Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Tuesday report--that crazy mix of fruit and blessing, work and disruption, and just plain hard

Tuesday morning. November sun mild on the balcony. I drew the chair close to put a foot on the low ledge. It rested there, toes all browny-pink with the month-old pedicure. Nails so long that one had started to curve round the end of its toe. Polish remover pad in hand, I surveyed the distance and counted the cost to reach those toes and minister to them.

My 59-year-old back was tight. It aches with muscle spasms brought on by the bending, stooping, stretching and reaching of gathering olives. Lots of olives. I pulled my body forward, thigh pressing into the resistant fat of a soft, sagging front. Yes, I can still do this little work of self-care, but gone are the days when I could pull that foot easily to my face, or so contort my frame as to hook it behind my neck. When this bit of self-care was fast and effortless.

I scrubbed for some minutes to get through layers of polish. Then to the clipping. And the filing. And finally the application of oils and lotions. My left leg, less limber than the right, tends to cant sideways as if to plié. Hard to hold so that those toenails face me. Its broken little toe was swollen and protested the twist to clip and file.

As I labored, images of my dad’s crabbed feet with their thick nails and thin skin led me into musings around the self-care that is necessary to sustain a pouring-out kind of life full of people and laundry and food prep and harvest and laundry and language learning and ironing that fill the gaps of my contemplative life. That morning approaches when others will have to take up these matters of personal care and do them for me, as we did for Dad.

In the past week at Spa for the Soul we hosted guests; I gave time to spiritual direction, to listening, and to the preparation of tasty meals; we gathered 300+ pounds of olives from our trees and hauled them to a village press where they yielded up 27 liters (7 gallons) of oil; we continued that sometimes delightful, often amusing, and mostly downright confusing journey of language learning; and we prayed: for this place and its people, for those in our care, for concerns and obstacles, and for wisdom.
Ayşe and Çiğdem walked me through olive making

...the scent of sun-dried clothes and sheets...

Tuesday bore the whole mix.

Early morning prayer gave way to a clogged kitchen sink. Curt was testy-weary of maintenance things small and large. I hauled laundry from over the house, sorted piles over the kitchen floor, and got the first load in. No electricity. Power cuts: many this week, and several times for hours on end. Tuesday’s cut lasted until too late for anything to dry on the line. The laundry got put off until Wednesday. There we were, stepping over the piles.

After a string of disrupted days, I was determined that morning to return to my plan to write and study Turkish for four or five uninterruptable hours in the morning. As I settled at my desk, Curt’s phone rang. I heard him, “Sure, we need to bring a guest down to the bus station this morning anyway. Yeah, we can meet—say, 10:30 or 11:00? I’ll call when we get there.” The guy who sold us a couple of old kayaks was in town with the promised spray skirts and life-vests.

There went the plan. Again. I turned to my computer to at least pay a few bills in the short time I had. Humpf. No electricity, no internet.

As, under Curt's plan, both of us would go to town, it seemed good to take care of several “town” needs. We dropped our guest at the bus station, then wandered Kaş. Curt got new glass cut for a broken bathroom light fixture. I picked up groceries I’d forgotten the day before. We chatted with the kayak guy. I returned a lamp and paid for the one we kept. Curt picked up his prints. I hunted down brown paint to repair another broken light fixture. Then there is that other “what we need to do in town.” Errands are a social occasion—coffee with Halil, Gül and Dilek; tea with Paskal. Chat with Gafer, and with Ahmet. So much goodness, and it all takes time and energy.

Which brings me to the other thing. Self-care and sustainable living. We returned to Spa for the Soul after our summer break just a month ago. And I’m exhausted. Curt is wearing thin. By early afternoon we were home and all I wanted was my bed. With so much waiting to be done.

How to describe the weariness. Anything that needs doing, well, it feels just…too…hard. Mind and body together whine for mindlessness and for rest.

Why? Why so exhausted in the midst of goodness, fruit, and beauty?

We work hard. We do hard physical work. We pour into relationships. And we stretch our minds in creative work. We drain ourselves dry.

My back is all spasms, stiff with pain that saps energy.

To listen deeply and to pray with and for guests and neighbors, yes, that too consumes fragile emotional reserves. It is work that I love, and work that bears much fruit, rich with God’s movement and goodness. As an introvert I am wired for deep listening and interaction. Still it saps my energy and the exhaustion goes deep.

Who can account for the energy consumption of language learning, and living and working in a language we speak only poorly.

And we are aging.

Lately I suspect still another reason for the intensity of exhaustion. There is an enemy who prowls. His weapons are deceit and confusion. He is good at throwing obstacles our way. I’m tempted to go into details, but I won’t.

Tuesday afternoon I felt too drained for anything. Curt hung out with his olive trees while I rested. At sunset we played cards for a bit, then enjoyed a bit of TV with popcorn for dinner.

Now it is Thursday. Nothing has changed. Life continues good and beautiful and blessed. The day is mild. The laughter and chat and games of pre-school children at play wafts through my open window. Curt is out with his olives. My back remains fragile, and I am weary. Dear ones come and go, and they speak of ways they are blessed by this place and their time here. I notice enemy whispers about all the things I can’t do well, whether in the realm of self-care, harvest, creative process, or beyond-my-control obstacles.

I recall God’s promises. They cut through the haze. Whatever one can say about me, HE is strong—and able, and good. "His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:11
Evening with Curt on the water

Yet will I praise His name.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Tuesday report--from a Friday perspective

The Tuesday report: an occasional meditation on the everydays of expatriate life. How many times has someone said to me, “Your life is so exciting, while mine is, well… I’m here in the same place doing the same things I always do.” Yet wherever you and I live, life happens in everydays. We gather food, do laundry, encounter friends and neighbors, find time for a shower, show up for prayer. Why Tuesday? Tuesday strikes me as a nothing-special day--routinely filled with whatevers, the mundane stuff of getting on with life.

I started this post last Friday. And so the days fly by....

I thought about how I might reflect on Tuesday, what I might want to write about, on the day. And on the Tuesday before last, and on the one before that. But now it is Friday. Again. I thought of what I would say back in March, and in April. But now it is Halloween, and tomorrow November begins.

All those small wonders, and those troubling bits, that shoot through every day. We returned to Turkey just three weeks ago after four months in the US.

After time away, normal joys, and the normal headaches, seem bigger. They vibrate in my inner places—mostly to tickle and massage, but sometimes to unnerve my soul. So that I stand in my kitchen all exhilarated by the bitty bits of normal. Things like:

  • Scraping vegetable cuttings and food waste into used shopping bags. Later I will lean out a window to hang the daily offering on my neighbor’s fence post. Not waste, but chicken feed!
  • The constant clucking, scratch, and crow of chickens. I walked outside early today, the sky barely tinged with pink light. All down the hillside cocks celebrated (or did they protest?) the movement from night to day. 
  • Çiğdem calling from her next-door balcony, “Jeri-abla…. Mommy? Where are you?” She passes a message, or an invitation, or asks whether we’ll go into town today.
  • A sunset picnic atop nearby Kyaneai. We sit round the cook-fire with Spa for the Soul guests. Flames cast their shadowy light on the ancient amphitheater and small house-like tombs. The moonless sky is milky with stars. Curt stands watch over grill and fire, and tosses a couple of foot-long centipedes into the coals.
  • Dobby the doggy house-elf at play in the garden. Our most frequent guest, he came home with us on our arrival and will stay yet one more week.
  • Work that begins before dawn and continues into evening dark--the work to make a four-months empty house ready to receive guests, and the work to provide for and accompany the several retreatants who came and went during our first days back:
  • o   I hang load after load of sheets, towels, blankets and clothing on the line to dry,
    o   then gather in the sun-scented pieces,
    o   later to stand hours at the ironing board to steam away wrinkles as I pray over those dear ones that this work of love will serve.
    o   I write menus, rummage through supplies and then through shops. Finally those many trips up and down our 40 steps to the front door with bags full of goodness.
    o   I make yeast dough and bake bread,
    o   while Curt prunes, weeds, and blows debris from terraces,
    o   and pulls garden furniture from nooks and crannies of storage.
    o   We lay tables, pack picnics, wash dishes, and give ourselves over to listen to and pray for those dear ones.
  • Retraining ourselves to make sure toilet paper lands in the bin and never in the toilet where it will so easily clog pipes and septic. It is a semi-annual adjustment of habit. 
  • Sweat. Even when I’m still. Though summer heat is finished, it will be yet another week or so before I go about my work and play in comfort. With age, my over-sensitivity to heat grows extreme. 
  • The casual friendships that define the life of this place. Business is not done without a glass of tea and generous inquires about family and life. We wander through our errands to the accompaniment of invitations to stop, enjoy a coffee, and chat. We greet and are greeted. Hugged, kissed, taken in.
  • Rumor and gossip, especially the tales of the former owner of our house who has been wandering the town drunk and accosting our friends to tell them to tell us that he wants another $50,000 or he will sell our house to someone else. For us and others in this village where modern ways of deed and title are still in the works the concern rumbles in the background of life—now reawakened by this man who says such things to our friends and neighbors but never to us.
  • Turkish. Chatting along barely realizing I’m speaking the language. And all those other times when the words garble and I have no idea what they, or I, just said. When I repeat a sentence three times before I get the grammar right, rewarded by the chuckles of my listener.
  • Lightning bolts illuminating the horizon over the sea; slow-arriving thunder; all while stars glint in the blackness overhead.
  • Camped up high and sleeping when the sky rips open with red-eye explosions of light, the roar and clap of air in the bolt’s wake, and crazy-heavy rain! Where just an hour before all had been cloudless starlight and gentle breeze.
And so much more. All to the accompaniment of that one-foot-in-Turkey, other-foot-still-grounded-in-the-US orchestra. Every time we jet across the world, there is this season where two diverse places inhabit my inner spaces. For a few days both feel tangible. I can hear grand-daughter Lia chasing after Curt. “Dede! Dede!” Round and round through kitchen, living and dining room in Cait and Josh's Kansas City home. All while roosters crow in Çiğdem’s garden and I sweat in Mediterranean heat, my nose full of the abundance of ripening olives and sun-drenched wash from the line.

Love those evening walks!