Thursday, August 09, 2012


In that twilight realm of the mind, that edge between waking and sleep, I often hear voices. It’s been that way since I was a very young child, and it has fascinated me, though I learned when I was 7 or 8 that brightly asking one’s schoolmates “what do your voices say?” was not, perhaps, the wisest move.
When I learned of others who heard voices—reading about them, never bumping into a bold soul unguarded enough to mention the night time partyline—when I learned, for instance, of St. Joan, I was envious. My voices never instructed me to save France, or any other nationstate. They did not suggest I go get a suit of armor, or cut my hair, or ride off to instruct and protect royalty.

My voices are pretty prosaic. An unwinding of distant conversations, a chatter of mostly trivial things, drifting in and out as I focus or follow: “do you suppose Edith got the message?” “and then I told him” “I think this is the direction, did you bring matches?” “wait, you aren’t really going to call her, are you?”
Mostly they speak English, but there are snatches of other languages, known and unknown, and sometimes music.

I figure it’s just like the sleepy chatter of birds settling down, the last little bursts of daysong. We settle together into the warm wash of sleep, and hope to wake again.

But sometimes, listening, I find I jolt more awake and have to think of my own daily snatches of conversation. Pieces that for one reason or another have lodged in my mind or heart. Not because they tell me to save France or the secret of the universe (though someone asked me what that was today, here in the bookshop, and I responded, of course, “42”)—but because they represent some jagged edges of my life. Things I’m mulling over. Trying to understand or accept or not accept. Quandaries—now, there’s a lovely word.

And here are some.

“Sometimes I wish I were a dog. People take care of dogs, they love them.” The speaker was a young man who reminded me of my youngest son, though unlike Gabe he bore no outward signs of mental challenge. But he was slow, unable to connect action to action. Unprotected. I was trying to make connections for him because I feared for his safety. He disappeared.

“Thank you for letting me help you. I just want people to know I’m okay, I’m not crazy”. He was a sunburnt dude helping me water the Vet’s park. Many guys do help me; I’m learning the virtues of asking for help, of accepting help with gratitude and an open heart. And this guy is not the only one who has thanked me for spending a moment or two in conversation. Oh, he’d seen troubles in his life, and so have we all.

“Thank you for treating me like a human being.” He was sick, out of prison, alone. That was years ago, and he’s probably dead now. I had simply introduced myself and reached out a hand to shake his. It still makes me cry.

“Here lady, you’re hungry, have some”. Also years back, she was a hungry 3 year old at the early soup kitchen. And she took a bit of bread, dipped it in the vegetable soup I’d helped with, and fed me.

“I don’t agree with you. Sometimes I just want to go all Gestapo on these people, blocking the sidewalks, begging, letting their dogs loose.” She’s a very dear friend, and will stay a very dear friend.

But I’m hungry. I’m still hungry. I’m hungry for a world in which a kid doesn’t wish he could be a dog, or the merest act of human contact is not so remarkable. In which needs are met. Where the hunger for love and justice and a peaceful world doesn’t burn up my nights so often, because I am happily with you all in that world we envision, and create, and sometimes for a moment hear or see.

I watched the Curiosity land on Mars. Did you see it? Yes, I know there are many arguments to be made about plutonium and allocation of resources and the whole NASA program…but what I was focused on, and what I loved, what brought tears to my eyes---was that roomful of geeky people who had worked together on a project and saw, oh yes, it worked. It was a room of unbounded creative joy and love and celebration. And I thought…look, people who have worked for something, people who see their dreams come true…what pure, pure delight.

I’m hungry for that.