picture compliments of morguefile.com
Girl two approached my kitchen sink with a question.
Is tube vision a real disease?
I asked to have the question repeated.
Girl one and are arguing and I want to know if tube vision is a real disease.
Light dawned on marble head. Do you mean tunnel vision? I asked.
Yeah. Tunnel vision. Anyway, is it a real disease?
I explained that the way she’d heard it was an expression. A minute or so later she was back with an empty toilet paper roll held over her eye.
See, Mom? Tube vision. I have tube vision. She left laughing, the tube still over her eye.
I sat down and wrote her a letter for another day.
Dear Girl two,
I don’t want to scare you but the truth is, tube vision is a real disease. Just like a cold, everybody gets tube vision once in a while. Just like cancer, tube vision can take over your whole life.
The dangerous version of tube vision is pretty much an adult disease. People wait a long time to become grown-ups. They are very happy when their teacher and their parents stop telling them what to do. But then they find out that instead of three people telling them what to do, there are almost a hundred (people who make you pay taxes, your boss, your boss’s boss, your boss’s boss’s boss, people who make you buy snow tires, house insurance, car insurance, people who make you redo the tile around your woodstove … the list is very long). That is annoying, but not as annoying as the fact that the things everyone tells you to do when you are a grown-up are easy things. All the hard things, no one tells you anything. You have to figure them out by yourself. This is the basic job of being a grown up: get up, do what people tell you, guess the answers to really hard questions and go to bed wondering if you should have guessed differently. As you can imagine, the stress of all this can cause tube vision.
Kids, woods, frogs, or a river to watch and listen to, these things (or things like them) can prevent tube vision. They are also effective treatments. Healthy people require quiet places. In order to stay healthy, people also need to be interrupted with the laughter of the unexpected. People with tube vision can recover if they see a bird try to catch a bug through a screen and stop to watch it cock it’s head confused that the fly is right there but somehow not going into its beak.
People have tube vision because looking through a tube makes the world smaller and less scary. Problems feel smaller when you look through a tube. That is the reason that everyone, including you and I, will get tube vision. Sometimes we might not even want to get cured of it.
The reason to get rid of it is that the world is scary but it is also full of laughter and surprises. Tube vision can’t make scary things go away, it can only make them feel like they’re not there. But by making everything so small, tube vision takes away our windows to surprises and laughter.
Kids are good medicine because they are experts at putting the windows back. That’s how they help grown-ups not get sick from tube vision. You have always been good at that. And you guessed it: tube vision is a lot like looking through a toilet paper roll.
photo by nasirkhan, compliments of morguefile.com
My head is full of refugees. What will come of it, I don’t know. They have been sitting on my heart growing heavier. With public sympathies engaged for the moment, I can’t stop thinking that now is the time to do more.
One of the little oddities of me is the terror worry that occurs any time I cross a national border without my children. The shape of my fear is that something will happen and I will be unable to get back. My head fills with elaborate scenes of the end of life as we know it. Me, trying to find north, walking and walking, whispering over and over again to my children (who cannot hear me) not to give up. I am coming. If I am breathing, I will be coming.
I’m not sure why this happens. I read a lot of WWII stories growing up. Maybe a disproportionate part of my psyche is filled with the possibility that life can change radically in a very short space of time. Whatever it is, enough of me knows that the current likelihood of being separated from my home and family is small., So far, I can still get out the door with reminders to myself that I live in an affluent nation at peace.
In contrast to my reality, the UN Refugee Agency reports that there are more displaced persons in the world today than at any time in history. Numbers are expected to rise. In fact, Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. The numbers beg for response. Refugees are always pouring over borders in far away places. But this is different. The numbers stare off the page in the faces of families and children. What can we do?
Corrie Ten Boom, my life time heroine comes to mind. A clock maker, quietly taking Jewish refugees into her home for hiding until they could be transported to safety. But how can I follow her lead when the refugees aren’t in my yard? What do I even have to offer?
These are my questions and complaints to God. It’s not the pictures circulating in the media (most of which I haven’t seen); it’s the pictures in my head. I list ideas for God of how I might help followed by all the reasons why they won’t work. There is great frustration in having a burden laid on one’s heart about which one feels hopelessly ill-equipped to do very much.
I sat down to write today’s post with the wry comment to God, that it would be hard to write since all I could think about was the refugee crisis, but I obviously couldn’t write about that.
To which either my head or the stubbornly quiet God of my seeking said, Why not?
I started to give the reasons then realized there weren’t any. I don’t have the answers, but neither does anybody else. There is no single simple solution to the refugee crisis, but perhaps because it has no choice, the world is at least awakening. The more people who hear the cries of the displaced, the better. I don’t have the answers, but I have questions nagging at my insides.
Who is our neighbor? What can be done, here, now, in our time? What would we here be pleading and hoping for, if it was our land torn by civil war, and devoid of justice, safety, and access to basic resources? What would we pray, if instead of a future, we could offer our children only conflict, chaos, and despair? How might we become part of the answer to those same prayers rising now from other lips?
photo by TheBrassGlass, compliments of morguefile.com
My head has been in knots usually reserved for hearts and stomachs. Every decision in front of me seems impossible to make. I went out for the evening with my husband unsure if I felt like going out or not. What to order at the restaurant was so difficult that I almost got up and walked out. After dinner we borrowed a canoe from a friend. Not because I wanted to canoe. More because I didn’t know anything else I wanted to do and the canoe had been offered. In fact as we drove to get it and as we loaded it on the car, I was pretty sure it was a stupid idea.
There were no apparitions on the river, or maybe there were. We watched cormorants. We passed over places where rocks lay inches below the surface and over depths far beyond what we could see. We did a little talking, but mostly we paddled. I drank the smell of the water, the feel of the wood in my hands, the movement of the river in currents here and there, the rocks of the islands. We saw an otter and came upon picnics and families. I liked especially as we rounded one island that the first sign I saw of human life was a woman’s sun hat. The shape of the island, the green of the trees and shrubs, more rocks, and then a broad brimmed hat with a woman underneath it. Even the unshapely older woman in a bikini standing with a cigarette (and music blaring much too loudly) in front of her tent helped. (I can’t explain this last one. Redemption is a mystery.)
I baptized my feet over the side of the canoe and felt that more of me than that was getting baptized. I knew in that moment that all the knots in my head would sort themselves out. The water was clear, like glass that evening, but I mean clear on the point that sooner or later everything would come together. Everything was going somewhere, even when I lost track of knowing it.
There are ripples on the surface of the water in places. Sometimes it’s because the water is shallow, other times it’s the wind, or a current coming off the bend of an island. Just underneath there are other currents, some pulling one way, some pulling the other. Way down deep are other currents still. Not as subject to the wind and weather, these are the heart of the river. Little riffs of things near the water’s surface invite the canoe to bash itself on the rocks or change to this or that direction. Invitations require response because their threat is real. Yet they are a tiny fraction of a fraction of the driving force of water that is the powerful flow of the river.
Change is constant in the river; so is stability. I left the river with the same set of questions that I brought to it, but different than I came.