I’m off.

My first leg was to L.A. After staying up until 2 a.m. with Elida and then taking her to the airport at 4:30 a.m. I was tired. So I slept. When I awoke, we were flying over Crater Lake, a well-cut jewel set among emerald trees. Lonely roads wriggled around it looking like bits of string left by a child.

Then, the forests fell away and the farm land opened up. Geometrical shapes colored in by crops of green, brown, and white covered the basin. Circles, semi-circles, rectangles, and squares with rounded corners made the landscape look like a painting hung at the Museum of Modern Art. Perhaps the brown circles were freshly tilled, just seeded or lying fallow. The other verdant shapes were thick with growing things soaking up the sun, arms and faces lifted to the sky, busy making chlorophyll in their chloroplasts. A rectangle bloomed white, probably nodding with flowers.

We came upon a mountain peak. I wondered whether it was Mt. Baker or Mt. Shasta? Possibly Shasta, though I didn’t see its parasitic dome. Perhaps it was on the other side? I looked to see if anyone else was interested but no one made eye contact. I couldn’t see anyone near me looking out my side of the plane.  I wanted to find someone with whom I could check the facts. The lack of interest felt … sacriligious, heretical.

It feels like we roam over the earth, moving to and fro throughout it like Satan, hurrying, hurrying, pointlessly. The Adam within us is asleep or dead – his assigned task to name, sort, identify, notice, to make patterns of God’s creation is forgotten. Will we revive him?

Mountains are the holy places of the earth — sacred natural temples. The Cascades are a special set, consecrated. Though the Rockies are majestic with their jagged, saw-toothed ridges and peaks, the Cascades represent a pilgrimage of fiery-fashioned shrines. Each temple is highly individual with a distinct personality; each is a destination unto itself. Each cone rises alone like a hoary head of a god stirred from sleeping to see what’s going on in the world. Each has a name and a legend.

Next, a dammed river wrinkled the land’s face, turning right and left, backward and forward into canals and reservoirs. Then, Los Angels filled the basin. The highways no longer followed the lay of the land like the ribbon-like country roads of Oregon but cut straight and true.  Muzzling the land’s face, the highways mark it as belonging to Man. I’ve arrived in L.A.

I had an 8 hour wait. Due to price-fixing at the food court, I paid $12 for a meal on a paper plate. I waited until 3 in the afternoon to eat, so it would tide me over through dinner, and my meal would count for two. Then, I slept, walked, and waited.

Soon, my thoughts turned to home. The smell of Dagne’s neck, still thick with baby fat, when I kiss under her chin. Or Ingrid’s big,blue eyes looking earnestly at everything, soaking it all in. Greta, though entering adolescence, needs lots of hugs and touches from her Mama. And Elsa, my teenager, still likes to be tucked in at night. I think to myself, It won’t be long now til they’re all gone. Time has sped up somehow. The slow days when nursing a baby forces you to sit and stare into little faces are over. Now, we’re all off in various directions tearing after our ambitions with vehemence.

It is in childhood that we can reclaim the inheritance of worship. To be outwardly focused, not thinking of ourselves, but only seeing the play or task at hand. Often, I try to take the time to look into my children’s eyes. See the trust. Find the presence of Now. To do so, is to borrow another moment and gently carry it. I am no longer trespassing on holy ground. I’ve taken my shoes off and I’ve drawn near to listen.  

When I left for Munich at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, I lost a day and arrived in Madrid on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. After a day and a half on a plane and in an airport, the only thing I wanted was a shower.

Maria lives in her own flat on the first floor. When walking in, I had the same impression as when I visited her mother´s house back in college. Everything is very simple. There isn’t extra clutter. Maria´s flat is more sparse and neutral-colored than her mothers. The walls, counters, and cupboards are white. The floor feels like a vinyl made to look like a stressed-pine floor. It´s a pale beige. The couch, which is the only seating in the living room other than a single dining room chair, is a darker beige. There is no tv. The table seats six and is made from the same white composite material as the counters with steel legs. Unadorned, black chairs surround it. There are bars on all the windows, that overlook the terrace walk, but Maria´s have a decorative criss-cross on some of them, with white pull-down shades. Built-in shelves have a few vases and a couple of family pictures. There is an island in the kitchen with long,  horizontal, nickel pulls. The look is modern, and the word that comes to me is Swedish, perhaps from the influence of IKEA catalogs I´ve thumbed through. Sure enough, on the dining room table, an IKEA catalog in Spanish lies open to the page on leather couches. Elida and I share a room. We sleep on cots that are not quite long enough for me to stretch out on without my toes poking over the edge.

When I got done showering, I was thinking we´d go to bed, but I forgot that I´m in Madrid — which means there is no such thing as going to bed early. First, dinner at 11 p.m. We eat a salad served with bread, cheese, sausage, and prosciutto, along with chips and guacamole. The pace of eating is slow and relaxed while the conversation is rapid-fire. Maria and I have 16 years to catch up on, and we’ve lived a lot of life in that time.

Sixteen years ago Elida and I made this  trip together in Europe visiting our exchange student and close friend, Maria and her family, in Spain. I was engaged to marry Paul in August. Later, we visited a good friend in Germany, toured France briefly and did a stint in London. It was an epic trip — the best type of bachelorette party for me. Time with my sister, time with my friends, good beer, good times. Several people in Europe recommended that I wait to marry. But I knew that I was doing the right thing. I knew that I was in love forever – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Marriage, if it’s going to really work the way it’s intended, means becoming one with someone else. The Europeans seem less trusting of this process. But I was ready to dive.

I go to Europe again at another important crossroads. I listened to Maria talk about going through a divorce. I didn’t share much about my life. The process by which I came here felt too complicated to explain. Following your heart can be lonely, even though you’re not alone, even though there are others out there doing the same thing. It doesn’t help when you’re in the darkness to know someone else is in another darkness. It doesn’t help at all. But maybe I’ll find that someone wrote me a note or something.

I hope so.

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