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.
Enjoy!

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.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Reflection on June 30th Gospel

There's a point in our lives when we realize that we have to make a choice about God.

Elisha was called by Elijah, Elijah perhaps foreshadowing Jesus' call.

It isn't that we shouldn't bury our dead, or that we shouldn't take the time to say goodbye to people. It's that it is so dangerous and so tempting to look back. Then we are also tempted to say "Tomorrow, tomorrow I will follow you". Tomorrow comes, and  it becomes today, and the present is always so full of things to do, things to bury, things to say goodbye to. It's like saying "Lord, I want to follow you, but before I decide to quit my bad drinking habits, I need to get drunk just one last time".

We shouldn't look back when we say yes to Christ, but it's never that easy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Thoughts On Adoration

You have called me here. You knew the deepest, truest desire of my heart. I came thinking I was looking for one thing, and wanting this one thing, I discovered that  what I really wanted and needed was something else. In the end, I simply desired to be with you. And the thought had crossed my mind, but I dismissed making that thought a reality, because I wasn't doing a conscious and intentional effort. I told myself I could be with you wherever I wanted to, using the excuse that you're everywhere, that you're in everything, and available at any time I wanted to be with you. Now I see my selfishness, of going to "see" you, talk to you, whenever and wherever I wanted. But in my heart, my deepest desire was still to be with you, such an honesty with blind eyes. I couldn't see you sometimes, with the same-old excuse of having no time.

Thank you Lord for drawing me here. You called me, and I finally made myself available, thinking I would see your face through others. Instead, you, yourself, pure and present, came. No one else was here but you, when I was expecting a group of people. Only You showed up. You were there, standing as I entered the church, waiting patiently. Waiting for me to see you face to face.

Here I am. I know it's not wrong to see you and expect to see you through events, people, and nature, but I forget sometimes what a blessing it is to see you face to face. And talk to you. And adore you. Thank you for calling out to me, like a good friend, for listening, for being with me. For waiting until I finally came to see you.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Some Reflections at the Canal of St. Martin

I wish that I could see much more. But instead I see this dirty, smelly city. In a way, I wish I would know more of its stories, of its secrets, of its genuine charm. I've chained myself in my ways of thinking, and it's been long since I de-romanticized my view of the so-called "City of Lights".

I see the people of the city, having breakfast, lunch, and supper at their little brasseries. I see them on their squares and by the Seine and the canals, drinking wine and beer, eating bread and cheese. Smiling, talking away, making out. Sometimes I just want to be an observer. Sometimes a feeling of discomfort and unpleasantness takes over me, and I don't want to participate. "I don't want to live this life, I don't want to live this way" - I tell myself, even though no one is pushing me to do it, to go participate. I want to meet people, I want to socialize, I want to learn how people live here. But at the same time I'm overcome by this somber feeling of fatigue. It's tiring investing in people, especially when you're the outsider and you're trying to break into a group. People have no interest in you, and they don't want to bother. There have been times in my life when I've had to fight this very same feeling, and as I grow older and experience it over and over again, it becomes harder rather than easier to open my heart and open my mouth to start a new conversation. So I just walk, quietly, to discover a new corner in Paris I haven't seen.

I read there was this romantic canal in Paris called St. Martin. Maybe if I was with my loved one I would think or feel it was romantic. But all I see is this filthy concrete canal with metal, exaggeratedly arched bridges. The buildings on either side look common and unimpressive. I've tried not to expect too much of Paris in fear I would be disappointed. But this time I decided to take the adjective "romantic" at face value and it hasn't been true to its respective noun.

Other days I've walked through "common" streets and been surprised. I gaze at 150 year-old "hidden" buildings, and I'm awed by the amazing architecture. I wish I knew more about the styles - I'm learning some... I've learned a little about Baltard, Hausmann, the Belle Epoque... and I want to learn more... I imagine Paris, France in its more glorious days, or in the so-called Belle Epoque and I sincerely believe that Parisians have a treasure of a city. There is so much art, so much beauty, so many vestiges of history that you can still see and touch all around the city. But then, in a more global comparative perspective, I think about Mexico in the 1800s. Why do we not have 200 year-old beautiful buildings? Why do we not have feudal castles and centuries-old churches? Why are there no palaces?

I feel proud after realizing that we would have centuries, millenniums-old temples if the Spaniards hadn't destroyed many of them. And who would occupy themselves in building beautiful monuments and buildings when they were busy fighting for their independence? Then, independence wasn't sufficient for peace, and Mexicans had to fight invasions from the north (the U.S.) and the east (France) in the middle of the 19th century. Architecturally, the most "sophisticated" construction pieces in my hometown of Tampico are some New Orleans-inspired balconies brought from Europe at the turn of the 20th century that adorn the buildings surrounding the main plaza downtown (Plaza de Armas). Not many people know about these, and they are certainly not one of the most impressive features of Tampico.

Then I return to the canal St. Martin. In my eyes, it's neither beautiful nor impressive, and I realize that maybe that's why it's so full of Parisians instead of tourists.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

She asks for a friend

There is nothing to do
When death comes to you
She asks for a friend
But you don't accept
The request you deny
Not yours to reject

But it was yours the hand
Which closed devil's deal
You just didn't know
You thought it would heal
But. it. did. not.

You said I will kill
The enemy now
So you closed your eyes
Swung the weapon around
You didn't see who
Was standing behind

The blade didn't miss
What you wanted to protect
As if mad, as if blind
The one you called friend.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Take Nothing with You

Luke 9, 3-23


3. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no walking stick, no sack, nor food, no money, no second tunic" 

A few months ago, I reflected upon this passage because it really spoke to me. I've been wanting to share it since I wrote it down on a piece of scrap paper, so finally I took the time to type it out. 

Being on a mission means taking nothing with you. 

"no walking stick" 
In my life, the walking stick or staff is something, someone to lean on. Thus, to me, leaving the walking stick behind means having nothing to lean on. In other words, it's leaving behind emotional stability. For me this is the hardest one of all, because when you are home, you don't realize how much support and stability you have. People hold you up (emotionally) and it's really easy not to notice until you leave your "crutch" home and then you realize how much emotional support was given to you. Going out into mission means that you might leave your family far away, that you might go to a place where you don't know anyone, or where you don't know many. It's humbling and it's hard to take that step because being "on our own" is challenging. Sometimes we want to put our full support on people, when really we should be able to let God entirely support us and lift us up, or at least help us walk without the need of an extra "walking stick". I'm not saying it's wrong to lean on people, but that God is calling us not to lean our entire bodies and entire selves only on people. 

"no sack" 
Our sacks might be filled with little treasures, material things, and comfort. We leave the comfort of our homes to serve... We leave the familiarity we so much love... like coffee in the afternoons, our nap time, maybe our social media life, or texting... 

"nor food" 
This is our backup plan, things that sustain us other than God. Trusting on ourselves for our own providence and sustain. 

"no money" 
In regards to money, I think money represents trusting on our own strength, our ability to receive an income. In mission, sometimes we might need to give up our income to be able to serve the Lord.

"no second tunic" 
To me this represents our future plans, the things we will cover our lives with. Not bringing it with us is trusting God will provide. God will clothe us, God will protect us, spirit and body. 

4, Living like Pilgrims

"whatever house you enter" 
It is trusting your life in community. We don't enter into the homes of those who do not welcome us or who do not welcome Christ, for example in circles that reject Him. We want to lead a community of believers, we want to "shake the dust", the bad influences, but we still "testify" with our lives. We just chose not to enter in that life style of living as if God doesn't exist. We chose to "shake off" our bad habits, and live in the life and community God is calling us to live.

Mary and Joseph foreshadowed the life of mission at Jesus' birth, knocking on people's doors, asking them to let the Messiah in. We still proclaim the good news. We still knock on people's doors, not for us, but for Christ. 

Later in the passage, Jesus tells his apostles to take up their cross daily (Lk 9, 23), but that first they must leave it all. So we have to trust in the Lord, in his providence, before we even start our way to Calvary. We cannot take up the cross if our hands are full. 

So I've come to this conclusion, which comes back to verse 3: being on mission means taking nothing with you.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

First Nights in Paris

It was a night like this a few years ago when I first learned what a woman wants. It bore similarities with my current situation: I was with another friend and we were in Paris. Smiling and walking around, sometimes randomly talking to a stranger, or a stranger talking to us. We would demand what they had said, as many guys would sometimes blurt out something in French, something that with my little French I wouldn't always catch.

Finally, my friend got tired of laughing and playing around. At the end of the night, that's when she said: "these guys are just boys. I don't want any boys. I want a man." I was nineteen, not super experienced, so I asked  what she meant. She told me you could tell when it was a boy or a man. That a boy would take a walk with you, sit on a bench (like we had just sat with a couple French guys earlier in the night, talking, flirting). "Boys don't want compromise, they just want to have a fun time. Men will invite you to sit down and talk, have a drink. They'll take the time to get to know you."  I knew what she was saying was something more than that, but I learned from her to set my expectations high, because boys sometimes never grow up. From that time on I also asked this question in my head when I met a guy: is this a boy or is this a man? And secretly, though I was young, I wanted a man and not a boy.

Here I am in Paris again, knowing that I'm not looking for a man anymore because I already have one. I'm grateful because I know I'm so blessed to have found him, so lucky that he noticed me. I think about this as I remember what I learned in Paris a few years ago, how to distinguish a man from a boy. I think about this as I miss my man.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The fears of the unknown

The fears of the unknown

I must say… I am a bit terrified. Somehow, this time, something is different. A lot of things are different. In the past, I was filled with hope and excitement, hungry for adventure. These last few days, I can only but wonder what will go wrong. What will go wrong, this time?

It’s not a pessimistic attitude, but a surrendering.  It’s surrendering the fact that something might go wrong, something out of my control, something I cannot change out of the blue. I make a recollection of previous “adventures” like missing a flight, losing my luggage, airlines not letting me board… And I’m afraid because I already know by experience many of the possibilities of what could go wrong when you travel. Even then, I know that I’ve been truly blessed, because the luggage that didn’t make it with my flight was shipped to my door; I’ve made it back when I missed a (short-distance) flight (though I got home broke, of course); and I’ve managed to board transatlantic airplanes even when Lufthansa  has just about refused to letting me board their planes (somehow I’ve been good at receiving  the worst customer service from Lufthansa the two times I’ve flown from Europe to America). In the end, things worked out. I went through some tears, sweat, and stress, but it turned out alright.

I feel a bit guilty because I know I should have more faith, I know I should have more hope. I trust that God will give me some because those I cannot get on my own. Even as my heart and my “security gland” stretch and pull from all sides for discomfort, I cannot do more than my best and put the rest in God’s hands. I want to trust, I want to think “all will go well”, but looking at my past experiences that would seem too na├»ve. Instead, I repeat in my head “something might go wrong, but I just don’t know what”. And it’s ok. You cannot prepare for everything (in life), but it is important to know you need to gather the strength to face challenges when they do come. Because you know they are going to come. Thus, I ask for your prayers and the grace of God, so that I can trust and live this experience fully. So that I can be strong when the challenges come. So that I can love, and give back from whatever I receive out of this far-stretched but necessary step in my journey.

Yours,

Annie

Monday, April 1, 2013

The desert is about loneliness



"The desert is about loneliness…"

This phrase, taken from The Valkyries, by Paulo Coelho, struck me immensely. I know I struggle with loneliness from time to time, and it seems so silly because I am really not alone. But it is more of a feeling than a choice, and so I sometimes cannot prevent my heart from feeling that way… but I can take it with open arms and turn the suffering and struggle into a growing experience. If I cannot do that, what good would I have taken out of suffering? And what good would it have been going to the desert? Or is it better to choose not to go? The challenge is choosing to go to the desert.

Because… the desert is about loneliness…

When I think about traveling, I am scared of being alone. Knowing I will meet people helps a little, but meeting people does not always mean developing true friendships. Traveling is sometimes like going away from everything I know, seeking peace, seeking growth. Sometimes traveling is a retreat. Sometimes it’s meant to be a desert. It’s meant to put me aside, and leave me, alone, so that I can reflect and come closer to God.

It is not that pretty to think of traveling and other experiences in our lives as a desert, because mostly, the desert takes form in things we run away from, and which hold a sadder, more estranged image in our minds. Most people would think of traveling as fun, and not as a way of getting away from people and the world, just as most people don’t think of traveling to the desert, away from comfort and civilization. The beauty lies perhaps in choosing to go into the desert of our lives, to be taken apart for a moment, to feel the empty spaces in our hearts, so we call fill them up only with God. That’s what retreats are about sometimes… deserts and loneliness.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Breathe



When your chest feels like bursting
And just want to cry away
Like the rain on an autumn, cold, windy day
When your heart wants
                        exploding
                        balloon in thin air
                        to be nothing
to feel nothing
Today

I wish I could tell you to smile
I wish I could tell you to laugh
But all I can say is just breathe
All I can say is just live
And did I say, don’t forget to breathe?

Eyes tear up like the sky
Torn by the slash of lighting
News that came as a flash
Shot from unexpected camera
With an unexpected picture

If you could act, life would be a play
That is why all I can say is, be real
There is no wedding, no funeral
If it was comedy I’d say laugh
If it was tragedy I’d say cry
But drama, that’s life
So all I will say is breathe.