Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Sundry Summer Thoughts

Man Alone by the Sea

“The urge to run, the restlessness
The heart of stone I sometimes get
The things I’ve done for foolish pride
The me that’s never satisfied
The face that’s in the mirror when I don’t like what I see
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me.”

Tim McGraw

Dear Darling,

I’m not entirely sure my little vacation did me the good it ought to have. I think instead it was a respite without requiescence, disrupting the restless and sometimes reckless pace that I love — and hate — to maintain. The past couple of nights at work I’ve struggled. There were patients who offered a meaningful thank-you when I was able to console and relieve their pains; a tender reminder of exactly why I’m in this business. Of course, tonight I must needs reshuffle the sleeping arrangements for church tomorrow, and the hours of night already fly.

1) I went walking tonight, but I find my walks less productive of late. Perhaps they needn’t always produce fervent prayers or glimmering revelations, but it does seem as though desire and inspiration have trended downward. Perhaps I am in a holding pattern at the moment, biding my time for studies to resume, and until I find you. Perhaps desire smolders and inspiration is subdued through some disuse. I haven’t found you to live for and care for, nor anyone to render like compensation in my name. I think I’ll always need something for which to struggle, even though it weighs heavily at the time. I’ll always need something to which I can look forward as well. I hope you’ve likewise set goals for yourself? If not, I hope you will. I hope to learn archery, to ride a hot air balloon, and to once again straddle a horse. Then of course there’s the travel I mentioned, and the time to pursue more outdoors sports such as biking, canoeing and kayaking.

So my walk seems devoid of true purpose. The thoughts aren’t so loud as the often seem, nor so pressing. The silence seems a poor gift to lay at the throne, but so do the same names I’ve brought before, or the nameless, selfsame bride to whom I write.

2) There are nights where yours and my words will run dry. Ah, but that’s why they invented kissing.

3) I’ll write more about this one day, but as you might imagine, there are a great number of women who think shedding the majority of their raiment for seaside recreation is perfectly acceptable. By society, it is. (And what man wouldn’t approve of a woman feeling herself “liberated” from clothes?) By myself, it is not. Please remember, my dear, the simple reality that you can either cover up, or contribute to the constant battle of a man to look at women honorably, no matter how dishonorably they dress. Some men still wage such a war, and I greatly hope you will want to air on his side.

4) On my travels back, I sat between a Buddhist and a lesbian. I struck up a conversation with the former and, being a dabbler myself, was able to instruct him about some of the more technical points of photography and camera operation. The woman to my right paid some attention, and when our plane landed, we all sat down for a bit before our connecting flights. I was able to share the gospel with both of them at that time…perhaps the most gratifying moment of my trip. At a time when I felt like I’d neglected the things of the Kingdom, or that I wasn’t shining bright enough, it seems He sent to me the opportunity to shine for Him, and for that I was thoroughly grateful.

5) Within two sunsets of my having returned, I prevailed upon a friend to temper his urge to move, and accompanied him on a thirteen hour excursion into the deep south with a load of furniture and possessions. He is an intellectual, and he understands fully the perilous direction society is trending. Our conversation was heavy with topics ranging from Catholicism and transubstantiation to farm subsidies and taxation. Before we left, I had occasion to play with, feed, change and then rock to sleep his infant son. It reminded me again that although there are things I hope for us both to accomplish before we begin our own family, I will be gratified when the day comes. On our car trip, his father noted the Catholic enjoinment that marital intimacy was reserved strictly for reproduction. This reminded me that I am most certainly not Catholic.

6) I wonder what excuses I will find when I am finally out of school and fully commissioned, but this summer has afforded the opportunity to resume some reading. I’ve put away the Diary of Anne Frank, The Last Lecture and am currently working through Oliver Twist, to say nothing of the poetry I continue to peruse. (That last bit comes from a volume I found tonight in the shop, and is best read with a crisp Scottish brogue if you can manage it.)

7) Did you ever stop to wonder when you became “the smart one”? I’ve noticed an increasing trend here of late. A comment on the subjugation and colonialism of south African nations (and how diamonds are a marketing trick) led one nurse to look at me and ask, not entirely without sarcasm, how I got so smart. I’ve reached a cruising altitude in my job now where some nurses ask me questions. A friend asked me the meaning of a word. Naturally this makes me check myself to make sure I’m not swaggering knowledge. But of course, I forget not everyone is on the same page as I.

8) Do you ever evaluate in your own way whether or not God is happy with you? Of course, we are all made perfect in the sight of God, but if that is the only standard by which to measure, then there is no incentive in striving to please God passed the shadow of the cross. For example, does it make God happier that I sponsored a child than if I hadn’t? Would be be more pleased if I paid more? Not, of course, that the favor of the Almighty can be purchased, nor that scales such as the widow’s mites can be ignored. But I do find myself wondering, asking, hoping, that God can smile down from heaven in pride, knowing that His son is seeking and striving to better the world as often as may be, and imploring others to repent and be saved when he can. I do know that I need to work on grace and forgiveness, love and acceptance and patience. I think the prayer we must all pray is that God may make us more like His Son each day.

9) In olden days, men of valor performed great deeds and the minstrels sung of them. Now as a rule, neither men  nor their deeds are great. They sit idly by and revere the minstrels. I live to see the most amazing things, working with the warriors, the guardians and sentinels, the menders and the healers, preservers of peace and keepers of health. We don’t ask for admiration. But on nights when I venture out among friends, I often harbor a hidden disbelief that they laud the vapid and insignificant stories and brush aside those who stand on the front lines of all that has meaning in this world.

10) Often it’s the saddest and heaviest of emotions that drive me to process them in a letter to you. I think it’s the same with God; we hear him best when hardship drives us to Him for answers. And so, when I seem to unburden the gravest of loads, I hope you appreciate that these are not the sum total of my thoughts or experience. Much of it means I’m only unhappy in your absence; that I don’t have someone else to live for, and that when I have entertained such hopes in the past, I’ve been far more pleasant to be around. My dearest, you’re the answer to this problem. You’re the other half. You’ll mellow me out. You’ll make me okay either with relaxing or with not being relaxed.

There’s more, Darling. There’s always more. But for now, the loose ends have been threaded through honesty’s ink-jar and arranged in a way which I hope you will find agreeable. Doubtless you’ll be rising before long for worship, and I hope you find it meaningful.

Yours,
Beren

Advertisements

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , , | 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

On This Winter’s Night

“The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you.”

Dear Darling,

I greatly hope the new year is treating you even better than the last, heedless of how blessed the last year might have been. Mine? A friend succinctly surmised that last year seems to be bleeding into this year. I expect this year to usher in just as many unexpected cures and curses as the last, and perhaps more. Scattered among the many loose ends, I hope to find the cord that can will lead me to your door. Now wouldn’t you be a bundle of nerves if I were to knock this very night…!

It’s wickedly cold outside, as is the case for most of the country. We are not accustomed to such temperatures in this part of the country, and I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision. You may think me odd, but I’m also grateful for the opportunity to weather such times of hardship. They teach us about ourselves, and make us stronger. Not that much strength can be derived from central heating, but you see what I mean. I’m also grateful to have and share God’s promise in Genesis 8, which many forget: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

I was able to impart this promise with some success to a friend of Alegfast, whom I shall call Loswen. (Its translation from the Elvish roughly means snow-maiden) who is loth to see winter take such fierce hold. The poor dear…I like her, though not romantically, and can see there is frost on her soul that wants thawing. But as I have learnt before, there are some frosts that aren’t mine to thaw.

This past weekend consisted of mostly work, eat and sleep. A lot of days seem to consist of that anymore. I don’t mind, but sometimes I lose track of how much I’ve slept, or when I’ve eaten. I awoke from a nap on Sunday and forgot that I hadn’t eaten lunch.

The next week promises more of the same. I’m also moving again. Alegfast has begun final arrangements, and it appears it’s time to be moving on. God provides, and his provision in this case appears to be arrangements typically far beyond my means. It will put me closer to work and school as well.

Ties with my family have been temporarily but viciously severed for the past few days, a fact which I am at a loss to correct. There’s been no new word this week, and for that I am honestly grateful.

I’ve resolved to spend less time on Facebook if possible this year, and perhaps even less time with digital relationships entirely. Social media has been a vice of mine. The time is better spent in physical health, and relationships, and in study and reading.

School starts back next week. I’ll be glad, but I realized tonight that in dealing with children and a likely front-seat viewing for the miracle of childbirth, it might make me thoughtful for our forthcoming years as parents. Hmm.

These days, I have been contemplating the concept of value. This may seem an oversimplified and abundantly obvious truth, but ultimately, human beings only desire something for its value. Even the charitable and beneficent derive a kind of value from their good works, even if just a feeling of having created value. We hear of people who want greater compensation for their work, but these people overestimate their value in the equation. We complain about the high cost and compensation for doctors and surgeons, but when we require their specialty and expertise, their skill is of inestimable value to restore our bodies and save lives. And as much as we complain about the wealth of musicians and storytellers, at the end of the day these people add value to our lives by making us feel something, letting us escape from our lives, illustrating something (true love, excellence, heroism, courage, fitness, skill) to which we aspire. Ultimately, great numbers of us are willing to purchase the privilege of such value added to our lives.

I overestimated my value, and the value of my degree, in the workforce. Now I’m correcting it with a study of medicine and bedside practice.

Even friendships, I think, subsist on value created. Husbands and wives support and augment each other, and of course derive great value from each other’s presence. The sum of our friendships and relationships are the value which they provide us, even if only as companionship. Those who have greater numbers of friendships are those who can and do provide value to others.

It seems to me I’ve spent a great portion of my life estimating what value is needed in others, and rising to the occasion of learning how to provide it. Such value isn’t always given lightly, but once given, is given gladly and freely. I think in many cases I misunderestimated the demand incumbent on what I thought would be valuable. But in acquiring the skill of a warrior, a healer, a writer and a orator, with scatterings of poet and philosopher, lover and listener, I’ve attempted to become valuable to other peoples’ lives. (I was recently in a cafeteria with Mîlwen when a worker suffered a peculiar spell of a seeming medical nature. I attended her for a short time, and was given free lunch in return.) I don’t say this to congratulate myself. I’m observing that it took intentional effort to acquire the skill requisite to add value to the lives of others. Even now, not only am I learning how to heal the body, but am attaining the skills to be a provider and keep my family in comfort.

Darling, might I make so bold as to ask what value you have in mind to add to your future husband’s life? I know of a girl, a foolish silly girl who could attend a very expensive school for free and yet does not, with the wistful folly of “staying at home to learn how to be a homemaker.” (I speak of my benign internet stalker.)

A woman’s skill extends beyond mere cooking or cleaning, no matter how traditional these may seem. In olden days, a man sought out a woman not just to bear children, but someone who could help him make a life of it, sewing and cooking and cleaning and working. Modern-day luxuries nullify some of these necessities, but that doesn’t diminish their need. Have you ever thought about being a nurse as well? I have a dream of both being employed with an agency, traveling to different towns and states, combining shifts and spending the rest of the week seeing the sights and sounds in each other’s company. These agencies pay quite well. Were we to do such a thing, we could have the time of our lives, and return home a quarter- to a half-million dollars wealthier.

Of course, family will have to come first, and I’ll have to remind myself of that. But the idea is a fun one to conjure on occasion. I could go alone on such ventures. But there is an old African proverb which says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The thought of you is always before me, my dear. There is no song that doesn’t make me wish for your presence. No time of year, whether summer’s sun, winter’s chill, springtime’s beauty or harvest’s bounty, that does not make me think of you.

Stay warm tonight, my love, if such a thing is possible absent my embrace.

Love always,
Beren

“If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter’s night with you
And to be once again with with you.”

Sarah McLachlan

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , | Leave a comment