I can almost smell Mt. Rainier. All summer, it will smell like spring. The breeze will wind up the valleys and past the waterfalls and under the sun to melt the snowpack slowly. I can almost smell this when I listen to “Noticed” by MuteMath. Songs roll like snowballs through our lives, gathering memories that cool the breeze at our backs.
It is April.
I went back and read all my journal and blog entries from a year ago. This is what I wrote on April 18, 2008: “It was about a year ago (today is April 18 and I sent out that first email on April 27 last year) that my roommate was trying to make me see the foolishness of my decisions. Yes, I know I do some crazy things, but I’m not doing them blind…”
Oh yes I was doing them blind. In April 2007, when I sent that first email out to ask if I could ride with anyone to Mt. Rainier, I had no idea that the man who said “sure” would end up being my best friend that summer. In April 2008 I didn’t know just how good it would be to be that man’s girlfriend. If I had known, I would not have been a bit worried about what my roommate had to say.
On April 23, 2007, my mom sent me this note: “I’m working on processing the thought that you might not be around this summer. It’s kind of yukky, like with Nathan, you guys go off to college, we think it’s a 9 month stint but then you’re not back in the summer either which turns it into 21 months which basically means you’ve moved out. I guess I just need to get a grip on reality.”
On April 7, 2008, my mom sent me this note: “I know you’re enjoying Rome right now, but a few things to get off of my mind and into yours: #1 Dad is accepting the Ft Collins offer…” That job lasted until this April. When Dad called and told me he got laid off, I thought he was kidding at first.
On April 4, 2008, Ryan asked me to be his girlfriend, and on April 11, 2008, I said “yes.” Call me cruel for making him wait that long, but he had no way to know I had internet in Rome. Besides, this was no ordinary dating decision, and I thought it deserved a week-long anniversary.
This year, April 11 fell between Good Friday and Easter, so Ryan and I were able to celebrate together in Pella. We hung out with my grandparents, who have been married almost 48 years. During their first April as husband and wife, their first son was born (Happy Birthday, Dad!). They’ve had 46 more Aprils together since then. That’s a lot of Aprils.
A lot can happen from April to April. That is why we walk by faith and not by sight.
Sometimes, when I am feeling a little melancholy, I put a sad song on repeat, and as I get sick of the song, I get sick of being sad, too. And so I turn off the song and get happy. Today the song was sad, but so pretty it turned happy as I did. It was a song by Hem and it includes these words:
“Think of every town you’ve lived in,
every room you lay your head.”
68. The house on Kalamazoo.
69. Anita’s apartment.
70. The hostel downtown. Two nights, hanging out with Marissa.
71. Bryna’s house. The 123 four made it a weekend.
72. Pella for Thanksgiving.
73. At my parent’s house in Ft. Collins.
74. The bottom bunk at Hofland’s.
75. Inspiration Hills.
76. The couch at Ryan’s house, soon after midnight on January 1.
77. The top bunk at Hofland’s.
78. The house on Kalamazoo.
79. The plane from O’hare to Heathrow.
80. The plane from Heathrow to Tel Aviv.
81. The kibbutz in the Negev.
82. The kibbutz by the Dead Sea.
83. Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem.
84. The kibbutz in the North.
I didn’t sleep at the hostel in Tel Aviv, although I had a bed.
85. A little on both of the planes back here.
86. Alumni 123. Still the best suite ever.
87. Dave and Julie’s, and I didn’t get sick.
88. Dave and Carlene’s.
89. Amy’s house, between talking until 3:00 in the morning and getting up before 7:00 to bring her siblings to the airport.
90. Nine nights on a different couch at Ryan’s house– the couch he set up downstairs so that Grandma/Obaachan wouldn’t have to worry about making noise in the kitchen.
“And what is it that you remember?”
Maybe I was feeling melancholy because spring break is over, and I am back at Alumni 123. I’m thinking back to those days when I woke up on that couch to the sun shining past Obaachan’s houseplants and Ryan and slurps from his coffee mug. We cooked and walked and read and talked together. We did many things on our list of things to do, but we are not done. And that’s fine with me.
“I am carrying this scrap of paper
that can crack the darkest sky wide open–
every burden taken from me,
every night my heart unfolding
I’m getting into a rhythm of teacher aiding, and I really like the high school that I am placed at. Today and my three days last week were quite exciting. Last Tuesday, the school was placed on a lockdown. After twelve minutes of sitting along one wall on the tile floor in the dark listening to canines barking in the distance, the intercom let us go back to instruction. Five minutes later they told us it was a drill. On Wednesday, I got a tattoo. Just henna actually, and the stained skin cells are slowly being shed. It was World Languages Week, so there were many multi-cultural activities going on, such as friendship bracelets, an activity to which I was able to lend my junior high expertise. On Thursday, I volunteered to translate for an individualized instruction plan meeting between the special needs teachers and a parent. I can’t decide whether I’m more pleased with myself for getting the information back and forth or for volunteering in the first place. The father was very appreciative. Today, I pulled two students out of class to give them some individualized instruction. They both moved here recently from Mexico and were eager for a chance to get out of the English-filled classroom where they felt lost. We read a kids book. I made sure that they knew that I knew that they were not kids. They asked me if they should call me ‘tú’ or ‘usted’. I told them ‘tú’, and they agreed, because I am not a viejita. I’m not a kid either.
Tomorrow we are going to talk about question words and ourselves and life and the world. I love teaching.
I feel like I can’t write right now. I’m totally out of practice. Why can’t one of my professors assign a twenty page paper? That would squeeze some journaling out of me, if only as a procrastination technique. But this semester is all about reading fifty pages before the next class.
I have to somehow keep on writing
even when it’s not exciting,
because this is somebody’s home page.
If you’re someday coming home to me
awake is what I want to be–
still writing, with a light on.
So what have I been doing, if I haven’t been writing? Here’s a quick overview of the semester: The first weekend of the semester I worked ahead on homework, because the next week, Anita came, and a few hours after she went back to her school, Ryan visited for the weekend. The weekend after that, Mom and Dad and Alissa came, and we visited Dave and Julie and then Northwest Illinois. That was a study in anthropology. The next weekend I rejoiced because I passed a history test that lets me take just eighteen credits instead of twenty-one. The next week I started my teacher aiding placement at a nearby high school, and I was able to drive there in a very spiffy car (thanks, fam!).
And this weekend (actually week, but I go more by the sentiment than the calendar) we went to Iowa. Very few times have I gone to Iowa without seeing family. We went to see the brothers at New Melleray monastery. It was a good way to begin Lent. For two and a half days, I had my own private guest room and nothing on my agenda except vigils, lauds, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I spent the time walking the field roads, reading, and trying to journal, and until the way home, I wasn’t sure I was getting much out of it. But coming back I realized that I had finally been able to clear enough head space to think again. Hopefully all that thinking will lead to some more writing.
A lot has happened since I was in Israel, and I’ll write about it eventually, but for now I want to share some videos from our trip in January. Listen for these sounds: pure talent, praising, praying, youth, Holy Sepulchre bells, tour guide/Muslim call to prayer/the singing of Vietnamese Christians, the wind, happy children, “air raid,” and “get in here, you guys.”
We started off from Jerusalem by driving through the West Bank, where we saw many Arab farmers and many gated communities. Along with lots of fruits and grains, they grow cactus there, in big, long rows. When they grow bananas, they wrap different bunches in different colored bags so that they ripen at different rates and they can increase their profit.. We stopped at Beth-Shean and saw the tel and the valley and sang in the Roman ampitheater. Soon we were entering the area where Jesus had spent most of his time, and we recognized more street signs, like “Migdal Junction,” Mary Magdelene’s place. We saw a zodiac on the floor of a synogogue from the Byzantine era. We made several archeological diversions on our way to the Sea of Galilee. Finally we saw the lake and Mt. Hermon, big and white, on the other side. We pulled into our kibbutz with plenty of time to read, talk, journal, play, explore, and shop in the little grocery store.
The next day we talked about the Beattitudes on the hill where Jesus said them, we talked about Jesus eating fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, we talked about Jesus speaking at the synagogue in the ruins of Capernaum, and we road a boat across the Sea of Galilee. That day three people in our group got baptized in the Jordan, and we saw nine peacocks in a tree at our kibbutz. The next day we went through the mine fields up to the Golan Heights, stopping at a national park where we talked about the lame man being lowered through the ceiling and how Jesus brushed the dirt clods out of his own hair and forgave all the man’s sins. We saw Syria and Lebanon and Israel and the battlefields between them. We also drove through a town that had been hit with a missile the day before. The next day we went up on the Mount of Megiddo and talked about the past and the future. And we went up on Mt. Carmel, the site of my favorite Bible story. It was so clear we could see Mt. Hermon and a glimpse of the Meditteranean Sea.
On Saturday night Ryan and I looked through all 1,306 photos I took in Israel. It took a long time. When he saw all the pictures I took of Mt. Hermon, he knew what I was talking about. I was talking about a place I want to go back to.
I signed up to go to Israel because I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and yet the whole time I was there, I felt like I would be back someday. This feeling heightened as we rode north into the region of the Sea of Galilee. If I lived in Israel, that’s where I’d live. There are green fields and green mountains and a big lake that called a sea and way up in the north there is a mountain that looks like a big white chunk of home. Everywhere I go I want to go back, so why do I keep going new places?
Next year in Jerusalem! I’d like to say that with confidence, but I’m not stupid. Next year probably student teaching in Latin America. Next summer at Mt. Rainier! We all have places we hope for and people we long to see. Someday maybe I’ll go back to Israel.
We had to go back to Tel Aviv that night because we had to go back to Chicago. After supper, five of us went out to have a goodbye-and-goodnight snack, but then Emily said “pass it” to three kids playing soccer in the park, and we ended up playing with them in the dark on the side of the hill for an hour and a half and their dads came and served us refreshments but we still had our own snacks so we went out to the shore of the Mediterranean to enjoy and by that time we decided to stay out all night, since we would have to get up at 3:30 to catch the plane. We enjoyed every last minute we had in Israel before we took off for our home on another shore. I can still hear Jerusalem moan.