Egypt…

So… I meant to post before I left on Thursday, but I got caught up with packing and goodbyes, “tying up lose end” I called it. A few remained undone. One of them was here, so I’m getting back to it now: I’ll be in Egypt for a month teaching English with ESL/Arabic teachers to a group of seminarians.

I got here Friday and have already had some powerful impressions. Once the schedule gets more regular, I hope to post a few blurbs now and then to highlight my stay. So far, I’ve been writing them in a notebook.

I hope you excuse my absence, and I hope to repay with some interesting anecdotes. Cheers.

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The Ticking is the Bomb Review

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The Ticking is the Bomb, as seen on Amazon.com

I propped open The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn while sitting on my bed in a Zen Monastery, day two of a spiritual pilgrimage. It’s an older book, coming out in 2012, but a teacher recommended it.

The day started just before 5 a.m., when some monk jangled a handful of bells outside the door. At the time, I imagined he took a sadistic joy in it.

“Hey, here’s a crammed group of exhausted travelers—how can I give a good start to the day?” he probably thought. “Loud bells!”

Rubbing my head, I greeted the others with a nod.

Night still drenched the windowpanes in reflection as we entered the meditation hall. I crossed my legs into a half-lotus and a bell pitched the space into silence, broken occasionally by the rattling radiator or the rasp of a stuffy nose.

I wrestled with my thoughts for the next hour or so. The rest of the day blurred as we moved from one lecture to another and a silent work call. I stayed in the kitchen, cracking 160 eggs for a massive casserole.

Thirteen hours after waking up, I was choking on Zen. Flynn’s tense prose challenged the backdrop of silence that permeated the day. But I needed it.

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Words

Some days all I can do is cling to my art. I feel my world withdrawing, but my fingers rib red lines along words as Imagethey grasp and hold and strain. It’s more feeling than reality, but it keeps me moving past my insecurities. The past few days, a quote by Albert Camus has lingered on edge of my thoughts, flashing now and then into focus:

Life continues, and some mornings, weary of the noise, discouraged by the prospect of the interminable work to keep after, sickened also by the madness of the world that leaps at you from the newspaper, finally convinced that I will not be equal to it and that I will disappoint everyone—all I want to do is sit down and wait for evening. This is what I feel like, and sometimes I yield to it.

I feel heavy.

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Nursing home

The nursing home smelled of stale urine and had the wallpaper of a 1970s mental home, with calm colors and a bland boarder of flowers. An elderly lady clutched a baby doll with blue eyes and a prim smile as she rolled her wheel chair down the hall.  

“The baby’s smiling at you,” my uncle Matt said, pointing to the doll with a quiet chuckle. 

I smiled. Televisions droned in the background, filtering into the hall from open doors and an alarm sounded. 

“What do you think that alarm is?” my dad said. 

“Someone probably trying to get out,” said Matt with the same quiet chuckle. 

My dad nodded. 

A young nurse with blond hair pulled out of the room. Without smiling she said, “All set.”

We walked inside. My grandfather smiled as he saw us enter. He wore a blue woolen cap, khakis, and a striped blue shirt. His face looked like putty molded into a face–sunken cheeks, eyes dazed, mouth loosely hanging–and his body had skin stretched taut over thin bones. He was gray and tired. I shook his hand, a vague clasp that hung in my palm.

“Hey Grampa, nice to see you,” I said.

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