Belonging was a sliver somewhere lost up in my first beer. He shared his with me as we abandoned our car and found some swampy field that overlooked the ocean. The drink tasted far worse than it smelt, and I only took two sips because I was afraid my throat would burn down to my stomach leaving me empty.
This was my one chance at being normal and I hated it- the taste, the smell, the fact that I felt I had to clandestinely drink it. Despite all this, I gripped the bottle yearning for something to mark the leaving of my Mormon faith. Touching alcohol, a sin great enough to exempt me from full membership, seemed like a big enough statement. But the beer was just as much a lie as was the past 3 years of me in my religion. It was the silent pleading for someone to look away so I could pour it out- the script, the regurgitated answers, the amens and now it was the same battle but in the form of a bottle.
He saw my hesitation, the wincing of my eyes as I swallowed. “If you don’t like it you don’t have to drink it.” Reaching out to take the bottle he gently reminded me, “It’s okay.” Silent, I wondered- Could it be that I didn’t have to play hopscotch with facades? Could I believe what I wanted, drink, or in my case not drink, as I pleased? He let me put down the bottle just as much as he let me take off my past. Being seen so vulnerably felt unfamiliar- it tasted strong, uncertain and free with a twist of lime.
Art courtesy of Eric Haacht
The music here is akin to dropping kitchen utensils on a tile floor. People fuse together slowly attempting to move to the beat but a melody is required for that, and here there is not one to be found.
I don’t exactly know why I’m here.. at this concert, in this European city even. It’s all a bit random, even more senseless is the strange satisfaction I have during it all. It’s not because I’ve found belonging here per se, I mean I’m wearing a strapless red and white polka dot dress amongst Warsaw’s best hipsters in an all black collage of strong beer and unnecessary winter hats in spring. I’m the easiest Waldo to spot.
Yet, I’m welcomed all the same, that’s the fascinating part. There’s a place- a place for this strange music, and a place for salsa dancing on a Tuesday night, for Jewish bakeries, and quaint bookstores, and yes, a place for a girl who doesn’t yet know where she belongs in it all. There’s a place in this city. Endless places that I continue to fill.
Art by: Heather Day
I seem to find words for everything except for God. Vocabularies, pictures, sacred text filled my childhood so I could organise Him into a container with its labeled position on my night stand to watch over me as I slept.
That same God eventually died when I could no longer match the world that was evolving inside of me with the dogmatic and undoubtably ridged God I had grown up believing. When He died, so too did the part of me that rested in simplicity and certainties.
Now I am a woman filled with faith and with doubt, both valued equally in the search for my soul to find rest in the divine. My eyes are fully open for answers that I’ll be fine if never come.
Rilke, an Austrian poet wrote, “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.. live the questions now, perhaps then, someday far in the future you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
I pray Rilke was right, that somehow in my patient contemplation I might stumble upon the God who at the moment appears rather cryptic. In its rightful time, this very God might allow intellectual honesty coupled with sacred yearning to occupy my faith. A faith that leaves its sanatized shelter and joins the robust, and at times messy, dialogue of this life.
Art- Clement Mancini
A sense of helplessness battles inside me each time I enter a plane. I know the chances of it being just an ordinary flight are high, yet with each belly growl from the engine I feel as though my life is no longer in my hands- it’s in the pilot’s, the ascending cloud’s, or whichever God in the end was the real one.
On occasion, a presence of peace comes from my monitor screen. I stare at the map that tracks the flight mid air, breathing relief like an exhaust pipe when we exit ocean territory and hover over land. It’s strange if you think about it, whether we crash over sea or over ground, me and all these passengers would be recycled away. Definite gonners. But somehow knowing my preference call on how I go (ocean or land) was acknowledged breeds the illusion of having some semblance of control.
Though, there too is a strange paradoxical calm that comes from passing my life’s responsibility on to another. There’s someone to blame when the plane plummets, but when it’s just me I don’t have to luxury of shewing away accountability. That’s what this move to Europe feels like for me- a lot of pressure to not crash out there on my own. Maybe I should bask in the surrender that takes place in the loosely buckled seats and turbulent warnings- for a moment I can sip my ice cold water in a cup smaller than my hands and know that’s all I have to be holding. It won’t be long before I have bigger things to hold together.
Art by: Whooli Chen
“So there is this man,” as most of my stories begin. This man puts most men to shame- he is a total flower-child, beat generation hippie that my parents would never want me dating. So I date him. He touches me till my voice cracks into song- It’s been so long since I’ve heard myself sing.. It’s been so long since I’ve felt myself loved.
Being loved by him makes me yearn to stay in Hawaii, give up all my aspirations and join him in a yurt somewhere making homemade kombucha and sun babies. We very well could do that. But then there is this soul in me that knows I need more than comfortable. In my moments of doubt, I wonder if it’s my greed telling me that instead of my intuition. Either way, I’ve got my suitcase on the floor like an open casket.
I won’t stay. Adulthood slowly approaches then all at once. I’ve signed the dotted line for work and I’ll be moving to Warsaw, Poland in a matter of days. I simply know I’ve got to go, and just like that I’ve made our hearts break.
Art: Frank Moth
You wish you were home even though you’ve already arrived. You could build a dam made of the mud from your childhood scars and they will fail you, tomorrow will come rushing in and break the stories you’ve told yourself over and over, “I’ll be happy when I find home.” You’ve always been home.
Home for you is searching. It’s in the boomerang waves off Waimea rock, it’s in the tears the day you reached the airport and kissed the man who’s hands laced around yours felt like the finest silk-the kind dedicated only for special occasions-like the birth of your sisters first child. You wanted to wrap that precious baby up in it and say, “Feel this right here, this is what life has in store for you. We call this love.”
Home is everyday you run into your neighbor who’s son your age died last year, you wonder if when she sees you graduate or get married she thinks of who he could have been. Home is in the trees that are there year after year even with the hurricane winds that slap its stillness dreams. Home is Tuesday’s canceled plans and traffic jams. Home is just as much your mothers embrace as it is the man you see dressed as Santa outside the Walmart sliding doors ringing his bell like an exit wish. Home is everywhere just as melancholy is, just as beauty is. If you search for it your whole life with your palms stretched out just remember it’s in your back pocket.
You want home, so welcome yourself to it. You want home, so swallow it whole.
Art Courtesy of Laura Owens
I once saw a video of a starfish walking and it made me not want to eat for a week. It no longer looked like an ethereal star but more like a mutated spider. The way it crawled on the ocean floor truly ruined my childhood, it made me wonder what else people were lying to me about.
If starfish aren’t beautiful home decor pieces sold at tjmax and are practically sea spiders, and Santa isn’t real, is anything what we expect nowadays?
Could this world be a collection of tears on the side of a penny, like those science experiments where we are waiting to see how many drops it takes before the dome of water explodes and we all go flying? Are we all just Heaven’s experiments, participating in a mini ant farm given too many steroids?
I wonder if we are disappointing to watch, I bet we are most days when we torpedo ourselves around our to-do-lists and worry about if we took the trash out on garbage day. Maybe in the end we are all just God’s starfish where he thought we could be so much more yet we continue to scrape the floors of the ocean looking for Santa or people’s approval. Wouldn’t that make for a lousy conversation starter in God’s decoration scheme?
Art by Vintage Art Originals
I moved away from home 6 years ago, assuring my mother I could live by myself. Over 20 countries later, a nearly finished college degree, 2 true heartbreaks, and far too many quit jobs, I found myself in Northern Poland sitting on the train station floor waiting for a way to escape to yet another place. It was 3 am. Exhausted, I rested my head on my single suitcase which held my built up silent desperation for a home.
Next to me at this station slept two homeless men and one homeless woman. Their bloated and tired bodies laid in a state of never ending unrest. They looked how I felt inside and this pressed on my chest until I surprisingly began weeping. I did my best not to wake them, to do so seemed inconsiderate, they were actually homeless and there sat a homesick traveler, crying because for a moment she felt despair while they were caged in it.
My cry was interrupted when I heard someone shuffling toward me. I glanced up. It was another homeless man reaching out trying to place a small cup of coffee in my hands like a child offering handpicked dandelions tied into a bouquet. At first I didn’t want to accept it. Shouldn’t I be the one helping him?
Seeing his continued gestures to accept this small offering, I graciously took the cup. We didn’t say much, from my accent he knew I was foreign and maybe he didn’t want to play charades this late at night. I watch him shuffle away into a different corridor of the station and I was left to sit silently realizing how much this moment changed me.
I’ve been searching for a bigger life and a place to call home for years, but had I forgotten the other people around me who were seeking the same? This pushed me out of my momentary misery to want a home for that man, for the Syrian refugee, for the abused wife, for the homesick college student, for the abandoned child, and for the young solider with his finger on the trigger pointed at someone else’s home. I wished we could all rest if even for just one night- tonight. But if we all couldn’t, and we were stuck in our lost state of distress I wish we could find a way to be like this man, offering all we have (even if it seems like nothing) so for just a moment someone next to us could feel what we wish for most, the feeling of our tired hearts resting at home.
Art Courtesy of Nicola Kloosterman
Of course there are days I think my lungs will collapse because I’m only breathing in silence. But there too are days the solitude sings to me lullabies in a language only we know. Traveling extended amounts of time can divide me like this-Madly in love with the aloneness and going mad with the aloneness all the same.
This past month for work, I have been rotating around Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and Poland. Each week I leave only to return for a matter of days then back once again. With each countryside train ride, accompanied with my aloneness, we retreat into my mind.
I dream up complications of words that make utterly no sense but taste good when I say them. I create, I wander, I lecture, I fall in love all within the comfort of my head against those bouncy train seats. Contrary to everything I’ve been taught, I never wish to be too present. An element of madness keeps me loving this life. It loosens my perceived limitations and opens my identity to be far beyond what reality could ever give me.
I don’t fear public speech because I’ve sung at Carnegie Hall once while daydreaming on my train from Bydgoszcz to Kraków. I am confident because on the bus through Romania I imagine myself to already be the woman I wish to be- Mother Teresa with platform red high heels and a rather exquisite taste in Italian gelato.
Without a doubt, it is all an illusion, but I am free from the illusion that anyone is free from illusions. This state, this highly dramatized attempt at reality, is far from adolescent. I think it’s our creativity begging for a space in this life, it’s our possibilities asking to be tried on and walked in. It’s reality taking a taste test of life outside of its train window. I rairly resist. It’s my sweet tooth that keeps me coming back for more.
Art Courtesy of Danielle Krys