I have many conversations with people who find it difficult to believe or people who barely believe or people who want to believe but can’t or people who are embarrassed to believe or people who look down in condescension at those who believe or people who are just bewildered that anyone could believe in something like God or resurrection or hope or any kind of future that is radically dissimilar to the present. This is the shape of our life and imagination in the post-Christian West.
I looked at the front of my house and saw some peeling paint. I looked again and saw more peeling paint. This did not make me happy. Just four years ago I painted the house. I know that proper preparation is critical for painting success. I spent days, no, more like weeks, on prep. I power washed. I hand scraped the entire house. Up and down the ladder. I scraped most of the south side of the house down to bare wood. Then I bought good paint, expensive paint. Paint that was supposed to last 25 years. I didn’t really expect 25 years but I was expecting more than four.
So last week I washed the front of my house and started removing the peeling paint.
Once, when I was about seven, I jumped into the car after school and grabbed a Thermos rolling around on the floor. I was sweaty and dying of thirst and expecting water, or lukewarm juice, but was hit instead with a mouthful of my mother's leftover coffee.
I inwardly shuddered when Mom bluntly spoke to the doctor, but tried to appear calm on the surface. Regardless of any success or failure in hiding my feelings, no one in the hospital room was paying attention to me. We were focused on the surgeon's visit with Mom.
"They put pets out of their misery," Mom said. "Why can't you do that with me?"
The clouds hung over the summit like a wet towel and, as if the bathroom fan were broken, my eyeglasses fogged up. My first hike to the top of Washington’s Wind Mountain was ill-timed for taking in its views of the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams.
My love affair with milkweed began late: just last summer, to be specific. I had always sort of known about milkweed, the way that I know about cattails and dandelions and even the leaves of the mighty oak trees. But I haven't been much of a gardener in my life, so I didn't really know about milkweed until last summer.
Ever since I committed to writing this past year, I have searched high and low for nooks and crannies of my life to find space in which to fit this endeavor. Between my part-time job feeding the Brandt Clan, I left myself little margin as every spare moment went into stringing words together on my trusty Mac. I chased this passion until it wore me down a little, encroached on my family life more than a little, and consumed most of my mind.
They’re sitting there in our church parking lot, staring out at the rain from inside their rundown green Chevy Astro van. They showed up after church. Martin was looking for conversation, for help, for gas money to Calgary for a medical procedure, the usual. He’s aboriginal, around 55, dark glasses, long black hair, cowboy boots. The conversation meanders here, there, everywhere. “Am I late for the service?” he says. “I wanted to get here for the service.” It’s 12:10 pm.
I’m tired. It’s been a long Sunday morning already, and I don’t have the energy for this.