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

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

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

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

Balancing Head and Heart

Balancing Head and Heart

Dear Darling,

And here you are, arrived at another weekend. You are probably sleeping as I write; I ought to be. But sleep eludes, and we both know our relationship is more important than sleep, even if it exists only in the letters we write.

I think we all experience the moments (hopefully brief) where we don’t like ourselves. We balance our looks, knowledge and personality against what others have and find ourselves wanting. I’m sure you’ve looked at yourself, at your life and possessions, and not liked what you see.

I think all wise people at some point in their life come to dislike themselves, by knowing themselves too well and dislike the frailties they see. Sometimes I don’t like me. I find it strange that a lot of other people seem to. But then, I don’t think they like me…they like the side of me that they see. They like social me, professional me, the me that has learned how to make fast friends with people, especially with whom you’ll be working for the next twelve hours. We all have different sides we show, different masks we wear. We all become just a little bit of someone else if we like them and are with them.

That’s why people like hanging around Alegfast. He’s happy and positive most all of the time. There are people who artificially portray this (the overcompensating fakers…we’ve all met one of those) and then there are those who are just generally positive and outgoing. I have a classmate who constantly radiates sunshine and joy, and I truly don’t know how she does it. Happy just isn’t who I am deep down, not all the time. I’m no war-scarred veteran, but I’ve seen death and sadness and tragedy. I stay alert to what’s happening in my world. I hear the thunder-peals of storms approaching. I’ve studied the darkness, the better to know how to prepare against it. The heart doesn’t break; it just has a thousand tiny fissures in it. Soon enough they calcify and harden. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” wrote Lewis. “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become breakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Still…there’s something to be said for a heart immune to the sting and stench of brokenness. Or at least, a heart so accustomed to ache that it bends with pain rather than breaking from it.

What if you could go back and visit yourself as a child? What would you wear? What would you say? I haven’t the slightest idea where I’d begin. But I’d like to think that the me of fifteen or twenty years ago would look up to the tall man of his future walking towards him, confident and grown…and he’d be glad to know he’ll grow up to be at least most of the man he wanted to be. And as for advice? Well, how does one summarize two decades of life, in all its disappointments and triumphs? Like love, it’s really something that has to be lived to understand. Life is truly just a process of building up and then breaking down our illusions.

But again, this chubby young lad with his hick accent, goofy smile and hopeless personality was also naive enough to think adults knew what they were doing. Perhaps that would be the quickest rumor to dispel. Christ really is the solid rock, and everything else really is sinking sand. No one is ever absolutely certain of what they’re doing, and can seldom advise others any better. Often when I confront life’s dilemmas, I want to hear a word of wisdom from someone who cares enough to offer some sage counsel. Life seems increasingly flat, and people increasingly unintelligent as they offer such witless suggestions as “it’s just one of those things” or “you’ll just have to let that go.” I don’t know why I keep asking questions of people and thinking they might have a better answer than I. By the time they’ve offered a thought or a suggestion, my brain has already gone six steps ahead, and wants a new thought or a new perspective. Illuminating insights are hard to come by. And that’s why I’ve resolved to at least try to be that voice for others…advice and reason and compassion.

A nurse was obviously angry with her husband this week while we were working, and it bled over into her work. (She was unapologetically but consciously venting.) Well I don’t quite know what got into me, but I came over and massaged her shoulders and told her she needed to calm down. Then when she enumerated her cold intentions for the husband in question, I suggested going one more level up…the level of angry response where you’re so angry that you resolve to kill someone with kindness. “Tell him he may be a jerk but you love him anyway,” I suggested. “Bring home Chinese food.” She liked the Chinese food idea.

Sometimes I wonder if being Christ to the world doesn’t always mean just sharing the Gospel. Maybe it can be just the voice of being Christlike. But then, Christ emphasized to those He healed that salvation and forgiveness came before physical cures. It’s no good acting like Christ if you never meet Him.

I’m trying to reclaim that concept. I’m trying not to lose sight of what’s important. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept of grace, and if there’s such a thing as too much grace. For example, if a couple is living in sin and violating God’s design for sex, marriage and relationships, is inviting them over for dinner a form of acceptance and fellowship with darkness (that which light ought not to have) or is it an opportunity to be a gentle witness? Why does it seem like those who throw grace at you are merely wanting you to add your signature to the permission slip they’ve written themselves to sin?

We shouldn’t continue in sin that grace may increase, but obviously the Lord forgives and wipes away the debts of our immoral deeds, and rejoices over the repentant sinner. Of course, I’ve asked the question before if “behaving” is worth it, since the prodigal son is invited in for a feast (having sipped dry the fountains of sin) while the loyal brother stays in the field. When I was young, speeding was a cardinal sin, and I once admonished my father for it from my car seat. Even when older, I was careful to follow it. I suppose I’m still proud I’ve never been pulled over, while other friends share their amused commiserations of the traffic schools they’ve attended and tickets they’ve had to pay. I assumed from the Bible and my upbringing that alcohol was, if not sinful, at least a vice and certainly less preferable. But that aversion evolved into something akin to a graceless and proud perspective — graceless in struggling to accept drinking in other believers, and proud because I’ve never joined that activity. And anyway, if God forgives, what’s the point of trying? If obedience pleases God no more or less than anyone else because all our righteous acts are as filthy rags, then why wouldn’t you have a little fun? Why not let that profanity slip out a bit more easily? Why not watch movies or TV or music that set a tone far more resonant with hell than heaven?

Maybe grace is what’s more important. Maybe I’ve just been to uptight about all of it. After all, God didn’t even get on King David’s case for multiple wives…only for having a kid out of wedlock. And God was pretty matter-of-fact: “You’ve done wrong, you’ve got some consequences to pay.” The baby died, and David was sad. No death penalty. No time behind bars.

God forgives. He’s really, really forgiving. And we should all be grateful, because no one doesn’t need grace. But beyond that, I’m understanding increasingly less the fact that additional obedience doesn’t matter. Whether you’re Mother Teresa or a reformed killer, no one can “earn” God’s favor, and anyone who tries is just admonished for falling into the trap of earning God’s favor, or trying to be better than someone else. And the more people to whom I pose this question, the less answer I get in return.

That’s the balance, Darling. Balancing the head and the heart…believing what God said and lining it up with what we feel. Feelings, someone said, should be viewed through Scripture, not Scripture viewed through our feelings. Finding the heart to accept people even if your mind assertively stamps their behavior as intolerable. I stopped by to see a few friends-of-friends that are becoming friends last night. One was meeting a man she’d talked with online, and asked me for my advice. She abruptly mentioned my pursuit of purity in a mate (something I hadn’t mentioned since I’ve resolved to keep that quieter, so obviously our mutual friend brought this to her attention) and this immediately became a focus of the conversation. “It’s not a standard for me!” announced one of the girls. “You have to have some grace!” Clearly pride can be found within grace as much as in its absence. I changed the subject.

On another subject, I picked the wrong field to be a gentleman. I spent all Thursday night and Friday morning studying even further the art of breastfeeding, its pitfalls and complications, with a great many accompanying photos, illustrations and videos, along with a helpful teacher gesturing with her own body. It makes me appreciate who you are as a woman my dear, able to produce and nurture a baby. And no doubt it makes me more attuned to these things for later reference. But I can’t shake the feeling I’m being slowly desensitized and conditioned in so systematic a way as to rob from some future date the pleasure of that discovery.

In closing, I was profoundly amused tonight when my silent and stoic roommate returned home this evening with a woman with whom he’d apparently shared a date. They are both older, easily their forties or fifties. He’d only said “a friend” was coming over, he’d said nothing of a woman or a date, and I was thus unprepared to meet her. But we immediately hit it off and launched into a twenty minute conversation about politics, government and our mutual opinions of world affairs. If I had to guess from what I know of him, this was the most animated the conversation had become all evening. He sat there rather silent for most of the conversation, until I realized even if he’s been self-absorbed and remote, I should still leave him alone with his date. A brother never shows up another in front of his date, so hopefully that wasn’t the most amused she’d been. But I laughed all the way to the shower on that.

Good night, love. I hope your dreams are pleasant, and your waking no less.
Beren

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Wind Is Favorable

Dear Darling,

Here you are, you’ve made it to the end of another weekend. As the world views it, you’ve spent two days at port and it’s time to put out to sea for another five days. I hope you were restful and productive, but more important, I hope you are caught up in something meaningful and worthwhile, sufficient that your week isn’t comprised of equal parts misery and endurance.

If I should be so fortunate as to receive your inquiries about my weekend, I had to work the megachurch again. I told them I would give them two weeks to find a replacement, feeling as I am like I am taking the devil’s paycheck to guard the church of sloven and slop. They exhibited music by Katy Perry, clips by Ellen Degeneres, and are inviting the audience to vote on the next best sermon. (There’s already a suspicious tally of votes cast for a concept so newly-unveiled.) God’s Word isn’t meant to be picked through like a child’s repast; it was meant to be a progressive meal, advancing through both the difficult and the easy parts, lest we conveniently avoid the difficult teachings.

Otherwise, much of it was spent on school projects, with some time spent visiting my family (at last). There are echoes of how things used to be, but bittersweet, because I know now I can’t seek refuge there anymore to flee my troubles. They have troubles enough all their own. It’s not a place of stability to which one can retreat.

We had more surprise snow last night. Most of the city is ready for spring, but of course it made me happy. I like the ground reflecting starlight, and the clouds reflecting the lights of the city. I like houses framed in frost, hooded in white with golden light wreathing the windows from within. Snow seems to be God freshening the canvas for us, if only for a little while. There’s something magical in it. Now they say warmth is coming. Nothing lasts forever.

I decided to visit the book shop tonight to see what specials could be had, or what treasuries of poetry could be found. I can never enter that shop but that I exit with several volumes. The problem was solved because they were closed upon arrival. And who should I spy discovering this fact at the same time but Loswen, her unmistakable silhouette visible in her unmistakable car. We’d never be lovers, Loswen and I. But I text her to editorialize the irony of mutual disappointment, and then later send her a message to tell her I can see she is having mild identity issues and to encourage her. Because of course, I can perceive the things in people that others don’t. (And when I say don’t, I mean won’t. Because after all, once you know about the problem, you can’t ignore it or not be accountable for not being part of the solution.) She was surprised, and then solicited specific prayer on the matter. Sometimes it’s like having emotional x-ray vision.

This apartment is quite nice, as is the price and arrangement. But compared to Alegfast, the extra pricing and distance made it worthwhile. This man, whom I shall call Araquilde, is deathly silent, introverted and unsociable. Moreover, his daughters came to visit — silly, giggling girls still amused by their own adolescence — and left personal hygiene refuse in my washroom.

I did something very silly on Valentine’s Day, my dear. I have a large black book bag that I carry with me nearly always. It contains weeks of papers, post-its, pencils and pens, as well as markers, highlighters, mints, lights, food bars, cords, a knife, pepper spray, a stethoscope and much more. I put it in the back seat instead of the passenger seat. You know, in case I met you. Such foolish things we do when we’re alone and lonely; such foolish hopes we cling to.

I read this quote recently: “It makes me sick, the way sadness is addicting. The way I can’t stop. Sadness is familiar. It’s comfortable and it’s easy in a sense that it comes naturally to me. But everything else about it is hard. The way my body aches with self-hatred. The way my mind spins and spins with hopeless thoughts. The way it poisons everything I do, every relationship I have. Yet it’s addicting, because I know sadness, and I know it very well. And there’s a sort of comfort in that, like being home after a trip or sleeping in your own bed after being away. There’s just a sense that this is where I belong. This is how it’s supposed to be.” (Marianna Paige)

I know I’ve wondered this before my dear, but maybe all these letters are in vain. We do have to allow for the possibility, don’t we? Maybe there is no high and lofty calling. I’m approaching my thirtieth trip around the sun. I’m too old to find young love, but too young to settle for old love. You know this; I’m older than my years. 

Maybe there is no reward for virtue. Maybe if we actually find each other, our existence would be its own poetry, without all these frills and flames and rose petals — a fair lot of nonsense fueled by fantasy and flowery-tongued poets. As I look back over the last couple of years, there’s so much I’ve done and so many things I’d do differently. I’m sorry I’m not ready in time, Darling. I’m sorry I haven’t found you and swept you off your feet. I thought business and law were my calling, that there was goodness and purpose to be found. I thought that being right, that behaving and living by God’s principles would pay off. I thought being tall and caring and intelligent and listening would be enough. I didn’t expect to miss you this much, and I didn’t think it would take this long to find you. My strength isn’t fading, my dear. I can and probably will keep holding on simply because I’m stubborn that way. But as the church emphasizes grace over obedience, repentance over loyalty, and as even the Savior himself promises the worker hired to work through the heat of the day will receive the same wages as the roustabout who comes on board for an hour’s labors, I increasingly question the purpose of clinging so carefully to hypertraditionalism.

Sometimes I’d like to break this silver armor of mine. I already wrap it round to conceal it, because people hate its shine, just as a woman may dislike another for being attractive.  Sometimes in days of uncertainty, we look for surety in the strangest ways. If insecure, we seek control if even through throwing away the things that made us secure. Sometimes I’d like to be more at ease with life and its vices; drink too much and become both the triumph and pity of the culture. “See Beren, laid as low as we! He drinks to forget. He’s no better than any other, he’s just like us.” With derision they’d say I’d fallen, and yet, it would relieve them of the uncomfortable knowledge that someone could both preach and uphold such a standard.

But I don’t. I won’t. I know now there’s little reward here on earth for those who wrestle with their attempts to be good. Women don’t find it appealing, men find it annoying and neither wants to afford the sacrifices it demands. The world doesn’t love it, the church finds no incentive to reward it, and even the Almighty seems not to reward good behavior like we were taught.

Don’t be discouraged by these thoughts, Darling. On nights like these, as we each trim our sails and prepare for another excursion across choppy seas, the darkness presses close, wringing only the saddest of thoughts onto the page.

Goodnight, my dear. I love you.
Beren

February 17, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thee Alone A Cure

Time and Grief
William Lisle Bowles

O Time! who know’st a lenient hand to lay
Softest on sorrow’s wound, and slowly thence
(Lulling to sad repose the weary sense)
The faint pang stealest unperceived away;
On thee I rest my only hope at last,
And think, when thou hast dried the bitter tear
That flows in vain o’er all my soul held dear,
I may look back on every sorrow past,
And meet life’s peaceful evening with a smile:
As some lone bird, at day’s departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam, of the transient shower
Forgetful, though its wings are wet the while:—
Yet ah! how much must this poor heart endure,
Which hopes from thee, and thee alone, a cure!

February 17, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Poems | , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Another Day

Dear Darling,

I’m sorry. I know today must have been at least a little unkind to you, if for no other reason than because you were alone. With valiant shades of pink, red and purple, with confectionery treats and horticultural blessings abounding and a dance floor full of fools, floozies and lovers and a tune you love, it’s hard to bid your feet be still. Truly, I wish I could have been there for you, to rescue from it. It may not have been a night to be carried away on a violet cloud of emotion and sentiment, but it could have been a day to spend together, or a chance to grow fonder. Instead, we spent it apart.

I’m so sorry.

I dearly hope you made at least some use of it. I? Well, I spent much of its darker hours in the Houses of Healing, and some of it at rest afterward. Actually, it was another overambitious play for study and work, beginning with a live simulation in the morning, a hasty lunch, a work-related training module and then sixteen hours across two different floors. This was followed by a swift breakfast and two hours of lecture for which I could scarcely stay awake.

By the time I wearily rolled to a stop, it had been a straight twenty-eight hours without rest, most of which were spent either with schooling or working. It was the kind of long day and night where you wish and hope someone will be waiting for you, to feed you and praise you and put you to bed. Someone who will show appreciation and pride and gratitude for your hard work, taking pride in a husband so fine as to give so deeply of himself daily. Not too long ago, a friend exclaimed “night shift is hard!” This is a truth with which I am intimately acquainted, but hearing it validated for the first time was gratifying. Before then, it was borne as truth that is silent and unacknowledged.

It’s a different world there Darling. Truly — a different world. Here death and his enemies dwell together, fighting a unique and often unseen war, behind the curtains where society shouldn’t look, and often family members dare not.

There is a brink and a chasm between life and death and standing in that gap are the healers charged with keeping as many souls on this side as they can. We see how fragile life can be…and how tenacious. Sometimes it comes down to the balance of a hair…a balance whose weight rests heavily on all of our shoulders.

There is no makeup, no hiding, no masks. Modesty, propriety, our public game faces, all are left at the threshold. Errors paid for in blood and death.  Wounds seep, tears are shed and cries of pain echo. Their worst day is our everyday. We exist to lend grace and dignity in their most undignified moments, making the best of a bad situation. We are professionally and habitually unselfish. We put ourselves dead-last twelve and fourteen hours a day. We routinely, habitually and completely empty ourselves every shift. We surrender sleep, sanity and self to make our patients feel better. Our every day is the occasion to which others would have to rise.

I’d like you to be able to take pride in what your future husband does, my dear. That’s why I tell you this. No one wants to feed one’s own ego with self-placating praise, but we all need to hear that what we do is important, that we’re making a difference and our time isn’t wasted. When no one else (outside of the Houses themselves) understand this, one may resort to assuring himself of that fact. Healing is never “just a job.”

It is of course difficult to inflate one’s opinion of self-worth when one’s tasks frequently include the most menial of assignments, lowly of patients and basest of filth. And yet, it is difficult to diminish one’s worth when its direct results are seen in relief, gratitude and improvement in the condition of human suffering. In short, it’s meek work, but it always makes a difference, and if no one else tells us that, we have to tell ourselves.

I’d like you to be nurturing enough to know I am spent or weighted down and feel it incumbent on yourself to respond, whether by feeding me and then laying my head in your lap and asking what’s the matter, or by lovingly ordering me to the destination for which I was already bound.

We all need to be held. There is no substitute for arms full of compassion and willing to hold you for as long as you need it. Or so I’m told. I’ve never been looked-after in such a way. I hope I can look forward to it. I certainly know you can, and God willing by the skilled and well-taught hands of someone who knows.

It snowed again tonight. I spent some time with Loswen, Alegfast and their friends, before accepting the invitation which dispelled the last six weeks of silence between my family and I. I hope and pray those wounds, though maybe not forgotten, can be recovered from.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, my dear. I’m sorry today was just another day. I promise I’ll make it up to you in the days to come.

Fondest thoughts from far away.

Love,
Beren

February 15, 2014 Posted by | About Me, Holidays, Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Respite

Dear Darling,

It’s been quite a varied and interesting couple of days. Friday began with an examination for which I in no way felt prepared. (My pursuit, you see, is largely and capably designed to trick its pupils into answering incorrectly.) Instead, the final result was triumph in the highest degree.

The day then progressed to an hour-long session of testimonials for the medical field, which I found fairly unusual since everyone present was already within the field. But they provided lunch, and who am I to quarrel with a free meal? I was particularly grateful for the woman who put the Lord at the forefront of her short delivery, placing him as the guide in her life.

Then I went to work and asked if they needed help. They initially said no, but I knew one of the floors well enough to visit and tell them to call and confirm they did, in fact, need help. They did, and most gratefully accepted my assistance for the remainder of the work shift.

I visited a foreign eatery with some friends afterward, though by the protestations of my stomach, the amounts were insufficient. To my surprise, the Lady Kirche was there. A wound reopened can neutralize any triumph.

Yesterday was quiet. More snow fell, making for a very scenic afternoon overlooking the whitened yard in between buildings. I studied and worked a shift at the megachurch. I was invited out by a few people for dinner and a game night. This makes the third “crew” of young(er) adults willing to invite me along, which of course is kind, but they’re cut from the same cloth. Silly and giggly, with suggestive humor, crude joking and irreverent use of the Lord’s name. (Generally a very strong argument against fellowship — treating my King’s name casually.) They’re certainly not the type of people who understand me. I don’t know how I swam my way into the shoals where schools of fish find me attractive, but among whom no attractive mate seems to emerge. Another volunteer at the church announced her anticipation of Valentine’s Day. She was quizzical about my distaste for the upcoming celebrations until she remembered with whom she spoke, and then paid me the compliment I often hear but seldom internalize — “you’re such a great guy!”

The weekend is supposed to offer respite, but it’s been mostly all work and study. One day I’ll break into a new lifestyle, but for now I couldn’t imagine having the free time I’ll have then. Right now, everything seems up in the air again. I haven’t seen my family since New Years. I’ve only lived at this place for a couple of weeks. I think my roommate was drunk last night but I’m not sure.

And yet. It’s so nice to have an actual winter. The trees are frosted. The taller ones are topped with frozen diadems that sparkle in the sunlight. The smaller trees are bent low with ice as though bowing to them. It’s interesting how the same weather can affect both plants and people so differently, depending on their resilience.

I was surprise to learn a colleague of mine passed away three days ago. We worked on some of the same cases though we never met, and had communicated on several occasions. Her faith led her home, but it was unexpected.

On the subject of caring. I’ve mentioned before my attempts to stay friendly but properly distant from one of the production directors who clearly is attracted. An officer friend of mine told me that by perceiving she was upset and inquiring, I was sending mixed messages. I told him I tried to strike the right balance, but that professionally and personally, I care about people. I don’t know how not to do that, nor how not to be the person I often need others to be. But, that seems my fate, or the fate of anyone who really cares — ever caring, seldom cared for. I hope I’ve never showed improper restraint enough to hurt someone by sending mixed messages.

That particular young lady is also much younger in her mind and her experience than most people her age. Therein lies a much greater problem. It’s not the years, it’s the mileage. For the miles I’ve been through, I often find myself more on the level with someone older than me…something I often said was not a preference. Generally speaking, it seems wives are younger than their husbands, but most anyone who is younger is very young.

 

I’ve begun operating off the presumption that, deep down, “no one cares.” It’s more than a misanthropic platitude; it’s the assumption I find fits most of life’s experience, and a careful reminder not to share or open up with people unnecessarily. It’s also translated into a vast reduction in activity on Facebook. No one cares where you are or why, and the majority of motivations for posting are to perpetuate an image because you think it will improve peoples’ opinions of you. My reflections, my opinions, my activities and my achievements, all are becoming my own rather than for others. It’s a despondent sort of liberation, but a true and necessary one, and ushers in its own variety of peace.

Darling, I hope you are enjoying your snow if you have any, and are enjoying a weekend’s respite. I hope you are praying for me half so fervently as I pray for you.

Yours sincerely,
Beren

February 9, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment