Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Rainlight

RainlightDear Darling,

We’re coming down to it…the term’s end, and summer’s beginning. But a few hurdles lie ahead, though large ones. I’ve finally been free enough to work some, and probably should be working tonight, as late as I’m up. But I’m not.

I think it’s going to rain today.

In fact, I know it will, because through the window I can hear the marching synchrony of raindrops on the streets outside. It’s knocked off a bit of the restless wandering urge, this rain, but only a little. It was a cold and steady arm around my shoulder as I walked in it tonight, getting soaked and trying to find the words to compose a prayer. I didn’t have much to say, but couldn’t hear much in return either. It’d be easier if all we had to do is listen, wouldn’t it?

I can hear a distant siren crying out as I pick my way down the sidewalk. The dripping trees offer little shelter as I pass under them, but I didn’t come out here for shelter. The street lights offer their own interpretation of the rain and bounce their light off the glistening pavement. The stone statue of a dog arrests my attention for a half-second before I see it’s only a statue. By the time I’ve returned, a half-hour has passed, and it seems very little has transpired between my Maker and I.

Of all the important things I should want or pray for, of all the sins I should confess or blessings I should count, all the petitions and praises I should offer, it’s only for you that I ask. To find you, and that until then you may find blessing. It’s the only thing I can give you. And for some strange reason, the thought crosses my mind that maybe you’re finding your blessing in the arms of another man tonight. I can only sigh and ask the Lord to let me find someone no less or more flawed than me. I’m sure that will be a low standard with which to measure.

There aren’t many people left to talk to these days. There were souls I once knew who could listen and talk, especially late at night, but I’m losing them one by one. And that’s just as well. I’m sure they don’t need a friend to haunt them at night with his meandering thoughts or wandering questions. And I should learn better how to get by without leaning so much on others.

Last summer was probably my favorite time of my life so far, so I’ve hopes that this summer will unfold at least as much promise, for travel and new experience.

No burgeoning revelations tonight, my dear. No profound thoughts leaking from a wayfaring heart. Just the quiet and simple thoughts of a loveless groom still waiting on his bride.

Yours,
Beren

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April 30, 2014 Posted by | Nights Like These | , , , | Leave a comment

Gypsy Soul

TheWandererDear Darling,

These days, if my feet aren’t pacing, my mind is.

I can’t explain it to you because I don’t quite understand myself. All I know is, I have to be on the move. Something in the core of my soul, if not my body, drives me to press on and conquer and achieve.  It’s not like I don’t have plenty to do. Easter was spent at the house of Gladhbrui’s family for lunch, and then my family’s for dinner. When I returned home, I had a presentation and a paper to complete, among other assignments. Monday was full of class, exercise and Bible study, after which I worked the overnight and then went to clinical the next day. After a 28-hour day (I’ve missed those long hauls!) I slept four hours and then cleaned the house.

Still. Restless.

You’ll find this about me, my dear. I owe allegiance neither to day nor night. I will be up late into the wee hours chasing a muse, or up early chasing a paycheck. I may be up all day, or all night, or both. It’s only fair to warn you that no hour will be off-limits for me, except for consideration of your consonant slumber. (I look forward to the day when sleep is a privilege and joy rather than a begrudging obligation.)

Last week, finally free of the majority of scholastic encumbrance, I vented my repressed energy by running a league, swimming three furlongs and doing some lifts. (In another life, maybe I was meant to be an Olympian.)

I visited the family too, and paid call to the bridge. The weather’s far more inviting now, so I parked my car at the top of the hill hoping no house nearby found it disturbing, and slowly descended toward the creek. I think a lot of people mistake the calm and communion with nature for connection with God, or a substitute for being in His house. Drawing near to a perfect and holy God isn’t always the serene and comforting experience people hope it will be. But for me, I find it hard to be genuine with the Lord unless He and I are alone. Still more, in a still evening with civilization miles away. But it bothers me. I should be glorifying God in my prayers. On the eve celebrating His suffering, death and victory, I should be thanking Him only for His indescribably gift of salvation and redemption. To be sure, my prayers have been filled with more gratitude of late, but sometimes I feel it’s a broken record, of gratitude, requests, prayers for others, and prayers about you. I’m grateful the Lord doesn’t weary of prayers for and about you.

Still. Restless.

I wonder what Alegfast thinks. “What’cha looking for?” he quizzed, as I dug through a volume of poetry. “Inspiration,” I sighed. Most evenings now, I walk the blocks trying to pray through the clouds and the pollution of lights. I walk past so many houses with TVs on and find myself hoping I never become someone so simple as to be content just watching TV every night. Some of us have to earn our contentment with heroic efforts, and sometimes I wonder if life wouldn’t be easier if I were satisfied by a disposable dinner and a TV show warmed over.

Maybe I have the trademarked gypsy soul. It’s not as though I never want to settle down, or have developed a penchant for hoop earrings and itinerant panflutes. But I do get chronically restless just sitting still. I have to go somewhere, be on the move, even if it’s just for a walk. I have to escape, to the bookshop or the roadside jogging trail, or the gym. I’ve been searching lately for another park to haunt.

Haunting, as everyone knows, is a deed best performed alone. Searching on the map, there’s only squares of green, and none to tell you which ones are open, which ones offer moonlit pastures or which are free of other wanderers. I spent some time visiting some of them recently, but I’ve yet to find what I’m looking for. (I now have a better knowledge of my surroundings, but I’m out the gas and time and took to find them.)

But haunting is also a lonely and, yes, restless business. Sometimes I’m out there all alone and think it would make a great story if you were out there wandering also. But that’s just the fatalistic nonsense the fairy tales are made of. And anyway, we’d both be startled out of our wits to find we’re not alone.

For now, the pedagogues and headmasters are nearly through exacting their penalties for choosing to pursue the path of the healer. It’s been an incredible year already to spend in the world of mothers, babies and childbirth. It’s presented its singular frustrations that I’ve had to withhold. I know which hospital to choose for the birth of our children. I know what songs I’ll sing to them. I know how to go about raising them. More education I’d rather have received with you.

I’m hoping and praying you’re not quite as restless as all this, and that maybe you’ve found a peace and a calling to last you at least until we meet. Until then, I’ll just be here, searching for peace and chasing forever.

Yours,
Beren

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Severed Selves

LoveApart

Severed Selves
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Two separate divided silences,
Which, brought together, would find loving voice;
Two glances which together would rejoice
In love, now lost like stars beyond dark trees;
Two hands apart whose touch alone gives ease;
Two bosoms which, heart-shrined with mutual flame,
Would, meeting in one clasp, be made the same;
Two souls, the shore wave-mocked of sundering seas:-
Such are we now. Ah! may our hope forecast
Indeed one hour again, when on this stream
Of darkened love once more the light shall gleam? —
An hour how slow to come, how quickly past,–
Which blooms and fades, and only leaves at last,
Faint as shed flowers, the attenuated dream.

April 23, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Winds Change

Dear Darling,

Writing can sometimes be a burdensome task. Especially when I’m on a deadline. I finished and sent off the article, though a grade or two suffered for it, and in the arranging I’m now told it will likely be a cover story.

Sometimes, writing can be burdensome because the wheels of your mind turn quicker than the paper which receives them, or the hands which channel them.

Neither is the case tonight. Tonight, I know only that I want to talk with you. Haven’t you ever rung up a friend, just because you felt like talking with them? And here I have no one properly within reach to listen.

Weather is a failsafe topic on which to begin, isn’t it? Has it been rain and sunshine and snowfall and red moons where you are? The daffodils, tulips and creeping phlox were all shivering under a snowy blanket this morning. But the days before, spring made her preliminary entrance again, and we all greeted her like a friend long-expected whose presence had been long missed. And I realized, it’s not just the summer winds from the south, or the westerly autumn winds that drive me to fits of restlessness; it’s the changing of the winds themselves. It’s the seasonal turning of pages and fitful ending of chapters. It’s the reminder that time is passing, ever passing, each moment curling off into oblivion permanently stamped with your absence.

A few nights ago, I had time on my hands and a turbulent disquiet in my heart. It wanted moonlight, night air and solitude, so I mapped my route for the park on the northside. There were no gates or closing times posted so I didn’t seem to be trespassing,
but nor was there a soul around. I paced the sporting fields and scanned the horizons. My city is a lovely blend of urban and rural, so these pastures weren’t cramped. But the glare of lights reflecting against the clouds, to say nothing of revelers heard off in the distance, fell far short of the previous night’s walk along the bridge.

The night after, I walked the blocks of neighborhood around the bungalow Alegfast and I now share. He came along for a time before retiring. I continued on. But the walks in the city don’t compare. I’m rather afraid, my dear, that if I’m to find any peace in this life, it will have to be by finding a house outside the city limits, and probably far outside them.

How have you spent these last few nights? Do you find the quality of life increases with your years…and yet, also loneliness? Do you have regrets about how you’ve spent your time thus far? Are you striving to trust God with your wrong turns and unmet hopes? It’s miles that count my dear, not the years.

Tell me this. Have you ever felt like someone owed you? It’s a feeling that turns easily to bitterness, and any time the feeling of obligation or entitlement creeps in, any time my mind suggests I deserve something, I try to hold those thoughts in check. I don’t deserve anything. But on occasion, I do find myself thinking I “deserve” better. I’ve put effort into birthdays and gifts and occasions for people. It doesn’t always turn out right, but I give gifts I can’t afford, or plan parties as complete surprises. I don’t know what I’m trying to say, except that I’ve come across people for whom I’ve tried really hard and met only lackluster response. I suppose what I’m trying to say is, putting emotion and feeling into your gratitude, if ever I earn it, will go a long way. Gratitude, appreciation, the knowledge that what I did made a difference…that’s pretty much the only consideration I ask.

Yes, sometimes it is a lonely existence out here, Darling. Yes, I know you couldn’t tell because I’ve only brought it up the last two hundred letters in a row, but sometimes there are times of emptiness and loneliness when it seems there’s not a thought worth thinking. Those moments sneak up on you. When that happens, you have to have something to run to, or from, or with. A couple of weeks ago, I took myself out to a movie. Last weekend, I suggested an impromptu park dinner, which turned into semi-fast food on a pavement veranda. (It amused me that I was the only guy amongst five single women, none of whom were of particular interest to me.)

And they are friends, in their own way. But somehow, through no fault of their own, they can’t meet me where I am. No matter who I’m with, I’m always a little bit alone. They don’t understand what it’s like to live and work among the sick, to be a healer. They don’t understand the bearing of swords. They’re sheep. Sheepdogs get me, because I get them. And I wonder if a sheepdog can be happy to end up with a sheep. Nor do those who bear the swords understand that I love weapons only for their use. When I work among the healers, they don’t understand the political work I’ve done, or why I choose to work with them instead. The unbelievers don’t understand my standards, and even the believers think I take the Lord too seriously sometimes.

It’s too much to imagine you’ll ever understand me on all these dimensions, my dear. I’ve no doubt I will fall far short in apprehending the multifaceted, nuanced and many-splendid dimensions on which you exist. But how wonderful it would be if we both tried?

Were this a phone call, these scattered thoughts would, I’m sure, made for on occasionally halting conversation.

Wherever you rest under starlight and moonlight, I wish you warmth, peace and purpose this night.

Love,
Beren

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Sundry Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Memorium

In Memorium
Alfred Tennyson

Now fades the last long streak of snow,
Now burgeons every maze of quick
About the flowering squares, and thick
By ashen roots the violets blow.

Now rings the woodland loud and long,
The distance takes a lovelier hue,
And drown’d in yonder living blue
The lark becomes a sightless song.

Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
The flocks are whiter down the vale,
And milkier every milky sail
On winding stream or distant sea;

Where now the seamew pipes, or dives
In yonder greening gleam, and fly
The happy birds, that change their sky
To build and brood; that live their lives

From land to land; and in my breast
Spring wakens too; and my regret
Becomes an April violet,
And buds and blossoms like the rest.

April 13, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Man in the Mirror

ManintheMirrorDear Darling,

Who do you see looking at you out of that mirror in the mornings? Who is it staring back at you over your sink and what secrets, praises, shames and kindness lie behind those eyes reflecting back at you?

That man in the mirror…sometimes I don’t know what to make of him. Sometimes I think he’s skilled and kind and slowly becoming everything he’s ever wanted to be, even if it looks a lot different. Sometimes I’m well nigh proud of him. And oftentimes, I realize that the pair of eyes meeting mine knows everything I do about myself, and that’s just unnerving. Sometimes that man in the mirror shakes his head at me and tells me to stop looking at my workout progress in the mirror. He questions whether or not that time is well-spent, or if I spend as much time bettering my soul as I do my body.

He reminds me I’m not really a good man if I expect others to return my kindness.

He orders me to get my thoughts in line with God’s word, and wags a finger at me if they get off-track.

He reminds me that even though we’re forgiven and covered by the blood, we must still repent to God, and that I don’t repent often enough. He reminds me there’s already enough life behind me to lift my head high with pride and bow it low with shame.

He reminds me I’ve skipped Bible study two weeks in a row already, and my Bible is scarcely cracked since the last study. (In fairness, I’ve listened to all of James and 1st/2nd Peter, plus accompanying sermons this week.)

I’m reminded to be more content with what I have, and wonder why I’m not. Why, I had four friends bake a cake, sign a card and take me out to dinner for my birthday. Alegfast bought my dinner. Other friends join me the night before for dinner and a movie, and laughs, presents and more cake with my family tonight. (“Three free dinners in a row!” snorts the man in the mirror, who would cuff the side of my head reprovingly if he could.)

I have no right to get into the car after spending time with my family and laughing harder than I have in some time, and feeling your absence, my dear, as soon as I turn the key.

How comes it that nothingness can take on form? How does emptiness flow like a flooding torrent, seeping right through the walls that inescapably pervade my existence, the minute I part company with people? People, who are so often the curse as much as the cure?

I have to stop taking shelter in those feelings like a dog going back to his den.

I do think I’ve found a church, my dear. I’ve not scoured from one end to the other, who knows, maybe you are there. Life lays more heavily on some of these. People here are sheep, and oft’times I no less than they, but at least they’re trying. I sat there this morning and had to remind myself I’m not more spiritual just because I shook off sleep to come here when someone else didn’t. I don’t care more just because I put on a coat and tie this morning when someone else didn’t, or because I carry a real Bible and other people use phones.

I wonder as I watch them, how do so many of them take relationships in stride? I’m certain the day is coming when I’ll take you for granted, but someone who makes life itself a little easier, whose presence I will one day be unable to imagine living without? To know I can take into my arms and kiss any time I want? To have children with? Children…! 

Compare with them the sheep in the rest of the world. I will say, watching people always fascinates me. Yesterday I worked trackside, a thrill to say the least. Thirty thousand souls crowded into the stands in their finery, a spectacle that even royalty travels to see. Rich and poor, pupil and master, all are here — and soon to be equalized by alcohol. Thirty thousand of them, and only three of us actually permitted on the track, present here for emergencies, kicking up dirt as we chase those flying hooves. The different people that you see…they’re not really trying that hard…this is for the Monday through Friday living, not the good behavior of Sundays. But I still do wish I could do more than stand at the ready to patch their bodies. What does the body matter when the soul is in peril?

And of course, that was but a fraction of what’s on my agenda this week. After pitching this article for months, the editor finally approved it, but only if I could provide a finished product within the fortnight. Last week, projects were due nearly every day. This week I have a research project due, prep work, a quiz Thursday, a scholarship showcase, a community emergency simulation and a Bible study. I have exams Friday and Monday, and I’ve already just done a quiz tonight.

And that man in the mirror, well, he just shakes his head at how busy I am, but smiles knowingly because he knows deep down I like the sweet madness of it all. And he sighs because he knows a touch of your hand would quell the tremors of my restless mind. He knows your heart would give me a reason to sit still, and that my mind will be just a little less at ease every time you leave, and just a little more at ease every time you return.

You’ll have to look at this man in the mirror one day. (It’s bad enough I have to face him, so I’m just sorry you’ll have to!) He’ll be what you see when you fall asleep and when you wake up. He’ll be the face you see waiting for you by the altar, and by your side when you’re in labor. He’ll be the face you’ll be caressing, and the face you’ll want to slap sometimes. And Lord willing, he’ll be the same face looking back at me in fifty years. Will I even be able to look at myself without shame then? Will I have kept the faith? What troubles will those eyes have seen?

That man in the mirror, sometimes his smile is a tired one and he knows I sacrifice sleep to write to you, because writing to you helps defray the inflations of silence inside my head, the bottled-up thoughts I withhold for reasons that are my own. It helps me to think you’re out there, listening and caring. It steadies me.

There will be times like this in our marriage too, my dear. A couple of left-hand rings don’t fix all the ills of the world. The indecision, whether great or small, may be a source of great frustration for me, let alone you. I may rant and agonize and question to your endless consternation. But eventually that man in the mirror makes up his mind, makes his decision, and walks out that door to face the world doing everything he knows to do to get it right.

And me? Well, I sure hope you’ll be out there having my back.

Thanks, love. Best hopes and prayers from my corner of the galaxy.

Yours,
Beren

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Birthday

On My Birthday
Matthew Prior

I, my dear, was born to-day—
So all my jolly comrades say:
They bring me music, wreaths, and mirth,
And ask to celebrate my birth:
Little, alas! my comrades know
That I was born to pain and woe;
I, my dear, was born to-day:
Shall I salute the rising ray,
Well-spring of all my joy and woe?
My dearest, thou alone dost know.
Shall the wreath surround my hair?
Or shall the music please my ear?
Shall I my comrades’ mirth receive,
And bless my birth, and wish to live?
Then let me see great Venus chase
Imperious anger from thy face;
Then let me hear thee smiling say—
‘Thou, my dear, wert born to-day.’

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , | 2 Comments

Something New

Dear Darling,

After three years, life in its course begins to reveal certain patterns. I read back through these letters and realize I’ve told you the same thing different times, and each time as if it were new. Sometimes I fear the slightest vestiges of senility are lurking behind these incidents, but sometimes the churning agitations of my brain recapitulate old thoughts in new skins and I forget that I’ve thought them before. I’ve never made any sensational claims about my memory, and the nature of my work is such to work with quasi-strangers and throngs of crowds, with the end result of dulling my mind to new faces and names.

Among these repeated thoughts tonight is an apparent binge lifestyle with work and school. Last weekend was a move. This week, there have been projects due every single day. I’m writing another two articles, one of which the editor imposed upon me a tight deadline after weeks of my suggesting we cover this topic.

In short, I have been busy all week, up until about three hours ago. Poised on the precipice of a blank in my schedule, mere minutes after the week’s obligations rounded out, I immediately wanted something to do. On nights like these I get restless. Alegfast suggested it was one’s latent urge to have nearly as much enjoyment as one has had work. (We’ve much to catch up on if I’m to set those two at equals!)

I suppose I find myself wanting something new. Which should technically be branded as some outlying mode of insanity, given that my head is inundated with new information every day, information I’m expected to retain and master. But I do. On rare occasions, I do things simply for their novelty, simply because they break the molds. And other times, I wish someone would feel the urge to step into my life and make it better, the same urge I feel for others.

So what do I do? Browse a few headlines and video titles, try to clear out some of the multitasked browswer windows I maintain at all times. I converse with Alegfast for a bit. He and Gladhbrui want to go southward again this summer, but I fear their constant oversharing, discussion of private subjects and their undiluted, incessantly nonromantic intimacy will prove the unmaking of any relaxation I may find.

Visiting an ice cream shop appeals, but the hour is late and they don’t sell abs next to the double fudge brownie triple-scoop.

I started a new job too. You should have been there. It required getting up long before the sun, but you’ve done that enough to know it has its own unique and worthy advantages. It was a chance to renew my love for this land and its roots. This is horse country and these are horse people. They all know each other, but I’m new so they’re a little closed off. They’ll give me time, and until then they’re not unkind. My colleague is not terribly older than I, open and honest, not yet particularly jaded or crusty like most emergency responders. The outrider with whom we’re talking has a voice like Jack Webb, sitting tall atop his horse and dragging on a cigarette. He’s constantly but good-naturedly berating every rider and worker he sees. The horses and their riders race by. One in particular pounds past at full racing speed with leather cinched, muscles tensed and mane flying. I breathe in a silent thrill; there was something familiar and vicariously stimulating about a horse and rider moving in synchrony.

Only a few short weeks remain in this term. If I’m honest, last summer was the best I ever had. This summer could hold just as much potential. Imagine this relentless pace, but lived at my own discretion for work and travel.

It’s all coming together, Darling. It’s almost like the saying of Scripture, “do whatever your hand finds to do for the Lord is with you.” I lack only you. Sometimes in these turbid and tumultuous weeks, there are fractions of a day I even lack the time to think about or desire you. I feel like every day I’m becoming more the man God wants me to be, the man you’ll want me to be. But these are also the days of growth, days we should grow together, and we’re missing those.

Well, cheer up Luthien. Spring is breaking and summer is not far behind. The future comes at us sixty seconds per minute, and of all the seconds amassed behind and before us, there is yet to come the first to share together.

Until then, never forget, I love you with all my heart.

Yours,
Beren

April 3, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , | Leave a comment