Mural: Living with science

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I collected photos of murals as I prayer walked Mytown this spring.

Some of the murals were funny. Some were really odd. But then there were those that made me stop and wonder: What was the artist trying to say?

Over the next couple of months, I’ll share some of the murals with you. You can wonder with me or leave an interpretation in the comments below.

Mural: Passions Kill

As I prayer walked the streets of my city, I came across many murals, on the sides of businesses, on crumbling block walls, around the corner of an apartment building where there was no street and no one to see it.

Some of the murals were funny. Some were really odd. But then there were those that made me stop and wonder: What was the artist trying to say?

Over the next couple of months, I’ll share some of the murals with you. You can wonder with me or leave an interpretation in the comments below.

Mural of lipstick and pencils in bullet shapes with words Passions Kill

Country mice in Almería

Once in a while, my roommate and I like to get out of our immigrant town and feel like we’re in Europe (because it’s so easy to forget that we actually are!).

I looked up a local art museum and an intriguing café in Almería. So, pretending to be polished and cultured, we country mice set off to spend our Friday evening in the big, frightening city.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. It’s not like we never go to Almería and neither of us are frightened by the relatively small city. However, despite how sophisticated we felt that night, I rather think we still looked like country mice.

Our adventure began at the Doña Pakyta art museum. I highly recommend this little museum if you’re ever in Almería. Not only is it full of local art and snapshots of the city’s history, but it’s also located in an old residence. (And it’s free!)

Our next stop was Café Cyrano. I had only browsed through reviews, so we had really no idea what we were getting into. But we pretended that we did. And we were pleasantly surprised by a bustling and yet relaxed atmosphere. I managed to tune out the world and study Arabic while munching on a pita griega vegetal.

Last of all, while waiting for the last bus back to Immigrantville, we sat along the Rambla, the main boulevard, and enjoyed the life happening around us.

Río Duero

Río Duero, río Duero,
nadie a acompañarte baja;
nadie se detiene a oír
tu eterna estrofa de agua.*

(Douro River, Douro River,
no one to accompany your descent;
no one to stop and hear
your eternal stanza of water.)

We had gone over this poem for the last five classes. At least. We had already unpacked the literal and figurative meaning of each word and noted the poetic devices.

We had written paragraphs and held discussions on the importance of water. And we had drawn a map of all the important rivers in Spain.

And still…

Río Duero, río Duero,
nadie a acompañarte baja;

“Trish, you read. The first stanza.”

Fine. “RíoDueroRíoDuero…”

“Ah! That’s not poetry! That’s prose… badly read prose! Listen…”

My teacher burst into a triumphant recitation of the first lines. Once again, those syllables rattled around in my head.

I imitated her enthusiasm, but my version may have been more obnoxious than triumphant. “RÍO DUERO, RÍO DUERO…”

The second hour students paused their pencils over their copy books and stared at me. But my teacher remained unimpressed. “Not that either!”

What did I care about the Duero River with its silver beard and its eternal water stanzas?

But I tried again. And as I read, I heard the poem… maybe for the first time. I saw the Duero flowing on alone, used but unseen.

Used. Unseen. But still flowing.

And suddenly the poem was less about a river and more about a life lesson I needed to be learning.


* The first stanza of “Río Duero” by Gerardo Diego
Photo by Migsar Navarro on Unsplash

The wedding I didn’t attend

I didn’t attend a wedding. That statement, of course, depends on one’s definition of “wedding”, I suppose. I did attend one or two ceremonies during the six day celebration, but the ceremonies were so low-key that I didn’t even see the bride. That’s why I say I didn’t attend because how can one attend a wedding without seeing who the wedding was for?

What I did experience, however, was enough to send my cultural senses spinning. Colorful clothing, drums and horns, dancing, green and rolling countryside, bread baking in an outside oven, a restless night curled up foot-to-foot with a stranger who kept stealing my blanket, mint tea and sweets to accompany the luscious wedding feast…

But I wasn’t only observing; I was being observed. My status as the only foreigner at this countryside wedding earned me plenty of stares, questions, and giggling girls developing heroine crushes on the uncomfortable-looking foreigner in the green dress.

After only 29 hours away from home, I returned feeling both culturally enriched and overwhelmed.

little girls holding hands next to adults in robes
people dancing
beef and prune tagine in center of table

Quiet corner=buried treasure

Have you ever stumbled across a place that you were subconsciously looking for? It takes a bit for you to catch your breath as your heart smiles: “Yes!”

It might be as trivial as a little café, buried in a North African old city where few tourists trod. Except us. A friend and I were wandering down one narrow cobblestone street after another. We walked right past the café the first time, not because we didn’t notice it, but because the owner spotted us and began to holler that we were welcome. We darted down another street to avoid him. But that street was a dead end and eventually we had to turn around.

Hot and tired, we were easy victims when we passed by the café the second time and the owner called out his menu just in case we changed our minds. Then he said the magic words: “We have orange juice!”

We sat on white plastic chairs and admired the blue art hanging from metal chains on the blue walls. The reed table runner covered the rusty metal table and smelled like fresh hay. Sitting felt wonderful. The shade felt wonderful. We pulled off our sunglasses and mopped the sweat from our foreheads.

The juicer was whirring inside a makeshift hut, the café’s kitchen. A moment later, we heard slurping and a satisfied, “Ahhh!” Apparently our juice had met the café owner’s approval.

He brought out tall glasses on little metal plates. “My name is Rashid.”His sunny smile brightened when we tried to speak Arabic. But he left us alone until we were finished enjoying the shade and every last drop of our fresh orange juice.

glass of orange juice on wicker table next to blue wall

How far is heaven?

Was it even open?

The handle turned beneath my eager fingertips. It was!

I hadn’t been to the library in months. I wasn’t even sure why I’d come today except that I wasn’t ready to leave town and go home. I wanted to be alone. It was one of those days: interruptions at every turn; repeating everything I said at least once; everyone expecting me to be a team player when I just wanted to grab my journal and disappear until next week.

That’s why the library was such a good place to vanish for an hour. Here, the shelves were lined with stories of people who had lived and breathed life’s struggle. They had faced the same problems I faced today. I felt a camaraderie with these characters beyond the lettered spines on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

“Are you looking for something in particular?” A librarian approached me, even as I was still inhaling the tawny scent of explored pages.

She seemed satisfied when I said, “No, just looking.”

I fought the urge to just stand and soak in the stories. I was in the fiction section anyway, so I slipped over to the next aisle. Art. Music. History. Sewing. Biography. Religion. I pulled books off the shelf to page through them before adding them to the growing stack tucked in the crook of my elbow.

There were books for sale- 5 cents each- that town citizens had donated to the library. I browsed that section and found a book about heaven.

Heaven.

I wove through the displays of cheap romance novels and heaved my stack onto the check-out counter.

“Do you need a sack?”

“No. Thanks. I have one in the car.”

“Can I get the door for you?”

“Thanks. I got it.”

I loaded my car and was on the way home–beside the elementary school and the reduced speed limit signs–when I remembered the book about heaven.

I had only forked over the nickel to give the book away. I didn’t read books about heaven. The incessant chatter of an afternoon radio show interrupted my emerging thoughts. I hit the power button.

“Why?” I said aloud. “Why don’t I think about heaven?”

Was it that I was comfortable on earth? Hardly! I was always yearning for something.

“But what is it?” Was I yearning for heaven or the “next big thing” in my life wherein lie coveted fulfillment? Couldn’t I pretend that it was all just a subconscious longing to be with God?

Or was it more like a choice of where I based my citizenship?

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seem them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”

(Heb. 11:13-14)

On the drive home, the dusty wind and thick, angry raindrops reminded me of life’s trials. But somehow, with the hope of heaven, trials didn’t look so scary.