I am leaving Chile with many things –only several of which have physical form. Yes, there is a volume of Neruda packed in my bag, there is a medal of San Alberto Hurtado keeping Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat company on the cord around my neck. (I love that, actually, and have no doubt whatsoever that the two of them would have been friends had they known one another.) There is a copper picture frame my community gave me last night before we went out for empanadas at Las Delicias. There is the stone in my pocket from la tierra chilena in Pelarco.
But, more importantly and more lasting, there are other things…intangible wonders…that are also coming with me.
New words to describe concepts. Some of my favorites include: Hermandad– a word that for me encircles much more than sisterhood. Hermandad, in addition to having a more pleasing sound in my ear, has the added dimension of the feeling as well as the concept. Hay que averiguar… there is the need to discover/determine/figure out/piece together. Pues, no sé, fíjate…Huh, you know what, I don´t know! Involucrar–to engage the other in such a way that the other is motivated to lend support or assistance…
There are so many more complex, stark, juicy, dense, colorful, pared and honed words…and so incredibly immediate are they that it is hard to think of them being of another language, really. Simply more options, more ways to speak of this incredible journey. I am grateful beyond telling to welcome them into the pool of language that waits for the dip of my mind, my pen, to offer her treasure.
There are new feelings as well. New levels of frustration and impoténcia, unique experiences of awe, moments of glory and desolation and desire and fear and support and wonder and even a little whooooaaaaa that is coooool. Among other things, realizing that I was looking at the other side of the moon fell into that category.
A friend wrote in understanding that it is difficult to leave a place where you heart has been stretched and where you have had to stretch to make room for your heart. There is much, much truth in that. I wrote to someone this morning that…
I just got an email…suggesting that perhaps God has done all that he had to do in me here in Chile. While that may be, I replied, I remain with serious questions about that. But, hey, questions allow the conversation to move forward. It is more a curiosity than anything else– If not here, where, then? And, what? And, when? A somewhat frustrated, sad, and yes, disappointed, curiosity at the moment, but curiosity nonetheless.
As I wrote that, I could not help but think of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, the Religious of the Sacred Heart who brought the Society to the United States. For years before being given permission, her burning desire was to come to the United States and work with the Native Americans. In 1818, the desire to come to the US became real…though at first, her work was in founding schools and establishing communities rather than working with the Native Americans. She never managed to learn English or the language of the Potowatomi, never felt herself any sort of success. and filled letters with her doubts and uncertainties, her frustrations. What she wanted, as she wanted it, did not happen. Something else, did, however. And it is thanks to that something else that I am here, experiencing my own frustrations and moments of enlightenment.
On Saturday, a wise, caring, brilliant, laugh-filled and tear-filled, 64 year old rscj died as a result of a brain tumor in California. In thinking of her, in thinking of Philippine, in thinking of the rscj here that died several weeks ago and the stories people have told of her…in thinking of this wild and mysterious, rica y redonda journey, I propose that instead of “dust unto dust,” however ultimately concretely true, we go with the image “glory unto glory.”
It is equally mysterious, equally incomprehensible, yet filled with awe and eternity.