to my future kids.

There are a few things that I want my children to understand.

Now, I don’t have any children of my own. I don’t have any plans to have any in the foreseeable future. But kids have always been a significant part of my life, and I believe that one day I will have a house that is full of loud, crazy people and pets, since I have always gravitated towards such chaos. I really really want to raise children to love things that I have come to love – not force their interest or anything, just sometimes I get really excited when I think about the possibility that one day I could share these amazing pieces of my life with them.

I want these kids to understand why swimming in the river out back of Natedewai village is amazing. The river is not always there, since it’s dependent on the seasonal rainfall, but when it is it is full of mudfishes and bugs and sand. Swimming in it this past summer was unbelievable. Floating along in the current clinging to a capped jerrycan, with eddies of latte-coloured water twisting about my limbs, the thought struck me in an almost desperate way, as thoughts sometimes do when I’m afraid I’ll forget the meaning behind them: My children need to understand this.

I want my children to understand the feeling of free air, open windows, and why riding in the back of the pickup or motorcycle is the best place to be. In the western world, climate control always has freaked me out. You move from bubble to bubble, where everything is perfectly adjusted and culture whispers that you are the center of the universe. At home, my favourite place to be was always in the way back of the pickup, with my hands to the sun and my hair being thrashed about my face in the breeze – NOT perfectly straightened and sculpted to look a certain way, free to just be. They have a saying in Uganda: “be free”. Not just “feel free”, the way Americans say, BE free. That really makes me happy, for I think it says a lot about the place. I want my kids to be free within and without, to understand the love of warm and cold weather, and to value the untamed in nature and in themselves.

I want to teach my children the love of music. Not in an academic, theoretical way, necessarily, just the warm comfort that I now feel when I listen to my “parent’s music”. Now, it’s not the typical mom-and-dad kind of music. No cheesy love ballads or awkward annoying pop songs. Rich traditional Irish music that never ever ever grows old, that I listen to when I’m feeling sad. My parents taught me a real love for that music – even though I don’t understand it completely, I absolutely love listening to the dusky voices of Dick Gaughan and Paul Brady, the violins of Altan and Kevin Burke, and so on. There are some things that should never grow old, and this is one of them. Irish music is just a tiny facet of the world of art they introduced me to in a way that encouraged me to explore it for myself, though I am a paltry musician at best. I want my children to understand a love for the artistic creations of humankind – not in a fluffy pop sense, but a real deep love that will never leave them even if I do someday.

I want to love my children with the love of God. I want them to understand that love and be filled with it. I wish with all my heart that I could meet them now and just hang out and talk about life, but that’s not how the system works, so I will love them all the way from the beginning of our relationship to the end. I will pour the spirit over them in every way I can and work ceaselessly to build for them a foundation of family love that is rooted in the Lord first and foremost. For nothing is more important to me than this.

I cannot wait to meet them.

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mbale (ten days)

My family has spent the past few days in Mbale, the first town we lived in when we moved to Uganda.

The market is wonderful:

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it started to rain and a few drops hit my lens:

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As I was leaving, an old man asked me to take his photo:

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and we rounded off the day by a drive up Wanale to see the sunset (which we missed, unfortunately)

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I love being home.

i like who we are right now

here, time melts, unfrozen

and runs down to bathe us in wild sweat and tears

work, we are finally moving

getting things done worth doing, breathing

in the heartbeat of a second’s time won

over our own loves,

I can just be a person and not think why.

difficult to explain – let’s just say that I am finally sleeping deep

 in home’s arms.

no one is complaining about homework or food

because a fifteen year old girl died yesterday

and we are fighting for the moment,

winning some small part of glory for now

before we follow her.

coffee out with maria

why is it that when I see you I cry immediately,

like someone punched in a cash register button in my heart

and the drawer slides open, pouring out vulnerabilities

 – you, oblivious, too young to understand –

I want to ask you how you got this way,

why your eyes are unfocused behind your cute little glasses. that would be rude

but the way you’re eating ice cream with your hands is rude too

so your mother leads your limping hand away,

to wash you clean, the way my mother did.

your parents maybe wonder why

this stranger is watching their child and slowly overflowing with tears?

(she misses her brother.)

drowning

When I first went to India, I wrote a piece concerning drowning and being drowned in a culture that was not my own:

“Each of her parents had gone their own way. Her mother had walked out of an icy, damp land, hair blowing in the wind – Ireland, the place she mentioned with longing sighs and wistful glances out the door. Her father had stood tall on the decks of ships way out across the Caribbean, traversing the dangers of South America, a land that had chiseled him down and made him a man.

So it was only natural that, after they’d all been together on the plains of Africa, that she would dive off the deep end and drown herself in the madness of India.

The drop into India was longer than she expected. She fell silently, her eyes open and her arms outstretched, until she crashed into the water with a mighty SPLASH, where it tore at her clothes, ripping out her hair. She sank swiftly and silently, shooting down by her skeletons of dreams and tattered kelpy thoughts, sinking deeper and deeper into darker and darker waters.

She came up for air in Agra, where she found a sort of life raft named Andy which carried her along for a while so that she could wipe her hair out of her eyes and catch her breath. All the water she’d swallowed stayed down, and he told her that she should keep it there because it would keep her alive.”

(2008)

Now I am melting, falling into this wasteland that says I belong,

I am overcome with memories and confusion

this constant reminder of You Do Not Understand,

You Do Not Belong

even though I look and speak like a native

I have perfected this chameleon act, blending

speaking this language to communicate a modicum of thought.

 – And yet, it is never enough.

I am exhausted of getting everything wrong, failing

in work friendship conversation class assignment meeting

I truly just want to get back to a language I can speak fluently,

speaking the truth into every ear, bold in faith

knowing that I am wholly loved and that I love wholly.

Let me fight this current, hold down this fiery water that burns my lungs

offensive, grating, I will breathe it

and swim to summer shores

then from there learn how to breathe air again.

phone call home

the dead air lightens

with familiar voice,

“hello?”

 –

eyes glaze, I am

sitting on the cracked countertop

chai in hand,

– their intonation, so well-known,

takes me straight into that warm Sunday night, believing after Bible study.

as they speak, i see

the way she tosses her hair when she laughs

his crooked, Han Solo smile

Mom’s ticking steps through the halls

her upper lip curled under in her wide smile, the way it always does

when she’s really laughing – the way that I am now,

as they know just what to say.

 –

Mid-joke, mid-laugh, the line cuts.

 I am holding an empty shell of metal and plastic to my face

straining, yearning

as the memories fade

and I am alone again in this icy silence, so much

colder after a breath of warm air.

self-destruct

please stop me

without thinking, i

speak, thoughts bubble, spill

poured from my tongue

unheeded, unfiltered, burning

my limbs swirl, unchecked,

not paying attention, lost in some savannah somewhere

warm, curled up in this shadowy memory,

my mental effigy of love

kicking me in the heart steadily

i lose attention with

currency, i am more curious to see

what is on the other side of inhibition than anything else –

how far can i get when i am not listening

to my own heartbeat?