Headed to the Motherland!

This time tomorrow, Gabe and I will be winding our way through security lines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, preparing to embark on a pilgrimage to Poland to join Pope Francis and millions of other Catholics from around the world for World Youth Day. This will be Gabe’s first flight, first international trip, and first World Youth Day; for me, it’s my second overseas trip (Iceland being the first), one of my two or three longest flights (Iceland and Hawaii), and my second World Youth Day (2002 in Toronto with Pope John Paul II).

For me, it as also very much a journey to the Motherland. My mom is a Polish Catholic farm girl whose grandparents immigrated from Poland in the first half of the 20th century: the Galubenskis and Koczwaras. The Thorp clan is so diverse in its various bloodlines that Polish has always been the nationality I’ve identified most strongly with: it’s the only foreign language I’ve heard older relatives speak, the one ethnic cuisine I’ve had older relatives cook and serve, the language I studied in college, and the only poetry I’ve ever taken the time to translate myself. Poland’s history is deep, beautiful, tragic, and heroic. And even now, remarkably Catholic.

I am blessed to make this trip with a number of friends from here in Minnesota, and especially with Gabe, whose faith as a teen almost certainly surpasses my own. It is my hope that this trip deepens my own conversion and his, so we can be the men God has called us to be with courage, joy, and zeal.

I’m sure I’ll post much more on this trip when we return. Pray for us and for our family and friends while we’re away, and know of our prayers for you! St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina Kowalska — all you great Polish saints and all you holy men and women — pray for us!

Saturday Stream of Consciousness

It rained like you wouldn’t believe on my drive home Thursday. On Friday, I e-mailed a friend of mine:

“drove home last night in a torrent; drove in this morning to dramatic skies: great golden cloud formations creating the illusion that … just … there! … is heaven, just beyond that cumulus. unfortunately, i’ve been above clouds like those, and the void you encounter there is far more god-like and far less comforting somehow …”

That’s one of the fascinating things about this faith tradition I’m a part of: It’s Good News, to be sure, but that’s not to say that A) you don’t have to work hard, or B) you won’t fall short no matter how hard you work. The psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I’ve tried to heed that advice on occasion, and found myself straddling a fine line between absolute comfort and terrifying vulnerability.

This is what my head’s like on Saturdays. Maybe you best come back tomorrow …

Anyway, the comment in the e-mail got me thinking of a poem (of sorts) I wrote some time ago on a trip to Philadelphia. Might be worth a minute …

philadelphia, june 19

the beautiful people
sweep past
the heavy black woman
asleep on the curb;
the arab man, his broom
and old bagels;
the truck double-parked;
or pass the hour
in conversation
over tiny black tables,
small dishes
and drinks.

i watch this one pass—
white capris above
long brown calves,
and a salmon top,
moving with purpose,
phone in hand.
i sit, an accomplice,
no better for my
phone not ringing.
an old man shuffles by,
toothlessly mouthing
soft-serve, and

i remember the flight.
six miles above
this bustle
is imperceptible.
the plane tilts, and
i look past the sky
to the deep blue
ends of the earth,
into the infinite,
and see these tiny things
that consume us
carry little weight.

a tiny heart flutters
about my chest.
god must be a
big-picture man,
I think,
and the gravity is
less somehow.

J. Thorp
19 June 2001

The first few lines of the second stanza bug me today. I was sitting on a bar stool at a burger joint below street level, so I saw this woman legs-first and couldn’t catch her face. Maybe she’s better faceless, though — if the point is the countless comings and goings of ultra-engaged and -engaging people who somehow remain strangers. Best not to second-guess, I guess …

I went to Iceland this past spring for work. Iceland always has dramatic skies, beautiful and terrible. I’ll have to post a few pics from there at some point — if I can recall which computer I dumped them on. Unfortunately, they’re not on this one.

But while I’m on the subject, I should plug an Icelandic musician I’m currently digging. Most folks have heard of Björk, and some know Sigur Rós (a favorite of our glacier tour guide, who had a Sigur Rós playlist programmed for every turn in the winding road) — but the Iceland Review on my nightstand at the hotel featured an interview with Lay Low, a guitar-playing indie-blues singer who reminds me of Madeleine Peyroux, but with less Billie Holliday and little more Björk (that lovely Icelandic lilt) to her voice.

Anyway — check out the article the caught my attention here.

Then visit Lay Low’s MySpace page here to listen to a few tracks.

I’m not sure you can get her disk in the states yet, so you’ll have to hop a plane to Reykjavik. Could be worse …