Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The first time I traveled to Africa 2 years ago I returned with a deeper level of personal awareness of my impact on the earth and it’s peoples. I turned a new corner in a journey that had already begun in my soul long before; one of a deepening consciousness about global issues regarding the environment, trade, health, and human rights. But since my return from Africa on this last trip, I can only say that I am even more awake than ever…excruciatingly awake to the terrible injustice that exists on our planet and my complicity in it. Everywhere I look I am confronted with it. It hides under thinly disguised and not-so-thinly disguised trade policies, corporate expansion plans, military actions, and even humanitarian aid campaigns…I see it in my home in the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the fuel in my car, the cell phone I use, and the diamond ring on my hand. Even my house is built on stolen soil, stained by the blood and tears of the native Duwamish tribe…and I cannot wash it off of my hands no matter how hard I try. The oppression is pervasive. I realize that I will never be able to truly sleep again…even when I forget for a moment and begin to live in the daydream that is our society…I am shaken out of it again and again. Tormented.

It is difficult to describe the outrage and grief I’ve experienced upon the realization that the very act of living on this American soil and participating--if even in the most conscious ways--in this economy, means I am paying for the very injustice I claim to stand against. It is the most agonizing paradox. I pay my taxes and grit my teeth while my money funds environmental degradation, violence, and unthinkable kinds of exploitation. My very skin symbolizes generations of conquest, arrogance, murder, slavery, and global oppression. I feel like a snake trying to shed my skin only to find another layer of the same stuff underneath and I wonder if I will lose my mind.

The words from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible move me. One of the characters especially resonates with me: Leah Price came to Congo as a young, naïve American girl with her missionary family in 1960. Now and adult living in Congo and married to a Congolese man her “awakening” haunts her too…

“Be kind to yourself," he says softly in my ear, and I ask him, How is that possible? I rock back and forth on my chair like a baby, craving so many impossible things: justice, forgiveness, redemption. I crave to stop bearing all the wounds of this place on my narrow body. But I also want to be a person who stays, who goes on feeling anguish where anguish is due. I want to belong somewhere, damn it. To scrub the hundred years’ war off this white skin till there’s nothing left and I can walk out among my neighbors wearing raw sinew and bone, like they do. Most of all, my white skin craves to be touched and held by the one man on earth I know has forgiven me for it.

The book closes with this beautiful and healing passage from the perspective of Ruth May, Leah’s young, dead sister…

The teeth at your bones are your own, the hunger is yours, forgiveness is yours. The sins of the fathers belong to you and to the forest and even to the ones in iron bracelets, and here you stand, remembering their songs. Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember…Move on. Walk forward into the light.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dark Passage

Several weeks ago dear friends gave me the gift of allowing me to borrow their log cabin in northern Washington for a few days where I escaped to try to find myself. Here I immersed myself in things that move the deep waters of my soul… the art of Andy Goldsworthy, the poetry of Rumi, the music of Arvo Part. I stood in the rain under the tall pines for a long time until I felt a black heaviness begin to drain out of me. I was visited by the healing presence of deer and hummingbirds as I wept and wrote and sat in stillness.

Since my return from Africa three months ago I have been cocooned in sorrow, rage, and utter bewilderment. I have been tormented by searing questions about my purpose and my faith. I have staggered under the weight of human suffering, injustice, and the seemingly inevitable destruction we have brought upon this planet—our home. I hurt so much for all the inequity, fear, and humiliation that so many in our human family are experiencing. I feel so frustrated by my powerlessness, by my inability to even revolutionize my own household. I am filled with an unfocused passion that yields futility, and I envy those whose hearts seem to have found a home—something they believe in to pour their time, energy, and skills into. My ambition is my bane. I cannot accept being less than some imagined Great Liberator for mankind. Yet I cannot even free myself. I am paralyzed by the unending array of suffering before me and the desire growing in my belly threatens to tear to me to pieces…yet, I don’t know where to put this fire—before it devours me.

I have avoided writing here for some time because I could not bring myself to begin processing all that I saw and experienced in the Congo or how that trip has affected my inner life in profound and disturbing ways. I think it is time that I begin to let the words flow, if only for my own healing conduit. Thank you for traveling with me here on this dark passage.