the things that are

Moments that surprise us, that take us off guard, are almost impossible to remember.

Maybe it is that we don't really try to remember less surprising moments. Maybe it's that our brain can't move quickly enough to create a reference point for all of the disarmingly new information that comes with surprise.

Sometimes we want to remember and we forget. Other times we don't want to forget and can't remember. And in yet another separate category are the things we cannot wish to remember or forget. They mar our thinking with in a way that is unsettling or painful but that is changing and significant. They are the things that are. Let me explain.


Yesterday, I went for a run with a friend in the early hours of the morning. We ran on a public trail, a nice flat rails-to-trails project that winds through Durham neighborhoods. No traffic, few people, lots of quiet.

On our return route, there was some distinct rustling in the brush. My running partner was being very observant, looking back multiple times to check out the noise. His attention gave me permission not to worry about it. In retrospect, this was not a very wise decision.

Suddenly, my running partner shoved me. Hard. I don't really like to be startled, so I screamed. By the time I realized there was an enraged pit bull charging us from behind, my running partner was facing off with the dog.

I don't remember how long it took for the dog to go away. I don't remember where the dog went. I don't remember. I do remember how fast my heart was beating and that the last mile of our run was much quicker than the previous. I remember feeling thankful that I wasn't alone and that my running partner had the somewhat random knowledge of how to get a dog to back down.

I don't necessarily want to remember the dog charging us or snarling at us, but I don't want to forget it either. There is value in knowing the fear of gnashing teeth. There is value in knowing my life and limbs are not my own. There is value in feeling reliant on the knowledge, strength, or protection of another.

To forget the snarling scary dog is to forget the lessons he taught me. I don't want to remember him, but I don't want to forget him either.  He is a memory that is.


a prayer for the day

God be in my head and in my understanding.
God be in mine eyes and in my looking.
God be in my mouth and in my speaking.
God be in my heart and in my thinking.
God be at my end and in my departing.

--John Rutter, 'God Be in My Head'


the temptation to cry

I sat at my dining room table for several hours this evening. I should still be there, but my fingers are asking me for some exercise, as if five hours of lecture note pecking wasn't actually exercise.

As I sat there, reading page after page on cultural change, my life began to change with a series of minor interruptions. A phone call from my sister reminded me how this newly created distance disables me from helping her with the many things on her plate. A series of text messages from a beloved former coworker that reminded me that my church home is no longer my weekly resting place (or my daily work mill). Unanswered phone calls to friends leading to trailing voice messages about nothing in particular made me wonder why I'd called in the first place.

I sat at my table and the temptation to cry set in on my lower lids.

My heart is filled with the joy of new friendship and beginnings and even a new view of bike riding. But somehow it is simultaneously heartbroken that I won't get a hug from my dearest friends tomorrow night and I won't cook a meal with my sister this weekend. It seems the vastness of this opportunity to learn and grow (and read my brains out) is juxtaposed with an deeply ambiguous loss. It is a loss not rooted in death, but in the uprooting of life and the withering of many once-vitalizing roots.

The temptation to cry, to mourn, to acknowledge my sorrow was quickly set aside. Not only did I remind myself that I still had many pages to go, but I remembered the root that really matters has refused upheaval more times than I can count. Though I've lost many roots, the one of greatest strength remains.