Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ingredients or Durante el Después (During the After)

As I sit here and type this, I have chicken that I will eventually slice for dinner cooling on the top of the oven. There is something pleasing to me about the simplicity of the preparation and ultimate result of baked chicken. It is a complementary food that, done right, is flavorfully polite to other elements of the meal, juicy, tender, and nourishing. This will be served room temperature alongside a batch of slightly more daring creamy smooth gazpacho I made earlier in the day that is presently getting to know itself better in the refrigerator.

I had been reading back issues of Cook’s Illustrated when I chanced on a recipe for this summer soup. It is filled with nothing but refreshment—tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, green pepper, a jalapeño, a little kosher salt-pureed together with a torn slice of bread, olive oil and a wee hint of wine vinegar. Post-blender, I spooned a little in my mouth to taste. It was like being invited to a small enough party where the guests have forged a group identity that puts everyone at comfortable pleasant ease. Still, you can tease the identity apart and tell that there are those who barb (jalapeño and onion), those who smooth and cool (cucumber), the interesting and unique (green pepper) and those who are at ease nearly everywhere (tomato and garlic).

It is an interesting exercise to look at things that way every now and then. Dish-ingredients, sum-parts, macro-micro.

I think about that also as I look at my desk and notice an empty and relatively nondescript blue, extra-fine point, roller ball. It is the only pen I have used for writing since returning from Chile and it ran dry three months to the day after my first moments in California, where I landed at the end of March.

While I certainly did not start out knowing the outcome, I see now that this pen, in its emptiness, has provided an answer I can offer to often posed questions—“Kim, what have you done since coming back? How have you been spending your time? Have you been working?” Instead of groping in my pocket to find more syllables among the inter-cultural, -continental, and -state, memories and mystical dust, I can say “Dejo a contarte la tinta corriente de mi pluma.” I leave the flowing ink of my pen to tell you.

This ink that has described the last three months of my journey for history and memory begins at this source—sitting in the chapel after my arrival at the last bedroom in a hallway of an RSCJ infirmary in the northern part of California, after a twenty hour journey with my leg immobilized. It speaks of going to the doctor for consultations, a scan of all bones, and the queasy uncertainty of the outcome. It addresses the dawning realization that I am no longer physically in Chile. It bends and ripples playfully through the joy of feeling at home among my elder sisters and the laughter shared at table, in the hallway, and over the computer when I could help them. There is gratitude for tasting Word anew in English when reading during Mass as well as the realization that I continue to pray the Our Father in Spanish and it feels right within me to do that. And, there is relief that no more lesions were discovered and surgery does not seem necessary at this moment-- while also knowing that the ligament remains torn and that knee is not now and likely never will be again, the same as its companion.

The blue river of words speaks gently and deeply and widely of the quiet awe of being at the bedside of two people as they died. Their feet continue to move the inky waters when I revisit those passages.

My grandfather died at home, face turned toward the sun coming in the window, listening to flute music, on April 15th. My mother, grandmother, and I were with him. I had been there helping for a week before his death and stayed on with my grandmother for two weeks following. I had not spent that much time around family for at least twenty years and for many reasons, this visit was a not always proportional blend of gift and challenge. Nonetheless, gratitude is the navigating sentiment.

Nancy Kane, RSCJ, died at Oakwood on May 13th. The ink sings of her soul for a week prior to her death as vigil is kept. Her final day is a horizon of her sisters surrounding her, singing Spirituals and offering lines of scripture, letting her know that it was okay to wade in and go. She did, humbly, quietly, without tremor.

A week later, there was a rather abrupt need to head into the rapids of my father’s life and situation. I spent three days with him, doing the best I could on his behalf and simply loving him and loving God and being thankful for the strength of the company of the saints and my sisters as I made my way. There are times when I write where minimal ink means maximum emotion…this is one of those moments.

Were you allowing the current to take you, the ink would next break open into the riotous amazement of being back in New York City…reconnecting with my community, visiting with friends, updating my resume, gathering documents for my Visa to go to Rome, and writing reflections at the request of my parish, Saint Francis Xavier. I have written four pieces for them recently and had them appear on-line and in the bulletin. The fine point strokes dance pages of gratitude for again being a part of this community, especially at this time in its history, and being encouraged to reflect and write about it for others.

I can look at all of these things individually and savor the events, taste and experience their flavors, contours, textures, complexities, on their own. I can also read the whole and see what is made of them all when brought together. It is a rich and round meal I eat on this journey. Nourishing, pleasing, con bastante pica para mantener interés y bastante dulzura para equilibrar…with enough bite to keep it interesting and enough sweetness to balance. It is a meal of the Mystery of God, the Invitation of God, to come to the table and stay there--to explore and invite others to do the same…to realize anew that the table is our whole world and to choose with passion to be open to it…to the continued experience of the complex simplicity of Love.

I am leaving soon to share my ink, my story, with others. I am leaving to say a formal YES for my life, binding myself in perpetual vow to God and thousands of others. It is good that the table we share is big--many are needed, so grand is the work, to serve and to receive, to laugh, weep, encourage, support, speak the truth as we experience it, to discover and reveal the love of the heart of Christ in a beautiful, wounded, world.

What an awesome thing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How Awesome is this Shrine!

In a recent blog entry about returning to Xavier since the completion of the major work undertaken over the last year and a half, I wrote of an overwhelming desire to “walk around wow-ing as respectfully as possible.” With each tracing of the cleaned and defined curlicues on the bench ends and each moment of gazing at the statues, the windows, and the sunbeam that continues to fall precisely on pew 39, I find myself saying as Jacob did after his dream, “How awesome is this shrine!”(Gen 28:17)

But, this “shrine” we know as the Church of Saint Francis Xavier, beautifully restored and renovated as it is, takes on most of its notable character because of “inner dispositions,”—the people who gather in here and worship here, the people who come to serve and be served, the thirst that is quenched here, the rest that is sought and offered here; those who carry this love, this respite from struggle and hopelessness, with them to stoops and chapels and shelters and clinics and and and… here in the City and incalculable distances beyond .

The space serves those who gather. There are more ramps for ease of accessibility as well as a “No Standing” zone on the street. The “unseen until too late” subtle variations in the topography of the floor have been smoothed out. The choir has a dedicated space, the sacristy is ample… The space inspires and encourages. We are surrounded with restored paintings and cleaned statues that tell the stories of those who have given their all for the honor and glory of God. The windows are prisms of glory that draw the eye upward, delight, and fascinate.

The space serves those who gather—so that those who gather may leave. The space serves those who gather—so that those who gather may leave—to gather together others along the way. The space serves those who gather here in whatever way or grouping—so that those who gather may leave—to gather together others along the way—in the name of Love. When we leave this space, nourished and inspired, we are bound to share that strength, to offer the welcome we receive to others. In effect, to be the Body of Christ…people of communion, humble servants, people of God.

For me, even with all of my wow-ing and tactile inclinations toward experiencing beauty, I have to say that one of the most inspiring revelations of the recent work is the quotation above the arched doorways at the back of the church. Non est hic aliud Nisi domus Dei Et porta caeli.

Some of the Ah!! Is because of the translation and some is what it means to me because of where it is. After Jacob’s post-dream proclamation of awesomeness, he continues—“This is nothing else but a dwelling place of God and that is the gateway to heaven!” To see this quotation over the doors, one must be looking out over the people gathered—certainly dwelling places of God, each one. When do we have this perspective? When proclaiming, when serving as Eucharistic ministers, when singing, incensing, dancing, returning from Communion.

And we also see it when leaving that way. In a way, these gateways lead to the kingdom of God here on Earth, the streets not yet paved in gold or flowing with milk and honey, where not everyone has enough, not everyone is loved, and not everyone is safe… Not yet. But to that end we gather, we pray, we hope, and we love and we work.

And we do in gratitude for this awesome shrine that invites us in to rest in glory, to be challenged, to be touched by beauty and community, and to leave again to share it all by our actions, our words, our lives.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Anticipating the Feast

In anticipation of this Friday's Feast of the Sacred Heart...

Feast of the Sacred Heart, 2010

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
to you I offer all.

You find me, you call to me,
you taunt me, challenge me, entice me.
You reveal your mystery to my senses.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
to you I give my life,
my imagination, my strength, and endurance.

You intrigue me, confound me,
teach me, sustain me,
and startle me with love.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
you who are in all things,
always, and everywhere…

You who are

Air current, wing, and point of view,
stamen, petal, meal for the bee,
tides, wetlands, rainforest, and desert;

Gong, bellows, hum of the living,
timpani, cello depth, orchestral jungle,
children weeping and the laughter of fish;

We count on you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
infinite in glory,
you who are

Nucleus, quark, molecule, synapse,
ore, element, thought, foundation,
inspiration, exhalation, cycle of the seasons.

Bluegrass, haiku, sonnet of love,
epic. classic, ever new,
sculpture, painting, jazz, and flamenco;

We trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
eternally divine,
you who are

Human, spirit, bread, table,
hunger, thirst, need, wound,
blood, hope, Word, and light;

Love undiluted, prophetic and just,
adamant, entire, all encompassing,
world without end;

We ask your mercy.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
we believe that you will not fail.

c. MperiodPress

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On Returning to Xavier

“So??? What do you think??” With heads tilted nearly perpendicular, arms spread, and palms shrugging upward, these were the questions that most frequently followed A. hugs, B. inquiry into my well being, and C. commentary on the length of my hair, when I returned to worship at Xavier this past Sunday after having been gone since September.

In generating a response, I had to admit to myself that I had built up the renovations as something far more radical in my mind. I was struck at how the space felt the same. Yes, the grime is gone, the details are exquisite, and I have an overwhelming desire to walk around wow-ing as respectfully as possible and touching everything, but the essence of the space, the essential cumulation of character that has made Xavier, Xavier, seemed to remain within the stripped and stained wood, the polished marble, the tooled capitals and power-showered statues.

That observation led me to say in reply—“I think it woke up.” Fall and Winter are great seasons in their own right… there is something satisfying, even comforting, to me about sleeping under thick, floppy blankets that in their heft and weight seal in the goodness and seal out the chill. Spring and Summer, however, also have their merits: light and life and blooming things…and crispy cool sheets after a day’s labor in a City field. Architecturally, it seems that we have woken up into a period of Spring after a long stretch of Fall and Winter.

But, for a moment, back to the essential cumulation of character…ours is a storied space, a space where you can walk and touch the tale that lively quivers beneath the surface…a space and a people who at their best, beckon and say, “Ah…welcome…come!” At its best, it is a place that inspires being home rather than guest.

One of the signs, I believe, of being home somewhere is being welcome in the kitchen. And, in the community house where I live, at least, that means gathering around the wobbly, long tended table that has the dings and scratches and stains--the table that has taken and heard much over its history; that accepts for seating whatever the number who happen to be gathered; that has been oiled and sealed by touch, by being in the living midst of quotidian moments that speak intimately of the heart.

Now and then, the table gets a new cloth put on, the kitchen a good scrub--but we know what is at the heart and we love it—wobbles, flaws, beauty, welcome, history, nourishment of all kinds, and hope. If we didn’t know that, if we didn’t believe that, there’d be no need to work at taking care of it.

Without trotting out the sampler adage about what makes a house a home, it occurs to me that Home is a relational feeling. I feel home because I am in healthy relationship with the people and life and happenings in a given space at a given time. That relationship is sometimes rife with tension, sometimes seemingly remote even when well-seated within me, sometimes the necessary air that fills me. Such is the full, round, nature and limitation of human love--the human love I have for creation, for home, for our triune communitarian God who was, is, and ever shall be without bounds or border or finite end.

Florence Nightingale was an early proponent of fresh air as a part of healthy living. Fresh air is also a part of springtime. As I sit in the newly cleaned pews, gaze at the restored beauty created first for the honor and glory of God alone, I breathe deeply, and sigh my thanks, praying that I may store some of the detailed awe that begs to be known in all its contours as nourishment for the journey that I know is ahead.

It is a journey I make with others in, through, thanks to, and because of, the Love of God that tells us when we are Home.