we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

Where do I begin? I am a hundred times over filled with happiness. Returning to familiarity is like slipping on an old favorite sweater; reassuring, it stirs my heart to sing.

It’s the collection of all the little things that make the difference: sunshine, blue skies, the sparkling of sunlight on the ocean, the pure Santa Barbara light, and, most of all, old friends who have changed and recognize that I have changed too but still love me the same. I have a suspicion that it is not so much that we have changed but have grown more deeply into ourselves.

I do miss England. I do miss the frost on the windows, tea and scones, the deep glowing green of the trees, the gray that hangs over everything, the thick, heavy, almost yellow-tinged light in London. But England is far away now, a whole week in the past; England to me is dream-like. It’s as time though time had stopped for three and a half months and I had a long elaborate vision, hardly real.

Coming back makes me realize how far I have come and how much I have learned. In many ways, I feel no different now than I did before I left, just a little wiser from mistakes I have made, a little more knowledgeable of who I am, how I work, what I desire in life. I have seen how people can hurt each other, I have seen how people can love each other, can forgive each other, can move on, even when healing seems counterintuitive.

With only twenty-eight people living together for three and a half months, all things were magnified: drama, sorrow, joy, laughter. There were few places to go alone and there was little privacy [even the walls were thin, almost non-existent], and so we became a little family who wept together, laughed together, argued with each other, wrestled with each other, processed through our pasts and presents and futures together, danced and sang together, played together.

There was one night at the end of the semester when we all put on our best selves, and all things were made beautiful. In the darkened gymnasium we talked individually with each person on the trip, naming the good in each person, apologizing for mistakes and hurting each other, and showering each other with only truths. Actively searching for the good in people automatically revealed the beauty in these people that was often hidden because we were too lazy and selfish to look for it. There were tears shed, there was uncontrollable laughter, there were memories recalled, and I came out not only knowing myself more truthfully but seeing others in a more truthful, and therefore more beautiful, light.

After that night, I can look into these people’s eyes and say with all honesty, ‘Namaste—I see the divine in you. You are beautiful, you are God’s creation, and He has so much more in store for you. Do not cheapen yourself, do not settle for less, because you deserve more—you are God’s child, you are His beloved.”

Of course, not all things were made perfect that night. Deep-seated hurt takes time to heal and conversations are only stepping stones. But I am determined not to lose what I learned there even though the truths seem less relevant now. I find myself gripping on to these truths because I know they were true of myself then and are not entirely dependent on place and time, and so should be and must be true of myself still.

And now, today, in Santa Barbara, my circle of twenty-eight people has expanded exponentially. But still, my task is the same: to look deeply for the good, for the divine in each person without reservation, to name the beauty that is in the people around me.

And it is good to be back. It is good to see how much people have grown while I have been gone, a growth I may not have recognized if I had spent every day with these people. How wonderful, how beautiful—God is here, God is present, God is working. I am in love with life.


Approaching Clarity

I am no masochist but there’s something so fulfilling and satisfying in these spiritual and emotional growing pains. What I have learned these past few weeks: Self-discovery hurts. Vulnerability hurts. Healing hurts. Yet this hurt yields relief because little by little all things are shifting into focus.

A few months ago, I experienced something that turned my world around. Not a religious conversion; my religious conversion has always been slow and measured, tiny fractions of turns, slight shifts in the way I know God and myself and the other, a steady turning despite the ebb and flow of doubt and praise, but altogether nothing hugely interesting. No, this conversion was the discovery of the key to my coded past; all the old suppressed emotions and inexplicable actions snapped suddenly into focus.

And now I begin to understand who I am and now I begin to understand that I will never begin to understand who you are, who he is, who she is. Complexity is difficult, but beautiful and human. Still, love is the reason, the purpose, the end and the means; love remains silent, asks questions; love hurts, then heals. [So what if that’s cliché, it’s true.]

I pray for redemption of our pasts, individual and collective. Our pasts taint our presents, dictate how we act now. I pray we redeem the present from insignificance, because each day is a gift, as is each breath, and moment.

And I am learning so powerfully that there is even grace and redemption in these dismal grey days. Gloom hovers above like these clouds that threaten, only threaten, rain, never releasing relief. The fiery copper beech looks like judgment today; the lake, disturbed and restless. That half-minute walk from one building to the next when walked alone feels like an eternity; the wind gnaws at my skin and absolute fear and loneliness well up in the deepness of my stomach. It’s that restlessness in the air that feels like this so carefully constructed world is just a house of cards, and the defenses around myself which hang together just perfectly are falling down.

But there is always grace, redemption, forgiveness. Sometimes the defenses are salvaged, the house remains standing, and there is tea, blankets, no fire but warm radiators, and friends. But other times, all things collapse, are stripped away, leave just flesh and backbone, a beating heart. But there, love is made manifest. Sometimes so simply but enough: a hug or a few words, a knowing look. Other times I wonder how they can love so well, so perfectly: walking and talking equally or climbing under the covers sobbing praying prophesying singing. Realizing that you and I are the same: weak, vulnerable, broken, in need, unable to live alone.

We learn from one another to be brave in our love.

Today, or rather this one moment now, I am at peace; I have drunk the gift of this moment. I can’t say I won’t retreat back into that restless fear and doubt, that state of unease, even within the hour. But now, this moment, I have succeeded. Illumination comes like lightning, and then is gone, but in the cloudy haze of irresolution, it is these little moments that make it worth it. Moments where everything becomes clear for just one moment before it fades again, when the spheres of person and person collide and we understand each other.


On a walk in the Lake District

It’s too difficult to say in words or capture with a camera how this place affects me: the absolute largeness of this place, the heaviness of the gray storm clouds, the openness of the fields, the grandeur of the mountains, the gently rippling lakes. Besides, these things have already been described more adequately than I can describe them more times than I can count.

There were times these past few days when I stood on the edge of a cliff and spread open my arms and tried to take it all in. If I tried to list it all this would only be the beginning:
the pattern of the stones in the path
the cleanness of the air
that after-the-rain scent
roadside flowers
misty rain on my face
the wind pushing me this way and that
the warmth of my body fighting against the cold of the air
birds singing their morning song
the tripping of a stream over stones
the surprising bleat of a sheep three feet from the pathway
the drip of rain from the trees and the sound of rain falling just over this next hill
the swish of the wind in the trees and through the grass
the British accents of these two grandparently figures coming my way
the shuffling crunch of gravel under my feet

And when I experience everything together, at once, it is the strangest sensation. There are no faint stirs of delight in my soul; my heart beats as normal—no racing, no stillness like it used to when faced with beauty of such magnitude. I long to be young again, when I knew how to be quiet and still, when I knew how to let the outside seep into my soul and revive it, when God was in everything I could see.

But now I am seeing something different, that beauty doesn’t have to be life-changing, that beauty can become so much a part of a life that it’s hardly perceptible. All things have become beautiful, and so beauty is no longer a surprise. It’s not a loss, but a blessing. My life is no longer a line of dull moments punctuated by amazing moments of passion and beauty, but has become a series of beautiful moments strung together.

Perhaps that is why I am not so dramatically affected by these expanses of beautiful nature. I know God is faithful, and I know this world will be just as beautiful tomorrow as it is today, whether in the city or in the countryside, in sunshine or in rain.

And instead of trying to fit the largeness of this created world in my little soul, I turn to smaller simpler things. My eyes are being trained to see the significance in the insignificant, little things that other people walk past without a second glance. The raindrops on telephone wires, a sign that nature still wins over industrialization. The long rocky path with its twists and turns, forks and dead-ends. Little forgotten streams forcing their way across pebbles and through grass down and down until they empty themselves out into the lake. The rusty orange leaves contrasted with countless shades of greens, the glowing green of the leaves when light shines through.

Green. I love green, especially in comparison to the overwhelming hot brown deadness of home this time of year. There I was in love with the blue of the sky, the blue of the ocean. But here…here I am in love with green, all the many shades of green, the brightness, the deepness, the solemnity. And I think it is mostly the green of this place that makes this corner of the world feel so alive.


edinburgh. week one.

I hate writing about trips. I would rather live than write, experience than think, feel than speak.

there's just so much. my days are filled with events and plays and concerts and getting lost and unlost and seeing new things and tasting new foods and getting rained on and having conversations with these beautiful people here.

many of the other students here have not travelled much outside of America, and it is refreshing for me to witness their excitement about all these european things they have never seen.

highlights so far:
soweto gospel choir
scottish dance theatre
the sir walter scott monument
matthew bourne's dorian gray
the absolute overwhelming greenness of the gardens and the mountains
the castle on top of the hill
funk it up about nothin' [shakespeare's much ado about nothing set in modern times with a dj and lots of rap and hip hop]
nepalese food
the jazz bar
witnessing a fight in a pub with shattered glass and security guards
actually being old enough to get into pubs and jazz bars
steak pie and irn bru at midnight
john donne
walking everywhere possible

more later. or not.


untitled. cummings.

your homecoming will be my homecoming-

my selves go with you,only i remain;
a shadow phantom effigy or seeming
(an almost someone always who's noone)

a noone who,till their and your returning,
spends the forever of his loneliness
dreaming their eyes have opened to your mourning

feeling their stars have risen through your skies:

so,in how merciful love's own name,linger
no more than selfless i can quite endure
the absence of that moment when a stranger
takes in his arms my very lifes who's you

-when all fears hopes beliefs doubts disappear.
Everywhere and joy's perfect wholeness we're.


why is it never enough

anymore to be here in this place?

no matter where here is:
wrapped deep in warm blankets late into the day
crowded in a corner on the 1 train
eavesdropping in columbus circle
in the shadows of skyscrapers
or home, even, though I haven't been home

I'm learning that I've forgotten how to stop look be.


the place where everything is yes.

no, I haven't found it yet.
it sounds wonderful though.
but maybe I'm on the road which leads there?

maybe it's only in creation:
in books or movies.
pens and brushes.

or maybe it's just around the dinner table,
in laughter and conversation.

or gardens in the airy light of morning,
wide empty fields lit by starlight.

cummings thought it was springtime.

personally, I think it might be on the other side of the moon.
you know, the side you can't see.
the side that is all mine.


I'm all written out.

give me two weeks.
I'll be back.

and go listen to rosie thomas.


with arms wide open

the light was filtering through the skylights, but our heads were all bowed away from the marvelous grace of God.
encircle us in your arms and hold us to your breast. enliven us, quicken our spirits, and sharpen our hearts to be aware of your presence. penetrate through the cloudy darkness and let us breathe deeply the clean new air.
our feet are dusty, we are all over dirty: clean us, wash us in that stream of red. rain down your blood, cover us with your grace, forgive forgive forgive. grant us peace.
we are all one. broken yet beautiful, for it is through our weaknesses that we are made strong.
let us take ownership of this story, to be alive and satisfied, always being made new.

my arms are wide open, for giving and taking, embracing and loving.
for massages, writing, improv piano.
for cradling, for holding hands, for little works of love.
to keep steady while spinning, or walking on a tightrope.
to invite, to bring in, to equip, to send out.
for surrendering, giving up, letting go.
to love and be loved, to give and be given, to grow in grace.

make us instruments of your peace;
where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

grant that we may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

st. francis



two years down. I'm half-way done.
I'm packing to go home for two days then to return to a completely different westmont for mayterm.

I have funny goosebumps right now. this feeling is hard to put into words.
I don't know many seniors, but I know who they are and I know the impact they've had on this community. and they're leaving for good. who will step up and take their place?
and there are others who I won't see until january, or even august of next year.

I'm not sad or excited to leave, or for these people to leave. it feels like it's time, and at the same time it doesn't.
what is a few more minutes, a few more days, a few more months, a few more years?

all becomes memory soon enough. and we've had some good times, and we've had some bad times, but the next step will be good and bad as well--and sooner than later, we'll all be graduated and westmont will be far far in the back of our minds, just another isolated incident that can be condensed into a half of a second thought.
hmm. anyhow, back to packing.


what if I told you that wasn't it at all?

my roses have all wilted. I have four dead flowers: two yellow, one orange, one red.

the magic of this place is slipping through my fingers, the beauty of these people is disappearing before my eyes.
I guess this happens often enough for me, though, every time I take a little trip by myself even if it's just downtown for an hour. it reminds me that this place won't last forever, that time is a vortex that swirls ever faster as death approaches. and death is approaching, time is quickening its pace.
each person has to deal with it eventually, and I have no words to speak at a time like this: her grandpa, her brother's girlfriend's parents, his grandma, his mother, their daughter.
still, death isn't the tipping point. it is today, this moment now, here in this place, not in an hour, or tomorrow: today--today is the day of salvation.

and how do you get past knowing something in your head to believing in your heart? especially for one made out of tin who thinks herself heartless.
I wish I could cry, I wish silence wasn't my way of feeling beauty. I wish there was something else to write about, something I haven't written a million times over already, but today my eyes are old, my mind tired, they only see what and how they've seen before.

what is this all about? when change is whistling through the trees, and all you hear is the darkness whispering, softly at first then louder and louder until chaos, a polyphony of a night with no stars only eerie ghastly moonlight, what is this really all about?
what are we doing here giggling about awkward situations, engaging in sarcasm wars, complaining about overcommitment? it's the same as it's always been, there will always be more to do, and everything takes care of itself eventually. these friendships, they say, will last forever--but somehow I feel like that's not for me. I have no sense of loyalty, I want to spread my wings and fly out the window, but I'm only hitting the glass again and again and again, leaving nothing but blood smears on the window.

am I the only one who feels this absolute disconnect? we stare at the space between us, the circles of our plates mirroring the clouds that encircle us each in isolation. I hardly see you as you sip your coffee and brush the hair off your shoulder; I hardly hear your words, I nod assent, but the words won't come; I wasn't listening hard enough. I wonder if you're even real, if you're as self-absorbed as I am, if you don't hear my words the way I don't hear yours. will we crumble into pieces if I break through these spheres and touch you?

his name was James, the most beautiful man I had ever met. he was in his 50's or 60's probably, his skin was dark perfect chocolate black, his tight black curls sprinkled with grey, his voice deep slow and smooth, soothing, like honey. in a half hour he taught me more about life than any class had, he showed me that he believed in my ability. somehow this man knew me by simply looking at me; he looked straight into my eyes and said things about me that I had never realized about myself until he said them. and suddenly I wanted to run away far far away from sunny santa barbara, away from my turquoise tower on a hill, away from my chinese past, away from the lies of myself that I and others have believed. all I wanted was to start again on the piercingly cold dirty streets with this man who, in half an hour, was more of a grandfather--or father even, for that matter--than mine.

but how do you hold on to that feeling? I suddenly feel so robbed; the thing about emotions is they need space to breathe, to be. you mustn't speak about them or they will be lost forever, floating somewhere in the air between my mouth and your ear. and now this desire is just another silly dream of mine that I really don't want at all. I can't. I'm too stuck in my spoiled rich girl mentality to let myself.

but no I think what I really, absolutely, deep-down-inside-of-me, honestly want is eternal now and the ability to make this...everything...okay, and then, better than okay.
let's throw open the windows, lock all the doors, and let the wind blow the posters off the walls.
a long long drive by myself, the walk to dante out on that green hillside, leaving tracks in the untouched waist-high grass.
star-gazing, bonfires, hymn-singing, the boardwalk, catching fireflies, if only for old times' sake.
and one of these days, I'll blow out the speakers while screaming my lungs out til I have no voice left.
I want home to be home, I want to cry til I can't cry anymore, I want to speak, unafraid, audibly, without disclaimers, absolutely independent of pen and paper.

two more months. two months until I disappear into oblivion, become nameless, faceless, voiceless again.
then one and a half before I resurrect with an identity again, for quite a long while.
but two months--two months, girl, your jar is open: the windows are wide open, and even if the doors refuse to lock and are banging open and shut they are there too if you want them.


too bad but it's the life you lead
you're so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
though you can see when you're wrong, you know
you can't always see when you're right

you've got your passion, you've got your pride
but don't you know that only fools are satisfied?
dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true
when will you realize vienna waits for you?

slow down, you crazy child
take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
it's all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
when will you realize vienna waits for you?


one by one

one by one i write
all my marginalized half-poems down
and make them whole.

the illegible scribbles
the train wrecks of thought
all collided in that inch of vertical white space
in my music history notebook.

and then i know why all this must be written,
why these words need to be read by invisible eyes:

it's because you, the one who mouths silently
my poems by a moon-filled window,
fall in love with words first,
before you fall in love with me.