A year ago yesterday I officially arrived in the Atlanta airport, back home after two years living overseas in Madagascar. Even though I know I haven’t been writing here, I am startled to see I haven’t visited this blog in a year. I’m married now, a seminary student trying to make things make sense on this side of the world. My writing assignment for this week was to write about where you were a year ago, which I think is more than happenstance. And so I share with you my scribbled thoughts on a year’s journey:
I found myself walking today, feet slapping hot asphalt–everything is hard here. Large vehicles passed me, staring. What was I doing walking through the shopping center? I smiled. A year ago we were vagrant 20-something walking down well worn halls of shame, sand-filled streets that took our feet and made them strong. We traveled on, launching from that sand filled street into dark orbit. The back-alley streets of last year, that somehow felt firmer than asphalt, now shimmer behind.
They were all there watching us go: our family. The different colored faces and personalities who held our feet down in the sand, all stood there waving as the curtain fell on our act of 22 months. The hands were firm as they said goodbye, yanked us up with an awful sigh, packed us in, bound our mouths shut, and dared us to share our 3rd world stories. Metal swans gathered around, plucked us up from the sand and set us down in a terminal, left us in another world.
But the sand still clung to our roots.
Love filtered through bright, waiting eyes and embrace, penetrating the dark for a moment. Their sheer pleasure assuaged the rending, as the funeral wailed within us. Our courage didn’t last and eventually the obituary landed at our feet, so we waited with family and friends to mourn over the casket–the life we left behind. The world here sped by like a drug induced coma and our arms grew tired swimming upstream, holding our smiles high.
The flames of love and family stoked me as I shivered behind the curtain. I found myself wearing just a mask with a index card taped to the brow, reading “Missionary”. I screamed through that mask though it didn’t have a mouth, and I’m not sure anyone heard me. Not wanting to sit and too sick to move, we waited in the dark.
My roots turned brittle and dried.
But hope arrived in sunrise bursts, enveloping the tears and bruises. I’ve learned to hold my roots gingerly. I have learned to love the sands of Madagascar, the grating, grinding in my soul, the constant bell, tolling, tolling, the tears trapped deep, the guilt when I sleep, a lamba wrapped too tight, chocking my vision of a world out of sight and daring me to share. This sand I’ve consumed is my grit, planted deep and growing in my belly now, spreading . . . always spreading. It is a good infection. The body, broken and uprooted, is fertilizer, catalyst and human incubator.
And we are all uprooted, aren’t we?