I THINK I HEAR THE CRY
by Chris Anderson
I keep thinking I’ll get over these feelings,
my anger, my fear. How sitting around a table
I don’t really love anyone. But no.
These are the feelings I am called to have,
all of them. This is what I am being given to feel.
Stepping out on the porch I think I hear
the cry of geese in the morning sky. But it’s
just my neighbor up the hill, calling in her dogs,
softly, babytalking. Winter. Cold and dark.
What I don’t understand at first
is her babbling. Her quiet voice, like a mother’s.
by Chris Anderson
It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and I’m painting the bathroom.
I just started. I’m trying to figure out how to maneuver in there
with the paint and the ladder and the trays. How best to reach the ceiling.
Foggy outside, but the sun coming through. This is the morning
we decided to put our cat down, too, and I’ve been thinking about that
as I soak the roller and begin to smooth the paint on the wall.
She was a little squirrel of a cat, dust-bunny gray, furtive and unmannered,
and I’m checking in with myself to see if maybe we’ve behaved callously
in taking her to the vet this morning, Christmas Eve of all days,
when the Child was born in a manger among the cows and the sheep,
with their sweet, warm breath. But it feels right to me, though sad.
This power we all have, of life and death. These choices we all make.
When I look back on the year I realize that more and more the events
of my life are interior. Nothing much seems to happen. But it does.
In secret. In silence. All that is asked of each of us is to wrestle in faith
with God and with whatever opposes us in the world, Guardini says.
In the Christmas letter I got the other day from my old debate partner
in high school, someone I always looked up to and used to think of
as very smart, as a genius, he misspells the word empirical, talking about
his cats and dogs and grandkids—he spells it with an “I”—impirical—
and that really surprises me and bothers me, though of course
empirical is a good word for talking about the realism we need to have
as we grow older, the facing of facts, the giving up of illusions,
and in any event forgiveness is the most important thing of all,
compassion, first towards ourselves, and then towards others—
towards all living things, all that moves and breathes and has its being.
And I rub and I roll, and the roller squeaks, and the walls smooth out,
a greenish-blue this time, clean and bright for another few years.
How solemn painting is, how formal: the careful preparations,
the spreading of cloths, the small, deliberate movements of our hands.
There’s a kind of quiet at the center. A kind of tenderness.
Things have been stripped away. Things are about to change.
by Chris Anderson
Montaigne was fifty-nine when he died. Not even
sixty. But I’m feeling fine, walking through one beach house
after another on the annual Neskowin Cottage Walk.
I love looking at other peoples’ houses. The soft couches
and the shelves with their books and all the touching signs
of habitation. A coffee pot. A toaster. A vase of flowers
on a window sill. Why should we fear dying? Once
Montaigne was thrown from his horse. He raved and tore
at his doublet. But inside he felt a pleasure in gently letting go . . .
an infinite sweetness in repose. The smell of salt air.
The sound of waves crashing, beyond the dunes, coming in
and going out. The fact is, he says, I was not there at all.
Chris Anderson teaches English at Oregon State University and
serves as a deacon at St. Mary Catholic Church in Corvallis. His
most recent book, Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing
Darkness, and Seeing God in Everything, is a collection of short
prose pieces collaged into essays. It will be published by Eerdmans
in October 2016. More information about Anderson is available on
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 11, Number 2
Copyright © 2016
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors