Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Color of Hope

7 degrees below the equator, and I’m shivering on our porch swing, steam swirling from my chai as I breathe in the heat and spice. 13* Celsius and the German Shepherd mix, Destiny, is curled up on her carpet square behind me, fur sticking out like our aloe-vera plants. Buddy, the lapdog, is forcing himself on my lap, tucking himself between the mug and my sweatshirt, his nose pressed between the pages of my devotional. July 27—hope amid trials.

Neither dog sleeps; their eyes flick upward at me until the white sclera glistens, waiting for me to close the book and pick up their bowls. Breakfast after God, I tell them, and we try to sit in holiness, soaking up whatever bits of warmth are found in dry season in the mountains of Papua New Guinea.

Its dawn, but there’s light without the sun, still pottering somewhere behind the mountains. My back aches, and I try to sit a little taller, tilt my neck in an experimental it a good back day? A week ago, a debilitating back spasm triggered by a gluten-poisoning, left me helpless in bed for three days, breathing through pain that I was sure must resemble childbirth, and gave me a new morning question. It’s been a year since I’ve started the routine, grading my days based on the level of fatigue, gluten-poisoning and pain. Only seven weeks of that year received a score that would equal normal. Yesterday was pretty good, I reflect, relatively speaking. Only a few problems in the shoulder-department. But I’m out of ibuprofen today, and I can’t pick up my new order until tomorrow and now my housemate is sick while another, I hugged for the last time on Friday, waving her off at the airstrip on her way to China, and the dogs keep climbing the fence to reappear at the store, begging for scraps, and I haven’t even started packing for our village trip in three days.

Anne Lamott recalls in her book Travelling Mercies that she was once told, that when lots of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born. If the number of things that have tumbled to earth in the last few weeks are any gauge, then this is going to be one large squalling child.

I’m here to read, to receive strength for the day like a Good Christian, but I stare at the valley instead, mist flowing down Lone Tree Mountain and filling the valley like a great beard. Willie wagtails chirp and smack their tails, and the desperation bird, as I call him, sings his panicked song, up and up and up and...?  We’re all waiting.

And then, suddenly, like when the front door opens and in tumbles your sister with her backpack and tales of travelling months or when the curtain rises and the orchestra swells with that first breath, the sun stretches, stands up and looks over the valley, and we’re all washed in gold.

Glitter and wealth drip off banana leaves and the drooping pine in front of my house, while the crimson tanget and taro leaves and faivpela mun grass shudder and bend under the flood of heavy light. It pools at my feet, and even the dogs raise their heads like heavenly statues, watching as a woman, bilum on her head, two boys trailing behind, patters down a street paved in gold, on their way to church.

Clouds in writhe in color like a cathedral’s ceiling, as the mist fades upward, and the world grows younger.

And I almost forget that ache in my spine and the list of things to do before leaving and the stresses of relationship and conflict and escaping dogs and unmade meals.... I sit on that porch swing, golden warmth on my face, and I don’t shiver anymore.