The grey coat

96556d18af0a08fb8ad41e62a5e98c6b

Some nights I curl into a ball tight under mountains of down with the anxiety of good, because I’ve grown so familiar with the weary.  Like an old peacoat I wore so many years that I reach for it’s tattered sleeves when they are long since gone. A prisoner who wishes he was back in the solidarity of grey.  It’ll be different this time around, I swear. And yet dinner will again grow cold.

So I take this fabric and rip it.  I sew round buttons upon it, and a ruffled lapel, and buy tall black heels with a hint of red underneath, because there is no price more worthy than to rise above the grey of ashes.

And in this coat I travel miles and heartaches to reach him. He is supposed to ride into this town upon a donkey, this man who changed things and built things and sees things, and yet I have no more living to do.  So I flap the wool before me like a parachute as I let it float softly down.  Down to a puddle on the ground, mixed with sand and leaves.  Sticks and ants.  It’s all just dirt and death to me. And below lay an old refashioned pile of rags, rain soaking in its fibers like the earth and the rain and the stones and the coat were all working in stride with one another.

I suppose we were all preparing for a great love that marks you.  For a kiss that surprises you.  For a fire that refines you.  And I curl up in that familiar tight as he draws near, wanting to scrape the earth feverishly with my fingernails to let me in like a brother.  Oh please, hide me from this crushing sense of gratitude that I have not earned, and a grace I have not paid for, and a fear that I will not be enough for the lives I’m responsible for.  So much of my life has been altered, and my vision limited, and so many years pushed and crammed into this very old soul.

It is the same image I had years ago at a conference when the speaker asked where we might have fit in the loaves and fishes story. I was hands and face down, just swaying in the dust, eyes clinched shut.  I couldn’t get low enough.

And yet as tears fell into the puddle beneath me I am caught with the flash of a golden sun ricocheting from the dirty water, and I look up to see an animal’s hooves treading and stopping, and for a moment my weary eyes rise to see what peace looks like passing.  All I have is this one useless thing, and it’s all spread out and soaked up, but I don’t say those words because they’ve already been spoken.

My back, the one that was curved from all the hiding, straightens.  And the grey, it starts to shine like silver. I had no idea I was so broken because now I’m standing tall and I didn’t realize how short I had grown from the stooping.  The black hole of my eye is gone as I reached forward and I felt a brilliant light pass through me. He clicked the back of the donkey as it moved on, down the way, down the road, down around the branches and off beneath the setting sun.

I leave the jacket.  It’s warm out. I feel the earth between my toes and narcissus around my nose and my heart is a white-hot coal that radiates.  I step over the fabric as the dust settles – down the way, down the road, down around the honeysuckle branches and off toward the summer nights to come.

 

photo:

http://www.modcloth.com/shop/coats/midnight-in-michigan-coat

Saddle Bags

8666735287_5399f78f89

I would imagine if I were starving and placed at the forefront of a great feast, I’d be filled with angst.  How would I carry it all away and save it for when there was none? I couldn’t possibly enjoy a corn soufflé knowing it wouldn’t last and the pheasant would turn to bile and the next day it would all be empty and dry again.  Just bones in the dust.  Hungry.  So I’d sit at the head of the table smiling whilst stuffing dinner rolls in my saddle bags.  We just can’t help but to carry around the angst of our past, wondering if the good times might fade away.

I think of the last few years as a trench that I’ve been living in, just hunkered down with my provisions, escaping for food and coming back to the hole with a heavy sigh.  It’s natural when you’ve been beat down to want to protect yourself from attack and make sure you stride more watchfully into the dark night.

When my foot touched down upon a different future, naturally I was still burdened with the memories.  Nights in the hole.  Bombs dropping and shells exploding and haunting faces in my dreams, hollowed out and empty.  But when you leave a warzone, there is no identifying tattoo speed across your chest.  Separated by enough continents and time zones you just seem to have appeared from somewhere, like you went on vacation with a svelte new frame and more coy responses.

So here I am.  I look down to see jewels on my fingers.  I sit at the fancy table with shimmering lights and roses, where men ask to call and tell me I’m pretty.  And in the middle of the room as I cross it in heels toward the door my insides just rage with fire and bristle.  I remember the hole.  The ache of starvation.  The pit of my stomach is just as far to the ground as it was in the worst nights, and I find my hands clasping around a hard dinner roll. I slip it in my pocket.  Just in case.  The funny thing is that the fear of death and the fear of living have the same effect on me.  Both are filled with the unknown, and that causes my stomach pit to flare.

At 3 am this morning I woke, filled with that familiar dread.  The pain that all this bounty will come crashing down.  The high will subside.  The peace broken. Pheasant always turns to bile in the end.  And yet as I lay there with my two children, huddled to my left and to my right, I heard the strangest thing.  My daughter, who appeared to be giggling.  In her sleep she was laughing, and I heard the manifestation of dreams. I held my children tight and let tears well and realized that God is to my left and to my right.  He stretches beyond me and is far behind.  What, and whom, shall I fear?

I dress for dinner in a house bathed in peace. I have a night ahead filled with laughter, with new heels just for the occasion.  In my slumber I see new life sprouting.  I take the saddle bags, the ones filled with old crusty rolls, and I leave them sitting by the garage door, leaning over just so.  A smile spreads from the ether of my former self, the one who remembered.  The one filled with fear.

I have no need for these any more, it seems.

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/8666735287/sizes/m/in/photolist-ecRhst/