Tuesday, November 30, 2010

today, i walked out into the rain, and laughed.

i still call myself a christian, sometimes. depending on the situation. recently at work, a coworker asked me "what religion are you?" i got awkward. like the way i used to get awkward when i was "really" a christian. but a different awkward. because this time, i was afraid of judgment in a different way. this time i was nervous about the fact that she'd know i was lying if i said yes. or ask me questions about it. i sort of awkwardly said no - just like i used to say no - only this time i meant it a little more. i didn't mean it like, "no, i don't associate with the term "christian", but if you ask me if i love jesus, i'll say yes." maybe i just sort of meant it. no. i guess i'm not. at least, probably not. or, maybe, i can say, at least not today.

i'm not sure what it means to be a christian, and therefore, i'm not sure what it means to not be a christian. so the truth is that i don't really have an honest answer. i can't really answer that question.

the other day i heard sufjan stevens and it made me cry. i was laying in the nap room at work, in the darkness, small children laying around me sleeping - and i'm crying. quietly and softly. warm tears in my hands. because i feel like the music is mocking me - making fun of me - taunting me - i am recalling the early days of belief. and listening to sufjan nonstop. i am remembering how simple it was to live then, and to be, and to love, and to make decisions. days when i would wake up early to pray, constantly reading and thinking and considering who i was, how i could be better, what i could do differently, days when i could close my eyes and face a God who was intimate. a God who i believed to be as good as my mother, and as sweet as raspberry juice on my fingers, and as gentle as the woman's touch at church who helped me put my coat on. i still believe this time in my life to be some of the greatest days that i may ever live. and they were true - they were so real. so blessed. and my life just isn't like that anymore.

so i've been wondering why i still go to church every sunday, contribute to the compassion ministry, spend most of my time with christians, continually seek guidance from my pastors - i still seem like a christian. maybe it's even unfair to say that i've been wondering about this, because the answer is obvious. it's maybe one of the only things i really know to be true. being part of community is good. life together is good. sharing burdens is the closet thing to good i have. there are moments of peace when the reality sets in that i am not alone - at all. to a person who values her alone, and her self, and her independence so much, it's difficult to come to terms with needing people as much as i do. i like being around people who are older than me, and younger than me. i like being able to sit down with perfect strangers and feel like it's okay to talk - really talk - about anything, deeply, honestly and as truthfully as possible. i like that it's okay to have breakfast with someone you've never had a full conversation with, and talk to them for three hours. i like walking around in circles around a field with someone who i hardly know and talk, vomit, cry out words, and thoughts, and feelings that were true, but awkward and senseless. i like being around people who are honest with me about their lives. i like that women who are 50 ask me to dinner because they can tell that being 25 is getting difficult for me. i like eating dinner with my pastor and his family, it makes love seem real, and simple, and obvious. i like going to a potluck with a bunch of disgruntled, lovely, smart, social-justicey christians.

i don't know what it's going to be like in a year - or who i'll be then. spiritually, or emotionally, or in terms of anything else. it seems like every period of doubt gets stronger, more difficult, more messy - but usually this is returned with seasons and periods of faith and peace that are stronger than the last. maybe it won't. and that's okay too.

in 2008 i pulled over a cop for running through a red light to later slow down and talk to a man on the corner in the hill district for 10 minutes, laughing jovially. man, i thought, i wish i could put my sirens on, so that i could hurry up and have conversations with my old friends too. after i pulled him over, and asked him why he put his sirens on to run a red light, i made it my goal to continually strive to be "more bold and more honest."

so, am i still a christian? i don't know. but i do know that i believe in the church. and this, theologically, might make no sense. but, at 1:49 in the morning on the first day of december, when it's rainy, and i'm cold and tired, it's sort of the best i have.

Friday, November 26, 2010

oh, and the boat.

laurie and i made a leaf boat.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

have to explode

miss laura, do you know where birds fly in the winter? they fly to the southside.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the day before thanksgiving

today, this is what i am thankful for:

1. a new haircut from micheal, emma's downstairs neighbor. socks on tile kitchen floors. and emma, danna, caitlin and emma's new husband all hanging out together. sometimes a good haircut can make you feel really new and special. especially when you get that haircut while being surrounded by good people.
2. dinner at my parents tonight. sitting with my father, mother, and brother, and after so much time, being able to love each other so much better than ever before. we just seem to be a little gentler with each other, a little better at listening, a little less defensive.
3. the mountain goats. i know i'm a little late to being through this phase so emphatically, but it's okay with me.
4. i like my job, mostly.
5. finding more balance. struggling with it daily. fighting for it hourly. surrounding myself with the people who i want to be surrounded by most and finally allowing certain relationships and people in my life go. in the midst of that, being able to give so much more energy to the people who deserve it and who offer things that are lasting, or at least, good. being close to people who aren't hurt by my need to be alone. they are people who never make me feel guilty or bad for being who i am.

Monday, November 22, 2010


these are quiet mornings. no. secret mornings. afternoons. the sun isn't quite shining, but it's warm, abnormally warm. i'm looking through smoke at a still, quiet, empty apartment.

friday night i'm walking through a cold east liberty night to the church. i am walking down baum boulevard past the library and the fountain, i am watching the skyline change and shift from different angles. for some reason, i am thinking about the night that i played chess, in high school, at the shadow lounge with jordan. i still don't know how to play chess - but he tried to teach me. i wonder what we talked about that night. i am walking into the church and i hear you before i see you. as i approach the room, i see you standing there. you are tall, your hair is short, and i mistake you for your oldest sister. after knowing you for 20 years, i actually confuse who you are with someone else. i look at you and for the first time i see someone other than a sort of awkward, tall 12 year old with braces. instead, i see a beautifully tall, strong woman. i am watching the slide show of pictures of your mother and family, and every photograph holds memories for me. of when you looked a certain way, when your sister went through her tori amos phase and covered all four walls of her bedroom with posters, when your mother wore that one floral dress, or the blue raincoat she wore everywhere, the table cloth that always covered your kitchen table. these are your memories that i am remembering too. i am remembering who i wanted to be, and who i was, and the way that these images and moments of your childhood and adolescence helped to form a longing, in me, to grow up.

at the funeral, the next day, i sit next to emily and margot who hold hands the whole way through the service. i am surrounded by years, here. next to emily's brother, and in front of my parents, and here i sit, known. the awkwardness and confusion of being 25 seems utterly ridiculous and of no value here. listening to you talk about your mother is like reading a script of your life, as you are reading, you are coming to terms with yourself, your past, your mother and your family. and in a way, i am doing the same thing. to be so close to a family for so long is to see their successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses almost as closely as your own family's flaws. i am, also, making peace with your family, your mother's quiet but strong nature, and even the way that you and i related to one another for so many years. i am watching my perception of a person i've known for 20 years change and shift. i am not feeling the sadness of loss, i am not mourning with you, i am not even thinking about if my own mother had died - i can only think about how tall and beautiful you look. i can only think about how proud your mother would be of you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

photography show

i had a photograph show. i had 7 pairs of photographs. i sold them each for $75. out of 14, i sold 11. my friends are wonderful. my family is wonderful. mother sun played, and they were perfect, needless to say. with the help (understatement) of monk (who runs the gallery space), we handmade all of the frames, hand cut all of the mats and glass. these are some of the most personal images, memories in my life. seeing them hanging, framed, all in a room together, felt like the deepest inhale, and the slowest exhale of memory and feeling and wonder. the photographs are set up in pairs. each pair has one photograph from pittsburgh and one from arizona. the themes are pretty obvious: moon, people, trees, flowers, etc.

here's the artist statement:
"I should be able to return to solitude each time as to the place I have never described to anybody, as the place which I have never brought anyone to see, as the place whose silence has mothered an interior life known to no one but God alone." – Thomas Merton

This collection of photographs is about the tension between two things that cannot become one. As a child my father took us on trips all across America – to some of the most obscure and beautiful places this country and I fell in love with the diverse and changing landscape of the West. As a college student, I spent a summer working at the Grand Canyon National Park and then returned after graduation for 6 months. These pictures are all taken in my 24th year – from one birthday to the next. They were taken before I left, while I lived in Arizona, and then the period of time when I first came home to Pittsburgh. The collection is set up in 8 sets of pairs, each photograph showing the beauty of such different places. The freedom of such large, open spaces and the beauty found in the understated colors and sometimes nothingness of Northern Arizona stands in stark contrast to the greenness of home, the beauty found in the industrial parts of the city and the emotional connections to a place you’ve lived your whole life in. During my time in Arizona, I found the most comforting solitude and independence being detached from the people I love, streets and neighbors full of memories and living a life without attachment. I found joy in simplicity and in routine and found my desires totally quenched; feeling for the first time totally satisfied. In Pittsburgh, I find comfort and love in knowing and being known by a community and a city. I also find inspiration from the desires and wants that come with living in a city among people. I have daydreamed of a time and place where the desert and the city could be next to teach other, where you could lock yourself away and never be found but still somehow be close to the people around you, where the desert brush and fall leaves sat together on the same ground and where buildings sculpted by man were dwarfed next to rocks carved by God. It is this want and this desire of both that plagues me. It is the tension that plagues me, inspires me and grows me.

here's the photographs:

birds flying downtown for brian werner when i worked downtown and hated my life / rock formation outside of lees ferry that my mother loved

graham street apartment fire escape with laurie, the day we walked to the train tracks / moonrise over kendrick's park on the road between flagstaff and the grand canyon

red tree on the way to ritters the day i moved home / wild fire tree, sometimes death is beautiful

indian paint brush on the way to shoshoni point / flowers at highland park where there once were none

pink coral sand dunes state park in utah, also known as some of the most beautiful days of your life, you walked to the top, i stayed behind / sytea, student at miller african centered academy in the hill

clouds over the grand canyon, i've looked at clouds from both sides now / the cloud factory on my 24th birthday, or Re: Stacks

you are now traveling on the only unpaved road within 2.8 million acres, the road between the south rim and north rim of the grand canyon / coopers rock state park, west virginia

Monday, November 15, 2010

what a tangled web we weave

i am thinking tonight about home. and that i think it's good. recently, in small glimpses, i've been reminded of what it means to really live in isolation. and i've been reminded that it's not what i want.

when tresean got off the bus today, he ran up to me and hugged me. while i was gone in california, his funding for the afterschool program was cut. so i hadn't seen him in two weeks. i'd missed him. he doesn't always offer me hugs, in fact, he rarely does. but today it was natural and true. it's subtle, but it's good.

i have about 700 photographs that i took in california. it's going to take me a while to post them. until then, you should know, the best part, this time, was coming home. this morning there was a deep fog that had settled on the city. i was driving on bigelow blvd. and the yellow leaves were shining through the fog. this road, i've traveled every day for two years now, for various reasons, is the road that always draws out of me the most tender affection for this city. and it's not just the city - it's my family, and my friends, and my past. no pacific coast highway, or tallest tree in the world, or most spectacular sunset can replace that.

and in the morning, i'll think of anything - paul simon, or jed dryer, or tusayan, arizona and i'll feel differently. but tonight, i feel this way.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

frick park

we must have walked hundreds of miles in frick park that spring. some silent. some angry. some in love. i remember the red flower we stuck in your jacket pocket. i remember, always, how colors looked when they were close to you. you were always the deepest black against the brightest or dullest colors. we walked your dog before she died. i remember wet socks and shoes, freezing toes. i remember the rush of warmth when we'd walk into your house. that winter and spring there were endless days of rain and cold - and sometimes we had the warmth to withstand it.