Saturday, November 22, 2008

There are places I remember...

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed:
Some forever, not for better:
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living;
In my life I've loved them all.

When I rose from my meditation this morning, it was to discover that a thick fog had rolled in. The tide was pouring into the lagoon as well, and the gulls were squabbling over the fish in the shallows, trying to grab them before the deeper waters came in and carried them away.

Several images had wandered into my head during my meditation, but I loved watching the gulls -- though they were hardly photogenic -- and I thought I'd look for something foggy to share. And there, in my file of fog pictures, lay this photograph, taken some three and a half years ago in Mexico.

I love this image: the color of the morning sky, echoed in the buildings; the shapes of the mountains, the string of lights marching down the hill, its shape echoed in the road below; the tree in the middle with its graceful web of branches, the contrast of the light peach and the dark green... It has the fog, but it has color, too; subtle, but inviting.

The only problem is, I didn't like being there. On the advice of a friend we had chosen to vacation in Ixtapa. But on arrival we realized the hotel she'd recommended had definitely seen better days, and the now seriously depressed town -- unlike Zihuatenejo, the utterly charming fishing village nearby which I became too sick (on hotel food) to visit -- had been created out of nothing, its sole raison-d'etre to be a tourist trap.

As I look out my kitchen window, watching the gulls frolicking in the lagoon, I feel suffused with joy: it is a familiar scene, not particularly photogenic, almost devoid of color (though full of sound!), but I am happy to be here.

The photo, though, lovely as it is, fills me with sadness: for that depressed town, for that once magnificent and now almost empty hotel, for the misery of being feverish and ill in a room whose air conditioning smelled of sewage, and most of all for the young girl we took with us on the trip, a friend of our daughter's whose father was killed in a freak car accident shortly after we returned from Mexico.

Which is why the song above drifted into my head, I suppose: the sort of wistful quality fits the scene. And despite its beauty, I associate it with change, and loss; with missed opportunities, with hopes disappointed, and with the deep abiding sadness that still fills that young girl's heart.

And how does that relate to this question: who do you say that I am? Perhaps it is just that the answer to that question will always be -- whoever asks or answers -- complex; a mix of joy and color, sunny days and fog, sadness and loss, sickness and health, home and away, silence and sound, hope and despair, life and death... And a careful, thoughtful answer, voiced in love and tenderness, will hold and accept them all.

Freeman says, in my reading for today,

"Jesus asks Who do you say I am, not What am I or even Who do you think I say I am? It is an intimately personal question. If we do not feel its intimacy as disturbing -- even intrusive -- we have not listened to it. It is not twisting our arm however. Its authority is not violent but vulnerable, not forceful but humble. To ask a person who they really think you are is a declaration of love."

And somehow that brings me to that final verse:

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before --
I know I'll often stop and think about them;
In my life I love you more.

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