We took a very long drive, much of it on dirt roads, to get to a sweet little lighthouse where the flies came after us like they’d been planning their assault for months. We had to dash back to the truck and eat our lunch inside with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner running. Last time we visited, ten years or so ago, a mama bear and a bunch of cubs came running across the road and so the trek has lived in my head all that time as extraordinary. Today, we saw a turtle in the road and the herds of flies, a new memory to carry forth.
In the film Nomadland, which we are watching at this moment, Fern, a woman who has lost her husband, her job, and her town, carries her family dishes with her in the tiny van that she lives in. Then one day, while she’s clearing out ants from her van, a friend drops the box of dishes on the ground and they all break. She gathers up the wreckage and glues the dishes back together piece by piece. She is so worn from loss that she doesn’t get angry or grieve, she just finds the glue.
I pulled a tick off my torso a few days ago. I saw it while I was waiting for the shower to heat up, examining myself as one would do, to make sure all the skin and parts were good. There was a new dot – on a body covered with freckles and sun damage and age spots – and it was dark and, when I look closer, had legs. Forgetting the tweezers, I just pulled but it held on tighter. Two or three hard pulls and it finally let go. I threw it in the sink where it righted itself and started to walk up the sink’s slope to the counter. It was a murder then – a brutal, bloody, crushing murder – and a very hard scrubbing of ‘the spot’ while in the shower. Still, I feel the spirit of the tick everywhere. It could be unnerving if I let it.
Street Angels, the homeless outreach group I work with, got permission from the church where we’re housed to run a weekly shower program. This means that people living outside – in parks or under bridges or in their cars – can come to the church, take a long hot shower, wash their hair, shave with a decent mirror, and put on clean clothes. I love this simple, uncomplicated, unquestioning kindness. No one has to answer any questions or qualify in any way. They just have to show up. And nothing that happens while they’re at the church will make them feel any kind of way except cared for and respected.
Our hometown basketball team, the Milwaukee Bucks, won the NBA Championship on Thursday night and the town went wild. We are up here on the shore of Lake Superior so our elation was pretty muted. Still, watching the final game and the celebrations reminded us that we are fundamentally city folk. The people, the differences, the problems, the stories, the neighborhoods, the food, the politics, the work – the city is our place. Still, up here, up north, on the edge of the lake, is beloved beyond words. Hearts can live in two places at once, I’ve figured that much out.