Our world is on a bender with no one to clean up the mess. Star systems gape in awe, and someone left sensibility’s door ajar. I think, therefore I am, but I must think first. (A streak of white across an empty sky—is that you?)
Day 1 – Stripped down, every story is the same but for the details, and every ache commenced. Go a day without complaining about pain or a lack of sleep. Peek along the lines of reckoning. God is a warm fire, a popsicle in summer, someone’s hello on the tail end of disappointment. That’s him where the trail T’s so just follow the scent of blossoms on the long trek home.
Day 2 – A hundred cows and only five standing up. A storm’s coming, winds, tornado watch, and that means low pressure, animal movement. A rafter of turkeys scram along. Deer jump and dodge. Pinpoint a star in this rough night sky, and corral Jesus in a corn bin when the black clouds gather. A night’s worries squelch the song in our bones. Not so easy to release them to the great unknown, to the God of thunders.
Day 3 – In the rural world of fake news, we read that cattle align themselves north and south at any given time, based on the magnetic field of the earth. Someone should tell the cattle that, they who seem not to care about directional expectations or magnetic fields, but range haphazardly over these Iowan plots, east/west, southeastern/northwestern, and every point in between. Trees stretch heavenward, predictably.
Day 4 – We dive in too deeply, forget who we are. Our terminology stays the same though conditions differ. I wonder if that little white collar square covers a button.
Day 5 – Prayer is a strange concept and prone to maxims. Strange in the sense of a crap shoot being strange: why do we do it when there’s an astronomical chance that mountains won’t move and nothing but coal debris will be dropped into the sea. I’ve exploded with prayer these past days—a desolation of moments. Still the earth moves not neither does it ripple nor blanket me in waves of wisdom, depict me a rustic prophet in jeans.
Day 6 – I keep waiting for the death of something. Once we’ve lived long enough or seen too much or felt too much, we expect it. A dead garden, a dead tree, a dead friend. The sun sets each evening and something dies a little every day. In a saga’s rise and descent comes modulation. Tone tone tone tone tone. Adam heard God walking. Tell me about the stride. The heaviness of foot. Imagined drama is far less reliable.
Day 7 – We begin to think we’ve sinned the unpardonable. We believe the rants and indulge the ranter; we are, after all, imperfect.
Day 8 – I learn about distance and the Democratic Republic of Congo from two twenty-somethings working in a local Indian restaurant. I learn Swahili words like jukuu (grandchild), shangazi (aunt), and habari (hello). I learn that more to be feared than a renegade military is a Congolese aunt who will poison a family member for lack of attention, and call it voodoo. I learn that lions still roam the small villages. But in winter, they say the sun is bright and the air is cool, and there is never need for a coat, so in a fit of desire, I promise to visit in winter. I learn that churches are a thing there and that Jesus knows poverty.
Day 9 – God is not metaphysical, but a cloud with eyes, the beating heart inside a kind word. Theology helps us keep the order right, and the wine is always good. Further, theology is a distrust of common sense. Not that God is at odds with common sense but rather our interpretation of God swings on the faint winds of peer reviews. In these cases, it’s easier to believe in a flat earth than Amyraldianism. And at some point we begin to conclude that Baptist is more a creed than a creature. Even the Amish can be friendly, and they sell you their goods. In the end, we gather together to remember, and maybe forget.
Day 10 – When did the hole in the sky close up? We keep such a long line of memories strapped around our waist. Someone said there’s a road paved with past regrets we must walk, but that’s no road at all, instead, a valley of dry bones, and vultures perched on every high ledge. Better is the mapped-out trail with a little curiosity and time for excursions.
-- German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in journals such as Cimarron, Portland Review, and Silk Road. She recently discovered she had a sister who was given up for adoption at birth, but has since passed away. She’s on a quest to find out as much about her as possible. Chila won the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award & the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She is the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review.