Tunneling.

She thought she would crumble under the weight of it all.
What is real
and what is not.
The mountains towered over her
so she closed her eyes and she tried to imagine
her earth,
shaking and sinking,
exploding and reforming,
giving birth to the treacherously beautiful landscape.
But she couldn’t feel it.
It was so long ago that the ground stretched itself out,
like a blanket spread across the fiery core.
There were no lingering tremors.
She heard a poet once;
he described people like mountains,
these big tall things that could stand in any
metaphorical storm.
She used to like to think like that too.
Sometimes she thought if you compared people to anything,
it could make sense.
If you were creative enough.
People are like window panes!
They’ll block out the storm, but the wind still seeps in the cracks,
whistling softly!

She supposed storms must also be part of the analogy.
Apparently life was a storm of some sort.
So far, it had only felt like a generally gale force wind, with occasional
baseball-sized hail.
The wind was all right sometimes, on the days when it was just a breeze.
And the hail was cool,
if you were inside and all.
But it all got cold and old
after a while.
Maybe that was a storm after all.
In any case,
she now thought the poet was a lunatic.
She thought he should be denied pen and paper.
(Sometimes, she got irrational).
Because people were not like mountains;
not at all.
Mountains are strong.
Mountains never say stupid stuff.
Mountains never throw bombs at other mountains.
Mountains stay out of other people’s business.
They never make friends,
but I suppose that makes existence real easy for them.
When she looked at mountains,
she didn’t see something that would crumble.
When she looked at herself,
she saw pieces chipping away.
It was normal wear and tear, really.
Nothing extreme.
Nothing more than anyone else.
But it was enough to make her not like a mountain.
No,
she was more like a city.
Planned and impressive and imposing to see.
Full of complication behind the gates.
People read books about traveling in cities,
and people read blogs thinking it’ll help them understand a person
without really putting in much effort.
That’s the city’s fault, you know.
The city shouldn’t look so hard.
I bet the city would tell it a different way.

But she knows,
now,
that cities don’t fall all at once.
They’re beaten down,
brick by crumbling
brick.
Torn and bashed.
It is the fate of all great empires.
So unlike the fate of great mountains,
those everlasting pockmarks on an otherwise
abandoned planet.
Things that can’t fall,
in love or otherwise.
Resilient reminders of the inconsistency of things.
Silent watchers of refugees and
the ones who just need a hiding place.
When they finally crumble,
it will be time to do so.
But until then they will not budge.
The cities we build on them,
and the miniature cities inhabiting the larger ones,
will continue to rise and collapse.
Outside-in and inside-out.
(Sometimes it is the city’s choice as to the manner of detriment).
And the mountains,
out of friends and out of love and out of risk,
will stand.

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You Think You Cannot Do, Part Two.

I suppose I’m lucky.  I guess it’s a good thing that the hardest decision I have had to make over the last couple weeks was where to spend this summer: Maine or home.  I guess that’s the best kind of choice to have to make: a choice between two good things.  Right?  That’s what wise people would say.  Wise people would consider themselves blessed to be torn between two rights.  It’s better than the alternative.

I don’t think I have the best track record for being wise about stuff, sometimes.

Because this has been one of the most tossing-and-turning, pacing-the-room kind of decisions I’ve ever made.  Choosing a college?  Easy.  I only applied to Cedarville, and I got accepted in September of my senior year.  Summers past?  Always at Aldersgate.  It was like my default setting.  Even the hard decisions, the ones where there were only two things I didn’t want – even those have always come easy to me.  I’m good at making up my mind when I’m afraid or angry or bored.  And I’m normally pretty smart about it, too.

Of course, there’s the little decisions.  Which pair of jeans to buy when I’ve only allowed myself money for one.  Which entree to get at Olive Garden.  Whether or not to bring my umbrella to class when the clouds look ominous but the forecast is ambiguous.  I will walk around the store four times, carrying both pairs of jeans, try them on, put them both back, then make a choice 45 minutes later.  When I’m out to dinner, I’ll send the waitress back for more bread three times before I choose my meal.  I’ll take my umbrella, walk out the door, turn around, put it back, then walk five more steps before taking it up again.  It will never rain.  Unless I leave the umbrella again.  Then – monsoon.

At times, I wonder if this is why people often roll their eyes at me.  Because I’m so unpredictably indecisive.  Then I realize I roll my eyes at practically everyone as well, and remember that everyone’s got their quirks.  No one would have any friends if our eye rolls actually dictated our actions.

In the end, though, I always decide.  Sometimes I’m really good about pre-decision: You know, something will come up, and right away I’ll ask myself, “Now, after all the deliberation and heartache and metathought, what are you going to choose?”  Because I know.  Most of the time, I know myself well enough to know my final answer.  Then I say something like, “The fettuccine.  I’m going to choose the fettuccine.”  And I go on to agonize over the chicken marsala for ten minutes.

Obviously, this method works for big things, too.  I’m not so first-worldy that I frequently agonize over chicken, geesh.

But this decision wasn’t like that.  I didn’t know, at the beginning, what the end would look like.  If I closed my eyes, I could just as clearly see myself on a lake in Maine as I could on my hammock in my backyard.  Both made sense.  Both seemed like the right thing to do.  My heart longed for both places.

I’m going to stay home.

Yes, yes.  I know.  “But, the adventure!  The thing you were afraid of!  The once-in-a-lifetime shenanigans!”  Yeah.  That’s what I thought, too.  I thought, this is what everyone expects of me now that I’ve blabbed to the internet.  This is what I want to do – I want to prove to myself that I’m bold and independent and faithful.  The bold, independent, faithful thing to do is to fly to another state, live as far away from home as I’ve ever lived, for as long as I’ve ever been that far away.  More alone in the unexpected than I’ve ever found myself.  The thought was utterly frightening, and I loved the thrill.

Then the sun went down.  When the sun goes down, my true thoughts come to light.  Everything becomes more real at night.  Without daylight, Maine seemed farther away, more burdensome than exciting.  The reality of being virtually penniless come fall – I didn’t want to stumble through another year of college desperately trying to make tuition payments.  And as hard as I tried to fight the feeling, as tight as I tried to cling to the thought of adulthood and freedom… The night only reminded me how much I wanted to be with my family.  I haven’t been homesick since eighth grade, but the older I get, the more frantic I seem to become about spending all the time I can with my family.  Maybe it’s some weird young-adult-life-crisis.  Maybe I’m just childish.  I don’t really care one way or the other.  All I know is throughout high school, I used the summers to escape away to camp.  I craved independence then, because I knew I wasn’t yet old enough or mature enough or wise enough to actually have it.  But now that I’m free to go wherever I wish, whenever I wish it – I don’t want it as badly.

So I chose home.  It broke my heart to let the camp know.  As much as I wanted home, I wanted camp.  I did.  I do.  I told  them I’d apply next summer as well, and I will.  I’ll go next summer if God would give me the chance again.  I wonder if I’m slipping into a trap, a not-now-next-time trap, the trap that ultimately ends with a person never having done anything at all because she kept putting it off until tomorrow.  But I don’t think so, not with this one.  I said I wanted to do the thing I think I cannot do.

I don’t think I can work a menial job in Salem this summer.  I think I will go mad with boredom.  I think I will feel stuck.  I think I will feel purpose-less.  But I know I must do it, for these very reasons.  Does that make sense?  Try to understand.  I’ve always been afraid of being stuck at home, so I never let myself be.  I’ve always been afraid of being ordinary, so I’ve done things better than other people, I’ve sought out bigness so I would never have to get sucked into the mundane.  Maybe this is all well and good, but what if I’m missing something?  What if I’m so stuck in the magnificent that I’ve forgotten the beauty in simplicity?  My mind is a storyteller’s mind, I can’t help that.  I can’t stop the fantasy world that I wander around in, spinning words and poems that make everything more than what it is.  But I should at least give the normal things a chance to thrill me, shouldn’t I?

This is going to be that chance.  I’m resolving that, right now.  This summer, I’m not going to let myself belittle myself.  I won’t be ordinary because I’ll seek ordinary – and who the heck does that?  I’ll go to the library and I’ll go to the museums.  I’ll visit my town’s historical society, because it isn’t right that I’ve lived there for twenty years without having done so.  I’ll work some job that will pay tuition, and when I’m there, I’ll smile and be cheerful and be different.  I’ll be kind and loving and interesting, and I’ll make friends with people who aren’t like me.  I’ll teach Vacation Bible School.  I’ll go to the diner at midnight with my friends.  I will read books.  I’ll intern at the theatre.  Maybe I’ll even be in a play.  I’ll go to my family reunion, as insane as that idea might seem.  I will explore the woods and the bike trails and the hidden ice cream shops.  I’ll hang out in the cemeteries I’ve never been to – have I not told you?  I have a weird thing for cemeteries in the summer.  They’re full of lives lived, and I know there is joy in that.  I’ll build fires and sleep on my deck, even though my sister will call me a fool for it.

And when I come back to school, I’ll be ready.  I will be more than ready, I’m sure, to get away from home again.  But I need to go home in the meantime.  For myself.  To say that I have done it.  To know that though I will soon have to tear up my roots, at least I’ve been deep in the soil.  And next summer, I’ll go to Maine or New York or DC, knowing that I am ready for it.

I have to keep reminding myself of this, until I really believe it.  Such is the way with me.  I’m almost always unsettled.  I wish it weren’t up to me, though.  I wish God would’ve shown me the thing to do with burning bushes and pillars of fire.  But I know it isn’t really like that – I know now that some choices are between two right things.  We’ve got a gracious God who gives us right things.

So I’m resolved.