We are quickly approaching my favorite time of the year here in Western New York. The summer is dying, exhaling its last golden breath before the long Autumn nights carry us into winter’s silent twilight. Unquestionably Autumn is my favorite season – I can feel the energy of the earth withdrawing into itself, crackling underneath my bare feet as I walk through the grass – but there is something exquisitely unique about summer which has captivated me since my teens. A sort of bitter-sweetness to those months; the juiciness of freedom mixed with the tart awareness of time slipping away. This summer is no different, but I had the fortune of spending it with sixteen others during a 31 day training with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Chicago.
It’s impossible to recount every moment in those 31+ days, but I’d like to share with you all some of the more profound moments that occurred during that time. I think that it’s best to split these stories up into separate posts, much like the Palestinian ones (yes, I am still going to post the rest of them!) that way you’re not faced with walls of text.
Today, I’ll start with my arrival.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
I embarked upon this journey overwhelmed by my own apathy, uncertain that I even wanted to make the 12 hour trek to Chicago to be part of the training. My husband, the sage that he is, didn’t let me leave home without extracting from me a promise to give it a week before making any decisions about leaving early. He’d been watching me struggle with situational depression for the last three years and knew that getting as far away from the job that caused it – at least for a month – would be restorative for me. And so I arrived on the steps of CPT offices tired, sweat drenched and with a headache thrumming behind my eyes.
“Helllloooo,” a resonant voice drawled from the back recesses of the room. It sounded happy, exuberant even…and that pissed me off. I was hot. I was smelly. And who the hell had the right to sound that fuckin’ chipper at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday anyway?
His name was Lukasz. He was tall and stocky with nut brown hair which was cut shaggily short in the front but sported seven or so knee length dreads in the back. He was barefooted, dressed in a white t-shirt and gray shorts and he extended a braceleted hand out to me.
“You’re Leia?” he smiled, revealing a slightly chipped front tooth and eyes of two slightly different colors (blue and green).
“Hi, yeah. Are Kryss or Terra here?”
“No, they just left to go to where you all will be staying. Do want to go?”
“I’ll stay here if it’s all the same. I’ve been driving all day.”
“Ok. Come in, sit.” He waved his hand to the room behind him, filled with two long tables and their accompanying chairs. “Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”
“No, thank you,” I mumbled as I pulled out the chair at the head of the furthest table and sat down.
“This is my brother Darek,” Lukasz gestured to another human being sitting at the furthest corner of the table. He was dressed head to foot in black, his blonde hair pulled into a bun revealing shaved sides, and appeared to be cramming himself into the corner between table and wall.
“Nice to meet you,” I said as I extended my hand which was swallowed up by his own. I fleetingly registered an anarcho-punk tattoo on his middle finger, but was too tired to inquire further. I thought nothing of him, only wondered how long the day would last before I could go to bed.
An hour or so later I was in the training room on the bottom floor of the building, sitting next to a pissy looking German guy with wiry blonde-grey hair and electric blue eyes meeting my fellow trainers for the first time. I hoped against hope that we weren’t,
“Going to play a little game so that we remember each other’s names.”
God damn it.
I hated these games, mainly because my memory is total shit but I hand it to the trainers – by the end of those four hours I knew everyone’s name.
and of course.. me.
And so this was the beginning of what would be an amazing journey of growth, healing, happiness and renewed vigor…