Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

In Which We Burn

burning-time

Calmly We Walk through This April’s Day
Delmore Schwartz

What will become of you and me
Besides the photo and the memory? …
Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
(How all things flash! How all things flare!)
What am I now that I was then?
May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.

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May 4, 2014 Posted by | Poems | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time is a Fire

Darling,

It’s been said that time is the fire in which we burn.

But increasingly, it’s a wearisome fire, and with no warmth to those who walk alone.

Today was just a bad day, and I don’t even know why. How many more ways can I describe to you this restless, wandering, pent-up feeling that gnaws within day after day? I’ve reached that point of the year where I should study the books and would rather burn them instead.

I thought some of that restlessness would drain from me with the blood I donated today, but it didn’t. They tell me today’s made one gallon that I’ve given over the last year or two. The woman was newer at her job, I think, because it hurt more than it ever has. I pictured myself on a beach, or in your arms to keep from showing the pain…I didn’t want to make her feel bad.

I took myself to a movie tonight too, thinking it would help me escape. Instead, vicariously living a brief romance through the character’s relationship, that relationship was ripped apart in death, and it left me rather out of sorts. They weren’t the people I would have chosen to sit with, but God provided some companions, an officer I’ve worked with and his two sons. They both seem to look up to me.

I need more than movies to make passable the fires of time. I’m burning my time now to write to you, but there’s really no one else in whom I can confide. Increasingly I write out a thought or an opinion to share, and then erase it because I quite firmly remind myself no one cares. I invited anyone who could read to join me in donating blood and no one did. I posed a provocative discussion question and no one replied. (But post a picture of an orphaned kitten being adopted out…!)

Okay, so people on the internet are shallow or busy or both. What did I expect? What do I want out of them? What do I want out of life? I suppose in the end, there’s a small part of me that’s frustrated because they aren’t you. Mind you, I care about them and their troubles without it being returned, so I still wish they would grow to be more attentive to their world. So what do I want? Someone to care. Someone to ask me what I want, and care about the answer. Someone to say “You know what YOU need…” and help me figure out the answer when need be. To remind me what I’m doing, what I’ve done, who I am, matters, still matters, is appreciated.

I believe I’ve told you before, the downside of becoming unflappable is that the world becomes mundane. Nothing seems new anymore, and while I’m not much to seek a thrill for its own sake, it’s enough to force me to seek out new experiences.

Part of my identity, my dear, is to be a safety net. I’m part of the network of people that act as a barrier between them and disaster. What does a safety net do? It stands there, stretched taut and under great strain, always ready to catch the clowns and sequined fools who overcharge people for their silly antics and tricks. You spend a lifetime under pressure, under obligation, knowing that when the moment comes you have to perform and if there’s one weak link at one moment in time, the whole thing was for naught. I’m doing that trackside tomorrow. Suited people who have too much money and drink too much alcohol. And as part of the safety net, it’s my job to fight anything from a skinned knee up to and including the Grim Reaper. And what’s more, we lurk unseen. We live under that constant pressure, behind the scenes, forgotten and unappreciated but enabling people to risk their lives because they know someone will be along to save them. They forget people train and learn and study. That we become familiar with Death and study his ways so we can counter them.

Sometimes it’s quite a strain. Maybe it’s a self-imposed strain, but someone has to do it.

It’s funny. We worry about the behavior of our warriors and soldiers, the aggression of our officers and the extremes of our firefighters and emergency medical workers. But truly, that’s who we need them to be. Their behaviors are expected byproducts of who we ask them to become on our behalf…and then we forget about them. We move our cars out of their way and our minds offer just the tiniest self-congratulation that we expedited the process. If I had a dime for every time someone’s told me they could never do that…

I’m sure I sound bitter. And self-congratulatory in my own way. I don’t know what I need anymore. If you ran down the list, I’m far more blessed than I deserve and all my basic needs are met. I just can’t fight the feeling, even as final exams loom ahead of me that I should be doing more, that I’m missing something, that there’s a calling just out of reach. I’m great about work and school and exercise, packing them into a day. I’m good at speed. I’m not so great on the slowdown.

Ah Darling. For all I know, this is one of the many days to come where “yeah, well, you know I have problems too!” will be the retort you have to letters like these. I’d grow weary of them too. And I hope you have someone in your life to call and announce you’ve had a bad day so they can listen. I sure would. And tonight, and on any of nights like these…I just need that from you.

Will you pray for me tonight, my dear? Please.

Your lonely knight,
Beren

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

How Was Your Day

Dear Darling,

How was your day?

I look forward to asking that question of you, of walking through the door, closing it and the world behind me and returning to the cloud on which I live, the one where dwells a wonderful woman who loves me and is pleased to be called my wife. I’ll love hearing your voice greeting me through the house. I’ll probably begin washing the dishes while you finish preparing supper, unless I’m lately come from the hospital and need showering first.

I’ll quietly revel in your trust and confidence in me as you share your day’s ups and downs.

How was your day today? What dragons did you face alone, what cares did you bear, what burdens did you carry? What tears were unshed because your husband wasn’t there to hug them out of you and then kiss them away?

And to think, somewhere out there tonight you exist, burying your toes into a carpet or curling them up underneath you to keep warm. (Lucky, lucky toes.) You may be studying, or working late, or cooking, or grimly eyeing February 14th’s approach. I don’t hold out great hopes for this Valentine’s Day, but I have a good feeling for next year.

Someone asked me the other day if I was still changing the world. I may not be changing the world every day, I replied, but hopefully I’m changing someone’s world every day. And that’s enough for now.

On my way out last night, I walked past a woman leaning against the wall with her back to me, weeping. Such sights aren’t entirely uncommon in the hospital, and healthcare veterans must eventually make their peace with the reality that there will always be someone else who needs you. I almost walked past her. Then I realized no knight, whether arrayed in armor or scrubs, could suffer this woman’s grief unchecked in this empty hallway. Beyond asking if she was okay, I pulled her in for a hug, inquired about the problem, and wished her well.  I wish I’d said more to her. I should have told her that God is all sufficient and will give strength to His servants. I wish I’d told her that she would be okay again, and that she would be strong enough for the darkness ahead of her.

Time gives all and takes all. It’s time that is our ally and our enemy. Have you noticed? Sometimes our memories, or time’s passage, are traps for our minds because we remember how things were. Sometimes those memories return too late, showing us what was important at the time even though we didn’t recognize it. Sometimes, we process things slowly, not understanding how we feel. We only know a moment’s worth once it’s gone.

Now that I’ve cleared the first hurdles of this term, it’s time to ramp things up. At the start of the week I had a morning class, an exam, a gym workout, a swim, a Bible study and then two hours at work to cover for a colleague before coming home to bed. In five hours, I was up before dawn to spend half the day apprenticing. The other half was spent working. The schedule was much the same today except I was invited to hear a would-be senator speak. Tomorrow is another several hours spent learning before I work an overnight shift for another colleague. This weekend, I ride a helicopter with a trauma nurse and probably do even more work and study. If idleness is the devil’s workshop, I don’t intend to give hell’s hobbyists much room.

When I was younger, I used to think everyone else knew what they were doing and I was one of the few that didn’t. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that half the people around me were as clueless as I (and another quarter of them were more clueless) that the light bulb clicked on. No one was going to come along and give me answers, motivate me get fit and eat right, or give me a job. Within submission to God’s will, I had to create those opportunities for myself. No one else was going to introduce themselves first, so now I do. It seems to inspire a confidence that others appreciate. I wonder if there’s any way I can make that light come on for our children earlier than it did for me?

Everyone complains about the cold, but tonight in The Village where I live (it really does somewhat resemble a Bavarian village) the icicles coat every eave like a painting or a decoration.

I should sleep. I’m afraid I’m rewriting most of this letter from memory after I all but completed it last night only to have it erased in a spontaneous reboot. Wherever you are tonight my dear, I hope you’re doing well.

Love,
Beren

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Loneliness, Nights Like These | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment