Dalmo – Overcome (Peer Editing)
On top of the refrigerator sat a glass container, roughly shaped like a cube, the size of two large fists clenched together. Inside of it were rocks and pebbles that varied over a small range of colors, shapes, and sizes. Anyone who looked at them carefully enough would see that they were each unique, each different. In fact, it was assumed that not one of the pebbles was quite like the others. But it wasn't hard to guess that they all came from the same place. There were no bright colors, no especially beautiful stones, none particularly small or large. Just looking at them sitting there, on top of my refrigerator, no one could tell that they were drenched in oil. And even if someone picked them up and touched the surface of each one, I don't think anyone would realize they were also drenched in prayer and tears.
Back then we believed that climbing up a hill got us closer to God. And you can't blame me. If it weren't true, God would have just come to Moses' tent and handed him the Ten Commandments. When Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, he took the boy to the top of the mount to make sure God would see the deed. It's not that I didn't believe that God could see me and hear me from anywhere. Maybe it just felt like He didn't notice too much if we shouted from ground level. So we climbed hills to talk to God. Sometimes we kneeled or prayed silently with our heads down, but most of the time, since we were up there anyway, it seemed more appropriate to speak up, pace around, and lift our arms up at the sky. An extended, rigid palm facing outwards stood for a proclamation, a special ministering of blessing unto others, unto our lives, unto all the forces of the Universe that determined or otherwise shaped our situation. Then when we prayed for mercy, forgiveness, comfort, help, guidance, relief, explanations, and anything else we desperately wanted from God, the hands on those same extended arms turned inwards, shaped like outstretched shovel heads.
We prayed for my father to come back. For forty days, we went to the mount near our evangelical church and asked God to change my dad's heart. We started going up at dusk, and when we were at the top, walking in circles, chanting pleading prayers with eyes closed, we could feel the night fall on the city. At each mention of the name of Jesus, another cricket joined our supplications. After each full circle we marched, the breeze got just a little colder. And if I peeked at the surroundings, either out of curiosity or out of caution not to trip over the pebbly ground, I saw the sun hiding behind the concrete buildings, slowly fading out of reach, disinterestedly letting the purple night cover the horizon.
We walked around nothing in particular, but I think we had to move around to not feel powerless. When Joshua was charged to lead the Israelites into Jericho, they weren't exactly prepared to fight a battle. You don't wander in the desert for forty years and come out strengthened to take over an entire city. So God told them to pull out their trumpets and march around until the city walls came crumbling down. I guess we figured that if marching can bring the walls down, marching could bring back a wall from its ruins too. We didn't give much thought to entropy then. Nehemiah didn't come to mind. We didn't give much thought to anything. We just prayed. I'm still not sure how each night ended; can we ever pray enough? How did we know when it was time to go home? When it got far too dark to see miracles, my mom, my sister, and I each picked up a pebble from the ground we walked on. We poured some oil on the tokens and anointed them with one last prayer. We wound down the hill to where the car was parked. The ride home was silent and filled with thoughts. We didn't mind the ritual. There was something special about the three of us getting together to petition the Lord. I strummed my fingers over my pocket, feeling today's rock, shaped differently from yesterday's. And I hoped to God that, by some miracle, we wouldn't have to do this again tomorrow.
One day, my mom got so angry she tossed her wedding ring out the window as far as she could. It didn't take her long to realize that poor people don't just throw gold jewelry out, so we went with her to the apartment building next door, hoping someone there could find it and hand it back to us. Besides, if you're praying that hard for your husband to come back after he walked out on your ten-year marriage, wearing the wedding band makes it a little easier to not give up hope. The collection of pebbles on top of the fridge helped too. If my mom didn't lose hope by looking at it, she definitely lost her appetite as the rock stash grew. I don't know whether there was a purpose behind the pebbles. I don't think it started as something intentional. But the mere fact that this thing existed pointed to its significance. It greeted visitors to our home saying, "I mean something." When my mom smiled or went about washing the dishes in dead silence, the box of stones shouted her words, saying, "This is how much I have grieved." Sometimes it was a sign saying, "This home contains exactly this many rocks' worth of unanswered cries."
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