Tuesday, May 25, 2010

sinuses & psalms

Before saying anything else, I'd like to celebrate something very special in the life of this (neglected) blog: FIRST POST EVER WRITTEN OUTDOORS!! Namely, on my back porch. With my laptop plugged into an extension cord snaking out the back door, from which I had to unplug the oven and refrigerator in order to use. Luckily, the whole rotting food thing is good motivation for finishing quickly and taking a walk....

I drove home-home this past weekend (i.e. to my parents' house) for the first time since December. Despite having a horrible sinus infection that gave me swollen glands and partygirl voice, it was a really really good trip: I got to see so many home friends, and go to one of my best friends' sister's wedding (vineyard + sparklers + pig roast!!). It was also very good for reminding me that Iowa is so beautiful in late spring, and for making me think hard about home and homecoming and all of that for the first time in a long while.

I've been interested for a very long time in the connection between people and place; most specifically, in how landscape affects and shapes American consciousness.
One of my favorite papers in college used TJ's Notes on the State of Virginia to (sort of ridiculously) argue that the Founding Fathers' experience of the North American landscape directly contributed to their decision to begin a new government. In normal non-academic life, my favorite question to ask someone I've just met is always "where are you from?", because I think it's the most telling of all. So without getting into the million theorists who write about this stuff (and ohhh my there are quite a few pretty brilliant ones out there), please suffice it to say that I am convinced that who we are is inextricable from where we're made—with all the multivalent meanings of that last verb rippling outward in ambiguity.

Anyway, I was thinking about a lot of things as I was driving the 6 hours home last Friday in a Tylenol Cold-induced haze, but somehow the closer and closer I got the more I started thinking about God—something/someone I hadn't seriously considered in quite some time. It wasn't fully in an intellectual way, but more in the way of remembering how I thought about God when I went to church twice a week growing up: the stern but kind carpenter God who loves everyone in a hands-off Presbyterian kind of way. And then there was this moment when I was about 30 miles from home, just past the bland subdivisions of Ankeny, with the sun dropping over the fields to my left, when before I knew it I said (out loud!!): Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Straight up Psalm 23!! (A favorite of Christians and Jews alike, I might add.) I love cities and living in cities, but they don't make me spontaneously repeat lyrics from David's ancient praise songs. That impulse is apparently only induced by hours of driving through the woods and the fields prepared for planting, in a rise-and-fall rhythm over the hills. (Plus a little bit of pseudoephedrine probably never hurt any mystical experience.) But the calm and gratefulness I felt in that moment, in those words, I'm going to try to keep safe and whole for awhile.


Valerie Bales said...

I'm impressed! Your Uncle says some great $25 words.

Braxton said...

If Field of Dreams taught me anything, it's that miracles happen, but only in Iowa.

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