Thursday, March 29, 2007

Riddle of blue

While I was home in Winnipeg over the break, the question “so what do you DO down in Syracuse?” came almost every day. This has never been my favourite question to answer, but people are interested. These annoying life-check questions are part of what make friends friends. Thus, today a feeble attempt to sketch out my life as a legal alien living south of the 49th parallel.

I think that part of the problem is that in the last few years, I haven’t really “Done” much, in the capital D-doing sense of the word. I got good grades, but I’m not in grad school. I haven’t even applied. Rare were the jobs I held onto for more than a year, mostly involving beverages of some sort. Easy to get and easy to quit. One University degree lies folded up between photo albums in my parent’s basement, next to my high school diploma. As the months tick on, I realize how much of it means little to me. As the years tread on, I realize that the little bit that does matter, matters a hell of a lot.

I didn’t become a teacher, a nurse, or a lawyer. I don’t own a power suit, and I don’t really want to. But then there are those old goals that poke their heads up now and again. The novel, the cafĂ©, the triathlon. Little bits of envisioned selves that take smaller forms now: Reading in them. Sitting in them. Running and cycling—two out of three isn’t bad.

So, what do I DO down here in Syracuse. Being unemployed leaves a whole lot of time for doing the things I always said I wanted to do. I often miss the world of structure and routine, where earning a living through honest work keeps me sane. However, what will be will be, and here I am, on an F2 visa, unable to earn even a penny polishing wine glasses (one of my many, underappreciated skills).

And so, I spend my days taking free courses at the University, listening to my professors wax poetic about leaves or good writing. (Or gripe about the war in Iraq or bad metaphors.) I practice Haydn’s Creation along with singers who are better than me, but whom I hope will sing loud enough to drown out my squeaks. I knit, un-knit, and knit again. I learn to bake bread, grow sprouts, and incubate my own yogurt. I try to break a 9-minute-mile. I go to films and Health Expos and anything free, I lift weights and do yoga on Mondays down the street. I read books, and I stare out the window waiting for the day the sun will pummel the clouds out of existence. (When it does, I am invincible.) I spend far too much time on the Internet, but a satisfactory zero hours in front of the t.v. I try to write articles that might sell. I hang out at the library down the street, or sip lavender lattes in basement cafes with my hubby.

Life, as we know it, leaves little to be desired. And yet I am a hungry creature. Desire is scrawled across my being.

I have tried hard to gather knowledge, prove my skills, and justify myself to the world. (While the people that matter already accept me.) A perennial quest for uniqueness or essence, maybe. In the lives of those I admire most, I see a new goal: to live for today, with more compassion for others and more grace for myself. To live out knowledge and to work hard. To question and doubt, and yet be satisfied in a life of faith. It is a never-ending quest. But today, today the Syracuse sky is mysteriously blue, and I am on my way out to bask in its riddle.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

ode to a finished book

I finally finished Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace. The work of this mid-20th-century French Jewish activist-mystic (yet defying categorization), is now on my list of most difficult books I've "read." I put read in quotes, because sometimes, when reading, the clarity and meaning of words evaporates, leaving them behind as mere objects. It makes for an interesting reading experience: When words betray their purpose, to communicate, and leave me instead with a vague sense of things--of brilliance and truth, or at least of worth. There is something in her writing, something that evaded me right through to the last word. But I ploughed on, believing the discipline and, in her words, attention, to be somehow good for me.

I will give you two quotes. To complicate this post with more than that would be much too heavy for the general purposes of the internet (speed, surface, mass accumulation of that which quickly slips through the fingers).

"The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation.

"Beauty captivates the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul."

Wow. That's all I can say.