Saturday, July 18, 2015

Costa Chica, Oaxaca: Bound

A flight into Tijuana late yesterday evening and street tacos with good friends concluded nearly a month spent in Oaxaca. My wisps of memories and fragmented thoughts were not the only remnants that followed from Mexico, but Tropical Storm Dolores as well. I woke up to a cacophony of chirping birds, booming thunder and blessed rain as I tried to orient myself once again. It didn’t seem to take long as I easily fell into the habit of endless cups of green tea and a second breakfast of Acai at Better Buzz, running into friends and family from USD.  Pieces of the familiar weaving together once again a life of little luxuries: privileges that without consciousness of participation in a larger system render one indifferent, numb; introverting perspective.
Thankfully, I’m reminded. Conversations and images that force me to remember; to feel deeply what the suffocating humidity may have subdued in the present moment. The wonderings, aches, and fascinations are the sand that could not be contained in my hands as it fell through my fingers on the beach in Chacahua, but instead stubbornly found its way back in my bag; clinging to dirty socks and settled into the hem of my pants.
A small, blue leather book with gold embossed writing passed from Border Patrol’s hands back into mine last night, allowing me return to San Diego. Plastic chairs under a mango tree with smoke from an outdoor fire that warmed tortillas and Antonio across from me immediately came to mind. A man in his thirties, recently deported, lamented separation from his six children in Kansas City. I crossed over with ease in the backseat of an air-conditioned car, he vowed to risk all once more, through the desert at night.
A boy in a tank top and flip flops the same age as Julio and Consuelo’s son takes me back. All of us gathered on the porch of their home, my hands sticky from the icy, sweet juice of a Boli, holding the family’s new puppy in my lap. My legs itchy from several new bug bites that surely came from following Julio through his cattle pastures. “You don’t go the US because you want to.” he’d said with a chuckle meant less for entertainment purposes than for emphasis of a well known truth. As we’d wandered through the deep green of his land, crawling through barbed-wire from one section to the other, Julio’s pride for his animals and way of life in La Pastoria was apparent. Paloma, his dog who in ecstasy rolled in the small streams we crossed, seemed to reflect the joy that radiated from Julio's smile as a patted his humongous, cream white bull. This was what was good: raising three kind-hearted kids and laughing with his warm soul of a wife. Three trips to the United States and a world of experience couldn’t compete with this corner of earth. Yet, would it be the same without those trips north building houses in Miami and Chicago? Could he drive his children two towns over for school in their used car or own the land his cows grazed on without it? Would Consuelo have the time and energy to invest into the local development cooperative that looked to employ the next generation of youth from the small town? Certainly not.
Lives and livelihoods intertwined in so complex a network it is difficult to see how one frayed end is bound to the other. Must it be untangled, or can we instead trace the lines that connect us? Remembering, that the meals shared, hugs given, and moments of silence observed between us for realities we’d rather not exist, belong to us all. They are sweaty clothes, the mud on my backpack, and sand dumped out on my carpet that return; I cannot forget.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Resurrection in La Luna Llena

Over a phone call I told my mom about the moon. Not an unusual topic of conversation as we often ask did you catch it? Did you see it? The full moon through the clouds or the orb rising over the desert mountains, the answer most likely being yes, as it is hard miss. Yet last weekend’s moon was different. Sitting on my couch reading the pages for grad school that never seem to end, I looked up out my window to the indigo sky and the rising full moon, soft white with shaded veins that remind me of a rabbit. Its light was breathtaking, refracting in four directions in the shape of cross. Resurrection Moon.

Most popular images and traditions associate Easter with the rising sun; sunrise services, and morning lilies. At the end of what was a Holy Week, I witnessed Resurrection not in sunlight, but in moonlight. The Risen Lord rises and shines soft, white light into darkness that is not blanketed evil, rather shadowed existence, beautiful in its own right. Subtle refractions into the course of our everyday humming reality tend to be God, more so than intense moments of blinding light.

Moon beams led me through the searching of an empty tomb, Tijuana. It is just grey silted dust, air hazed with pollutants, burning trash, haphazard, crisscrossed electrical wires, and a chaos of frenzied people and dogs. Yet this tomb is the site of something greater, not seen, but felt. Six days of returning to what I’ve deemed as the ugliest, most joyful place that has allowed me to call it home, helped me to know beyond the emptiness. I felt the carpeted green of the colimas, the unobstructable fence with still visible slats, open windows of a minivan trailing Latin music in the night through unmarked streets, a vibrant archway of bougainvilleas outside a shanty by the railroad tracks, and los Tijuanenses who time and time again shine soft light into the marvelous obscurity of their city.

Conchita, la ama de Francisco Real, wrapped me in a warm embrace as I thanked her unnecessarily for her graciousness our first night across the border. A few days later in preparation for a fiesta for the community, Conchita, with her arms around us all, directed a group of girls in the making of guacamole with her very own recipe, laughed and chided me to apurate mija as I flipped tortillas on a stove to warm them, and ended the evening dancing la meringue on a concrete slab with Padre Jesse. This woman is selfless love, joy to music, manifestation of la Madre.

Cristobal, a father from Zamora, graced me with presence and vulnerability from across the table as we shared a meal of beans, tortillas, and beef stew. I heard of his three young adult daughters as he joked with pride that they don’t know how to do anything but study. He spoke of his wife of twenty-six years, not quite sure how he got lucky enough to marry her. I nodded, knowing exactly why. Cristobal shared with me how he had planned to cross with a visa and participate in cyclical migration, working a few months in construction and returning to Michoacan by late summer. Tricked into fraudulent papers, he was apprehended soon after he handed them over for examination to Border Patrol. So much time, so much money, for nothing. No opportunity. I shared my hurt and frustration with the brokenness of our immigration system and how I had cried out Est├ímos en la lucha on the lawn of the Capitol building; waiting, wishing, and fighting for legislation to give dignity to those such as him. We’d both been turned around. Tears filled Cristobal’s eyes. My heart sobbed. It’s not our people, it’s our system.

Maria, called me over to a table where she sat in her wheelchair folding toilet paper to be used as tissue by the women who are no longer forgotten and invisible at Casa de las Madres. ¿Eres Mexicana? No, yo no soy Mexicana. Apparently my lighter eyes and skin were not enough of a giveaway. But did it really matter anyway? No. I knelt beside Maria, offering to help her fold the toilet paper. No hija, me lo mantiene joven. Claro, it keeps her young a little while longer. But the end wasn’t far away she said, not her choice as to when, the will of Dios. Was she ready I asked? Yes. We chatted about the freedom, joy, and awe of the afterlife. How exciting to be with the creator somewhere beyond our imagine. Let us not wish death, but celebrate it when it comes. For a short period of time Maria was my grandmother, recently gone from this life. I felt her peace in the soft, wrinkled hands that held mine. Vaya con dios abuelita.

My Easter Moon, Tijuana. La Luna Llena, that rose to reveal a tomb of visible emptiness and despair, but so full of deeply felt hope in our shared humanity. I raised my hands, in a chapel filled with students from San Diego and families from the colonia.  Together, dancing until we sweated; celebrating existence under same roof while the carne asada grilled outside awaiting our fiesta. As the speakers played, abre tus ojos, mira hacia arriba, disfruta las cosas buenas, I opened my eyes and looked heavenward, enjoying the good things.

Friday, March 20, 2015


The past few months have found me living the statement of HOME. Yes, there’s a period at the end, no question mark as to where it is or ought to be. The word conjures up so many sights, sounds, and smells- different for all of us. But whether a physical location or moment in time, HOME is where we belong, where we are meant to be, where we live our truest self. Yet sometimes, home is more than a place we find ourselves, rather it is a place that finds us.

For me it began like this, HOME…??...!!!...??? Picking up all over again thousands of miles away left me questioning and searching for a physical location that was home. My question for God was where do you want me? Stubbornly, I kept asking the same question, even probing further with Why?? Yet there was no answer. I wasn’t asking the right question.

What is HOME? To be fair, I didn’t really ask this. Instead, I sighed, I moved on, and prayed just to be. And in that I was shown HOME. A perfect 46 degree night in January led my feet out to the lit monuments on the National Mall. Starting at the Washington and making my way down towards Lincoln, across to MLK and FDR, and around to Jefferson, I run thankful for ear warmers and gloves. Hard breathing and sweat against the cool night air calm me and I wander; knowing I belong just as the geese lying on the ice sheets that cover the Tidal Basin do. Slats in a fence barely wide enough to peer through with one eye give view to a white sandy beach, the ocean haze, and in the distance the downtown buildings of San Diego. A step back affords perspective of the U.S. Mexico Border; a construction meant to separate, yet in its resistance can unite the most unlikely of hearts. This is home, in the Borderlands of ambiguity, among those who intimately experience God in hardship and suffering as well as in celebration and joy and invite me to enter into this as well. With feet wet from tide-pooling, growing cold from the loss of the sun as it slowly sinks into the grey-blue of the water, I gaze towards the painted sky over the ocean and give praise for the adventure of it all- known and unknown. It is home. Wine and chocolate chip cookies that raise hard, belly snorting giggles around the table and the waving hands and smiles of strangers on morning runs bring me home to a church whose walls happen to be hands and feet, and laughter too.

HOME is not a place outside of one’s self, it dwells within. “I do not know much about grace, but I do know this: Grace meets us where we are at and never leaves us quite how she found us.” Let Grace come.