This week’s weather on the coast moved back more towards what I’m told is the norm. It was more overcast and many days this week it was drizzly and windy. Still, we had a decent amount of sunshine, the type of sunshine that make productive office work futile. Next week, daily showers are in the forecast, just in time for Allyson to visit.
My beach walks this week have been less of the casual stroll where you take deep breaths of ocean air admiring the beauty, and more of the leaning forward pushing against the wind trying hard to breathe in awe of the white caps slamming into the jetty and sea rocks. It’s been a week of watching the clouds envelope the mountains, listening to wind and waves at night.
At last I am unofficially an official Oregonian, and only after 2 trips to the DMV. I’m still slightly unofficial, because if you get your license at the Tillamook DMV, you get a license printed on a sheet of paper to carry in your wallet and the real one comes in the mail in about 7 business days. I wonder what will happen when I try to get into the club with a piece of paper. This was the second time, which fits into a theory I’m developing that you can never make just one trip to the DMV. No matter how diligent you are, there will be some new thing you have to have or some rule you weren’t aware of. To get my Tennessee license swapped over to Kentucky, I went 3 times. This time I called the DMV ahead of time and thoroughly grilled them for everything I need. But, as I got out of the car, I saw on their door: “Cash or Check Only.” I had neither.
With it being Lent, with me living away from Allyson, and with me living in such a beautiful place, I’ve been very reflective lately about many parts of life. I’ve been really touched by beauty as of late. I was reading a verse in Genesis where Joseph lets his brothers (who sold him into slavery) that he was the rich, powerful guy in Egypt they were begging for food. As I read this, I could hear in the words all the pain Joseph was feeling. How he had been through such a journey full of fear and pain and exploitation and perseverance. He had come out much better than he could have hoped, but he probably had no hope of ever seeing his family again or ever talking to them about what they did to him. Then, here they are. I felt tears well up when Joseph hid himself to cry, when he told them who he was. I never had anything so huge and life-altering happen to me, never had that kind of family schism and so much hardship to follow, but thinking about it made me hurt for those who have. What a flood of emotions, all the pain, all the love, the connection to who he was and where he came from there again. Man, that’s heavy.
As I was driving to the DMV, I was listening to Microphone Check, an NPR hip-hop interview show. They were talking about Tupac Shakur, and they played one of his early songs, “Keep Ya Head Up.” The song samples the great 70s soul song by the Five Stair Steps, “Oooh Child (Things are Gonna Get Easier)” and is an anthem about finding positivity in hard situations. When I was in High School, Tupac was the biggest hip hop artist in the world, so he was the model of cool for me, a white middle class kid who wanted to connect to black culture. Pac certainly didn’t always promote values you want to pass on to your kids, but in this song the whole first verse tries to console mistreated women. He says:
I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women? I think it’s time to kill for our women, time to heal our women, be real to our women.
As I was driving, hearing those lyrics I started to get teary-eyed again. I was a combination of the music being perfectly matched to the lyrics, knowing that Tupac didn’t make it much longer after that song, and knowing second hand the place that a song like that came from. Again, I didn’t come up in a place where violence was prevalent, where people were beaten down by the world day after day. But, driving to the Tillamook DMV, Pac did something to me that made me feel a piece of that, made me think more on it.
As I began to present all my information: birth certificate, social security card, cash money, and proof of residence, the desk worker gave them all a look over and paused at my housing agreement which was serving a proof of residence. He asked if the address was printed on the proof of residence. It was not. It looked like I would again have to go back, requiring 3 trips this time for my license. Thankfully, over the weekend I had stowed away my latest edition of National Geographic Traveler in case I wanted something to read while I was having dinner Sunday night. Saved by the Traveler.
I had my weekly Lenten fast today, and this was probably the most fulfilling I’ve had. Fasting is one of those things I think most people don’t get. I get the feeling from people that it seems too outdated, too foreign, something people do to punish themselves and feel bad about starving people. I thought that at one time too. What I’ve found though, is that the fast really brings me in touch with the feeling of hunger. That physical feeling for food helps put me in touch with a lot of other things I hunger for, more emotional and spiritual things. It helps me see how much I long for certain things.
I felt a longing for the West every time I went to California, this strange attraction that just welled up inside like the place knew me. Now, here I am on the coast of Oregon, and it’s like sitting down to a feast everyday of your life. In times I am really present, I think about those feelings, wanting to be near the mountains and big trees and powerful bodies of water, and such a feeling of gratitude to have those feelings realized.
When I sat down to eat today, I could feel my taste buds salivating as I prepared my plate. They knew food was coming soon. I bit into the food and there was this sensation and relief. My body relaxed into the chair like into a hug. I breathed deep. My body was paying gratitude to this moment.
Today, towards the end of the fast, I felt this peace. I was weaker than normal. Jay, the camp chef, said he could tell I looked tired. I was, but I also felt this calm, this peace. I was hungry, but I’m hungry for many things. So many things I’ve had a longing for, I’ve been united with. The hunger sometimes makes the gratitude clearer, makes you listen to other people’s longings, hurt for them, have joy for them.
It’s been over a month since I saw Allyson, since we could wrap ourselves up together, since I could hold her hand as we drive, since I could pull her close to me and feel her heart pulse and her lungs fill up. I will pick her up at PDX tomorrow after a long flight. These weeks of longing have reminded me how gracious I am that we made promises to each other, that she chose me and I chose her. When I see her in that airport, it will be like breaking the fast tonight all over again.