These are shots of Loose Park in Kansas City.
I couldn't get over the trees there--and my new apartment in Pasadena likewise overlooks a crazy expanse of tall old-growth black walnuts, olive trees, possibly ash, a lemon tree, and a persimmon which is festooned at the moment with orange fruit. I went out and picked all the ripe ones yesterday and plan to make a persimmon pudding for Christmas dinner.
To which ten are expected, and maybe a few strays. Prime rib, ham, Opaline's celery root soup, red cabbage with hazelnuts, brussels sprouts with bacon-herb bread crumbs, cranberry orange cake et cetera.
One of the guests has been tasked with bringing a table and chairs as I have none. In fact, I don't even have a bed yet and have been sleeping on a friend's futon.
What I do have is a fully tricked-out kitchen, bathroom, desk, big green chair and Christmas decorations galore. Also a balcony of beautiful succulents and agaves. My friend Gerry has pledged to help me start a garden out back! But all in good time.
I got to go to Twin Towers jail last night with my friend Joan and share our experience, strength and hope with some of the alcoholic/addict inmates.
One guy came up afterward, took my hand, and said, "Thank you so much. I've been doing meth since I was 14. I'm 30 now and I'm getting out January 4th and I want to be a counselor. But I'm afraid I'll go right back to my friends who drink and do drugs."
Our drive for friendship and connection and love is so strong that we'll even go to people who aren't really, can't really, be our friends. I know what that's like. I still struggle with it in certain ways. Maybe in fact that's our central struggle as humans--wanting more from people than they can give us. Wanting other people to fulfill a longing that is really for something greater than ourselves. Thus relationships falter, we turn to shopping, food, drink, drugs, sex, guns. Wars start. The scientists try to engineer imperfection out of the human person.
To be human is to BE imperfect. That's our glory, that we stumble forward anyway, making art, telling stories, composing music, gazing up at the night stars. Trying to connect.
Possibly the very best thing about my recent move is that I have discovered St. Elizabeth's of Hungary up on North Lake Ave. I went to 8:30 am Mass one day and found it is held in a little whitewashed side chapel. Dark beams, big heavy wooden cushioned chairs with scallop shell backs, old Colonial light fixtures, clay tile floor--just primo. I told a neighbor/friend about it and he reported back that the chapel is OPEN (he visited after dropping his two-year-old son off at day care) from 9 am to 9 pm. I've crept up there in the dark a few times now, around 6, and had the whole place to myself and said Evening Prayer, and then just sat, the red light burning by the tabernacle.
I thought of Therese of Lisieux sitting in the chapel at the abbey school she attended, the one where the other girls for whatever reason didn't like her, and thinking, at the age of ten: Wasn't Jesus my only Friend? And how when someone once asked, "What do you say to Jesus when you pray?" she thought for a minute, then replied: "I don't say much of anything. I just love him."
So after this busy year with a lot of travel and a lot of unsettledness of various kinds, I want to give myself a couple of days before the rush, work and buzz of Christmas day to be quiet. To love him. To reflect upon the fact that the whole world still acknowledges, still grinds to a kind of halt, still strings garlands of lights, still in its way celebrates the coming of a baby.
And may the world light a candle for that guy who started doing meth at 14, and all like him. That he feels the hand of a Friend. That he finds his way.