The Crack in the Tea-Cup and other stories

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.
W. H. Auden, "As I Walked Out One Evening"

NB: I'm going to quote several parts of this poem, including its punch line, so if you want to read it in its entirety first, you can do so at poets.org.

* * *

LOOK what my piano teacher gave me.
My first month in Bellingham was mostly made up of September, and when I parked on the open top floor of the downtown parkade, I had a splendid view of fall color across the campus hill. The previous year had been spent in a brutal internal struggle I didn't yet have a name for—my first serious bout with depression—and I stood atop the parkade for a little while every weekday, letting brittle and frozen feelings be softened by red and orange and green leaves, sometimes blurred by fog; steely waters under woolly skies; and the damp, fresh, sour-salty breeze off the bay.

When my first boyfriend and I broke up, almost exactly a year later, I took similar comfort from a long afternoon walk in wind and occasional sputters of rain: over Taylor Hill, down along the beach at Boulevard Park, and back up through the university. That area, the south side of town, is arguably the most beautiful place I've ever lived, although the top of a foothill in the Bridger Mountains in Montana had a lot to be said for it.

This past week, the weather and color shifted to autumnal as, over and over again, I felt "the tears scald and start"—the natural consequence of lack of sleep, getting too obsessive about doing everything right in school, goodbyes, and other fun life stuff. I've been crying at weddings and blog posts and emails and Gospel readings at choir practice and music and random song lyrics, and sometimes I get choked up when I recite Auden's poem out loud.

Meanwhile, the vines on the parkade entrance wall have gone brilliant red. The silver dollar birches are all shades of orange, and the maples with the tiny leaves have started to take on their standard glorious wash of color. The bay has gone from blue and green to silver and gray, and the clouds are thick enough to need lamps on all morning and from late afternoon onward.

Seasonal depression is common enough here, but I find a lot of seasonal healing, too. I love this town, and never more so than in the fall.

* * *

"I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky."

(Best. Imagery. Ever.)
* * *

School pride. Go, Aggies!!!
* * *

Crazily enough, this was my fifth week of college.

It's a huge amount of work, but I love it. I love Utah State, and the fact that they're clearly determined to make me earn this degree. I love horticulture and English, and I'm quite certain I'll love Spanish when I can get to it (fortunately it's not semester-bound; considering my limited study time, the other two classes have proven all-engrossing.)

I love the classmate who made a rather public sacrifice for a friend and then told me about how she's felt publicly judged ever since. It makes me a little sad that we're not on campus together; I think we'd be friends.

Whether I would end up being friends with the classmate who referred to our textbook's nuanced essays on difficult topics as "whinny"—he meant "whiny," and I guarantee he's going to think that about my term paper—is harder to say. He does something like that almost every week; I've gotten so I look forward to his posts with affectionate trepidation. It's entertaining.

* * *

* * *

In the burrows of the Nightmare,
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadows,
And coughs when you would kiss.

* * *

USU makes all their students take this little interactive online course. I was pretty captivated by this screen. As you can see, I'm a Hufflepuff:

Yes, that's definitely my top value set.

Which would you choose?

* * *

All of my adult life, I've been telling people I was 5'11". A couple of weeks ago, a wellness screener told me I was six feet tall. I didn't believe her. She made me step out from under the bar and look.

Seventy-two inches on the dot.

What the ... When did I grow another inch? Has it stopped?!

* * *

Science class! I feel a little guilty propagating something that is apparently a noxious weed in both Washington and Oregon (English ivy), but I needed loads of something easy to propagate, and this is what I had loads of. If these take root, I'll put them on my desk at work.

They're completely adorable so far. I'm kind of proud of the little things.

* * *

O look, look in the mirror
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

* * *

This may not interest anyone except me, in which case you can all scroll past it, but I have been reading Mudblood Catholic's (Gabriel Blanchard) "Why I Am a Catholic" series (Part I here) hungrily, and when I say I cried over a blog post this week, it was his "Why I Am a Catholic, Part III: Apostate":
For it is the whole point of the book of Job that God, when He confronts both Job and Job's comforters, offers no answer, no explanation. He gives no account of Himself. As Charles Williams points out in He Came Down From Heaven, God's reply mostly only plagiarizes things Job has already said in his storm of accusation directed upwards. There is no theodicy offered there. 
Or rather, there is; it is that offered by Job's friends.
I don't talk much, either on this blog or with anyone except for a few dependable friends, about how hard faith comes for me. But keeping inner realities secret also comes hard for me, and Gabriel has spoken into some of my deepest experiences of this year.

As an agnostic who chooses to believe, by definition I am someone who has not been able to reason herself into firm conviction. The one apologetic that helps, lately, is the one that comes with its own uncertainty—the one that takes into account that the idea of suffering eternally for finite failures cannot, by any standard we know of, be characterized as justice; the one that recognizes that for some of us, Christian strictures turn out to be more severe than most of us would be able to bear; the one that sees the dark and complicated and horrifying sides of Scripture as clearly as its comforts, and knows that even today, tradition brings both beauty and cruelty into the world.

The apologetic that shows the cracks from bearing the weight of those questions, and that still can find no solution to life but to believe in Jesus, is the one apologetic that speaks to me of God in words I can comprehend.

I have no satisfying answers to these conundrums, and nothing but sympathy for those who find them too much for faith. Meanwhile, when I pray the Jesus prayer, I lean on the word mercy, and I pray it for all of us. But maybe the fact that I feel those cracks in my own soul, and yet have no other solution, and can sometimes still hear those words—maybe that means I'm more of a believer than I realize.

* * *

In a Facebook conversation with a friend recently, I recommended John Green's Looking for Alaska, which is where I originally met this poem; the bulk of Green's story is bookended by a single punch-packing couplet. The poem speaks less directly to me in its cynicism about love than it does in its darkly realistic vision of the brokenness of life, but this couplet is the redemption of both. It's a way for me, with all the bends and breaks in my soul, to move forward.

You shall love your crooked neighbor
With your crooked heart.

* * *

Back to good cheer, for those of you who made it this far! Favorite comment I've gotten all week from anybody: "Just what is a Hufflepuff?"

Me! I am a Hufflepuff. And here are twelve reasons why.

Much love, everybody!