Saturday, December 30, 2006

Becoming Place

I am feeling life returning again.

Though I've certainly been busy with holiday things, as well as concerns about my father-in-law who had back surgery about a week ago, these past couple weeks have been slowly and gently restorative for me. I came into the month of December physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted after an all-too-full Autumn.

Little by little, though, because of more moments of quiet and peace woven into my days, I have felt life returning again. This is such a good thing.

Somewhere in the midst of these past couple weeks, we have started to talk about the possibility of moving back home this summer. The more we've talked about it, the more I think we're starting to count on the idea. Though, I guess ultimately it will depend on whether it seems like I will have an equal or better chance of finding a teaching and/or pastoral post back home as here, once my dissertation is complete. (I do like the sounds of that.)

Already, I have felt the bittersweetness of walking through our beautiful city here--feeling that gentle pulling up of roots again from a place we'd started to think of as home. The sights, sounds, the smells here--eucalyptus trees, the hills and water, street performers, the train that rumbles by a few blocks away, rosemary bushes--all of them are part of what makes us up now. They've been shaping us for almost four years.

The other night, though, as a family we went to see Rocky Balboa. (A fantastic movie, by the way!) At one point, Paulie turns Rocky and says: "Once you stay in a place long enough, you start to become it." (Wendell Berry would love it!) Well, for us, seeing the sights of Philadelphia in that film was like reminding us of our place, what we had become over time. Even after these years away, it seems apparent that who we are is not fully here. Who we are is back there.

At least this is how I'm feeling these days. Though nothing is certain, yet. We're beginning once again to live into that in-between space of possibility.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rockin' Christmas

Now I know we pray for God to "stir up" during the season of Advent, but this is getting a bit ridiculous around here! We've had four earthquakes rumble our tiny apartment in as many days--one this morning (3.5), two last night (3.7 and 2.2), and one two days ago (3.7)! All of them coming from the same spot on a fault that's about three miles from here (and six miles below the surface).

When we first moved out here I was very anxious about earthquakes. Since then, for the most part, I have loved every single one. I've been amazed at how different each one feels from the other. The first earthquake I ever felt, about two years ago, was as if the earth sighed. Another one felt like a shudder. Another was more of a harumph. And there was one that was just a loud bang and a settle, as if we just dropped a foot in our height above sea level.

The other evening when we felt our first 3.7 quake, Monk and I whooped and hollered and gave each other a high five. It is an amazing thing, a transcendent thing to feel the earth move--this all-too-solid foundation that I grew up thinking we could count on it staying put. The bedrock of the East Coast fills you with false expectations. But the temblors of the West Coast remind you that nothing stays the same!

Our second 3.7, at nearly 11 pm last night, was enough to draw me out of bed. I had to put my hand on Monk's bedroom door to stop it from swaying. That one brought tears to my eyes for the first time--a shock of fear moved through me, maybe because we were in bed and everything is supposed to feel safe then. But also because I experienced last night's quake as being utterly indifferent to us, having nothing at all to do with us. I felt for the first time the dispassionate and fantastically destructive potential pent up in the earth below me. I knew last night that it's release, however violent and life-changing for me personally, would not take me or anyone I loved into account. We don't matter in the least to this earth below me.

This morning the same fault shook itself again, measuring a less vociferous but certainly undeniable 3.5. We were able to take this one in stride again, but I'd be lying if I said we weren't getting a bit anxious about all this earth upset.

So I think I'll hold off on some of these Advent prayers and skip ahead a day or two to the more peaceful, silent night variety. And I admit to wishing for a good old fashioned East Coast White Christmas more than our West Coast rockin' one.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Charlotte's Web Lost its Magic

Today I went with my son's third-grade class to see the new Charlotte's Web movie. His class had all read the book together and this was their big reward. I love the book. We'd read it a couple times to Monk when he was still three years old. I'm quite fond of the old animated movie version (1973) of the classic story.

After hearing some great reviews of the new movie, I was quite disappointed by it. Overall, I found most of the performances to be cold and disinterested. It was as if the actors themselves never even bought into the story.

In the opening scene when Fern (played by Dakota Fanning) confronts her father who's about to do away with the runt piglet, you never get the feeling that these two characters actually have a relationship with one another. Fanning plays the moment as if she has no doubt that the father will do exactly as she wishes. Though she verbally protests, she seems emotionally unmoved by the prospect of the piglet's death. It's an odd combination--to see an empathetic character being played by a non-empathetic actor.

The quirky animals in the barn never take on dimension. Mostly you get the feeling that it's a poor remake of Babe. The characters' lines fall flat and seem strangely stiff. Maybe a result of updating the film to a contemporary setting without really updating the language. The only character who seemed to show any life was the rat Templeton, played by Steve Buscemi. Though admittedly he would only shine when he seemed to be doing his best impression of Paul Lynde's nasal-toned, self-absorbed ramblings of the same character 33 years ago.

Julia Roberts as Charlotte never seems to add any warmth or depth to her voice. She sounds as if she's reading her part distractedly. I never could shake the feeling that she remained aloof to the whole enterprise--as if she were just putting in time to collect a check at the end of the day.

Sam Shepherd's folksy voice as the narrator had the greatest potential. Ultimately, however, the writing seemed so bent on creating a sense of the "ordinariness" of this town, the animals, and the people that you had the feeling no one behind the film had ever lived a day in an ordinary town. Certainly, no one on the cast seemed capable of imagining--or worse, believing in--the everyday magic of the ordinary. As a result, the whole project fell awfully flat.

If you want to enjoy the story of Charlotte's Web again without reading the book, go back to the older animated version. You'll find a lot more life there then you will in the current release. If you're looking for a fun movie with animals, you'd be better off watching Babe. Or find a copy of the wonderful Adventures of Milo and Otis.

Resources for Church Conversations Around Sexuality Needed

Our congregation is soon to embark on a time of intentional conversations about human sexuality, eventually with the hopes of being able to have a more definitive statement about our position on inclusiveness.

Ultimately, we will need the conversation to turn toward a discussion of homosexuality. But we are very interested in helping people understand that to talk about homosexuality, we need to understand that this is only part of a broader conversation about sexuality itself.

As one who serves on the pastoral staff of the congregation, I'm trying to find some kind of curriculum or helpful resource that will guide those conversations (both the broader sexuality discussion as well as the more specific homosexuality discussion). And I am surprised at the difficulty we've had in locating something!

We are for the most part a theologically progressive congregation although there is a lot of theological diversity in our church. For this conversation, however, I think we need to plan on finding people all over the map. Therefore a curriculum or resource that doesn't skew too far in either direction or assume an outcome would be most helpful. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Blogger

Well, I'm sorry I haven't written anything here for a while. I'm taking a brief respite while I wait for my tank to refill itself. Everyday I seem to feel more and more myself after having worked myself into the ground this past Fall.

In the meantime, I was quite excited to finally be able to transfer my blog to the the new version of Blogger. Now I can change the overall look of the site without having to put a ton of work into redoing all the extras (like links, etc). So that's what I'll be playing with for now. Fun.

Been Christmas shopping these past couple days, too. Mostly for the boy--because nearly all our other gifts are shipped across country. Things are starting to shape up nicely around here for the holiday.

Will try and get back into the swing of things here very soon.