"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Letters to London tourists during the 2012 Olympics

Daniela and I paused at the crosswalk. Left. Right? If you drive on the left and you stand on the right while the car is coming around a roundabout from the left but turning to the right, yet you want to walk down the sidewalk to the right and are coming from the left, which way do you look at the crosswalk?

Yeah, I didn't know, either.

Actually, neither did any of the other 250 thousand tourists crowding around London while we visited there during the Olympic games in August. Unfortunately, there were a lot of other things the tourists didn't know either, leaving me with a few speeches I wanted to give to them. In in case any of them read my blog, here are a few of my helpful life lessons for next time...

First, the Olympics has clearly inspired many of you to take up running, and I commend you for your dedication to the sport. However, when the Olympians run through London, their streets are actually blocked off for them, not sure if you knew that. Meaning, next time you set off on your morning jog, maybe find a different place to do it other than the wrong direction down a one-way single-file aisle to Buckingham Palace.

This is a one-way London street, as in one way and one direction only. Walking.

Girls, I know you love your boyfriends, and you are very cute together, good for you. But the trouble is, when you wear that deer-in-the-headlights expression, clutch to his arm like you're walking through a crowd of serial killers, and refuse to move an inch from his side on the London Bridge sidewalk, you take up twice as much room as a normal human being and are really quite troublesome to manuever around. (Besides, he looks nearly as clueless as you do, so I wouldn't trust him quite so blindly to guide you flawlessly around around the city.)

Brits, I appreciate your valiant attempt to adapt to us tourists stumbling around from left to right on the sidewalks like drunken ping pong balls. We can't remember where we're supposed to be walking, so it's terribly disconcerting to us when you appear not to remember either. Don't try to walk on the right to adapt. It's your sidewalk. Own it.

So... are we on the right or left or what?

For all you tourists, please remember I'm one of you and refrain from your attempts to give me a concussion. Next time we walk beside Big Ben together and you're three inches in front of my face, please do not suddenly slam to a stop in astonishment and whirl open-mouthed to take a picture of the marvel, causing me to whack into you, stumble to the side, and nearly obliterate the rest of my tourist friends across the entirety of the road. Good grief, people, Big Ben is like 300 feet tall. You've been seeing it for blocks. It wasn't a surprise. 

Not a surprise.

Yep, London was great, right up until the point where I realized I either had to leave or sit down and cry. I'd love to go there again, but next time, I'll avoid the Olympics.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saying goodbye to the stars

The quilt binds around my bare shoulders as I twist to face the window and see the stars. Midnight, and in five hours and twenty minutes my watch will beep, and I will get up and put on my backpack and leave Austria for home.

But that doesn’t matter when you’ve seen the stars.

The door to the balcony swings wordlessly—respecting those who dream while asleep, not while awake. No makeup, bare feet, hair loose, I greet the cow bells on the hills, and the mountains look up, brushing my gaze toward the crescent moon. In Paris, I watched it rise alongside the Eiffel Tower, full—now it steps back, making room for the stars.

Ten million stars, each a window God slit in the curtain of this world to allow the outside light of heaven through; now, He whispers, you can see home. If I spent ten minutes looking at God’s stars, heaven's stars, each night, I would love life more. In the city, we drown and build our own stars, flickering halogen that makes moths commit suicide, and humans too. A breeze blows off the mountain, and my face is cold to the touch.

Above me, an ivory rainbow. I haven’t seen the Milky Way for three years, since the farm, when my sister didn’t live on an island and there were four at the dinner table each night. On those evenings, Dad would bring us to the end of our driveway, a quarter-mile walk between fields of crickets, and teach us about Cassiopeia. I don’t see her now and don’t remember where to look.

Yet perhaps I’ve never seen the Milky Way, for even now when I look at her, she fades. But, then, of course she does; beauty doesn’t make sense and you can’t explain why it matters and it’s only on faith you see it at all. Beauty is the greatest builder of faith I know.

Above me, a shooting star, God’s prayer. And I wished on it, that I would always return to nights that are cold and skies full of stars, if not in this world, then in the next.