Thoughts Upon Arrival

Under the cover of darkness, I arrived in San José late on January 1, 2010.   Tired and disoriented from a few hours of in-flight sleep my heart and mind were also racing.  Once I cleared customs and claimed my luggage, I experienced a surreal moment walking to the door.  As young college students bound for an adventure tour passed me, men stood with signs looking for their tourist visitors.  The scene gave me a moments pause.

I had little idea what to expect of the entire month that lay before me, and indeed the new year as well.  Perhaps it was providential that stress kept me from dreaming up expectations about what my life would be in Costa Rica. However, I knew I wasn’t a tourist, so as I stood waiting for my deaconess sister, I had to ask…am I ready for this?  There’s no going back.  Yes, I’m ready, I thought.

Winding through the dark streets of  San José, I tried to get my bearings, which proved to be useless.  So I just observed.  As we turned onto the dirt road toward the shantytown that would be my home, I prayed to live in the moment.  Happy New Year.  From that moment on, I was free of the burdens of 2009 and free to re-claim an identity that had been lost in the depression—an identity of being a compassionate listener, spiritual director, and deaconess.

It was difficult to arrive so late at night, because I was not able to see my surroundings.  The houses in this small barrio are constructed of mostly scrap metal.  I lay in bed that night listening to the noise of traffic and dogs barking.  Bookshelves and a hanging bedsheet blocked off my private space.  However, the other side of the room was open to the air.  I lay there disoriented, yet thankful for a bed and the roof over my head, ready to sleep off a long day and begin a new life with a new community.

Below is the picture I took on my first morning in Costa Rica.  It looks out to the rest of the barrio and the mountains above San José; behind me are the bookshelves and my space.

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Insomnia and the Holy Vulnerability of Night

candle inspirationAgainst my better judgment I am sitting outside a coffee shop with a latte at my side.  I hadn’t planned on this, but the mood struck me right, and this is afterall Seattle, so I have many options for unplanned coffee stops.  There’s something on my mind, well many things actually.  Too many and too private to detail here, but what is striking is the hour at which they grip me.  And I wish to share this unfolding process of my spiritual life.

When the hour struck midnight, my housemates turned in for the night.  As I have written before, I have used this night space to think and reflect.  Once more I was compelled to sit in the empty space of the living room to be alone with God.  For the next hour I remained deep within myself, at times vigorously writing in my journal as chants danced in my ears.  With several deep breaths, I exhaled these concerns, attempting to let them go.

At 1am I lay my head down.  With a sudden rush I became aware of the house, its creaks, the hum of the fridge in the kitchen…and then every thought running at me with such intensity, I tossed and turned.  Even the careful attention I paid earlier to take care of myself and to let go some of the worries within me did not help me this night.

Heart pounding, I lay awake.  Maybe it was the coffee I had after dinner.  Or maybe it was the nap I took earlier in the day.  I sensed something deeper disturbing my soul that befuddled me to restlessness.  “Fine” I muttered, along with a few swear words, and stumbled out of bed to the living room once more.  Browsing my bookshelves offered no help, and I looked out the window.  “I’m so full of energy, I could run around the block.”  It was past 2am.  Our house is old and footsteps anywhere might wake those asleep downstairs.  Frankly, in that moment I didn’t care.

I put on my running shoes without socks, grabbed my keys and walked out the door without tying my shoes.  I bolted out the door and ran a half mile in the clear night air.  It was an unusually muggy night in Seattle, albeit a comfortable temperature.

This 2am jaunt around the neighborhood was not out of anguish or desperation.  Life is quite good.  But my spirit, although so alive, is restless.  My soul longs for things that are out of my reach, and that is frustrating.

Late at night I feel strangely holy, and I am often more vulnerable to myself and the inner sanctity of my soul than in the daylight.  This sacred space isn’t shared with many earthly souls, and yet I long for that human contact.  When will it be my time for that?  How long must I remain in this murky place?

All together I had 4 hours of sleep.  My body needs more, but when insomnia strikes, what can I do?  I am emotionally healthy for the work that gets done these late nights when everyone else is sleeping.

sigh.

night solitude

After 1am and I am still awake. Sleep would come if I tried, but I don’t want to sleep, at least not yet. The house is quiet, save for the soft melodies of the new Sigur Ros album coming from my laptop. I’ve come once again to the night for solitude. Beneath the excitement of the end of school is a knot of anxious emotion. It’s going to be alright—I know this. I shall arise in the morning and meet and old friend I haven’t seen in over a year. I shall arise in the morning and go on with my day, and I do have much to look forward to.

By the way, the Sigur Ros music is available to listen on streaming audio. The album will be released very soon, and they will make available the whole thing to download. Listen here.

stillness at night

journal

Lately I seem to write most often at night. Why is this? It is at night that I find the most stillness. The night can hold comfort for me, a time to be alone with God. Fewer cars pass by the house, the hustle of the day has died down, my roommates are most likely in bed — the night is mine. When darkness fills the house save a few candles and white Christmas lights, I breathe in and am at peace…

night walk

Seattle by night

I saw the evening fade into dusk, and the dusk fall into night. I saw the clouds, silhouetted in the west, and I watched them vanish from the night sky. I saw the glimmer of the waxing moon and the slow appearance of distant stars.  I saw the flashing lights on an airplane dance in the distance.  I saw the darkness, deep and still.  Darting through the stillness of this splendor, I saw a shooting star.  And after several miles of walking, an hour of sitting and laying, I came home and saw the fog cover my night sky, only the bright moon peeking through.

Tonight I saw the night as a place of comfort, a place of wonder, and a place to take my worries and launch them into space.  Tonight I took a walk, and it was good.