some place where this shit won't matter." and so ted put his hand on my head, and ruffled my hair a little, and the sun was even shining and he smiled at me and laughed and agreed with me in his west virginian accent. then we went to eat BLTs with 3 asians and 1 italian at a nearby diner.

Monday, July 13, 2009

i finally drove out where the sky was dark enough to see stars and i found i missed no one

the other night sahra and i went to the squire inn to the bar in the basement. we each got a drink and spent the night talking - both of us were feeling the claustrophobia that comes with working at the canyon and we needed out. so we went to tusayan, the "suburb" of the grand canyon that hosts a mcdonalds, a few hotels and a few restaurants. she asked me if i missed home / and i told her that i didn't really know what it meant to "miss" things. most of my experiences of "missing" someone or something have really been a dependence issue, or an insecurity issue. the summer i was here before i was in a very strange relationship with a boy, that was riddled with insecurity, over-dependence and anxiety - i usually described that as "missing" him. i don't feel that way about home - or pittsburgh - or my friends - or family. but, i started to think about about the sort of strange lack of longing or desire to be home. of course, i'm still unable to look at pictures from lacy and chris's wedding because i feel a lot of pain about having missed such a beautiful event that celebrated one clearest and strongest examples of love in this world, i get a little sad when i know that laurie went to ritters with someone else, or when i think about hot metal, or when i want to go to panera with sarah and talk to her until we've eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner there, or when i see a mom and her daughter that remind me of my mom, or when i see a good ranger show and wish my dad had been with me, or when something absolutely ridiculous happens and i wish my brother was there to laugh at it too - of course those things make me long for home.

but it feels so damn good here. it's like there's too much to love in pittsburgh, too many people to adore, too much to see, too much to take in, too much to smell and touch and sense and feel, too many emotions, too many restaurants, too much color - here, there is so little. it is, after all, the desert. i'm not completely alone, and i'm not living in a tent, and i do watch movies and use the internet - i'm not in the sahara. but the things that i tend to use to spend my time busying myself are almost totally absent: real friendships, kids and an intimately deep church community. i've just been wondering what it means for me to live a simple life. out here things are so simple / there is no anxiety, i never feel rushed, for the first time in 8 years i am not wearing a watch and i guess i feel that strange, illusive thing called peace.
i'm just looking for balance. i won't be able to stand this forever. but when i go back, i'm just wondering, how can there be balance?

and who wants to buy/send to me richard foster's book on simplicity?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

from the fourth of july

these are just some pictures of the moon i took on the fourth of july. we had a fire, hot dogs, and some beers in the middle of the kaibab national forest. it felt good to sit in the moonlight and have the light shine on my face. i've had that experience very few times. it's good to be somewhere that gets so dark.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

these are the days of miracle and wonder

so we woke up in the morning at oak creek canyon and decided that hiking in sedona was a death wish. temperatures rise above 100 degrees, there is no shade and the sun feels like an annoying mosquito that won't leave you alone. rather than go into sedona, we spent the morning hiking in oak creek canyon. it was one of those mornings, one of those walks, when i was sure that the presence of God never left me. although it's becoming more and more clear to me that God's presence is everywhere - whether you like it or not. it really is just a matter of us stopping and slowing down to recognize it. waiting. the group hurried ahead, while i stayed back, probably miles behind them most of the time. taking my time, stopping at flowers, and butterflies along the creek. i've decided that hurrying may be one of the greatest sins. i'm no longer really worried about the sex stuff, or the drinking or the drugs - i'm worried about people who hurry. people who run, when they should stroll, who race when they should go slowly - i'm more worried about people who don't stop for butterflies, who don't gasp at the sight of the color blue in nature, who aren't stopped in their tracks by a little flower. if we define sin as what separates us from God, then i don't think it's ridiculous to say that hurrying and rushing are among the greatest of sins.

shade / water / little things

these are some pictures from oak creek canyon. it's the canyon before sedona. you should google sedona, i didn't take any pictures while i was there because we didn't do any hiking so all of the pictures would have been from the road and stupid. we had a pretty good time - the canyon is absolutely beautiful, and luscious, and green and there's streams and beautiful flowers and life. nothing like the arizona most people picture. it felt good to get my feet wet and walk in the creek. we camped that night under more than a billion stars. there was hope that a group of christians that appear to have nothing in common could be a community that night. so i fell asleep happy, with holy expectancy of a new day.

i just know i have to be there alone

the first picture was taken through my car window - so excuse some of the dead bugs that you might be able to see.

in yavapai cafeteria using the internet. these are some pictures on the road from flagstaff to the grand canyon. i'm really grateful that i got these pictures - it seems like every time i'm on the road, i try to get some that i think can capture how beautiful it is. during sunset, to the right i see the san francisco peaks turn purple. to the left, i see the sun setting over the flattest landscape i've ever seen. in the distance, even, i can see it starting to illuminate the distant rim of the canyon. the sun turns my hair gold, like the desert brush turns the same shades of yellow, gold and auburn. like most warm desert nights in any part of the world, the sun setting comes as a relief, of sorts. i can remove my sunglasses and my broken air conditioning isn't bothersome anymore. i almost exclusively listen to iron & wine when i'm driving this road. sort of as an homage to my friends, but also because nothing else feels as right as the sort of grungy banjo and steady beats. like everything else i do here, the road seems like a sleeping ghost of memories of people and conversations and feelings. my time here, now, has brought much more solitude and independence so there's plenty of room for those memories. i feel very free in my time here alone - not lonely at all.