Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Greece Again, But Still No Ouzo

Mom and Chip and Sharyn had Kaffee and Kuchen in the back yard at Herbert and Sabine Lufts’ before we left Germany to go to Greece together and then I would be heading back to Malibu. I wrote:
“July 26, 1973, and just a couple of hours to say goodbye to Heidelberg. I walked down to town in Ellen’s old coat (in July!), by myself, the sky gray with a little rain. Mrs. Stowe and Budgie and Rufus drove by and stopped to talk. (Danny and I had babysat at the Stowes a couple of times; Mr. Stowe was the John Deere representative for Germany, and they lived not too far from Moore Haus.) There was a whole new Gustav Klimt section in the Kunst store and new Dürers too. Then Mikhael met me on the Hauptstrasse, “Come and drink a Bier with me.” So kind, great gemütlichkeit
[i], shyness and talk. Went to Kaufhof for a new Rotring Rapidograph. Walking together up the hill, I remembered that it’s easier with a beer in you. Ach…”

Mom and Chip and Sharyn and I left the next day for a trip to Greece together. First impression of Athens…a lot like Long Beach or any beach town, dusty, bright colors but drab anyway, slightly to medium depressing. Terrific California night air. Out to dinner at a joint in the Night Life District on the steps below the Acropolis, all lit up at night. (Reflecting on Lucanus in Dear and Glorious Physician makes the experience richer.) The house band is so bad…How many crummy groups are there in the world with the equipment I’m itching to use?

To church the next day with Phil and Lois Wall and their three kids, Phyllis, Andy and Benjy. Nice Pentacostal style praying (“Yes, Lord! Amen!”), singing “I Surrender All” in Greek. Lunch was moussaka, lamb, okra. Making peach ice cream for dessert, swimming afterward. Another nice unintelligible church service in the evening, featuring Isaiah 47 and 48.

Next day, onto the cruise ship and into the lap of American decadent luxury. I had the upper berth. The feeling of being with my family reminded me of that old embarrassed-to-be-embarrassed thing I did when Momma and Daddy and I showed up on Catalina that summer of 1967 and were the only fully clothed, white-skinned people anywhere to be seen all that week.

That first night on board, we were introduced to seven-course dining complete with a highly serious waiter. We stopped at Hydra…harbor smells, and a million tourist shops. I bought a blue cotton hooded robe.

Next day, Santorini was white hot. The bright blue sea looked far below. Horses were straining hard to carry us up hundreds of steps. I kept patting the neck of mine, full of guilt and compassion. (There’s a picture of that.) The shopkeepers seemed equally saddled. There was a sense of human prostitution.


Mykonos…The streets and houses had been whitewashed for so many years that there were no ninety-degree angles to be seen…the walls and the street met in a curve of white, so that the streets looked like rounded tunnels between the buildings. We walked into several art shops and I loved everything I saw. I longed to spend more time, but we were only stopping for an evening. Later on, I heard that it was a hippie colony. Oh God, I have longed to go back there so much, see more of the art, feel more of the atmosphere, but they tell me all these years later it’s become a gay paradise.

Corinth…It’s my birthday again, and Chip went to a corner restaurant to find a quasi-birthday cake for me – an odd chocolate pudding in a cup for my breakfast. Sweet of him! My present from Momma couldn’t have been better…an I.O.U. for a guitar when I find the right one.

Zurich…where Momma and Daddy and two-year-old Chip spent their first six months in Europe, so old memories rushed in for her. We breakfasted in the hotel dining room on croissants, Ovaltine, sweet butter. Zwingli’s church has Marc Chagall windows in it now. Z. would be so offended, so outraged, he might hurt somebody! I flew alone from there to Oakland, and Oakland to L.A. All together, awake for 52 straight hours. Naomi picked me up in the communal VW.

Danny appeared mere hours later at my mother’s condo, with his birthday present to me…all of Joni Mitchell, her entire record collection. (He knew my originals were scratched from much use.) I had a strange, shaky new conviction amidst growing feelings. The answer was no.

So Danny accepted my decision with absolutely no discussion, and left. We were both sad, but I’m sure there was some relief in both our hearts. We had unhappy for so long. Really, ever since the first weeks in Heidelberg a year before, it had been painful between us.

Even though we were officially broken up, Janice Hahn asked us to sing in her wedding. She was getting married to a guy from Texas, Gary Baucum, and the wedding would be in the outdoor amphitheater at Pepperdine. Janice threatened to have a fountain of milk manned by Pat Boone to go with the chocolate cake she was serving, but sadly, in the end it didn’t happen. A bunch of Texas guys came to be in the wedding party, and we had an incredible evening of worship with them. Their hearts were so open and vulnerable, we had never seen men like them before. We learned the song “I’ll Fly Away” that night.

Two of those guys would prove to be significant in my future, but who could have foretold? Brown Bannister and Danny and I sang as a trio (there’s a picture somewhere to prove it) and Mike Blanton was one of the groomsmen. Mike Blanton later co-managed Amy Grant (along with her brother-in-law, Dan Harrell), Brown later produced many of her albums, and I sang on her first album and had a song on her third. Also, Blanton was the one to offer us a record contract from Word, Inc. when two guys and I sang together in Nashville in 1976, as a group called Fireworks. I wrote something (of course) about that amazing summer wedding that brought us together.

“Father, may my words of remembering be as much a glory to You as these past days have been.

On that island of sacred time
we spoke to You together
and You were here with us
Higher than kites we were
when we saw what a glory
to Your Name that night would be
My brothers shouted and sang
in anticipation of eternal
oneness with You
and life was a delight
and our hearts were vulnerable
and we were so thankful for the past
and earnest about the future
and we were most of all
Your beloved children.

The time came to cross the threshold
back into a life more separate
and when You brought our family together again
we had all been down some roads alone with You
We touched one another, and You, once more
but the touch was more earth-bound this time

Still we praised You for the miracle
of close communal joy before You
around a table, and by the sea,
and I began too soon to wonder
if joy would leave when Your children left me

In the middle of one blessed night
I glimpsed what was to come
I turned and saw my brother
most precious because he is so rare
and knew that You would let me be with him
How rich a oneness, how sweet to share,
I couldn’t know or pray for, Father.

So now Danny and I had our senior year of college ahead of us. We saw each other in classes four days a week, and there were other situations where we would see each other. But since I was writing to Mike Johnston, and since I was living at home in Malibu in my mother’s condo, and since I had decided to buckle down and do my best to study with no distractions, it was not a year that I sought out any new relationships. I did start talking again. I felt I was released from a cocoon, or just emerged from a cave. Jimmy Hahn said to me (I can’t imagine why), “So the dancing bear has come out of hibernation now?”

Mike Wade was a preaching student in my religion classes who talked to me some. I had some conversations with Kenny Waters. Reid Rutherford and I shared an evening in his dorm room listening to Lazarus’ second album. He sang the words as if his heart was breaking, “When will the home of me begin, of wood and stone to keep out the storm and wind?”

Reid and I worked on a committee to help with the Missions Workshop that year. This was an annual event that was intended to stimulate interest and excitement in the college kids about overseas missions work, and give missionaries a place to speak and promote their work. About 2000 people attended that year. That meant a lot of people would be traveling to Pepperdine and need places to stay, and I was working to find willing hosts. I was so discouraged when the majority of people I called said no. My heart was full of a desire to be hospitable and find comfortable places for all these visitors, and it was hard to imagine that all these faculty and staff people I was calling didn’t feel the same way. Someone later talked with me about it, and explained that many of our faculty and staff had come from the South, where social obligations had been many and heavy, and that they had imagined they were escaping all that when they came to California.

I was driving through the Malibu Canyon Road one afternoon, a gorgeous sunny day, when my heart was touched with a powerful experience. Looking at all the beauty around me, the thought came, “All of nature works together, giving and receiving, offering and yielding, in this great unified open, living organism, and we should all be that way too. But these people are resisting, saying no, blockages in the flow, closed, not trusting, not open. How sad!” Maybe I was influenced by the hippie spirits in the Canyon. For sure it sounds like the Zeitgeist
[ii], the same spirit that the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon was preaching so beautifully. In telling the story of Francis of Assisi, Franco Zefferelli captured the spirit of the Summer of Love as well.

I did go out on one “sort of” date that year. A guy from one of my religion classes wanted to take me to hear Leo Kottke. What an incredible time we had watching him work that twelve-string guitar of his. But he was only the opening act for Boz Scaggs, and I begged the guy to let us leave when Mr. Scaggs started up. I was such a Topanga Canyon, hippie-dippie singer/songwriter type, I had no interest in such artists. My romantic focus was on Mike Johnston and our letter-writing, and I wrote him a poem (which I did not send him) that fall.

Today pine smoke was in the air
(I don’t know the smell of you)
Leaves are turning in the canyon
(How does sunlight change your hair?)
The sea outside my window’s roaring
(but I haven’t heard you sigh)
There’s a fire before me glowing
(Did my face light up your eyes?)

When your friend and I make music,
do you know, you’re there
and late at night by books can help me
remember that you care
Between the lines you’ve told me
that it’s fine I have a mind
You seem to see what’s best in me
You seem to be so kind

You make me want to sit you down
and ask you how you feel
and what you’ve learned about the sea
and if your love is real
and whether, maybe, someday, when
you’ve been long enough alone,
you’d let me come to stay with you
and make your room a home

Or if that’s too confining
maybe just cook you up your meals
and see your boots are shining
and not run down at the heels;
type your papers, heal your wounds
and love without your knowing
all the ways God works through you
and how He keeps you growing

Oh, I’d like to love you—
Father, if it’s in the Plans
keep me close enough to him that
he can know we’re in Your hands
And Jesus, if You come tomorrow
thank You now for the sweet knowing
there’s no reason for more sorrow
Love in You will go on, growing

Clearly, I had been heavily influenced by a song from Neil Young’s album, Harvest. Neil’s song “A Man Needs a Maid” was probably written as a kind of joke, tongue in cheek, but I was so deeply admiring of Mike Johnston, and so low in self-esteem, that I would have been willing to serve him as a secretary or housekeeper, hoping always that one day he would wake up and suddenly recognize me as his True Love.

I wrote to Mike that fall: “Last Friday I got this very distinct unavoidable For Sure feeling you were going to be around, that I was about to run into you one way or another, and that afternoon you did appear – but in the mailbox. I think it’s pretty sneaky of the postman to put U.S. Postal Service instead of New Haven, CT – who knows where you really are? But it was a delight to 'get with you' again. (I think that’s one of the nicer Texas phrases.) Are you camping out, or what? I hope wherever you decide to lay your head for the winter ain’t too depressing. Old Naomi and I discovered when she came to Heidelberg that what we might have though terrifically ancient and romantic can turn a bit morbid and unhealthy when you live there. We visited your beach at Point Dume yesterday.

“Old Søren K. is pretty cute. Once I gave my mother his parables about Abraham and Isaac to read for a bedtime story, and they put her right to sleep.

“Yep, I’ve thought about Children’s Books for Jesus. The problem is, C.S. Lewis and a couple dozen others have already done that So Well. It’s almost like Joni, or van Gogh, or Janice Hahn getting married. They all make me feel like it’s already been thoroughly taken care of and I don’t need to worry about doing it myself. I only dabble a little for my own pleasure. But I think the point I’m missing is that I have to do whatever God gives me to do and if He wants to bless it and use it that’s His business, not mine.

“The Janice Hahn getting married business I stuck in there because I was so impressed with the occasion. I got to sing (Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song”) so I was around some and it was a blessing that’s hard to describe. The life and death emotions that seem to surface for such occasions were amazing, more so than usual. There was a lot of tenderness and gratitude running rampant. But most of all it was the praise to the Lord that was phenomenal. A bunch of ACC people were here and they were so close to each other and open to us and the Lord. I wish you could have shared it. It was a definite grounded-on-the-Rock high.

“I’m there when you talk about People (abundance of) and Confidence (need for). It felt better to me too, you just writing it. Malibu particularly affects me that way. Maybe the quality of love I feel the lack of most is “does not seek to impress”. Boy howdy. It’s tough with intellects and beauties wandering around everywhere, not to be self-conscious. I really want to grow that way, soon.

“Hey hey, we are blessed.

“Father, Mike’s taken another step on his path. I ask you to give him peace. Be with him Lord. Use his mind for your service, adding wisdom to knowledge. Use his hands and his words as your own, to bless.

“Dearest Father, here is our friend Harry.
Receive him kindly, be good to him. -Ezra Pound”
0 ~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~ 0
I should say a few words about Jerry Gaston. He was a good friend of Mike Johnston’s. I have no idea how he and I first met, but I wrote in a journal from 1980 that we had known each other ten years. (Since he was from Wenatchee, knew Sam and George Miller and Steve Hazen and those guys, maybe I met him first through them.) He was a quiet, laid back, guitar playing, in-love-with-Jesus guy, and for some reason I felt very comfortable pursuing a friendship with him.

My senior year of college, he moved to L.A. to live at the Light and Power House in Westwood, near UCLA, which was a kind of Christian commune connected with Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth. That book was a wildly popular best-seller which predicted the soon return of Jesus and influenced a whole generation. I don’t blame Hal, but the book was a major reason I didn’t save anything for retirement for so long. I simply didn’t think I would need retirement income. History would be ended before I got that old.

I would go to Westwood to visit Gaston (as most people referred to him) and play guitars and sing, and sometimes we would go out to eat. When we talked, I made it clear that I was interested in Mike romantically, so Gaston would know that he and I were “just friends.” Here are Mike Johnston (on left) and Jerry Gaston (in hat) playing guitars in some barn somewhere. I wouldn’t have dreamed that Jerry would move to Nashville in 1979 and add another chapter to our history. Even Gaston has his own poem, and I feel compelled to make it available to you. I wrote this on October 20, 1973.

“I found him back bent, making music
He smiled and it was good I’d come
We sat and talked and sang and were
Amazed at what the Lord had done
We spoke of changes, friends and pain
We sang of love, and loss, and gain
And I confessed my need of him
And he of me, and we were one
In You, and yet again we asked
That our hearts’ desire be honored
We claim it is, but still we need
Your hand upon our daily walk, Lord.
You have blessed me with my brother
I will never get enough of
Loving him in You, and You with him.
Make us ready for Your coming
Give us songs and help us sing them
Let us play our lives to You.
0 ~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~ 0
I went shopping for that guitar that Momma had promised she would buy for my birthday. I found a store called McCabe’s in Santa Monica, and with fear and trembling I committed to a Takamine, with a golden face and dark brown body. I asked Jerry for his opinion, and was so relieved and delighted when he said, “I hitchhiked all the way to San Francisco for a Takamine. It’s a great guitar.” Patterned after a Martin, it had a sweet sound. I loved to get my picks at McCabe’s because they had free brown ones stamped with “Purloined from McCabe’s” on them. Jerry took me to McCabe’s “Back Room” that year to see real flat-picking for the first time in my life. Doc and Merle Watson were already playing unbelievably fast when Doc grinned and said, “Merle, let’s take it up a notch,” and they started pickin’ double time.

I had been so into Joni Mitchell for so long that of course the first thing I wanted to do with my new guitar was learn to play some of her incredibly frustrating songs. I bought a songbook and learned that she had been generous enough to share some of her weird tunings with the world. Finally I learned her trick. She had simply re-tuned her guitar to suit the chords she heard in her head, and if I could learn her tunings, I could come a lot closer to duplicating her sound. I got so excited about it one day, I actually went into the Pepperdine Admissions office with my guitar strapped on, to show somebody who worked there how I had learned to play “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire” and “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio.”

My mom and I had a tradition of watching The Waltons on TV together, but most of my time at home I spent upstairs at my desk, reading and writing. The happy result of the “nose to the grindstone” approach was the only year I achieved straight A’s in my academic career. And even then, there was a sense of loss, because I thought, “Look at what I could have done academically if I hadn’t spent so much time focused on relationships!” And thus began my awareness of the constant frustrations of finitude. Here’s my desk where the straight A’s were partly achieved. Note the ubiquitous institutional desk chair! The poster in the center was really two pieces of poster stuck together which I ripped from a Heidelberg wall. Jesus is called “The Liberator” and below that, the name of the street we lived on in Moore Haus, Graimbergweg.

Life was pretty calm at Momma’s house, because we spent most of the time apart. When she would come home upset, I would attempt to deflect any personal attack she might make at me to release her anger by trying to talk her down, asking her what had happened that day. It often seemed to help.

At one point I decided to do the Atkins Diet. Coming back from Europe and missing all that up and down hill walking in my daily life was taking its toll on my weight, so I cooked for Momma and we both did the diet. I only did it for a month, but I can still taste that Atkins cheesecake. I had become such a salad addict in Malibu that I hated having so little fresh food in my diet and couldn’t tolerate all that protein. I learned at that point how easy it is for me to lose twenty pounds, and how hard it is to push past that plateau.

I loved one amazing thing about that year. I took horseback riding as part of Pepperdine’s physical education program. Yes, I got an “A” in that too! It was scary but incredibly beautiful to ride up into the Malibu hills. The riding paths were steep, but the horses were steady of foot and used to it. In spring there were wild flowers. Some mornings it was still misty, which made the whole scene even more romantic and beautiful, and when we got above the mist we could see out all across the Los Angeles basin to the other arm of the coast at Palos Verdes.
0 ~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~ 0
The Pat Boone family had always been around in the background of our lives. The whole family (Shirley and four girls, along with Pat) had entertained at some kind of event in Walter King’s back yard when the girls were still young, and Sara and Marilyn and I had envied them their poise and cuteness. They had attended the Inglewood Church of Christ where Janice and Jimmy went to church with their parents, Kenny and Ramona Hahn. Then there had been a big controversy in the Churches of Christ when Pat wrote a book about his being baptized in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. We had used the Boones’ swimming pool for baptisms in the Campus Evangelism days. Now the Boone family were members at a church in the San Fernando Valley called Church on the Way. It was a charismatic church led by a dynamic pastor, Jack Hayford. Sara and Marilyn, Caren and Janice and I all visited there from time to time.

Senior year, the second daughter of the four, Lindy Boone, was in my religion classes. One class in particular was on the book of Revelation, to which author Hal Lindsey’s speculations had brought national attention. This particular professor decided to heavily underline his point that the book of Revelation should not be taken literally. One day he brought to class a series of artistically shoddy Sunday School-type renderings of various scenes from Revelation, which anyone would have to agree were ludicrous.

I sat there steaming, silently dying to expose his ignorance, but restraining myself. “Have you ever seen the Sistene Chapel?” I wanted to shout. “Have you ever seen Michelangelo’s other paintings or his sculptures? Do you know anything at all about art history? Have you been to a museum in your life and witnessed the grandeur and majesty true artistic talent can portray? Are you kidding me?” Anyhow, we students allowed him his “art” show and his point. Why argue with such a person?

Lindy did something that year that literally changed the direction of my life. She invited a Christian music group to give a concert on the Pepperdine campus. We already had their album, and it had been a musical experience unlike any we had before. Here were two sisters and a brother with rock ‘n roll voices, an excellent band, heartbreaking lyrics and a passionate love for God and honesty about their own struggles. Lindy knew, because she had grown up in Churches of Christ, that the campus could not yet handle the full-on band with electric guitars and drums, so she asked if the Second Chapter of Acts (their oddball name) would be willing to do a concert with just one piano and their voices, and they agreed to it.

So Annie Herring and Nellie and Matthew Ward showed up at Pepperdine to give a concert one evening. Not only was their music and their blend stunning, but something else was going on that I had never before witnessed. They were worshiping Jesus and we were being drawn in with them. Their worship was creating a changed atmosphere in the room, and people’s hearts were being touched, and God was moving among us by His Spirit. I knew that night that this kind of thing was what I wanted to do. This is what I wanted to be when I grew up. Maybe this was the reason I had loved music in the first place, so that someday I could be useful to God in this way. We would have to wait and see, but a corner had been turned.

[i] An untranslatable German word that contains elements of comfort, familiarity, delight, pleasure, and cozyness.
[ii] “the spirit of the time”

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Goodwins were a wonderful older American couple who went to church at the Gemeinde Christi. Somehow they got up enough nerve to risk inviting the whole Bus crew (half saved and half heathen) over for an American supper. Danny Blair prophesied every last detail, down to the corn on the cob. Where on earth did they find corn on the cob, when Germans think corn is pig food? Phil and John were uncomfortable trying to be polite, considering it b.s.. We reminisced about childhoods.

I went once to visit Dennis and Pam with Ted and Jane-Anne, and once by myself. Fine Christian sharing and normalcy, “It’s the Lord’s doing entirely that we’re here, that we’re His.” Dennis said, “If anything happened to my wife, I’d marry this girl – of course, it wouldn’t be fair to her, all those kids…” Jeans and baseball. Pam suggested, “We should have a slumber party…” Pam’s insane laugh! Was it Pam, or was it Jane Johnson who slowly, quietly, demurely leaned forward as we were having a discussion in the downstairs fellowship hall at church, and said in a Southern drawl, “What in the cat’s hair are ya’ll talking about?”

At Ted and Jane-Anne’s, amazing messes, washing dishes, lectures from J.-A., sweet Ted’s smile. Being the parents of a small child is just not easy. Going to Capri Eis, eating leftovers, pitting cherries, playing piano, frustrating Madrigals, trying to learn the Tolkein suite, one special-for-me old Judy-Collins-folk-type concert. In worship, always a sense that I was singing a duet with him; he had a heart-hurtin’ tenor.

Jane-Anne was the first person who taught me about ambivalence. She told me a story once about how Sam and Danny Jackson and Steve Hazen and Matt Young used to come over to their apartment after Ted and she got married. They would just show up, make themselves at home, take naps on their bed, etc. And she loved it! She was so pleased that they felt that much comfort and ease. Then another time, she told me the same story and remarked on how it made her mad that they felt so free in her home. At first I thought, “That’s crazy, she told me before that she loved that very thing!” But then it dawned on me that a person could have two opposing feelings about the same situation, and I took a step toward maturity.

Still in list mode, here are random memories of life zu Hause (at home), in Moore Haus:
• Mail on the ping pong table
• Seventy steps from the front gate to the front door
• Stereo in the Dungeon window, echoing music upstairs, gray peace
• Forest out all the windows
• A tea kettle that whistled in harmony (3-part if you waited long enough)
• Westminster chimes on the grandfather clock in the hall I learned the lyrics to that melody while in London: “Father above, Your children call; help us to love Thee best of all.”
• Sunday morning church bells from all over the city
• Rain
• Thunder rolling through the Neckar River valley
• Hunting horns
• Bathtub like a swimming pool, optical-illusion black and white tile floor
• Creaking wooden floors all over the house, no sneaking possible
• Talking late in the Library
• Sitting on the porch outside the Dungeon, eating Brötchen and Babybel cheese, drinking Liebfraumilch and watching the rain come down inches away.
• Community, delight, blessing

When she entered our lives, Caren definitely brought with her a unique way of communicating. She had a strong personality, and a style that influenced the speech of everyone around her. (Much like Cindy Lipford did, later in Nashville.) For my own personal edification and the historical record, I’m listing here some of her favorite phrases from the summer of 1973. She loved to nickname people, but I won’t bore you with that list (“Though I do have it!” she exclaimed, inexplicably proud of her obsessively thorough archives.) For example, Caren’s brother wore glasses, so her favorite nickname for him was “Four” (for four-eyes).

These Carenisms were certainly not all original to her, but she may have been the first person I heard use many of them. When I analyze the list as a whole, each phrase appears to have in common that it assesses, judges the quality of a person, or their behavior, or pontificates on a situation. Hhmmmmm…shades of the Girls sitting in bed and pontificating over the Miss America Pageant so many years before…but now the target is anyone who crosses our path.
• “What a Wilma!” (or if you were male) “You Rodney!”
• “Blew me out of the water.”
• “Queer bait!”
• “Have an idea…”
• “Put a lid on that.”
• “Yes, mom.”
• “Just out of control.”
• “Delightful!”
• “What was your first clue?”
• “Coming, Wilmas?”
• “Interesting concept…”
• “Taking it to the nth…”
• “I’m sorry about that.”
• “Org”
• “Where…the boyz are…” (imitating Brenda Lee’s singing style)
• “Eeehweh”
• “Where’s his head?”
• “That’s too neat.”
• “How neat is that?”
• “Stranger than fiction…”
• “Okay, Dot.” (This was personal for me, and reflected that I had entered into my Critical Parent and was veering dangerously close to exhibiting my mother’s worst tendencies.)
• “Godfrey Daniels!!” (this was actually lifted from Mike Plaisance, who I believe lifted it from W. C. Fields)

I wrote on June 29, “I’m eight years old in the Lord as of yesterday. It was Mike Boyd’s birthday too in the flesh. Ah, my heart hurts, and I can’t say why exactly. I have nothing specific to record today. My mind has been skipping from place to place as I sit in Chip and Sharyn’s living room and listen to Delaney and Bonnie make almost tangible music that draws me into itself, into the texture of the country and of that special musical communion that is so important to me. I’ve been thinking of how sweet it will be to be with my mother and to share with her some of the tenderness she needs so badly and that the Lord has been teaching me about. How precious that He has taught me about daily caring in the way she confessed she needed me to care just after Daddy died. I thought then I could never give her what she needed and of course that was right. But the Lord has taught me about how much we really can give one another, and I’m just beginning to learn that.

“I care about Mike Boyd. In such a short time I feel so much for him. Some of it I can explain by the developing speed with which emotions come as I grow older, by the need I’ve developed through these years for someone to talk to, for someone whose face lights up when he sees me, who is attentive to my words. It’s just my need for love, I suppose. My sisters love me so much. I am blessed beyond measure to have so much positive reinforcement, especially because of how hard it’s been to have Chip and Sharyn down on the faults in me I never wanted them to see. Mike Johnston and Ed and so many others could get along fine on half the support the Lord has given me through my sisters. And through Mike. Lord God, how did I ever deserve these blessings? I’ve received so that I may give. Help me to do that. Amazing grace is the answer to our lives and I must learn that.

“I’ve been thinking of Janice and weddings and Karen & Nathan and of our dreams for making music. This has been a summer of encouragement in the realm of music, Father. I pray You intended that and that You’re guiding my desires, which are so strong and often impossible for me to harness, as we head in that direction. You’ve heard Mike and me dreaming about a group, and you know the carnal nature of some of our desires, and how difficult it is to trust when we lack stamina and patience. Father, when I really take the time to think about it, You know I praise You for the miracle of music, the way You created us to sing, the effect of the words and the breath and the waves of feeling and sound that sweep through the dusty corridors of our minds and reach down to touch our hearts. O Father, bless Jerry Gaston. And Mike Johnston. And Danny Blair. Bless his days and his nights and the people around him, that You will speak through them to him and let him know Your hand upon him. Father, You created us in our bodies. We’ve done quite a bit to make them ugly, to disappoint You and spoil Your creation. I give my messy and undisciplined body to You. Use it for Your glory. Let my touch be Yours. Harness these desires and needs. Control my life and my heart and mind Father. Bless me and use me. Praised be Your glorious Name above all names and all Your creation. Amen.”

And Mike Johnston and I were still corresponding – what a wonder. Sometime in June, I wrote: “I don’t imagine you remember me telling you how I think you ARE a sensitive person. In the short time I had to discover you, I learned that you take time and give it as a gift to people, which is more special than time with people who just slide around, or like Virg, jump around from one experience to the next. (I would never deny the specialness of time with Virg, however.) But – I’ll take quality over quantity any day.

“Is this summer a hard time to trundle through? I sense it might be. It’s frustrating – it seems to me that each place I’ve been in my life lacks something. Social times lack solitude, music carries me away from work, work away from people. When I’m being fed by the Lord, it’s easy to forget to give, and when it’s giving time, I run dry. It goes on and on. Since January I’ve been feeling more balanced, praise the Lord. But it’s helpful to look back and figure how each stage added a layer of experience that proves useful. God bless this time for you, Mike.

“I’m so convinced He’ll be using you greatly. He already has. I pray He shows you in a tender way how His hand is on your life.

“When you’re out with the boat, do you ever worry about sea-monsters?

“This is an historic occasion. I’m sitting in the bistro waiting for 1:30 to come, when I take a mündliche Prüfung which marks the Ende meines Kurses (the end of my course). I think I did ok on the written part I just finished. At its worst this whole business has been as painful to me as “Both Sides Now” played on an untuned guitar. There were several pleasant moments, though. Our class was really a bunch of jokers and it was funny quite often. My favorite class joke began when Herr Ibrahim aus Ägypten answered that the weather there was „Normal”. From that time on, when we talked about birthdays or breakfast or some other stimulating common topic, everybody’s first answer was „Es ist normal”. (So, it’s not a knee-slapper.)

“I’ve changed locations – I’m on a bench facing the Neckar and the Schloß. The water’s so nice and sparkly and it’s sunny. Why is it that the sun on the water (or the moon, preferably) makes a path towards you, no matter where you are? Must be a simple explanation, but it seems strange.

“I’m supposed to leave Thursday for six days in München and the Theologisches Versammlung. I know it will be terrific – hope I can get in. I do not relish that thought of tackling ten thousand Turks (how terribly alliterative) however, so you can pray for me. I think Christian girls should all get marks on their foreheads like Cain, to protect them. The only temptation I’m afflicted with in terms of Turks is the inclination to treat them inhumanely – and it’s a toughie, trying to figure how else to get rid of one.

“We get reports on your welfare every few weeks (Now you’re thinking, “How does anybody know?”) and they’re alternately fine and outrageously awful. Words of encouragement are difficult to sift out of the mess of my mind (I ought to be believing more in God’s inspirational-type tendencies/ability) — I can comfort you with what the Lord has given me, the simple, next to impossible but not quite, attitude of trusting Him that today is His and future plans and people and all the other junk in your backpack of a burden are in His hands, which really are quite capable and specifically loving.

“Do you have Betty Hance’s address?

“Am I suffering from gross lack of concision? (Is that a word?)

“What are you doing around August 14-16? (“My, she is a forward young thing,” he sighed with wrinkled brow.)”

Here are some notes I made for another letter: “It’s a comfort to me to know you haven’t always been sure where you were going – I was feeling like an idiot, getting serious about scholarship in my senior year – a feeling of terrific unpreparedness. But I can see some of the reasons for the paths I’ve been choosing and everything seems to be fitting into a Master Plan somewhere. It’s just sort of painful getting things worked out.

“one verruckte Schwan
[i] on the river

“’A man needs a maid.’ (I never was so hot at Frisbee though.)

(Note to Reader: I can’t be sure, since it has, after all, been years since I wrote that, but I think I had been discussing Neil Young’s song from the Harvest album with Mike, and he had mentioned that he could use a Frisbee partner.)

“I just found out – it’s none of my business what the purpose of life is ~ like in Job.

“Französicher Soldat vs. Giles the Poet-Naturalist”

I had an exceedingly strange and unexpected July. Everybody was away on the traditional school trip, and since I was not enrolled in Pepperdine I didn’t go with them. So to entertain myself I went by train down to Munich to attend a theological conference I had read about. The featured speaker was to be a German theologian I had actually become familiar with the previous year in class, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and how could I miss such an opportunity? It would be like my dad getting to hear Karl Barth speak (which he did, in the ‘40s). I thought that was a pretty cool thing later on, when I actually read Barth in Divinity School.

So I boarded the train, but I started feeling really bad on the way down to Munich. I did find the building where the lectures were being given, and, much to my chagrin instead of a conference in a lecture hall, this was a seminar being held around a large table in a classroom. The gracious theologians and students gathered there must have wondered who on earth this hippie girl from America thought she was to wander into their meeting, but they were too gracious to throw me out. It was supposed to be a six-day conference, but under the circumstances, I thought better of it. I made it through the day and got back to Heidelberg, still feeling sick but not too sick to go to the castle down the street from us that night for a concert.

It was a pre-Fourth of July concert in honor of the many Americans stationed in nearby Mannheim and studying in Heidelberg. I couldn’t miss it. They were going to play Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music (among my favorites, along with his Water Music) and they were going to have real fireworks too. So I stood with the crowds in the open air courtyard of the castle and heard the music and loved the fireworks and felt feverish and really achy all over. The next morning, it looked like I had developed the worst case of zits I’d ever seen. I had a bad case of chicken pox. I worried about all the people at the concert the night before that I could have exposed to it, and hoped I hadn’t breathed or coughed on anyone.

When Chip and Sharyn and the girls and all the rest of the students returned from their trip, they were of course appalled. They were merciful at first. Sharyn brought me something to eat for the first three or four days, and I think the girls brought me a meal or two from Herr Schmidt at the Burgfreiheit, but as I recall I did a lot of fasting for the next few weeks. My little narrow room had black iron bars over the window that looked out over the steps up to the boys’ level, so Mike Boyd occasionally stopped and chatted with the prisoner, but otherwise I felt rather isolated in my quarantine. Caren blessed me with a new nickname: “Spot”.

Once I came out of my room and hollered something over the stairway and Chip yelled, “Get back in your room!!” Bless his heart, I’m sure he felt the heavy responsibility of trying to avoid an epidemic among the students. But I felt the same feeling I’d always had growing up, that you were not a legitimate person as long as you were sick and you should hurry back to usefulness and quit being needy as quickly as possible. I wrote a meditation, actually a cry for help, from my fevered and isolated sickbed.

“I’ll set this thing down in print and get a better notion of what it is that’s going on in these words streaming through my mind. Why is it that there are not more self-admittedly crazy people in my world? Is it the ability to laugh louder, to talk faster, or simply find ways to draw oneself out of oneself, that keeps most people from slipping down the rabbit hole? The clear, sharp way that the senses record their reactions, the momentary awareness that I am not really here, that my body has been carrying on in its bodily way while my mind has had nothing to say about it, the realization that (this is a very non-poetic and embarrassing admission) there would be absolutely on one to whom I could go, and lay my head upon his chest, and be even momentarily enfolded in understanding, as opposed to merely comforting, arms, and obtain enough interior strength to turn back to the Lord and realize my proper position of trust and childlikeness.

Could it be possible

And another depressed meditation from July:

“I’ve got a notebook that belonged to my mother
and inside are all of the poems I own
Only a few left from the early days
when I learned of love from a
sad brother
Most are cries of longing and frustration
The longings, the desires of my heart
were real, and valid
but I don’t like to look back on the words
It hurts
that some prophecies have come to pass
that the dreams have grown older, but not more wise
that I have not ceased to foolishly desire
what God perhaps has already given.”

I wrote Naomi a letter which for some reason I never mailed, which means I can share it with you, O Most Patient and Longsuffering Reader.

“Dear sweethearted Naom,

”Lucky you – you are perhaps the only one of my closest associates to be blessed with an insight into my mind as it is when in the throes of an uncontrolled attack of Measles. And you thought a measly (oh goodness, excuse that it was totally unintentional) little fever blister was embarrassing. You should try an entire Body that alternately appears leprous or bee-stung. Just disgusting. Everybody but the one dear boy I care anything about impressing is gone to Spain, until at least tomorrow, and will they be in for a surprise. As a matter of fact, Sharyn will proaba oh boo probably be thinking, ‘You did this entirely on purpose, just to make my life a little more miserable, right? Or just to get sympathy or something.’

“You can already sense the disjointed nature of my mind. Despite my present physical misery I’m feeling mighty blessed and wanting to praise the Lord. I finished German class last week, with two finals – a three-hour written and a fifteen-minute oral questioning that seemed like it took forever. Very scary, but a great experience – you really know you’ve finished when all that suspense and waiting is over. And I passed, rather mediocrely (is that a word) but that’s fine with me. / I’m bored with me. I wish I had some word of how you’re doing. But I trust the Lord that He’s blessing you richly and honoring all the promises of growth that began with your struggles over here. Sharyn said the other day that, in comparison with Caren, who is definitely helping Ted but just not all that involved, she was mighty impressed with your dedication and involvement and all those other neat things and really appreciates you even more in retrospect.

“I may be way off track, but I wonder if this summer hasn’t been hard for you in a way that always frustrates me so much. You feel like you’ve grown in the Lord so much over a certain period, He’s taught you different things and you feel like you’ve actually got some permanent maturing done, even if it’s only a little bit, and you’re on your way and things are going to be better – and then your heart does this dumb thing and it seems like this precious male person being around makes you feel like you’ve reverted to early adolescence and lost all that growth and you wish you could just get you to a nunnery…

“Instead of taxing my obviously fevered brain further, I want to share some of the summer’s quotes.

“Years ago and last summer Stephen held my hand as we walked to church, and he reached over to touch my arm and smile, and he said, ‘Let’s have a talk’ and ‘Let’s have a prayer group’ and he had long silky golden hair and he wore big, thick sweaters and we ran in the rain.

“And Mark would talk to me and he wrote me a letter and even though I was just Her friend, he was interested in me too because I wasn’t just a normal little girl, and a long time later he said, ‘You’re going to turn cynical just like everybody else and I won’t have that and you just call me if you ever need to talk’ and he gave me his phone number and I never saw him again, or not really.

“Ed came over to talk just to me, and he played me songs he’d written and looked into my eyes as he sang as if the words were meant for me and I didn’t quite believe that but here was a boy who cared about me and was gentle and that was enough. But on the bus he sat alone too.

“And Michael D. Jacobs was funny and an actor and Jewish and he liked me to be around and he played his song for me (even though she claimed it that night at the slowingdown party) and he smelled so nicemysterious and that was mostly all but it hurt a lot. He was more of a child than I was and I shouldn’t have expected much at all.

“And during all that time there was Matt. I read his journals and looked at his pictures and read his books and memorized all his music and tried to absorb his whole self, and Naomi said, ‘Why, you were in love with him, weren’t you’ and I supposed so. I sat silent with him through movies and Dick Cavett and church and his grandmother’s funeral and Joni Mitchell, and that night before he left for the first time, I let his sisters’ fear overwhelm my desires and I went to bed and left him alone. So many times I tried to tell him. He would sit by his Truest Love and smile at me and ask me if I’d still be there after he’d taken her home. And I would ache and write him poems late at night and try to make myself more worthy of his love. And I was always fourteen and he was always twenty. And he’d ask me who he should marry and he would tell me I was his sister and he would give me hugs and be happy to see me and then sink back into his silence. And it will never be quite over.

“I met Danny and everything sparkled like it had just finished raining and I sang songs and dreamed and ached some more and felt special and frustrated and he held me every now and then. And he took me home and his family liked me, or at least his brothers, and he wanted quilts and dark wood and music all his life and he said he wanted me. And we went a lot of places and our voices blended miraculously and he met Jesus and then we tried for a long time to like each other and I struggled with him and for him and against him and I praised the Lord for him and I still do. But now I feel like the butterfly has left the pretty cocoon and wants to fly. And I’m weak and confused and people say I have some beauty and I am a creation of God most of all. A creation who still must discover what it was created for.

“Mike took my heart is his hand and held it up to the light and gave it an approving nod of the proverbial head and set it down again. And we shared in the late hours of strain and mental concentration, and we shared in the moments of otherworldly blessed magic when the guitars and the voices would create their own new worlds and we shared pasts and futures and friends and I pray but do not demand that we go on sharing.

“Oh God . . . . . . . . . . You know.”

I shouldn’t have done, but I got so tired of lying there and just thinking that I read a LOT that month. Someone told me you could weaken your eyes if you read with chicken pox, but I risked it anyway. I re-read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I re-read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, which I’d discovered for the first time during the Christmas break the year before, when everyone had left for Italy and I had some days to wait before I returned to the States.

I’m not sure exactly when I read it, but I know I found Chaim Potok’s The Chosen in the library at Moore Haus and read it in Heidelberg for the first time. I couldn’t imagine at the time just how much Chaim Potok would affect my life. Certainly I couldn’t dream that I would get to meet him, and drive him to the Nashville airport. I had a couple of his novels with me in the car that I had found in hardback at a used bookstore, and asked if he would mind autographing them. “Yes,” he said gruffly, “I do mind, but I will anyway.” It was such a blessing to be able to give him and his wife a recording of my own Hebrew music in an effort to bless them just a little in return for the enormous gift of self-acceptance and insight his writings had brought into my life.

When I read his third novel, My Name is Asher Lev, I learned something very deep and disturbing about myself. As I’ve expressed earlier, my parents gave me a great gift in teaching me to enjoy many forms of artistic expression. They took me to many museums and cultural events throughout my years at home. But when I read this Potok novel, I realized that I had received the message, “You should learn to love all these worlds of art: music, theater, painting, dance. But you should only look. Do not touch! Those worlds are dangerous, and wicked people populate them. You should not do any of them, only appreciate them. That’s how an educated Christian handles these things.”

It made me angry. I related so deeply to the artist, Asher Lev. He had to buck his entire culture while trying desperately to find a way to hold onto it, in order to become who he really was. He had to risk hurting his family, shocking his community, and being generally misunderstood, even hated. Thankfully, the Rebbe, the spiritual leader of the community, was a wise man and helped him find his way. I had no such mentor, but as the years passed, I knew God was encouraging me to step out, to risk, to express, to become an artist in various ways. It was so hard to go against the beliefs and strictures of my upbringing that I often abdicated, but somehow what was inside me was able to make its way out from time to time.

[i] crazy swan – who knows what made me think the swan’s behavior was crazy.
[ii] This is a boy I had a crush on in high school, Edgar Priest, not the Ed Cannon I knew from Pepperdine and later visited in Abilene.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Shortly after I arrived in Heidelberg, I wrote to Mike Johnston, “I really meant to kidnap you and Gaston – how delightful would that have been – but I got kidnapped myself. I’m pretty obviously in Heidelberg – my brother called last week and said I had to be here for school 2.Mai so I managed to say goodbye to everybody in two days and see all my dear relatives in Nashville (always an Experience) and get here by last Monday. It’s terrific. Spring just started last week and it’s green, and thundersnlightnings every night. I even get to live in the private room (Phyllis Westrope’s if you knew where that was) that looks out on the boys’ staircase and the mossy old wall – it’s like a convent, really nice – except after eleven every night, when 14 screaming girls run in from whatever it is they do downtown (heh heh).

“Nobody to drink with this time, no sense of Gemütligkeit
[i] – but that’s probably o.k. Ich studiere Deutsch sechs Stunden täglich, sehr schwer für mich, aber gut[ii] (14 in my class, 13 different nationalities and languages). I seem to be developing some purpose these days and Deutsch fits right in. Dear old Royce[iii] was quite encouraging in terms of Theologisches librarianing and said it was rare to have somebody at all knowledgeable to help in research. The question is, can I do it and consistently work hard? I have a feeling my motivation is too external. I tend to want to do well when the teacher or the students in the class inspire me – on my own I lose some of the fire.

“The fruit of all that fellowshipping last trimester is beginning to appear, so it wasn’t just pleasant time passing. The Salad for Lunch Bunch (Janie Epp, Caren Houser and Sara) are quite convicted about praying together all the time and being aware of the possibilities for spreading the love to the rest of the house (though their natural sticking-together tendencies make them look a lot like the Three Musketeers.) It’s been quite an immeasurable blessing to have them here. But it’s strange. When I count my blessings, the list is really outrageous – but there’s a tremendous sort of sadness that keeps attacking me at odd moments, particularly around 2 a.m., a kind of Angst. Either I’m bearing somebody else’s burden, or the Lord is teaching me something (I’m sure of that) or culture shock is sneakier than I realize. I’m thankful for the sadness in terms of empathy, and depending on the Lord/each other for comfort and purpose. Finally last night, we prayed with enough faith to gain some peace on the subject. Emotions are so elusive. Praise God – He said last night, “We know we are His children because we believe Him when He tells us He loves us.” It’s such a blessing not to depend on feeling.

"God loves you, Mike.
I’m not a bit sure why I feel close to you, but it’s one of my blessings that I do.
You know my prayers go with you.”

0 ~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~ 0
“Dear Naomi, June 8, 1973
I’m sitting typing before my doily upon which is a little green glass bottle mit pansies (purple) and dead lilies of the valley, aren’t we all. We leave on another Red Eye Express tonight for London for to visit my cousin and the biggest bookstore in da woild. I’m gonna miss you more than usual, I kin foretell. Cheryl’s babby is a girl, nicht wahr? Only is it sick unto death, or only babby-sick? I’m ascared to send my ButchnCheryl postcard but I’m going to anyhow. The below, overworked device and all, is an ill-favored thing but mine only own so far. I love you, sweetie, and we’re praying.


A long time we spent in rehearsing
Me with no body for a prompter
learning from books, speaking to the air
(a Method coach or two, concerned about
my lack of Real Experience),
you, playing to summer-stock failures,
a couple of walk-on beauties, bit parts
with two-dimensional futures.

Then Somebody handed us this
Terrific Script, full of laughs
and some Very Tender bits
with ah, such a score, music that
got inside, and never turned stale
with all that playing.

We gave it a reading, and Liked it
a lot; then you began to wonder
whether the casting was right, and if it was
worth the time of polishing, rewriting.
So for awhile we set it aside
and I waited, got involved in some
old One-Acts from the back of my files
Soon, so soon, you came back, excited again,
up for performing, ready to Believe in the play
and we decided to try.

The cast assembled—; how well we worked
together, not smoothly but with such Caring.
We found a Playhouse, musicians, some props,
announced the date, and walked,
quite bravely, onto the stage.

The First Act curtain has fallen now,
the sets have changed, the audience is settling,
and we’re waiting around in the hopes,
wondering how the lines will go,
Delivery and Timing and Mood to be considered,
praying the prayer of an actor:
“Oh, God, keep my mind clear, and my feet
from tripping.”
Breathe deeply, take it easy.
The curtain’s going up.”

Typically, wash came out of the dryer still wet, and we had ten minutes to make it to the train. Dialing 22222, “Graimbergweg Zehn, bitte.” Bored voice on the other end of the line at the taxi company, “Ja.” (They knew that address so well.)

Racing, just making the train, “Is Caren coming?” Quick sighs of relief when all were aboard. Then it’s all the laundry pulled out to dry all over the compartments, on the luggage racks, draped over the windows. “Making yourselves at home, girls?” Caren and Janie in their pajamas, and all four in their Pebbles-hair, ready for beddy-bye. Prayer time too.

Sara, Marilyn and I are trying to get comfortable on the fold-out seats while either Caren or Janie, stretched out on the luggage rack above, snaps a candid. I don’t care how small those girls were, the luggage rack could not have been comfortable.

“Let’s have a round for these freaks and these soldiers, a round for these friends of mine…” Every now and then, crossing a street, in the Metro, sitting in a cathedral, the presence, the feeling, a particular ache, a faint, echoing “Yebrachle…”

London for a third time in one year…cold gray wind, everybody running someplace, double-deck omnibus. Floating covetously through Paperchase, I wanted to buy the entire contents of the store. Foyle’s religious section was quiet and holy on the fourth floor; the children’s section I had previously condemned was unattractive but really full of good stuff, except that the British edition of Narnia stinks. Hot chestnuts are terrible. “Courage” above all the bars…I took it as a personal word from God. There’s no magic left on the British stage (at least not in Hair, A Doll’s House, Godspell). The East Dulwich train station reminded us of Nashville. We stayed with Mrs. Rose again and again she made Yorkshire pudding, apple pie and heavy cream. She gave us tea and digestive crackers. Caren is the avenging angel standing on the wall. From the left, it’s Marilyn, Janie, Mrs. Rose and Sara.

Paris again…the Jeux de Paume had been an indoor tennis court, and it was converted to an Impressionist museum. Danny Jackson had told Naomi that was the one place she had to go, since she didn’t like the “old stuff” much. So now I could introduce it to the girls. Remembering the teddy bear Naomi found in the Metro. Watching the city lights come on from the Eiffel Tower. The white marble park rain windy feeling. Always a hassle over food. Eating about ten loaves of French bread in one day, and Janie wouldn’t share her strawberry jam. The terrific open market on the Place Maubert.

We took a train out to Versailles, but since I had such limited cash and didn’t expect to enjoy the interiors anyhow (I already knew I despised the Rococo period), I sat outside next to a reflecting pool and read. It was a gray, cool day. Pretty soon, a very French looking guy in a wine-colored turtleneck came up and asked permission to sit with me. Sure, why not. His eyes were soft. We slowly, tentatively began to converse in his broken English and my zero French, and enjoyed it a lot. According to my notes we had a “terrific, romantic, Jesus talk.” We talked the whole time until the girls came to find me, and I appreciated his respect, and the warmth of his interest. His name was Giles, and he made up for all the “slimy Frenchman” who approached me before and since. He gave me a friendly, passionate French both-cheeks kiss goodbye.

Mike or Danny? Head or Heart?

Mike Johnston had made a strong impression on my heart in the short time I had known him in Malibu. Before I met him, he had dated Elaine Thomas (Ted’s sister) the year before in Heidelberg, but now she was working at Shiloh, where Sam had been years before, in Mendham, New Jersey. They were broken up and Mike spent all his time studying. We had only spent one time alone, when he came over to my house on the night of his graduation.

He gave me a different flavor, created a different atmosphere, in his interaction with me than I had ever tasted before. He took me seriously, he wanted to hear my thoughts, he was intellectually curious, a bit combative but not defensive, and he seemed to perceive and enjoy me in a way nobody else quite had before.

So we wrote. Not that many letters, but enough to let me know that there was another person out there besides Danny who could conceivably be for me. And that gave me the courage and the distance to step back and reassess the past three years with Danny. I never sent this to him, but this was what my heart wanted to say to him.

You see, I want to be
and fair about this
and I like you some

You’re gentle sometimes
and you create beautiful things
Your touch leaves a special glow that is
your own
and you stop to think ore often than you
used to

But maybe I will need someone
who can decisively lead me
who feels the burden of potential
and grows stronger in bearing it
who delights in minds
reaching into mine and polishing
intricate patterns of thought or the
sharp (or pointedly dull) kind of wit
that makes aloneness special
and sharing so exciting.

Could you be that man
or should that matter so very much to me?
I’ve been taught to honor curiosity
that searching, seeking spirit
that causes men to grow
yet they hint to me lately that not many
have found my dream
and that it’s one that tends to
tarnish more quickly than most.

Oh God, you’ve given the dream
Now I need your love and wisdom

Will our quietness settle into
stagnant patterns of unawareness
or will
we blossom into a real communion
of hearts and minds?

Can you share my life this way
Can I share yours
Be one with you in God
and He in us
our spirit moving toward Him
in a journey through His world
together and alone
one and Three?

Here’s a meditation and prayer that I wrote as I vacillated back and forth between what I had with Danny and what I might have with Mike, written on June 15, 1973.

“I’m sitting on a bench in the shade of a park, rose beds before me, eating Studentenfutter
[v] and learning the meaning of an hour. Also, I’m waiting for the bank to open.

“What makes this a day for feeling? An old man is playing hide and seek with his granddaughter. His hugging her makes my heart ache. I feel so vulnerable today; but also quite boring. Self-aware to a fault. Yet it’s forgivable because I’ve been alone this week and done little else but try to harness my thoughts. Lord, is it common to man to go through his days, waiting until he can sigh with relief that another piece of time has dissolved? Why couldn’t I take these days with You as a gift, and use them, savoring what they brought? In some ways I did that, but I tried to avoid anything below the surface, and they were lazy, selfish days which couldn’t have really pleased You.

“I found myself wishing on the Straßenbahn that Lightfoot’s songs didn’t remind me of Danny – for this summer at least, they seem a little spoiled. Oh God, I’ve looked back on these years and seen a selfish, fumbling girl who didn’t understand where she was at all. I’m embarrassed to be her. Help Danny to forgive me for all the times I’ve hurt him, criticized and laughed at his very self, demanded things he couldn’t give. I have the faith that says You used our time for Your purpose. God give me the faith to believe You’ll guide my heart if I give it to You once again. If we’re to be together in September, God, You’ll have to prepare the ground of my heart for it. You see that my whole spirit is turned away by its nature and its desires to someone new, whether it be my awareness of Mike or someone unknown. Father, if that’s against Your will, show me in whatever way. Please show me, though, otherwise I won’t have the strength to turn again. Jesus, go on loving me and explaining the messiness of me to our Father. I love you both.

“Lord, I bring before You these pictures, gifts to me from life.
— The inexpressibly warm reality of Mark, or Sam, waking up bare-chested to welcome me into his morning
—The simple excitement of sitting down to find out where his mind has taken him since I left the room
—That very special gentle cynicism that laughs at Dick Cavett, or goes to old movies at MacArthur Park, or follows A Thousand Clowns to seven different 2 a.m. showings, and then reminds me that “It’s only a movie.”
—The constant landmark of my life, that meal time is a Family Council (that Family, world-sized) that meets to enjoy the past together, and present feelings and future plans for approval. God, this is perhaps the most basic. (Oh! Blessing, June 19, when the Youngs arrived to steal the girls away for a little side trip, and took us all out to dinner.)
—As independent as I have seemed at times, that sense of following him, down the street or through a crisis, my mind being tended to, being of service and support, having something expected of me.
—‘How are we doing?’
—‘What are you thinking?’
—‘That was the most romantic music…’
Hey, God, it looks sometimes like there’s some of us been groomed for a job that ain’t no more.”

I must say I do enjoy list making, though I was much more prone to it in my youth. Here’s a list I made during the summer of 1973, remembering scattered moments throughout the previous year in Europe, with the cast of characters changing each of the trimesters (four month periods) I was there.

• John’s mutilations of Ellen’s face on hundreds of paper napkins and blackboards
• On Tim and Peg’s “tramping
[vi]” sign, “For the best exchange rates in Russia, see C.W.”
• Smoking party, Ernte 22 with Ellen and Jana (“They were Jeff’s brand.”)
• Imagining Elaine Thomas and Mike Johnston and Chuck and LaNell Stovall at Le Palme (“Every Saturday night it was deep conversation time.”). Watching the candlelight through the Rotwein, stoned freaks and me after Heiliggeist
• First snow (and last) out Danny’s window slowly blanketing all the trees and roofs
• Adventkranz
[vii] with candles lit, Naomi’s unbleached doily, little treasures, green striped Decke covering my cupboard bed, with that Howe Bicycle poster hanging over the bed.
• Waking up laughing nearly every morning with roommate Barb Henderson
• Frizzing Dith’s and my hairs
• Singin’ with Steve and John and Dave; later with Mike Boyd
• Walking home in the storm after Bier mit Mikhael and Achim
• Danny’s 21st birthday Open House, gin and oranges and Alice B. Toklas tea
• Exploring das Schloss, with Phil Lowe playing giant
• "Letchgoschmokesomehash.” (Phil Lowe)
• Dur Ang Fang (“the beginning” -- with a broad Texas accent)
• Danny’s favorite expression, slowly, loudly: “Ich…spreche…kein…Deutsch!”
• "Guten Abend, mein Liebschen.” (“Good evening, my love.”)
• Stein Fuchs (“Stone Fox”, John Baker’s nickname for his girlfriend, Sunny Lindsey)
• "What am I doin’ here???” said in constant desperation by Rich, a fellow student.
• “Eeeeoouuu…” (Phil Lowe)
• "I want to get into the culture.” (John Baker)
• Wilma-Reis
• "What an org.” (Caren Hauser)
• Jana always having orange juice at Seppl
• Bier Brunnen, where they had the copper bar and the incredible wall made of log ends
• The night of apricot brandy at the Schloss
• Neuerweinfest and Zwiebelkuchen (onion pizza, heaven for me)

[i] An untranslatable German word that contains elements of comfort, familiarity, delight, pleasure, and cozyness.
[ii] “I study German six hours daily, very difficult for me, but good.”
[iii] Royce Clark was Mike’s landlord the previous year, and our mutual theology professor.
[iv] I don’t know if it was original, or borrowed from Suzi Townsley, but this was the cry of recognition between Matt Young and Danny Jackson when signaling each other from a distance. It sounded something like a parrot.
[v] “student food”, a packet of raisins, almonds and hazelnuts, with skins off the nuts, slightly salted.
[vi] hitchhiking
[vii] An Advent Wreath or Crown made of evergreen, in which you put four candles and lit them for the four weeks of Advent before Christmas.
[viii] “I…speak…no…German!”
[ix] An actual product on German supermarket shelves, this was a box of instant rice.