Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Today was one of those days so full of perfect moments that they are difficult to slip into words. There was the Nabokov story I read at tea, whose lines reminded me of Russia's forests and the austere beauty I encountered there, but also, touched a remembering place inside me:

"Without reasoning, without considering, only entirely surrendering to an attraction the truth of which consisted in its own strength, a strength which he had never experienced before, Vasiliy Ivanovich in one radient second realized that here in this little room with that view, beautiful to the verge of tears, life would at last be what he had always wished it to be. What exactly it would be like, what would take place here, that of course he did not know, but all around him were help, promise, and consolation-so that there could not be any doubt that he must live here. In a moment he figured out how he would manage it so as not to have to return to Berlin again, how to get the few possessions that he had-books, the blue suit, her photograph..."

One afternoon, in 2003, I walked across the Pra├ža XV in Rio de Janeiro and knew that my life would never be the same. I was being led down a path I couldn't see, but was gladly following, in which moving all my books and favorite clothes would be a joy...and somehow, even then, I knew that I would always be homesick for this city. As of course, I am. Traveling always excites me, but I ache for this place when I am gone. I may always be a stranger, but I am a stranger come home.

At Candelaria, the boys choir, with a lingering pennywhistle and their delicate vibratos, closed the evening off with "Shenandoah." I nearly cried. That song reminds me of things I don't know that I ever experienced, a sort of cultural memory, in which water and longing merge and flow across the landscape...I sang part of this song in high school, as a duet, in a combination of "The Water is Wide/Shenandoah." I loved it so much that I sang "The Water is Wide" as my college entrance examination piece but failed miserably in my presentation because I realized too late that it was the merger of the two together that had caught my interest...and I kept thinking "Shenandoah" when I should have been singing "My love and I...." And it made me think of the frothy White River and how people never really forget the place that gave them their name, no matter what kind of love/hate relationship we may have with that bit of land.

Leaving the church, I think of the street children we know, wondering if there will ever be a chance to bring them to things this beautiful. There were so few non-white faces in the audience. And too, this is the place where red outlines of dead children are forever marked into the sidewalk, as a testimony to the harsh legacy of this city I love, where brutality coincides with beauty, and a church can also be dying grounds...outside McDonalds, we say hello to our deaf/mute friend who lives on the streets and greets us with a huge gap-toothed smile as we attempt communication with our rather useless hands. Nothing I do makes as much sense as words and yet words are exactly what I cannot use...

Coming home, the moon was full, and was floating in the middle of a dainty cloud in the shape of an angelfish, with a puckered mouth and long fins...a giant, glowing eye in the midst of a dark sea. It made me smile...

And now I will sleep. God's blessings on you all. It's been a lovely day.


Ellen said...

i will only get to see you, possibly if i fly into indiana a day or two early - so july 27 would be the day i might see you. or else we could plan to meet up in the chicago airport (if you are flying through there).

its almost easter. i didn't want to wait, so i ate a bunch of those sickeningly sweet robin eggs just now. i didnt get around to reading your post yet, but I will later.

lu said...

beautiful post.
that's a heart wrench, eh? feeling saudades before you even left a place. or worse (better), saudades as soon as you get there, but you know you miss it already in that deepest crevice of your being.