Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Mayday

Lord, teach me to NOT WANT,
Not even spiritual comfort
Teach me to detach my desires from myself
So that I desire
Only what you desire
 May 1st, 2015

Tonight I experienced a feeling I had not experienced in over 6 years. The last time it had been a cold night in Frankfurt. I felt like exploding and so I left the house after dark to go downtown. I felt like I was running but really I was walking very slowly. There was something about the city lights amidst the darkness that comforted me. Something about the searing cold helped me empty myself, pour out my soul into the half-emptied streets.  The deafness of the concrete welcomed me, my silent cries bouncing off the steel, the glass, the modern facades… These lights shining in the dark drew me, and their reflections on the Main spoke of peace, hope, beauty. I wandered through the night, through the streets, seeking answers.
The moon stood as my graceful companion, without complaining...almost full, so open, so bright, so comforting. It was God’s way of saying he was there... in my anger, in my confusion, in my restlessness.
Sure, in times of discernment I always look outside to see beyond; I take long walks, seek places of quiet and solitude. Except that this time I am not just searching answers for myself, but for others. And I feel helpless not being able to help.
It may seem silly to do so, but only human.

I am reminded that everything in this world is passing… and I try not to hold on… not to question, just to trust.

Not what I desire Lord, but what you do… do with me as you will, to lead others to you…

Monday, March 16, 2015

Whose land is it anyway?

You say kick them out
They don’t belong here
You say they steal your taxes
Yet half this land was Mexico’s
So who’s to say
That it’s not rightfully theirs?
California, Arizona,
New Mexico, or Texas
Once Mexico’s, once Spain’s
Once not even theirs
Once it was from natives,
Not yours, not mine, but theirs.
It all depends how far back you go
But in the end, not yours nor mine
And this nation pridefully says
We are a nation of immigrants
But hypocritically says stay out
We don’t want you here
But what do we say of the land we usurped
But what do we say to poor nations today
That are how the nations we came from once were
But don’t come here with your misery
Stay there and don’t have children
That will solve your problems
We don’t want you to come and flourish
We don’t want you to have the chance we once had
But I ask is this really yours to say?
I will ask you now
Whose land is it anyway?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

La Mujer sin Alas

Una vez, la mujer sin alas
Tiró una roca a la mar
Había visto estrellas,
Y conchas, y algas regresar
Había visto,
                                Hasta peces volar.

Ella pensó que vendría
Como un presagio, una señal
Con una historia, un comenzar
Tal vez un guapo joven,
La iba a encontrar

Pensó sin recordar
Que piedra a ella estaba atada
Y tiró ella sin pensar
Que ella misma se iba a ahorcar
La barca de aventura fue el soñar
Y estar anclada fue su error
Y aquella que al viento, a las olas susurró
Aquella sabia gaviota
Volando, diciendo:
La mujer sin alas 
Se ahogó sin libertad

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Miracle of Simple Things

The Lord works miracles in us through the simple things in life. Just as He worked a miracle through Naaman (2 Kings) by having him do such an ordinary thing -to wash himself! - he works miracles in us in the daily, ordinary, even banal, things. Maybe washing dishes, making dinner, cleaning up, not talking back, being organized, forgiving people, not critizing, whatever that may be. Naaman expected Elisha, the prophet, to tell him to do something extraordinary. He  expected Elisha to touch him and then be miraculously healed.

When we come before God, when we ask for healing, for a miracle, for anything, sometimes we expect that same "out of body" experience that Naaman expected. We may think that we must do something extraordinary to experience or receive a miracle. But the healing of Naaman involves his own, and very simple, action. He must act to receive the healing, it's not a passive scenario where he lies down and Elisha does all the work to perform the miracle. By Naaman's decision to act, to do as he is told, God heals him. After reading this story we can be hopeful, because we know that God will ask us to do something that we can do.

Sometimes we don't realize that we do the extraordinary by doing the ordinary. It's not always easy to "just do the ordinary". We wash ourselves, we ask for forgiveness, we give up those things that are part of our daily lives to become better people. This is how some couples stay married for many years. It's not that they are experts in a special, obscure subject, but it's that they are good at the small things; at being grateful, patient, at forgiving and letting go, at listening, at sharing, at giving up things for the best of the relationship, at receiving and giving back, at taking care of each other one day at a time, and so many things that I have yet to learn about. The combination of many ordinary days of two ordinary lives become what we see as extraordinary: 20, 30, 40, 50 plus years of marriage. And that is how God makes something ordinary into the extraordinary.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Tears of the Sky - 2

This is the other side/ second part of a story I wrote a long time ago (2004-2005). I wanted to put both stories side by side, but I can't find the original "Tears of the Sky". I will post it as soon as I find it. I hope you enjoy it, and please let me know what you think! All comments are welcome.

The sky did not stop crying. 

I sat on the mud, with my thighs pressed against my chest, my knees kissing my cheeks. My eyes shot toward infinity in the grandness of the canyon. I was sitting on the edge of this vastness, staring at everything and nothing, eyes glaring of emptiness because they could not absorb any of the beauty before me. All of the vagueness of the world sat there with me, lensing my view as a blur. It was as if I had been there before many times, and yet the unfamiliarity took grasp of me because I knew I had suddenly appeared there. It wasn’t a truly physical form of my body which sat by the canyon. It was my soul, a childish, young, hopeful, and innocent one, as clear and unreal as a vision. It was the one who lived long ago. In this look-out post, I could feel the immensity of the canyon. I could see all the paths and possibilities. I could hold my arms out and know there was freedom beyond the one step down the cliff. But no, I sat wrapping my knees with my arms. As much as I hated to admit, I didn’t want to let go. I was scared. What the world had promised turned out to be … a lie. But hey, I had so many dreams, so many hopes. I had not given up. I was holding onto my life. All the things I could do if I lived! All the joys, all the smiles. Now, if I wanted, I could dance around under the rain, say to the sky it’s tears of happiness I’m crying.

Then a gloomy figure came from behind like a shadow. I saw his face and I understood. I knew it was me. Me, me, me with that falling face, walking around like a zombie. I wanted to say stop! But I could not speak. He approached the edge and for a moment I knew all I was about to lose. But I was innocent! I still felt like a child inside. I had goodness in me, I was happy… I could be happy… and I was still alive. Before the young man’s last step I grabbed his hand and pulled him back. His eyes shot back, puzzled. That he didn’t know someone would care surprised me. Who wouldn’t stop him? But his eyes said that he had not expected a reaching hand. That’s how much he thought of himself. He kneeled beside me on a puddle as I drew him closer to me. I knew this phantom in this tiny child figure was not going to last long, since I could feel my fingers loosing grasp, like little tickles at the tips. I cried. I cried as much as I needed, until my eyes would bleed. I cried for all the people I would let down, for those who cared, for those who would be left with the burden of my departure. I hoped this man would understand, and through my tears shout the unfairness of the deal.  He would kill hopes and dreams, and that eager child who played out on the streets would never make it as far as he had set himself to go. And so I cried blood to spare blood shed for nothing. I hugged him, my arms as an extension of a rope saying; “hold on tight, don’t lose your life, don’t lose your grasp”. But I could feel I was fading away. I was drifting into nothingness again, to the past where I belonged. Alas, my task was done, and I think I saw a smile as I left his eyes. They were crying too, like the sky. As I drizzled away, I said to myself, “tears of joy, oh sky cry with!” and so it did.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dear Paris

Dear Paris, oh Paris
with your smell of piss

It's not that I don't love Paris. It's just that it's been a while since I've "unromanticized" the city for myself. With experience and the help of somewhat depressing French movies, I didn't expect Paris to be the most romantic city. The first time I set foot on Paris it was a cold, rainy, and gray city. The fountains were frozen and turned off, the gardens were brown or bare, the air was so thick you could not see the Eiffel tower. I stared at the immense line of people under the most famous tower in the world, and I thought "There's no way standing in line for hours is worth it!" (it was -12C that day). So I didn't go up the tower... I didn't go up to be at an even more freezing top... Not even for the unviewable view that the city had that day.

That was what I got for going to see a city in January and think it would be fun to be walking around. I was there with a friend for New Years, and right around midnight on December 31st, somebody had pulled the emergency break in the subway, where I happened to be at the moment (on my way to the Seine river to celebrate!).

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about being in Paris. I like Paris. I love Paris! But Paris is a city, a big city with lots of people, lots of smells, lots of good and bad things, lots of problems. As I walk down the metro I think "How wonderful it is to have an underground transportation system!". But at the same time I am reminded of other things as I see people asking for money in these tunnels, or as I get a good big whiff of the smell of urine mixed with who-knows-what. The tunnels reek of it, the streets do too. I also read Paris was the city with the record of most metro tunnel suicides. As I was walking today, I saw a man walking in front of me "pull over" to the side to pee by the corner! It wasn't the busiest of streets, but there were many cars and people around, businesses, and apartments.

One of the first French movies that I watched was "400 Blows". This movie does a pretty good job at de-romanticizing the city. Later, I watched "35 Shots of Rum". Both movies have a greyish scheme, one about parent negligence and abuse, the other about the monotony of the life of a family in Paris. They show the plainness of living in a city like Paris, the problems, the human faces that live and work there. It's not the typical touristic Paris, with the beautiful gardens and romantic candle-light dinners by the Seine. Paris isn't shown as a magical, extraordinary place, but instead a rather somber one. The beautiful thing of these movies and is that they show the human faces that live in Paris. And more than the streets, the beauty, and the astounding art of Paris, I will take with me the stories of people, and the history of those who walked before me on these same streets.

Dear Paris, I'll think of your people and not of your piss.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Three Famous Women: Child, Chanel, and Baker

This is a recap of my first two weeks in Paris. I was determined to do some of the walks in my "Forever Paris, 25 walks in the footsteps of Chanel, Hemingway, Picasso, and more", so during my first two weeks I did Julia Child, Coco Chanel, and Josephine Baker's walks.

Julia Child

She lived in Paris in the 1950s, where she discovered her passion for cooking. Author of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", she basically taught Americans how to do French cuisine. The picture below is one of the restaurants he used to frequent. It's close to the metro station Chatelet, and it's only about 15 minutes walking from where I live in Paris (Beaubourg). I also met  somebody from the prayer group that works there, kind of a fun fact for me.

Coco Chanel

A fashion revolutionary, Coco Chanel had a pretty tough life from the beginning. At twelve, she lived in a convent and learned how to sew. One of my favorite feats of Chanel was her simplifying fashion. She managed to turn a trend of wearing elaborate hats that limited movement and required hours, numerous pins, and assistance to put on, into wearing simple and elegant straw hats.
The picture below is where her personal apartment was, on the third floor of 31 rue Cambon. It's still there, but it's not open to the public. Some of her first hat shops are all along that street, covering several buildings on that block.

Josephine Baker

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906, Baker arrived in Paris in 1925. A performer, Baker was a dancer, a singer, and even a comic star. As black performers were popular in Paris during the 1920s, Baker went from being in a "comedic side act in a country ruled by segregation" to being "the highest-paid entertainer in Europe". She loved Paris and she loved France, and even helped in the French Resistance during World War II.

The picture below is where she used to live in her early career, an apartment on av. des Champs-Elysees #77. The second picture is the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, where Baker performed her "Dance Sauvage" when she first arrived to Paris.
I hope you enjoyed these little summaries, although probably not as much as I enjoyed these wonderful walks. It was fun to walk in the footsteps of Child, Chanel, and Baker, three remarkable women.

*All the pictures above are pictures I took during my walks.