Wednesday, May 16, 2012


We have a small repetoire of favorite Wittgens-family stories.  You know one of those stories that get's told at the dinner table at every third holiday dinner and several times in between. And when it's told, the details are fuzzier, yet somehow more grandiose.

It goes like this:  my Dad rented a house for us for a week one summer on the Yucatan coast of Mexico. I was still in highschool, my sister brought along her boyfriend who-would-become husband.  The town of Akumal was small and charming and about an hour south of Cancun.  The house was delightful in its concrete-block, Mexican riviera style grandeur.   Blue waters lapped on rocks, just a short walk from the door, a hammock spread under a palm tree, a blender, fresh seafood.  It was a fantastic vacation. 

One night, a couple houses down from our cozy cul-de-sac, a raucous party ensued.  In truth, I don't remember how raucous, in fact, I may have been zonked from sun exposure and swimming well before the rest of my family so not fully cognizant of the loud rowdiness.  According to lore, there was loud music playing, beer bottles crashing about, people shouting and yelling. Standard party fare that gets more embellished every year.  At some point we'll call "in the middle of the night" - whether it was 11pm or 2:30 am, we'll never know, but the revelry was late enough to draw the ire of my father, who had hoped for a peaceful vacation.  He proceeded out onto our deck and yelled, somewhat unconvincingly apparently, "quiet down!"  No quieting happened.  The party partied on.  A bit later, Dad had had enough and went back to the deck yelling at the top of his lungs "SILENCIO!!" (because perhaps these latinos needed to hear his stern command in what he guessed was their mother-tongue.)  

His wish was granted, but only momentarily.  The revelers stopped, and I can only imagine as they looked up from their Tequila shots and Norteno music.  Then the brief silencio was broken with a chorus of raucous laughter, and a series of mocking "silencio" replies. 

We recount the story with the same festive mood as those party-goers must have enjoyed, however on that night, I imagine my Dad was miffed.  In fact as the story goes, he may have even feared for the tires on our rental-car or the safety of our rented property after such an affront to the partiers.

I recount that story because I feel as my Dad did that night.  Only the racket I'm enduring here on this OTHERWISE peaceful afternoon is of my own choosing, I suppose.  We're getting a new roof, and a new screen porch and for days now the hammering, hacking, sawing, and occasional Spanish commands have been my background music. Every hard knock shakes the house just a little and I marvel how my daughter is sleeping through this.  I just want peace, silence, meditative rest. Space to pray in earnest for my friends in deep need. And yet, all I want to do is scream "SILENCIO!"  Doubtless mis amigos from Mexico up on the roof would find it entertaining as those partiers in Akumal, Yucatan. 

But for now, I'm forced to absorb the sounds and be thankful that at least my dog, and my daughter are at rest. 

Well, scratch that. Now its just the dog at rest.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Thursday Reading

Perhaps as a sign of age, or more distinctly because I am a parent, I find myself governed too often by fear.  From the simple: what if I spent too much money on this thing and it won't yield its value? or What if this meal I'm bringing a friend turns out gross and they think less of me?  To the more serious ones that keep me up lately:  What if Jeff died in a motorcycle wreck (as did the husband of a high school acquaintance this week)?  What if Hadley was abducted like those kids I've read about in the news? 

And my mind paces back and forth between to-do lists and fears and irrational things on which to dwell while lying in bed at midnight. And suddenly it's 1am and I can find only some peace in silly iPhone games or reading other people's blog posts. 

That was last night for me, and now this morning, earth seems new a pleasantly more hopeful in the new light. 

I read from Thomas Merton's A Book of Hours this morning and found these Thursday passages helpful:

To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.

If, therefore, I do anything or think anything or say anything or know anything that is not purely for the love of God, it cannot give me peace, or rest, or fulfillment, or joy. To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God. 

O great God, Father of all things, Whose infinite light is darkness to me, Whose immensity is to me as the void, You have called me forth out of yourself because You love me in Yourself, and I am a transient expression of Your inexhaustible and eternal reality.  I could not know You, I would be lost in this darkness, I would fall away from You into this void, if You did not hold me to Yourself in the Heart of Your only begotten Son. 

Perfect Love drives out fear.