There is nothing to eat,
seek it where you will,
but the body of the Lord.
The blessed plants
and the sea, yield it
to the imagination
-William Carlos Williams
I moved to Seattle a little over a week ago, after four days of driving until my eyes crossed from staring so long at a distant horizon. Now I live in a white house with five other people. My four boxes of books have been unpacked, and my shoe organizer fell this morning, and I’ve showered every day, and it is so strange, moving through life as if this is normal, as if every time I open the fridge to find all the food still fresh and the power still on, it isn’t a miracle.
Yet it is so normal, waking up to the sound of someone else breathing across the room. Sleeping in a too-short bed, moving carefully through a new shared space, sitting exhausted on a couch and talking until too late in the night over leftover ice cream someone gave us. (Making the joke that in the Surbaugh house, there is no such thing as leftover ice cream.) Starting over again, with new people, in a new place.
During our orientation week, I caught myself saying, “I’m not here for that.” As in, “I’m not here for that thing I hate.” “I’m not here for the patriarchy. I’m not here for racism. I’m not here for mayo.” Then, the creeping thought: what are you here for, then?
Because it’s easy to define what I’m against, but so often harder to focus on what I am actually for.
I’m here for the bread.
I’m here, in Seattle, starting over again, because of the bread a priest handed to me Sunday morning, the cup of wine he extended to me, which was bittersweet and so different from the grape juice of my childhood. The familiarity of the act of communion in another new church, this time a high-ceilinged cathedral with white-washed concrete walls.
It was so normal and yet so extraordinary, to be offered grace again by yet another stranger, and experiencing it as if for the first time.
Manifesto means “a public declaration of policy and aims.”
In the last week of the Race, a teammate had me write a letter to myself to read a month after I got home. I opened it this morning:
“If it feels like everyone is moving on, and you are standing still; or, if you’re crying too much or not at all; or, you are talking too much about the Race, and haven’t figured anything out, and have even less of a plan than ever: sit down and remember.
Remember the way you leaned into every shovelful of rocks today, the way the muscles in your back ached and the blisters on your palms burst. Remember that you finished a hard task. Remember that you did it with other people. Remember that you have achieved what felt impossible, and you’ll do it again. And again. And again.”
In the constant movement of the last year, it’s been easy to forget what keeps me rooted. What keeps me real, in the most literal sense of that phrase. What keeps me right here, right now, in this place, with these people, in a white house with handmade quilts on the beds.
This is my manifesto: I am here for the bread. I am here for the back-ache and the impossible task and the sweetness of ice-cream on a Wednesday night for no reason at all.
I am here for blistered palms and not having to hold everything in my calloused hands.
The hard work is done with other people.
The new bleeds into the old, the average into the extraordinary, the bread dissolves into the blood of the covenant.
Because my manifesto is really only this: the bread and wine, the tradition my Episcopal roommates call the Eucharist, which they believe is the literal body and blood of Christ, transformed in us. Transforming us. I’m here for the ancient work of the Eucharist, because it’s really the only work I’ll ever be able to do.