Five steps

Chinua and I went to California for four days, flying in a sky that we normally see from the ground. Beautiful people made it possible for us to go to Ian’s memorial, just the two of us. We drove through redwoods and I rolled the window down to breathe their beautiful, spicy scent. It was the first time in 13 years that we went away together for more than a couple days. 

We held hands a lot. I cried. I hugged Christy as much as I could. She still fits under my chin. Chinua spoke at Ian’s celebration of life and he told all of us in that great giant room about his friend. My heart hurt a thousand times. I laughed, too. Christy laughed as well. I wanted to get up to say that Ian was very, very kind to me. But there wasn’t time, because people rushed the stage to talk about their friend. There were so many of us.

We slept on a soft bed and ate good food. We saw people we haven’t seen in years, people who know our story. I sat in the sun in the cool air and felt like the most blessed person in the world.

Back at home, in Thailand, the kids were well taken care of. Our friends took turns watching them, and they got a full education in rock and roll, they played a game called Abandonment, where Kai, Kenya, and their friend Taran were driven out to a spot, blindfolded, and had to make their way back home. They did it easily. (I would call it Survival, but they love to proclaim that they were Abandoned, loudly and dramatically.) They were loved and fed and bathed. Our house was the hub of hospitality and fun. We are back home now, relearning to embrace the chaos, saying hello to our neighbors.

And why do I feel so lost? Perhaps I will always feel this way. Blindfolded, trying to make my way home. I am surrounded by love, by friendship. And I’m scratching my way through the dark. I can feel so good sometimes, like I’m clearly not mentally ill. And then the tiniest of things, just one small surprise brings the drums of doom, fear without reason. (I don’t like surprises.) Ah. 

God loves me anyway. I’m pulling out all the tricks. Drawing, walking, getting up to write in the dark. Cups of tea, lots of hugs. Maybe if I can line up all the days, just get through it, God will form a life of triumph in me. The darkness encroaches, but I speed away on my bicycle. This could be grief. Not only for our friend. But for the world that I thought I knew. Why did I think friends don’t die? It was certainly never guaranteed. I grew up in a home touched by death, but still I was blind to the fact that it can happen. I didn’t believe the facts, the numbers. 

But the butterflies are amazing lately. We live in a butterfly land. Clouds of them rise up to meet us when we walk through the grass. We are sojourners in this world, like them, only here for a moment. We are strangers in a different land, wanderers who are beloved. All the paths have led to this point, they lead on from here. We are not forgotten, we are not finished. We are not Abandoned. 

He pursues us, he runs for us. We speak quiet whispers and he is already listening. We convince ourselves of our solitude, but it is untrue, because he is taking five steps to our one, every time.