the last word is love

I picked up 4 strangers at the airport Tuesday night. I had no idea I'd fall in love.

Friends of a friend, these 4 artistic-types had a long layover in Dubai and wanted a (free) place to catch a few hours of shut-eye. But they never made it to bed. Stopping for a bite to eat, we fell in love over shwarma. Talking, laughing, telling stories and sharing our passions, we drank in every word - along with a lot of coffee til with big hugs and sincere promises to meet again, they climbed into a taxi to catch their next flight.

It has been a while since I pulled an all-nighter. 14 months ago, in fact. Then Jo Parfitt's inspiring writer's workshop kept me up all night. Creative energy came uncorked, spilling words on to paper. Like blocks tipped out of a toy box or colors splashed by a child learning to finger paint, ideas and snatches of stories tumbled out all night long in uncontrolled phrases and messy pages.

Jo and my 4 new friends are, I believe, Divine encounters. Arranged by Someone with more creative power and artistic passion than me, for my good. These artists have unlocked treasures in me I didn't even know existed. And probably wasn't ready for til now. I'm still recovering from this week's all-nighter. (I'm not as young as I felt on Tuesday night!) But I don't plan to recover from the love connection I have with these folks or the gifts they've given to me by just being themselves. 

One of those finger-painted ideas following Jo's workshop was a book: The 31st House. I had not yet moved from Wisconsin to Dubai, but had already begun the grieving process. Writing about some of the places I've lived and the cross-cultural and life lessons I've learned in each place is 1 way I'm helping myself create a new life - again - now in my 31st house. 

Here's an excerpt from 1 of the chapters that tumbled out that night.

25th House
Durga Kund, Varanasi, India

There was no way we could sleep. Not when it was 100 degrees inside and 130 outside. Not when the electricity went off - again - and you felt the muggy stillness closing in on you in the darkness. Not when you had to lie naked under a silent fan in a sweaty puddle. 

Groaning and exhausted, we slid out of bed. Air. We need air. Hoping for some breeze, we stepped out onto the balcony.  The skin-sizzling heat and clinging humidity blasted us and  the only thing moving was the mosquitoes. At least the mosquitoes were enjoying themselves! As the hordes moved in for the kill, I started to cry. Tears of tiredness were followed by great big sobs of despair. I couldn't even go to Roy's arms for comfort. It was too damn hot.

"Damn it. DAMN IT!" (Even Roy's angry tirade couldn't scare off the mosquitoes.) "I'm sending you away from this hell," he fumed. "You can go stay with my parents til the hot season is over."

The thought of leaving my husband of 4 months made me cry even harder. "I'm not leaving you! If you stay, I stay" I said between sobs. 

We survived that summer in Durga Kund. Together.

Why put up with unimaginable heat, without fans and running water? Why endure fiery flesh by day and stupid flesh-eating creatures by night? Why do any of us tolerate the million hardships, inconveniences and frustrations of living in another culture? For love. Love of a person. Love of a people. Love of adventure. Love of a way of life. Love of God.  Some days the love factor is all you've got when everything else is turned off. It's love that lasts when the heat is on. 

More was said that night on the balcony in Durga Kund, between mosquito bites and cursing the heat. But the last word was love.


a psalm of the desert

The desert.
The desert rises up.
The desert rises up in waves.
The desert rises up in waves to greet you.

You, Lord of the desert
       of sand
       of wave upon wave of amber sand.

Camels come, too, to meet their Master.
Turning their faces at the sound of your approach
Bowing knobby knees in recognition and honor
Even while you are still far off.

Desert shrubs release their blooms.
Wishing they could be something other than they are
(Majestic redwood or scented cedar)
So they, too, could bow.

"It is enough", you say.
       for you made them as they are
       and they are yours.

Those living in the desert do not understand
These rising sands and sudden blooms.
"A change of season", they say.
And so it is.

They wait for the rain.