Monday, January 2, 2017

Dim Darkness

I wrote this one morning. It was to a friend about what I was feeling. It needs some massive editing but I believe it really speaks to the state I was in. 'Til next time.

Ashley

Dim Darkness

Last night, I climbed up four flights of stairs and passed out (from lack of breath) into the ending of a mushroom/veggie stir fry dinner. The staff leaned back with their full bellies and laughed. They chuckled out that all-knowing laugh we give when we see someone with the same level of exhaustion we endure.


I sat down and ate the last few spoonfuls while listening to Sam. We go around the table each night and go over our Roses & Thorns (highs & lows). Sam is a warm Irishman with a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow.  He makes me believe the Irish find responsibility repellent and drinking while spooning Swedish girls the only truly adequate past time. When he laughs, which is his second favorite hobby, you can see the damage too much cigs and whiskey have done to his teeth. Each morning, after reluctantly cleaning 6-8 beds, Sam dashes out the door without notice. It's his routine. His ritual. It reminds his soul he is free and no one needs to know.  You'll be surprised to learn that his Irish looks spur no charm. He carries with him a nonchalant response to anyone who's ever cared about him. "Yes darling, I love you two. Could you pass the whiskey?" But that night, at Gino & Carlo's bar in North Beach, he stood under the neon red Budweiser sign with a pool stick in his hand, leaning down for the eight ball shot and looked magnetic. I suppose the Irish were made for the night because his face almost glistened in the darkness.


Stormy is the girl in the staff room. Her presence fits her name and it's a little unsettling. She is quick to finish dinner, quick to finish talking, quick to run errands and quick show you what she spent all night drawing by herself alone in an empty co-working lab downtown. I used to find her rapid departure from the dinner table terribly annoying until I realized she is simply running running away. I think she said it one night, in passing, as a joke. "Okay. I'll sit." I don't blame her. Her very presence feels like a rustled war, all trapped up, contained inside. Except her eyes. If she's feeling less like herself, less afraid, like she was last night (the moon was full), she'll let you in with a glimpse of the waves just settling within her eyes. And then it's over. It's gone. Just like her. For a few nights. Until it's her shift begins again and she returns.


Albert is a small Kiwi (New Zealander) with the most beautiful long blonde dreads.  He's got a nose ring he constantly fiddles with, which does little to deter the ladies. And his skin is so white, it's almost pink.  Anyone with any relationship experience can tell you, just by looking at him that his heart has never been broken. He constantly looks at women with his hopeful, longing green eyes. I fear his naïveté. But I also envy it. He doesn't know but I don't have the heart to tell him: love is real an it can destroy-as quickly as it made life within him. I simply envy him.


While I stuffed down a spoonful of mushy rice, a woman walked in-a total Amber. She's a returning guest who constantly wears big soft sweater-like blouses beneath her long stringy amber hair. She adorns her delicate frame with carefully selected southwestern jewelry. I spent the last 30 minutes looking at checking out her rings and necklaces in hopes for a peek underneath that blouse. Finally, after listening to some strenuous small talk, she revealed to me that she's a recovering anorexic and that she used to work out 5 hours a day. She only does yoga now and makes careful effort to "not exercise out of hate." My heart dropped to the floor and from then on, her continuous strain of details on her every life event didn't seem so strenuous to hear. It's much easier now to give her the space to reveal what she can and to hide what she can't.


That night, after a strong buzz from the free beer from working the pub crawl, I tucked myself under the sheets in my hostel bed, alone and cozy. I wondered for a long time about these people, who share the same roof as I do. I wondered about who they were as kids and what compelled them to let go of everything they know to spend the next year so far from home. But then, my thoughts settled onto the truth that's been quite difficult to accept. Who am I to think my darkness was dimmer than theres?? Who am I to think I know more pain and more suffering than they do?? There is an arrogance to that kind of thinking and it's dangerous. It isolates and pushes us away from the very reason we were all born. We all sit with rotten teeth, stormy hearts and pink flushed bodies under the stars beneath the sea.


I dreamt about you last night, which is unusual. I never dream about you. My dreams are usually quite violent and difficult and so naturally, you're never there. My head filled up with this scene where I was getting ready for bed in this strip-mall type place.  Not sure why, but I felt comfortable and cozy in the peach light. You came by with your purse on your shoulder, in this lovely country linen sundress. You looked down and smiled, like you always do. I forgot what we talked about. Sometimes I don't listen. I'm sure you know that. I can't help it. Sometimes I just need a few moments to take in how beautiful you are. But then I felt something, something all too familiar and strong and I just blurted out, without even thinking, without considering how you might take it, feeling the fear of your reaction as they slipped past my lips "Are you okay?" You just cried. I woke up.


I know you're okay. I know you're doing well. I know you're doing your very best with all that's being thrown at you, investing in your future. You're working hard building your future, one class and act of kindness at a time. I liken you in my head to a wise Stark woman preparing for winter. I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking about you and that I love you and carry you in my thoughts as I prepare for winter too.  Because ultimately, we are all wondering around the same dark street, with the same want for God and each other. Right?


Your friend,


Ashley

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Fallow Ground" by A.W. Tozer

Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness on you" (Hosea 10:12)


Here are two kinds of ground: fallow ground and ground that has been broken up by the plow. 

The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow and the agitation of the harrow. Such a field, as it lies year after year, becomes a familiar landmark to the crow and the blue jay. Had it intelligence, it might take a lot of satisfaction in its reputation: it has stability; nature has adopted it; it can be counted upon to remain always the same, while the fields around it change from brown to green and back to brown again. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment. 

But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility; never does it feel the motions of mounting life, nor see the wonders of bursting seed, nor the beauty of ripening grain. Fruit it can never know, because it is afraid of the plow and the harrow. 

In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow, and the plow has come as plows always come, practical, cruel, business-like and in a hurry. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken. 

But its rewards come hard upon its labors. The seed shoots up into the daylight its miracle of life, curious, exploring the new world above it. All over the field, the hand of God is at work in the age-old and ever renewed service of creation. New things are born, to grow, mature, and consumate the grand prophecy latent in the seed when it entered the ground. Nature's wonders follow the plow. 

There are two kinds of lives also: the fallow and the plowed. For example of the fallow life, we need not go far. They are all too plentiful among us. 

The man of fallow life is contented with himself and the fruit he once bore. He does not want to be disturbed. He smiles in tolerant superiority at revivals, fastings, self- searching, and all the travail of fruit bearing and the anguish of advance. The spirit of adventure is dead within him. He is steady, "faithful," always in his accustomed place (like the old field), conservative, and something of a landmark in the little church. But he is fruitless. 

The curse of such a life is that it is fixed, both in size and in content. "To be" has taken the place of "to become." The worst that can be said of such a man is that he is what he will be. He has fenced himself in, and by the same act he has fenced out God and the miracle. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Where am I now?


When I moved down to LA in August of 2015, I came down the biggest smile. I was so excited to finally be fulfilling a childhood a dream. A dream I believed God whispered into my quiet heart at 11 years old. I can still see myself in my sleigh bed under the quilt. My only focus was on Him and I was determined with a kind of tangible clarity to only see Him.

And so I've "stolen" moments to write. Moments to pour out my thoughts on what/who I found interesting and why. In a lot of ways, writing has become my avenue for dealing with unrequieted love - or infatuation. I can construct in my mind who things could work out, the way I wanted to. I could see how wonderful so much could possibly be. Of course, I still fail to see this as a problem. Then life got really hard. 


In October of 2015, my car jiggled as I pounded my foot to the petal and drove all the way from Burbank to Porter Ranch. I was unaware, at the time, that my car was beginning to fume. My "Indiana Jones" car, as Aleah called it was beginning to spark and it wasn't until I sat down at my desk that I got a phone call from a co-worker who said "I think your car is on fire."

A new car loan with a massive monthly payment later, I got a 2006 version of the same Indiana Jones car and within a month, someone broke into it. I had stopped by my 9-5 for just five minutes to drop off paperwork and I came back. Someone had stolen my gym bag - which contained my iPad.  A beautiful face gave me a pack of sage and sunflowers and I don't think I ever considered the posiblity that my "dream" might just be a hoax. A lesson from God to never trust my feelings and perhaps lean more toward logic that this was not the place for me. Everything seemed against me.


And then I quit my good paying job and began to work at a deli for $10/hour for about 25-29 hours for exactly one week. I can still feel the pain in my feet, after having stood for just only a few hours - the way fried chicken looks on the floor splattered everywhere. It was good work. Solid work. I felt a camaraderie among people I had not experienced in a long time. People looked out for you. Not because your opinion held the chance of them getting more pay. Not because you were friendly or nice. People looked out for you because, in a very real way, your survival in that position effected all of them. And it just seemed more important than whether or not the customers liked us.


I finally got a call and a new job ensued. A new chapter. Every time I tell people about what I do, a combination of sadness and reverence washes over their face. They don't know whether to salute or cry. I love to cry. And I love to salute families and so naturally the job feels like a glove that finally fits. It taught me, above else that God created me for the deep end of the ocean. I live there. And so to meet families who are there as well, who came by force, is to introduce new friends to a new way of living,  a new kind of normal.

This new job with less pay has given me new hobbies, like walking. I walk to and fro everywhere now and I notices street names and houses and change of pottery. I even have time to take pictures of desert flowers.


I also ride the metro. Around 5:15 this morning, the train conductor gets on the intercom and says that there has been an accident on the 210 and so we have to all get off at Lake to take a bus to Sierra Madre. The other passengers and I are met with a lite drizzle as we make our way down the platform confused and bewildered. An accident? On the freeway? How could that have bothered the train?

Turns out the a tractor trailer jumped the freeway wall and fell onto the tracks. It was scary. It could have hit us. God is taking care of me - always.

I don't know what to make of my life right now, apart from being hyper aware of how flawed I am and how completely dependent I am on my Creator. I don't know if I'll ever get married or loose this weight or make a feature film worth seeing. I don't know if I have spent the last 8 years being dictated by my feelings or a genuine guidance of the spirit.

What I do know, is that I need to be near Jesus. And as weird and as troubling as that may seem, drawing near to Him has been the only abiding constant source of happiness in my life. Deep happiness. The kind you get when your big "dreams" don't have to come true. The kind of happiness where you realize, your greatest dream already came true, and it's the dream of being close to Him.

So go ahead and set my car on fire, let me loose my precious job, and put me on the street - come way may. I am forfeiting the need to know. I just want to be where He is, always.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Midnight City

Some nights when I'm walking through Los Angeles, I think about this story idea I have for a feature film called "Midnight City" where the color city that I see through my eyes comes onto the screen in a way that no one else has seen it before. I want to give the homeless their rightful place on the screen - especially when it comes to stories about their home. #DTLA


The first song...

It's almost 2017 and it's hard for me as a Cuban American woman to stand underground in a train station, attempting to imagine that once, a long time ago, California belonged to Spain. Mexican's ruled these parts. This desert belonged to them. Each tile and every little relic is to reflect that history. It's wonderful to look at - taking me back in time as I wait for the train to come. 



New buddy

I have a new buddy at work. His name is Zen. He watches me while I answer emails all day, as I sweat trying to figure out Pentaho. He likes it when I'm Work Front, because he's a productivity nerd too.

Meet Zen and the woman above him is Wendy. Zen is from North Carolina and Wendy is from Japan.

#unitednations 

Inspiration