The Table

 “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (Qur’an 3:103)

When you eat the food of another culture it opens a small, brilliant window into their world. My lust for flavor aside, I enjoy the gustatory opportunity to explore. Food is life, and the taste of food reflects the flavor of a people. Food is where we restore and refresh ourselves, where we gather, where we commune with one another, sharing the vital elements of a shared life.

Through food, Radical Love carries our guests away for an hour with the smells and tastes of other worlds. Recent adventures have taken us from Syria to Portugal to Brazil. This week, it was Palestine with the main dish, rummmaneyye, coming from the Gaza region.

I especially enjoy sharing food with others from parts of the world where people are in situations of great distress, countries that may be getting a not-so-pleasant reputation when viewed through the eyes of American media. As an activist, I relish the opportunity to hand someone a plate of something wonderful while saying the name of some place they have come to suspect, or fear, or hate, mostly from lack of complete or correct information. A beautiful, delicious plate of food is like a handshake, a hug, a smiling introduction that promises to lift and satisfy. What better way to open the door to relationships and peace.

With fresh, wholesome contributions from Lower Columbia School Gardens and Willow Grove Gardens & Pumpkin Patch , our crew did a brilliant job of bringing together a beautiful, nutritious, delicious Palestinian meal.

We arrived, as usual, in a flurry.  The parking lot was already full of faces. Some were long time friends, but many were faces from our Saturday potluck, or faces from other meal shares, people we had met and invited who were coming to share our meal for the first time. Others were faces from the community, people from other worlds we inhabit, faces from the school gardens, faces from the Muslim community, from Love Overwhelming, from my own church. We had a full house, and the church’s caretaker had not yet come to open the door.

My head swirled. I was dizzy. I had a phone number. Where could I find it? What name was it under… the church? The caretaker? I looked at my phone but I couldn’t really see it. I poked at it, like a child poking at some suspicious object with a stick. Odd, distantly familiar screens flashed and slid, the words on them obscured through the bars of my descending cage of panic. My heart started to squeeze. We couldn’t get in the door. A wave of fear rose up like a hand from behind me and pressed me down. I slumped in the open door of my car and looked around. In the distance, the voice of children traveled across the little road from the Methodist Church next door. The door of my mind blew open and a swirl of thoughts came in. What if they forgot? What if we don’t get in? What if people are upset with me? Getting angry? Will we have to eat in the parking lot? What if it all comes apart?

Nested in my car seat, under the car port, I lifted my face. Patches of color peppered with familiar eyes undulated around me. The arch of my vision sparkled with blues and greens and greys and browns. Weary gems caught the sun as they flickered in their tired brown faces. Some opened toward me and I said their names. In the watercolors of my world, I found Irene.

“What do I do? I don’t know what to do.”

Irene smiled in her placid, even way. “It’s ok. Someone will come.”

Inside me was an emergency. My heart pounded like a fist against the inside of my ribs. My mouth was dry. My head turned towards the sound of the children. In my watercolor, I found Gary. The sun lit through the playful curls framing his eyes. I spoke to them through my liquid world. “The church. There’s people there. Please, go tell them no one has opened the door.”

A few kicks against the current, a pivot in the soup of my panic, and I was facing the door. I swam past Joshua. “Maybe there’s been an accident,” I said. He shrugged slightly. “Maybe someone got some bad news,” I added. Josh nodded. The emergency inside of me didn’t seem to be reflected by those around me. A ripple in front of me. It was Caleb, from Love Overwhelming. I spoke to him,”I don’t have to panic, right? It’s going to be alright? This is not one of those times where things are going to just fall apart?” Caleb shook his head, “It’s fine,” he said, “In fact, here he comes now.”

Within moments, the door was open. Within moments, hands reached out and, together, the tribe ushered our feast through the door. The tendrils of the complicated net that surrounds me, that keeps me from hitting the ground, swooped gently up and fluttered in the ripples from the Slipstream. Arms were hugging. Dishes went through the door, hand to hand. Voices mingled and there was laughter among them. The life from the food, the energy of our communion, spun through the crowd as we uttered our incantation. Magic. And soon our meal was taking shape.

My knot of fear gently softened, melting slightly into the energy that grew. Still, the vague edges and rippling landscapes of my watercolor remained. I swam forward in it, looking for guests who were here for the first time. It was time to anchor, in these waters, to connect. Erin, from the Lower Columbia School Gardens, was suddenly in front of me. “How can we help?” she asked. Next to her were Shae and Nicole, radiance springing up from them as if from the stalks of bright flowers. They brought forth the beauty of the garden, ready to be a part. The energy of the room hummed through me as I traveled the arc of their smiles. “You can serve!” I told them, leading them to the kitchen. I made the first plate for them as an example, then, with confidence, let that task go. With all three of them personing the buffet I could turn my attention to other things.

In the colors of the kitchen, I found two more friends. The Emam, Brian, and his mother, from the Kelso Longview Islamic Community, had been friends of ours for some time. My son and I had been attending Friday prayers to learn about our neighbors’ faith and to build community with them. The loving company we had been sharing for months had suddenly broken through the confines of the masjid door and come into another facet of our world. I greeted my friends with enthusiastic embraces. From their bags emerged delicious, nutritious foods brought to share with our guests, including a warm white bag filled with freshly boiled eggs. As Brian’s mother, Mona, placed the eggs in my hands I felt their warmth travel through me. I looked into Mona’s open, shining face and my heart pressed up with emotion and gratitude. This was why we were here. Community. Connection. I threw my arms around her, again, and pressed her to me. Her loving, motherly embrace held me to her heart. We paused there, taking in the depth of our fellowship, before continuing to unpack her bags.

“We are so glad to be here,” she told me as she sat out bagged portions of dog food and treats. I held the warm eggs as I looked at the bags, kibble with biscuits, then up to the faces of my friends. Animal friends who struggle with homelessness are often even more forgotten than their human companions, but my loving friend from the masjid had remembered them. These beautiful people coming to our shared table for the first time had set another place, one for our animal companions. The arms of our family opened even wider. The energy of our communion surged, again, as my son joyfully carried her gift out into the room.

Through the colors, I swam, greeting friends, welcoming newcomers, arms and arms and eyes and faces, all swirled through and peppered with plates bright with flavor, and health, and life. Bright blue bachelor buttons lit up the deep red of the muhammara and the room filled with happy talk and laughter. Soon, with the crowd served, all of us found a seat at the table. Mother Kathleen and one of our new guests swapped recipes. Our friends from the school gardens shared their meal with Tempest, and some of our other long time friends. Brian and Mona settled near some new friends we at met at Feed the Need. And I, drifting eagerly around in my net, rode the gentle current around the room.

Near the kitchen, I found Caleb. He was holding his empty plate, eyes round and shining. I grabbed his arm excitedly, “How do you like it??” I asked him, anxiously, indicating our collection of guests. “How was your food?” Over the top of my head, he took in the room. “This is amazing,” he said, scanning the crowd. “There is nothing like this. There is no restaurant in town where you can get food this good, get these flavors.” I laughed out loud.

The colors in my painting shimmered as I took that in. In my eyes, my hands, my mouth, at this communal table, I am alive. Alive in my fingers as skin touches skin, my hand on an arm soft with delicate, sun bleached hair and crisp with the dry salt of sweat. Alive in the faces, our garden of flowers, blue and brown and green and grey, lifting their petals up for light.  Alive in the arms, heart pressed against heart, resting in an other’s embrace.  Alive in the tears. In their stories. In their names. Alive in the meal we share, as we taste the same flavors and lift the same cup, excited and entertained by flavor and color. Maybe we aren’t the best restaurant in town, but it fills me to overflowing to serve people so often forgotten a spectacular, healthful meal.

Soon, the colors of my world swirled toward the door. I grabbed a few friends, made a few more introductions, and gave hugs and kisses to friends as they left. Tempest thanked me excitedly as he headed down the walk. Halfway to the parking lot he turned, and raised his fists in the air. “I even got to POOP!” he cried, and we shared a laugh as he disappeared beyond the trees.

The chaos inside of me hums with the electric energy of our communion. I am intoxicated with the power generated when we come together. That day, so many different colors from our community, joined together for a meal. We sat down together, a deliberate family, and made the circle wider. We made room at the table, opened the doors to deeper relationship, built even more strongly the foundations of the community we share. I was overcome by it.

I am an outlier. An outcast. A misfit. I come from a culture underground. Communion, community, has not been a feature of my existence. Yet, somehow, I have become a hub.

Worn completely, we made our way home. We would make a quick stop at the Grocery Outlet, then I was heading to bed. My son, good friends with many of the workers there, burst through the door ahead of me as I limped in behind. The voices of friends shaped my name. My gentle net shifted beneath me. Another home. Anxious to get to bed, I called for my son. From behind me a voice said, “He’s in the break room with Scott.”

Scott is a dear friend of ours. He loves my son and makes lots of room for his enthusiasm and desire to connect. They have worked together many times, stocking shelves, crushing boxes. Every time we go to Grocery Outlet the question comes, “If Scott is there, can I help?” I was sure I would find him with Scott.

The swirling colors of my world had slowed. The edges gently lapped around me as I went to retrieve my son. When we moved to this community four and a half years ago, we hadn’t intended to stay. This was to be a jumping off place into something else. I wanted to get closer to other outliers, find a way, at last, to belong. I wanted to find a place for me, as me, a place where what I am, as I am, could be embraced. Maybe even an asset. Not in spite of. Because of. Where it was o.k. to be broken. Where it was o.k. to need help. Where people could really see me. Where the best of what I had could be held forward along with all the rest of the swirling colors that come out of me from my frenetic insides, an offering, a plea, an exultation.

My son was in the break room with Scott. I had gone from the loving hands of our family at the meal into the loving hands of another. In this store, we were surrounded by loving friends. Scott, at that moment, was being a friend and role model for my son. With each slow, limping step I took forward, this new realization inside of me rose. We were surrounded. Friends, purpose, community. My beautiful net, trembling at the edges, catching not only me inside of it, but a whole community of friends.

I turned the corner to the break room. There they were. Scott and my son were sharing another communal table. Scott ate his dinner, offering my son a spoon and a pint of ice cream. “Try it,” he encouraged. My son removed the lid and dug inside. His little boys’ eyes lit with pleasure as the chocolate melted in his mouth. “Do you like it?” Scott asked him. “This? This ice cream? I love it!” my son answered. Scott stirred at his plate, “It’s for you,” he said. “For me?!” my son, excited, gathered it up. Scott stood as we prepared to go. I wrapped my arms around him.

“You know, when we first came here we did not come to stay. We found this community cold and unwelcoming. For the first six months or longer, no one even looked at us. I cried everyday. But I just realized, as I was walking here, that after four and a half years we have built community. Thank you for being a friend and a brother. Thank you for being a part of our family.” We hugged, there at the mouth of the break room, then turned for home, riding the slow and easy currents of color that come at the end of a well-lived day.

Exhausted. Overcome. In my depletion, restored. Behind my eyes, from the peace of my bed, I watched the colors of my memories flow. The sound of water from my neighbor’s fountain trickled through me in the dark. What began with a few plates of food shared from a Queersgiving potluck had grown into a family gathered at a table of sisterhood, of brotherhood, of community. And there, at the table, being a part of it all, was me.

Through Radical Love, there is room for everyone at the table. By favor of Allah, there is even room for me.

“The companion who is the best to Allah is the one who is best to his companion. And the neighbor that is the best to Allah is the one that is best to his neighbor.” [Tirmidhi]

Slipstream

Isaiah 58: 9-12

9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will
answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say,
here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking
of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched
place,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water
whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt,
you shall raise of the foundations of
many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the
breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.

The pain of this world can be suffocating. The enormity of the problems we face in our world, and in our own lives, can paralyze. I’m not known for my stoicism. Instead, I tend to fall apart. Of my own power, I am emotionally vulnerable, frail and chronically overwrought. Change is upending. Worry is constant. Life is a crisis in the midst of an emergency and Doom peers around the corners, smacking his lips at my impending demise. My daily survival is dependent upon an astonishing, humbling and complex network of support without which Doom would have long ago snatched me by the ankle and dragged me into his cavernous, grinding mouth. My life is a miracle, constantly unfolding, a step by trembling step journey of heart-born, hard-won faith that is, itself, an act of faith.

So, Saturday morning, when I got the text saying Shawn was sick and would not be coming, Shawn who has the tables, the silverware, the plates and the bowls, Shawn who was bringing sandwiches and bottled water, Shawn who is there every Saturday to help set-up and serve and fellowship, Shawn was not coming. It was time to fall apart.

I was still in bed. I braced my mental hands against my mental walls and waited for the shaking to begin, the earthquake that starts at the pit of the stomach and rattles my skeleton like a summoning chime at the gate of Doom’s blood-filled jaws. My vision swirled. A feature of my panic is overwhelming dizziness that drops me to the ground where I stand. Luckily, I was still laying down. I gripped the edge of the mattress against the swirl in my head and thought, “I better call Mother Kathleen.”

Then another feature of my anxiety rose up. The prickling claws of self Doubt came crawling stealthily up my nerves, clattering his needle-like teeth as he crept. No decision seemed right. My judgement was not to be trusted. Doubt, having crept up to my core, rose above me and opened up his heavy sack. A rain of questioned thoughts came down, hit the lip of my swirl of panic, and went round tornado-style raking out a hollow pit inside of me that immediately filled with the tidal sweep of sick. I was Sick.

Sick. The broad-shoulder, bashing beast that presses my chest like a heart attack. Sick. Who comes through the door without knocking, punches through without turning the knob, a dark wall with a featureless face that swallows all light and all vision. Sick. He pressed through my door and lay his suffocating weight down on me like a blanket. The back of me pressed down, down. I held my breath like a swimmer heading for deep water and closed my eyes.

Then the miracle happened. Something behind me opened and I fell in. The water all around me shifted and I breathed it into me, filling with something utterly foreign, a fairy tale thing told about in story books, something made of glittering pixie dust that dances in the sparkle of sunlight. Peace. Peace came and opened some secret door. Under a leaf, behind a knothole, obscured by a shadow was the threshold to the magical place of God’s slipstream. I entered, and became an observer of miracles to come.

I could tell you about the texts and emails and all the things that brought together all the people and all the food which ended up on plates and all of the tables that ended up underneath it, but I was more of a distant observer in all of that. In the slipstream, I flowed along. Like rafting a shaded, lazy river from my place of Peace, in the slipstream, I watched the world roll by. Arms came. They wrapped around me. The voices of friends. Busy hands shifted around bowls full of color. All around, through the breaks in the trees, glittered eyes and smiles and the faces of friends. Like so many times before, once the meal began my purpose was clear and a sanctuary of an hour was swept clean and filled with the fellowship of love and health and community. I was home.

Sitting near the table, slumped on the curb, was a young man I had not seen for months. I fluttered through the pages of my memories for his face. I remembered. He was the odd young man I had given an ice cream cone back in the days when we still served such things. It was right after the Love Overwhelming shelter had closed. We had been bringing food to the courtyard to support the displaced people who had been further displaced by the shelter’s close. This young man had been there.

He was engaged, that day, in the oddest kind of dance. His body rigid, he swirled. Pointing, high stepping, freezing in place, his face would grimace, his eyes lock, and his mouth fall open to the sky or ground. I had never seen anything like it. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was making sandwiches on a bench and dishing up ice cream. He was there. He was probably hungry.

My son had the answer. “I’ll go ask him if he wants a sandwich!” Let’s wait, I advised, until there is a sandwich. I didn’t want this young man, who was obviously very lightly linked to this plane, to hear “sandwich” and expect one to be there right at that moment only then to find it absent. “I’ll make a sandwich first, then we will ask.”

He accepted my sandwich. He accepted my ice cream; and, each, in turn, joined him in his dance. And, each, in turn, was neatly and purposefully and astoundingly eaten in spite of his deep engagement in a world I could not see. And from that world, as I handed him each, had come a polite, grateful, and clearly spoken, “Thank you.”

After months of absence, here he was. He was still, staring at the ground, and I recognized the distant look in his eyes. I didn’t imagine he was going to be lining up for food. I stooped next to him.

“Hi,” I smiled, “I remember you. It’s been a long time. Remind me of your name?”

His face rose and he met my eyes. There was a flash of clarity, of connectedness as he said, “Arthur,” then turning his head to the side, he dissolved into laughter. I waited a minute then asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like me to get you something to eat?” His response was a thunder roll of laughs with knee slaps clapping like lightning in between. He was gone in a world I could not see. I paused for a moment, listening to his laughing, watching as he retreated to a place outside of this place. I would hand him a bowl of stew. Maybe he would eat it.

He did. Like with the sandwiches, he received my gift though a moment of clarity. A mental hand brushed the curtain from in front of his eyes and he peered out from behind it, out of his private world, and looked at me. “Thank you.”

As he ate his stew, I made him a plate. I felt a frantic rush to prepare it. This young man, from some magical place, could magically vanish like a sprite. Now you see him, now you don’t. This fairy tale man in his fairy tale mind might be a flicker in the corner of my eye, a laugh that comes from behind a shimmering leaf, a was-it-really-there wonder that sometimes appears in the moss and the mushrooms at the base of a tree, just for a moment, before it is lost again into the world of imagination. I wanted to be sure to feed him before he was gone.

I returned to him with a plate of food and a bag of snacks. Watching him, it was hard to tell what he could see and what he couldn’t. He recognized a boiled egg. He ate it with only half the shell removed. I showed him the salt and pepper packets. He laughed as he chewed on the shells. I peeled the other egg for him and salted it, then put a few more in his bag.

“Look!” I said, “Snap peas! Do you know what these are? Would you like to try one?” The curtain parted, “No.” I reached in his snack bag for some cherry tomatoes. “Look!” I said, “Cherry tomatoes! Would you like to have one?” From behind a fluttering curtain, “No.” I wasn’t sure he was aware of what I was holding. “Taste one,” I offered. “Then decide.”

I held the tomato to his mouth and he took it. His mouth chewed. His face remained flat. His eyes were gone. I couldn’t tell what was happening behind them. Finally, I asked, “How does it taste?” and from the distant, mossy place in which this magical man was dwelling he boomed, “DELICIOUS!!”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I had tended this young man through his meal, offering treats and encouraging. Here we stood, a bag of cherry tomatoes between us, and his delighted face sparkling around the lost world in his eyes. We laughed together, for the first time that day, and he reached for the bag. His eyes, eyes blind to this world, danced. His mouth chewed and smiled. Curtain after curtain was brushed aside. In that moment, we stood in community. It was a community of shared vitality, of flavor, of patient compassion, of friendship. I turned to glance at my son, and when I turned back the magic man had vanished. He had returned to his Neverland home behind the shimmering shadows of leaves.

Food was served. Food was gathered. I asked each pot to be placed here and there in my overcrowded car. When I return the leftovers and pots to the church after each meal share, my course takes me past the Civic Circle. Often, hungry friends who couldn’t make it across the bridge are there. I like to have the pots arranged to make it easy to serve a few meals out of the car on our way back to the church.

As the pots were disappearing into my car, my friend, Daniel came up to me. One hand was on his cane, the other was held in front of me in a closed, downward fist. His slow, whispered speech dragged out at a pace much slower than the anxious joy that skittered forward from his eyes. “For you…” he said, placing an object in my hand. I looked. A crystal glittered in my palm, radiating power and warmth. I looked up at him, “Daniel, thank you,” and swept him into my embrace.

There we stood. Pressed. Entwined. The shuffle of pots, the sounds of the birds, the flutter of light on my closed eyelids twinkled all around while Daniel and I rode the slipstream. Swept along, together, swept along, communing, swept along, riding the current in the palm of God’s mighty hand. I clutched his gift. “This is just what I needed today,” I told him. “I love you,” Daniel rasped. The warmth of his chest against my cheek was a sanctuary of comfort. “I love you, too, Daniel.”

As quickly as we gathered, we parted. An hour of time with a world inside of it bound by no clock or time had ended. Our magic door closed, and the world returned. But my son and I were in the slipstream. We dropped from one magic plane into another and headed for the circle.

Friends. Right away, I found a man I knew. He was always happy to see us, always grateful. As I filled his plate his face twinkled with delight. “Some salad?” I asked him, “It has barley and beans!” “YEAH!” his enthusiastic reply. “Some kale? It has beans and sweet potatoes and onions!” “YEAH!!!” and his enthusiasm grew. It was a series of grateful “yeahs” framed in happy laughter and off our friend went to enjoy his meal.

Around the corner, another friend, and another happy plate shared. We were almost done. A young man I knew approached and we sent him on his way with his share of our bounty. As he crossed the park, I saw him sit with two more people I was sure I hadn’t met. Moving the car forward, I got out to see if they also might want a meal. One of the new friends was a young man, with dark bristled hair. The other was an older man, big and broad, with a giant green hiker’s backpack resting at his feet. They were in conversation as I approached so I sat, without speaking, and waited for the chance to make my offer.

After a few moments, I interjected. Addressing the two new friends, I said, “I have some more stew like what Ray is eating. And some salad and zucchini lasagna and greens. We also have some snacks, boiled eggs and snap peas. Would you like something to eat? It’s really delicious. And it’s good for you.”

The younger man looked at me, both amused and confused. “Who are you?” he laughed, “Where did you come from?” Now it was I who had appeared through a magical door. The slipstream was flowing from my world of community and abundance into this lost place of the forgotten, tucked away in the thick of the circle’s trees. I was spinning, gently turning, in the currents of the slip stream. The clear day was gold and green, with the cool grey of the concrete beneath me running through it. Without time, in this moment alive, I learned the faces of the two men in front of me. I unbent my shoulders and showed them my shirt.

“This is me. We serve two meals a week to our neighbors who are homeless. You should have some. I have to say, my cooking is delicious. And we only serve, fresh, healthy food. Take a look.” I pulled one of my postcard maps with the group description on the other side out of my bag and handed it to the younger man. To the older man I handed my phone displaying a picture of the last Wednesday meal. “This is the kind of food we like to serve,” I told them. “Food that lifts and nourishes people.”

The older man stared at the picture on my phone as the young man started to read my card. Still laughing nervously, he started to read out loud in a mocking tone, “Radical Love nourishes the bodies, minds & spirits of our neighbors who struggle under the burden of homelessness. We seek to help them overcome the nutritional deficits that lead to…” He stopped reading out loud, but kept reading. His sardonic grin dissolved as he continued. When he got to the end, he looked up.

“Is this for real? Are you for real? What is this?” The face of the older man was shining. I got up and sat next to him on the bench. “It’s Radical Love,” I said. “There is enough. There is enough for people to share of their abundance, not just give what is leftover. People need healthy food. They are sick. They need good care.” The older man’s face was locked into an amazed and joyful smile.

“YES!” he said, “YES! We matter! Each one of us matters! Each one of us is a unique and beautiful creation, none like the other!”

“YES!” I came back. “That is my point! That is why Radical Love. That is why healthy food. This is nutrient dense meals. This is food education. And this food asks a question: Who are these people who deserve this better thing? And the answer is not the same as when you ask: What do I do with my leftovers.”

“YES!” my new friend cried, and reached for my arm. Our eyes traveled into one another, locked in understanding. “Come have some,” I invited, and they followed me to my car.

At the car, the younger man could not stop laughing. He could not stop exclaiming. “WOW! This IS for real! Look at that! Look at THAT!” I handed him several bags of snap peas and a few boiled eggs. He looked me squarely in the eye. “This is great. I mean, this is really wonderful. I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe you are doing this. Thank you, so much.” I hugged the young man. In his arms, none of his doubt or darkness remained. We rode the slipstream, one mind, one idea, on the same plane.

I dished up some of the Portuguese stew that had been served on Wednesday. I held it up to the older man and invited him to smell it. His already open face brightened with delight as he fell into the slipstream. He stood, tall and broad, there at the curb. On his back, was the giant hiker’s pack stuffed tight with the contents of his nomadic life. His mouth came open in a smile and his eyes turned up to God. “Wow…” he said, as I sat it down, “Wow…”

He turned to me, still smiling, and started to move. In the momentum of the slipstream, he leaned. His broad body loomed above me, his butter yellow shirt swallowing my field of vision as he came. I felt the weight of his pack in my mind as his body came toward me, leaning into the flow of the slipstream as he came. My heart rose and thumped, wondering if we would end up on the ground, as his arms circled me round.

And we did not fall. Instead, a deep tenderness rose up all around and we stood. He held me, tenderly, and I pressed myself into his arms. From above, into the top of my head, he whispered, “….thank you ….thank you ….thank you.” From my peace, from my abundance, from the cradle of God’s grace in the slipstream I whispered it back. “Thank you.”

It was with remarkable Grace that I traveled that day. The miracle of the slipstream and its peace had astounded me. I wondered if this was some breakthrough, some change to my own mental frailty, a persistent miracle that was the beginning of a new phase of life.

It wasn’t. The next day, when I stepped out of my door, I did not go into the slipstream. Doom and Sick and Doubt draped their heavy arms around me pushing and scratching at my unsteady edges, once again. I would spend as much of the day as possible in retreat, nursing my own dark magic and reaching out for Grace and Peace. It is a battle fought by the soldiers of light and dark within me, all born from the violently torn cracks and way places that make up the terrain of my own mind.

But within that shadowy place there is always The Voice. It is The Voice that travels with me, and is my guide. It is The Voice that whispers recipes and ideas and plans. It opens the slipstream door in those great moments of mercy and gently pulls me in. The Voice teaches compassion, and explains complexity with empathy, love and an open heart. And it gives me patience for brokenness, including my own.

Psalm 45: 1-13, translated and adapted by Nan C. Merrill in Psalm For Praying

Your Divine Presence endures forever
and ever.
Your sovereign edict is ordained
with justice;
your love is unconditional,
without reserve.
Therefore, O Creator, O Heart of Love,
anoint us with
the oil of gladness to share
with all;
your raiment is as fragrant
blossoms,
healing herbs of kindness.
From every directions stringed instruments
will gladden our hearts;
our friends will be filled
with integrity,
standing beside us in times of need.

Hear, O peoples, consider, and
incline your ear;
forget what has gone before you;
turn your feet to the path of Love.
Open your hearts to the Beloved,
learn of humility, be blessed
in brokenness,
For these are the treasures stored
in eternity.