Dusk blends skeletal trees with the sky. The roar of Interstate 285 rushes through the empty spaces. Light pours from the porch light over the front lawn. This little brick house is not mine, but it feels so familiar. It is not strange that I am here, yet I do not know where I am. I step over the curb and walk into the yard. There are two cars in the driveway and a woman standing on the porch who must have just arrived home after a long day of work. She calls to me and I am unsurprised, but cannot make out her words.
The dogs, all puppies really, scamper about the yard playing with one another like little kittens. There is a brown dachshund, a beige cocker spaniel, and a gray one with icy blue eyes that glimmer in the porch light. The little dog with blue eyes looks directly at me. His gaze lingers sending a sudden shudder of fear through my body. “I think that one…” I start. Then he lets out a piercing high-pitched howl. He looks away and then his eyes meet mine again. I am captivated by the clarity. His pure blue eyes like translucent pools, his bark crisp and clean like a hymn, yet with a hint of what he might become if nothing gets to him first, which surely nothing will while he is being swaddled like a newborn by these people, in this house.
“My God,” I mutter under my breath. I try to speak again and say, “Not that one! I think that one is a wolf!” The woman is unfazed and opens the screen door, holding it open with her large backside, accentuated by her puffy black winter coat. I want to look her in the eyes and talk some sense into her before it is too late, but I cannot even see her face. It is as though she refuses to look at me. Her pudgy cream-colored hand turns the doorknob and the dachshund and the cocker spaniel race into the dark house. The little wolf turns again to look at me from the cement porch and lets out another yelp, slowly crossing the threshold as the woman coaxes him.
My eyelids slowly open to the darkness of my bedroom. Dawn diffuses through the purple and red batik curtains. I roll over and pull the blanket over my head, drifting carelessly back into oblivion.
Something came over me as I left Comer after the Thanksgiving holiday: a deep gratitude and a sharp sadness, yet a sadness one can take delight in, a sadness within the realm of joy. What an awesome relief to move away from the coldness of heart, the numbness of depression which has hung over me these past couple years. The whole ride back to the city, in the quiet of my car, I wondered at the warmness, the feeling of inseparable connection: the assurance that without any vows or monthly payments that I will always share a special love with this energetic family of six, soon to be seven, perhaps even eight. It may be a queer love, but I know it to be real.
Jesus teaches with clear and offensive words because he is not restrained by fear. Fear is what moves us into relativism and indecision. Surely, easy answers do not meet the complexity of suffering, but neither does language that mystifies its causes. For too long I have allowed myself to become lukewarm like the water around me. We live in a world governed by fear itself. Life is found in the visions that freeze and boil, which embrace the dynamism of ecstatic love.
On Sunday night I knew with a clarity I have not known in a long time, that I must go to Comer next year to continue this journey and that I must now finally out of love for my Karen brothers and sisters seek employment at the poultry plant. I tremble with fear at the thought of taking this step alone, but know this thought to be a fear-driven lie, which denies the reality of the spiritual friends I already have who are putting down roots in this bizarre little town where I find my search for God taking me. I will leave behind some of my best gaw lah wah friends in Clarkston by making this move, but I am subject to a spirit of exodus larger than myself, and know proximity can be motivated by fear just as much as love.
St. Francis of Assisi once stayed in the town of Gubbio where everyone feared a wolf that was terrorizing the town, killing animals and even people. Francis went out into the forest to meet the wolf one day. When the wolf saw Francis, he charged at him, but Francis calmly made the sign of the cross and he ceased. He spoke to the wolf, saying, “Come to me, Brother Wolf. I wish you no harm.” The wolf laid his head at the feet of St. Francis like a lamb. Francis negotiated peace between the people and the wolf and the wolf placed his paw in Francis’ hand in agreement. Then they walked through the town together while the people looked on shocked. From that day forward the people fed the wolf as he came to their doors. He lived the remaining two years of his life peacefully among the people of the town, loved by all.
While staying with Hei Nay Htoo and Baw Baw’s family in their new house over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness, one afternoon in the bedroom with the door closed. The door opened rather suddenly, and unsurprisingly, there stood Blay Blay Htoo with a slightly mischievous smile on his face.
“What you doing?” he asked, coming into the room.
“Reading. Do you want to read with me?”
He sat down on the floor next to me and leaned in to look at the page. I started reading out loud to him, “Body and soul constitute human nature. The body is not less good than the soul. In…” I stopped for a moment to cough and clear my throat.
Without pause, he helped me to the next word, “MOTORCYCLE!”I glared at him as he offered me his usual flamboyant smile. The text continued, “mortifying the natural we must not injure the body or the soul,” but I decided to heed his suggestion and continue reading: “In MOTORCYCLE the natural we must not injure the body or soul. We are not to destroy but to transform it, as iron is transformed in the fire. Most of our life is unimportant, filled with trivial things from morning till night. But when it is transformed by love it is of interest even to the angels.”