Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"It is a solemn thing for a soul to grow ripe"

a wise poet by the name of Emily Dickinson once claimed.

Solemn, indeed. However, I wonder how one gets to the point of recognizing when this happens. How can one know when he is done growing? I could think of nothing more disappointing than the idea that I will one day reach a point in my life where I have done all I can do, I have seen all I can see,and I have reached all I can reach. There are so many moments in my life where perfection, or at least what I believe at the time is perfection, is sweet. And then something changes. The wind makes the shadows dance a little more lively. The sun makes the water sparkle a little more vibrantly. The company makes me laugh a little more hysterically. The thought that it doesn't get any better is soon dispelled as what is sweet soon becomes that much sweeter.

I lie in bed wide awake in the middle of the day thinking that some things are too good to be true. How can things be so wonderful after so many trials of heart's pain in which I wondered if anything would ever be lovely for me after my first realizations that life can be terrible and hurt is inevitable?

Around this time last year, I was alone at my aunt's house, down the road from my home, overlooking a large lake late at night. I remember it being strangely warm as it is now, and I was curled up in the rocking chair of her front porch under a blanket, pondering life as one should always do when he or she is in the middle of nowhere under the stars. I was in the initial stages of falling for someone which unfortunately includes the hurt of not having such feelings returned which is due to the uncertainty of how to get to that point if one is so lucky. This of course led to so many other questions I had about life, and I wrote a letter to God with my questions and ponderings. To give an excerpt:

Remember when I was a child, and I trusted you with everything? When I knew, beyond doubt, that you would make sure my desires were met. My heart was untouched by the prickly caress of sorrow, and my mind was incomprehensive of death’s routine visits, and my eyes would twinkle with Tomorrow’s dreams.

And then I learned that I would get hurt. I learned that I would get betrayed and left and broken. I learned that sorrow wants to be my friend. And then I wonder how, after everything I’ve seen and known and done, any of the beautiful things I once wanted could ever be real for me. I wonder how any of that will ever happen for me.

I wonder how I will love without fear of being left. I wonder how I will love without thoughts of failing. I wonder how I will be loved with all I’ve done. I wonder, who could ever take all of me? Who could really be in love with all that I am?
Regardless of who you are and how your life progresses, death will eventually make an entrance into your life. There is nothing that can be done to prevent it. Childhood will come to an end with a death of some kind. And when that happens, it is hard to continue with hope in dreams. When sorrow jars your focus, it can be overwhelming to think you can return it to its original point of view on the world. The one that believed it was good and bright and held nothing but the best things in life for you. We all know that to return to it just like that is impossible, but that does not mean such ideas become untrue.
And truer still, you cannot appreciate the sweetness of the ripeness unless you know what bitterness tastes like. You cannot find yourself lying in bed midday with a smile at yourself because you feel so purely content unless you have been unhappy. I don't want to erase the hurts if that is how I got to be here. I welcome the changes it brought in me, for I love who I am and where I am, and I couldn't if I didn't know the sorrow of things never being the way they were. For a soul to grow ripe, it cannot go back.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A woman is often measured...

by the things she cannot control. She is measured by the way her body curves or doesn't curve. By where she is flat or straight or round. She is measured by 36-24-36 and inches and ages and numbers. By all the outside things that don't ever add up to who she is on the inside. And so if a woman is to be measured, let her be measured by the things she can control. By who she is and who she is trying to become because as every woman knows, measurements are only statistics and STATISTICS LIE.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

When you build bridges you can keep crossing them.

Did they tell you, you should grow up
when you wanted to dream?
Did they tell you, better shape up
if you want to succeed?
I don't know about you,
who are they talking to?
They aren't talking to me.
No noise but the clothes in the dryer. No movement but the dancing shadows from the lone candle's flame. No company, but the warmth of my coffee mug rapidly escaping as the drink is consumed. Lonely evenings can only mean one thing: ponderings about life and questions about who I am(in case you're unfamiliar with this routine).

How is it possible to miss something you've never had?

I can remember being 8 or 9 years old when my mother taught my brother how to do his laundry when he was 12. Her thinking was that if my sister could learn to do it when she was his age, it was time for him to learn. I felt left out and demanded that she show me how to do my own laundry too. I also remember having my own ideas, from a very early age, of what a home should be like if it were to be in order. I don't really ever remember a time, once my awareness exceeded myself, where I wasn't picking up after people, cleaning up after people, putting their things away, keeping things in shape, telling everyone what to do. It wasn't long before I was dubbed by my siblings, "Mama Bekah."

"Mama Bekah has spoken!" they would say. It was their own way of humoring me by making me think I really did have a say in how their attitudes and behaviors would manifest themselves in our home. In my family, you are loved if you are teased and picked on. Because love, to us, means a lot of things including not letting anyone "get the big head," as my brother would say. Sarcasm: it keeps you humble.

They would (and continue to) tease me about my homemaking skills (or lack thereof, I got the laundry and cleaning down, but the cooking and sewing need a bit of work). It wasn't that I was terribly bad at any of those things, but they knew this was not all I desired. They knew there was - and is - something inside of me that yearns for adventure, something different, out of the ordinary. My mom always told me that while I can be a predictable, simple-living, practical, safe individual, "there's something in you that longs for the exotic." They taunted me with these ideas of what a good little homemaker I would be, knowing the idea bothered me just a tad, somewhere in the back of my mind, in a room I hadn't found the way to yet.

I have many dreams. They have each found their paths to a home in my heart over the years in their own special ways. They accumulate one by one with each new experience I have and each new love I acquire. Some have stayed with me consistently, some have bloomed, withered, and died. But the one dream, that has had neither a beginning, nor an end, just a constant existence in my basic makeup as a person, was to be a mom. The teasing about how I always have to keep things together for stuck with me. Somewhere deep down, I knew that while it was completely ridiculous for me to think as a ten-year-old that I should be able to run the lives of my siblings, those inclinations and desires came from a place within me that simply wants to make everything better for others. This thing in me that wants to solve your problems and clean up after you and make sure you're safe and watch out for you so you don't hurt yourself. This thing in me that just wants everything to be okay for you. The mother instinct. Even now with kids not 5, 6, or 7 years younger than myself, I have this uncontrollable urge to take care of them. To bake bread for them and be there for them and drive them places and look out for them. I don't know why, but I just love them too much. I know with absolute certainty that I would do anything for any of them at any time of day. Because that's who I am and that's what I was meant to do. It's what I want to do.

The dilemma I make of it is whether or not I can do that along with all the other things I want to do. I feel an expectation that if I don't fulfill all these dreams because of this original desire, than I have not reached my potential as a woman. And I must admit, I do worry about that sometimes. But if I had to give up everything for this one dream, I would. I just don't believe God would ask me to. For what can I offer my children of myself if there is no self to give? If I have allowed my personal identity to be dissolved into the role of a mom, who will they have as a mom? I have no problem with the idea of sacrificing. I will gladly do that for the opportunity of motherhood. I just have a problem with losing myself completely.

I do long for the exotic. I do fear a life of never getting away. But after a time, I wouldn't mind it. As much as I want to do all the things I want to do, there's something appealing and endearing to the idea of sitting on a couch folding sheets and towels.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A statement of belief... about things.

An interesting discussion took place in the after-class chatty moments of walking out the door with my beloved professor (easily among the list of top ten women who inspire me) and another classmate. It began over a discussion of some uneducated comments someone made on someone else's Facebook status. It led me to thinking about how many times an opinion has been made known and responded to with absolute harshness and opposition before ever being fully understood or clarified.

Now, while I don't always support the sharing of feelings through a Facebook status update, I do realize that we are all different, and sometimes events and emotions swell up to the point that the venue in which a person expresses such welling up can't always be thought through. A time and a place, and all. I understand. One of the things my professor said after class was that it shocked her how easily people can get angry over someone who disagrees with him or her. And it is shocking, not just in the area of social networks, but in life in general. People cannot realize or accept the fact that the world is not full of humans who agree with each other and with themselves on every area and every angle in every perspective of every issue relating to every kind of human being in every culture of every standing and background. And thank God for that.

Another thing she said was that people who don't understand such opinions and statements of belief and respond in such passionate ignorance are uneducated because the only other people they talk to are ones who think and believe exactly the same way they do. And so they are merely reflecting and regurgitating each other. Iron cannot sharpen iron if they are not opposing each other. You will not grow if you are never opposed.

My requests for humankind (for today):
1: Please do not personally debate disagreements over religious and political issues through a social network of any kind (or texting, while we're at it). It is impersonal, cold, and somewhat cowardly.

2:Please know what you're talking about.

3:Please, please know what you're talking about.

4:If you insist on writing out your feelings, please spell your words completely. In other words, the second person pronoun needs all three of its letters. We are intelligent human beings, and the laziness of not adding two more characters to a word is unacceptable.

5:Please understand that the world is also not full of humans who are out to attempt with every action and word to destroy your belief system and tear down your values. Some, like myself, are curious, passionate ponderers who simply want to know more. We will never know more unless we understand those who are not of our school of thought. When we ask questions, when we challenge your statements, it is for the purpose of challenging ourselves in order to expand our understanding beyond what it is.

So stand up to your statements when challenged because I want to be smarter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The basis of art is truth, both in matter and in mode. -Flannery

It has always been a dream of mine to work as a librarian. The idea of living and working every single day in a world consumed with books is one of the most thrilling vocations I can imagine. My picture of heaven includes a lot of things, but one in particular is an endless shelf full of books. Kind of like the library the Beast showed Belle. It makes me giddy inside.

I bought a Kindle. I'm not ashamed. I have a reason for it and I have justified it in my mind, so no worries. But I will never give up the feel of binding and paper between my hands. I will never give up the ink stains on my thumbs or the cramps in my finger joints from being strained in the same position of balancing an open book. I will never give up my library card. I don't care whether people read only from hard copies or only from digital formats. I care that they read.

Some people are not readers, and while I accept that, I just don't understand it. I feel like there is a laziness of sorts at the root of it. Literacy is a gift, a privilege. People don't realize that there still are classes and societies and cultures where the ability to read is not as prominent as the class, society and culture in which I find myself. The choice to not read, I believe, is to forfeit the chance to expand the horizons of one's mind, the perimeters of one's understanding. Knowledge is power in many senses, and reading is the basis of how knowledge is attained for oneself. The written word is a gift. Literature is an eternal conversation, in a way, and by reading and writing, we add to that conversation. We make our voices heard by writing as well as listening to the voices of others by reading.

Some people are avid readers, some people simply read books. It is not important what pace a person goes in reading or what amount a person reads. Some people like to go slow, some like to flit through the pages. All modes are for various reasons. And that doesn't even really matter. It matters to me (and to every reader and writer) that the word simply be read.

So. Read.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


it's a funny feeling
the anxiousness of seeing you
the nervousness of knowing
i get to soon be near you

and how strange it is
that when i finally am
it all goes away
i'm completely comfortable

Monday, September 26, 2011

this is just to say

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

"you cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore"

Sometimes when I sit under the giant pecan tree branches on the patio in a breeze that moves the wind chimes to produce a soundtrack for such a moment in my life, talking to my mother, I almost feel like my problems and pressing responsibilities are nonexistent.

This has been a summer quite unlike any other in my life, and I have lived fully every possible extreme emotion that could be felt by someone whose life is less than tragic. It has been one of the fullest summers of my life in that, looking back, I find it hard to believe I was able to cram as much into it as I did. I have gone to school, left the country, road tripped quite a bit, worked hard, changed residences, applied for graduation, and finally became THAT girl who gets to figure out what "call you sometime" means. I feel like I have stretched myself to great lengths for everyone, and like I don't deserve any of the wonderful people in my life whose wonderfulness has put me in awe.
Many months ago, I fell for someone. As to how far, I still don't quite know since I have yet to find a landing. I dread it because I don't know if it will be firmly on my feet, unharmed or flat on my face, injured. I have transitioned into different phases of various friendships, some good, some not-so-great. I have also learned more about what I need to do to change who I am for the better than I ever have before. And last night, I was immersed and practically drowned in music that I missed so much. Let me tell you about sitting and listening to someone else play so loudly that everything is drowned out: it is also a lovely thing in that it too can convince you for just a short while that all other problems and responsibilities are completely gone from your life.

I want to believe that these pieces will be put together to make sense of something soon, but all I know right now is this (and I quote my darling capstone professor): "starting in October, it's gonna be hell, pretty much." So when the research and papers and annotated bibliographies and rough drafts and presentations and portfolios and late nights and crying mates and piles of dirty laundry/dishes and procrastinated grocery store trips begin to overtake me and suffocate me, I shall be seeking out those tunes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

~Twelfth Night Act 5, scene 1

h my teachers are so inspiring. I want to be like all of them. Today in poetry workshop, we talked about authenticity. We read essays by poets who pondered this idea and how it is expressed through writings. The artist faces many dilemmas, but one in particular that I want to discuss is the dilemma of authenticity. To be authentic is a tough thing because you have to decide how you're going to do it. We think authenticity is genuineness and using your own voice, and that's true. But as a writer, you have to be authentic to your audience. You have to take into account what your readers want, since you are, after all, writing for them. But the way that this authenticity fails is when the writer forgets that while his product has to appeal to someone, it still has to maintain its appeal to him.

My poetry has gone through workshops and conferences and critiques and forums, and everyone from friends, students, teachers and strangers have all had their say in what should be done with it and how it can be best revised, and that is needed. It is a well-known fact that nothing beautiful can be generated without the input of fresh eyes and ears who have no bias to your work. But as artists, it is a common downfall to get so caught up in what other people want, that we forget the most important thing which is that our work has to have value to us. My poems need to mean something to me, and if I sell out to the point that I'm only including or adding what others think should be there when I know deep down, because I know my poems better than anyone, that I am destroying the soul of the poem, I have gone too far.

Dear ones, I must inform you of something. I feel like God is trying to tell me something. For so long, I have lived under the guidance and supervision of others. And this is a good thing which I have no intention of disrupting. But it has to change. I have realized that I have taken a certain ideal too far. "With many advisers, plans succeed," the proverb says. True, very true. But I am forgetting that it is I who makes the decisions on my life. Those I trust more than anything have golden advice which I appreciate sincerely and take seriously, but I have to recognize that these people are not the sole authority on what is best for me. I'm sure most of you already knew that, and no one (most of the time) has ever given me advice I did not first ask for, so this is a realization more for myself than for (most of) the rest of you. But after asking twenty people what they think I should do, and hearing twenty different responses, I have to accept the fact that it comes down to me. And only me. I decide. I act. I cannot let myself be run by others anymore.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"refuse to leave the best things in life to chance" - daddy

Today I did something I've never done before. I browsed the internets for job opportunities in teaching English as a second language. Of course, most of the ones I found were immediate, and it would have been nice if I were a year into my future because the one in Czech Republic paid an oh-so-nice salary. I'm excited. This isn't just some distant dream anymore. It's here. And I can go get it. I am seeing the facts come to reality that the world can be mine to subdue and conquer. Oh it brings me so much joy to know that I can do this. I've always known this, but it's an entirely different thing to realize it.

I can honestly say that there has always been within me a desire for other places. I know that's nothing special, every third person in the world has this hunger. And at different times I have different reasons for this desire. A lot of the time, I desire this in order to escape from the messes in which I find myself. I feel that if I can run away, the world I left behind that I messed up can move on, forget about me, and be happy. Sometimes, I'm just tired of the same scenery. Familiarity numbs me sometimes, and that scares me. And at other times, there is no specific reason other than that hunger needs to be satisfied.

I'm changing, y'all. A matter of weeks ago, I decided that I do not have to be a person I'm not happy with. Lauren Graham said, "I feel like the only thing you can do with your choices is be happy with them. Or change them." I like who I am. I always have. But being introverted does not mean that I can't go out there and get me some. I told God I wanted to change, to be made better. And over the past few weeks, I have seen opportunity after opportunity for me to be the active one and confront others as well as myself in order to get what I want or think I need.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What can I give to you but nothing, if nothing is all I have

Well the day is darkened due to the summer storm that has taken place just now, and the world is ever so lovely still. One of my favorite rainy-day artists is serenading me now, and and the open window is making everything about this moment enjoyable.

You see, I don't ask for much in life. You all well know that I only desire to see as much of the world as is possible for me and to settle down in a comfortable home with a front porch and a swing, windows that open without the barrier of a screen to the world, someone to love and make magic with in whatever art form we have access to, and an ever growing desire to expand the knowledge of what I know and love. A fireplace would be nice. I want contentment and never to lose my thirst for what's over the hill. I truly believe I could be happy wherever I am, as long as I had the chance to trot around first. I don't know. We shall see how this all pans out. The interesting facet to this is that even though my desire to travel has stayed where it was in my heart for as long as I can remember, I am finding that it is not so much about the place as it is the people. I have fallen in deep love with every new place I've visited in my life, but I've realized that the people there with me made up over half of why I was so in love at that time in that place. Though the places were still all special on their own. I don't know how this works or where this will end up. I don't know where I'm going with this. All I can do is keep going.

"Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door."

-Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things.

Precious lovelies, I have things to say. I heard someone say the other day that all of our dreams will be fulfilled somehow, eventually, at some point throughout our lifetimes, though likely not in the way, shape, form, or time we had originally imagined. But fulfilled, nonetheless. This came as a relief to me, as I have plenty of dreams. Too many to the point that I wonder if any of them will happen in the particular time frames that I desire. But the good news is that I have, more so than ever before, begun to gain a firm handle on who I am. More and more now, I am comfortable with myself, confident of my own dreams, and certain of what I want and who I want it all with. I am reaching a point now, where even though the next few steps are foggy, I am sure of which one I stand on now.

My recent thoughts and ponderings have been centered on graduation and what next and such, among other things. I have plans. Aspirations I'm in the process of reaching. The big ones, Europe, teaching, moving around, travel. Then comes the "what after that?" And truth be told, I'm not sure. It's a case of "what shouldn't I do after that?" I want to do everything. A few days ago, some of my friends brought up the idea of Boston. Boston? I don't know where that came from, but immediately, the thought of it washed over me so pleasantly, I had no reason to turn my nose up at it. Graduate school is also an option. Alabama has a creative writing program that is phenomenal. If I get accepted, full tuition, two additional stipends, and health insurance. Um, yes please. Then seminary. Honestly, if I had known how much I would love the classes in my minor, I would have gone to a school that allowed me to major in it. But I love the W, and I love English just as much. But more than that, at the moment, I want to travel and teach English as a second language. I want to go everywhere. And ultimately, I want to settle down somewhere in a Nashville-ish area (preferably Nashville) in an old house with a big porch for coffee in the mornings, reading during the rain, and jam sessions at night.

And here's the crazy part, y'all. I'm finally beginning to accept that if I want to do something, I can do it. Over the past several months, it's been like a dimmer switch where I finally realized that I don't have to sit here and let things happen TO me and jostle me and my self around. So much great advice has been compiled by my professors over the years, but this one gem will stick to the forefront of my mind: "If you want to do something, then do it! Quit complaining about how you're too old and too much time has gone by." So. It's up to me to make this happen. I will be hurt, I know. But I will find so much more that will make it all worth it. And if I believe I will find that, I will find it.

I just need to get over this hurdle. Whatever mysterious road block that causes me to clench my teeth to the point that my dentist is freaked out, lose hair to the point that my stylist brings it up, and lose weight to the point that I don't really care so much. Why am I this stressed? I don't know. And not knowing is stressing me. I really do feel fine. Relaxed, even. And when I wake up, I don't feel deprived of sleep at all. But I still have that slight pang greeting me in my jaw and gums that say they've been busy while I dreamed.

For some reason, a certain memory has popped up in my mind in recent days. I have had my heart set on Nashville since I was a little girl. Not sure why exactly. It was just one of those things that's always been in the back of my mind. When I graduated high school, my dear aunt took me to this music city for a few days, and I loved it all. But the evening I adored more than anything, was the night we went to the Bluebird Cafe. Seventeen songwriters, y'all. Seventeen. Each one doing two or three songs. My aunt and I had gotten there late, so there were no tables left, and as I was seventeen at the time, we couldn't sit at the bar. So I took my spot on a cabinet behind the hostess stand, and my aunt had the stool in front of it. That was where we ate our food and watched the show for those lovely long hours. I really don't understand why that has been on my thoughts lately, but I do miss it. I miss live music. I want to go find it again. We were happy together once, and maybe we can be happy together again.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nothing is ever lost to us as long as we remember it

The days have rolled into a lull. And I am more than okay with this, mostly because I know that this lull will not last. In a matter of weeks I will be back into the routine that I have known and grown to love, a routine that has been mine for nearly four years. It will be the last of this routine for me. Graduation looms on my horizon, and I'm at the point now where I don't know how I feel about it. We've been in this long-distance relationship for a while now, I'm nervous about how well we will be acquainted when we finally meet. I'm excited, though, and I've been waiting and looking ahead this whole time. I know I'll be ready to leave. There may be a pull in my heart towards this place and these years, but there will be no desire to stay.
In every season of my life, I have been as eager to leave when it was over as my heart has been melded to everything associated with it while I was there.

I've never had any trouble attaching myself to people, places, and times. If ever there was any struggle, it was simply in the expressing of such felt attachments. If I could, I would send out a big I LOVE YOU to every soul and moment that so touched my life while I was in its presence. I love you for being gracious in allowing me to be near. In allowing me to sit on your green lawn and cry on your pillowcases under your windowsills. I love you for cooking for me and letting me sleep on your couch and ride with you. I love you for showing me what I didn't know and exposing me to something greater. I love you for holding my hand and paying for my dinner. I love you for laughing with me and at me, and for playing the music for that time of my life. I love you because you know what I don't and see what I don't, and because you love what I'm learning to love. I love you for your smiles and your precious faces. For your innocence and your experience.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's time to tell about these tales

Everyone, I completed the first of my world travels in the form of a mission trip, and it was wonderful. For those of you who supported me in the form of prayer and finances and encouragement and advice, I want to do my best to let you know what you did and what you were a part of. Thanks to everyone who contributed, I wish you could know the full extent of what you did, but hopefully this little bit will help.

June 23rd, day 1: We flew out of Jackson to Houston, barely made it on the plane to Tegucigalpa where we arrived at midday sometime (I never had a watch on me). We got to the home of Luis Sorto and his family and were served the first of the most wonderful meals before we went to meet the kids and play soccer. Well, they played soccer. I watched. And the Americans suck. They were no match for ten-year-old Honduran boys.

Everything here was as beautiful as I knew it would be. Before we go any further, let me let you in on who I am. I have always believed that I was meant to spend a time in my life as a nomad of sorts. A world traveler. During these unattached years of my life, I have this constant itch to get out. When I do, usually in the form of road trips with someone I'm related to or best friends with, I always felt the sigh of relief when I returned to my home and my bed because towards the end of the journey I felt a pull back to that place. This time I did not. I love you all immensely, but for the first time, I felt no urge to come back. When I got back, I missed everybody and was glad to be back, but I felt no sigh of relief. This was my first time in a plane, and I was a tad bit nervous getting on that first flight, but it all disappeared immediately. I was meant to do this. I was meant to travel, whatever the purpose. Deep in my heart, I have this dream and desire that I've had for as long as I can remember that involves a front porch and a swing and kids everywhere, kids that belong to me. But a time for everything, right? Anyway, so all that to say that I really did know it was going to be beautiful. I knew that wherever we ended up, I was going to love it because I was meant to do this.

The drive from the airport in Tegucigalpa to Luis's home in Zambrano was crazy, as all Latin American driving is, apparently. I was glad I was so tired I slept the whole way. That was the last time that happened, however, as the bumpy terrain's influence on my tummy did not allow me to sit past the front seat of this 16ish passenger van for the remainder of the trip.

Luis's home was truly a home, and they only made us feel like we belonged. My only objection was the plumbing, and I was grateful when getting back to the States that I didn't have to put the toilet paper in the trash can anymore. And another objection was to me that I didn't know Spanish. How I regretted it. There is nothing worse than having this strong desire to express yourself in the form of communication to these children and to have a language barrier. But they knew no strangers, and they fell in love with everyone, especially Len and Chelvis.

June 24th day 2: We went to a nearby house that Luis was building for someone, and we mixed concrete to lay a floor for the house. This time I really do mean "we" because I picked up that shovel. We had to carry water in 5 gallon buckets from a well at the bottom of the hill and it was heavy. The mixing was probably the easiest, except after a while, Luis told us that two Hondurans would take care of it when it was time for mixing, because two Hondurans could to what it took 8 Americans to do in the same time. Kind of sad, yes. That afternoon, we had our first VBS with the kids in Zambrano, that I led. The format for all these was a short story, some questions, a craft or game, then handing out a snack or something for them to take home. That night I played spades, and I needed my brother.

June 25th day 3: This was the busiest day in that Saturday is church day. We did a VBS that morning, some people helped to pack food bags to give away that afternoon. 500 people typically show up every week. Each of us took over specific areas for Luis and his family, such as the adults, teenage girls, teenage boys, and kids, while they each translated for us. Then we served a meal to everyone who came to the church service which was an interesting experience to say the least. Hectic, but interesting. That night, Luis told his story. He's a good storyteller. I love storytelling. I wish everyone could hear it, but I won't even begin to try to think I could do it justice.

June 26th day 4: We went to Tegucigalpa to the Valley of Angels for shopping, and it was really a neat place. Sort of a strip mall with outdoor markets. We learned how to watch out for the tourist-y places as those were the most expensive. But I got what I came for: coffee. It was fun, I'm glad we went. That afternoon was a marriage conference, and those of us who didn't do that went with Carolina (Luis's oldest, who coordinates the children's ministry) to hand out shoes to some older girls who are regular church attendees. It was a bit emotional to say the least. And now a trip to the back-story department: The day before, as Bo preached his sermon for the adults, he noticed (because he has eyes) that out of the 150+ adults in that room, maybe 5 of them were men. He asked Luis about this, and Luis says, "Well, you see a boy and a girl hold hands, and then you see a baby, and then you never see him again." And that's how it is with Honduran men. This caused Bo to want to tell these girls a thing or two about what they really deserved from God out of life. So after we gave them their shoes, Carolina encouraged him to say what he felt he needed to for these girls. It was beautiful.

June 27th day 5: We went to the village of Proteccion which was pretty high up there in the mountainous/hilly area. Very rocky, but positively gorgeous. We got to walk around a bit before Luis led some singing and then the kids went with us while the adults got to listen to a sermon. We did another VBS of sorts in the same format as we had done. Then when it was over, most of the others proceeded to play soccer with the kids in a field of cowpies. Because their cows and such run free. That afternoon we had nothing on the schedule, so we went on a hike of sorts to see this waterfall that Luis had heard of but never been to. It wasn't so much of a hike as it was a rock climb (or rock slide, it was for me at times). We ended up at the top of this waterfall, and there were some other Americans there jumping in the water and being American who told us we'd have to go down this really dangerous cliff to see that waterfall. So of course we went down this really dangerous cliff. I had never really done anything like that in my life, but oh my goodness, it was one of the most exhilarating, invigorating, refreshing things I had ever done. And then when we got to the bottom and look up to see this (at least) 200 foot water fall, it was so worth it.
Then that night we all stayed up late with our sunburned, aching bodies laughing and telling and listening to stories in loopy, spacy, caffeinated bliss.

June 28th day 6: We went to the village of El Espino, and did basically the same thing we did in Proteccion the day before, except we did not play soccer. This landscape was not as rocky, and there was a lot more agriculture and farmland nearby. We handed out food bags as we did the day before. And for some reason, I feel like I connected with these kids a little more than I had any others. It was a good morning. That afternoon, we did more food packing and a VBS back in Zambrano. Then that night, we did another VBS/church service for the Zambranians which I only made it halfway through before my allergies kicked in like a rock and made me ready to drop dead. That didn't last long, however. One Zyrtec, 2 ibuprofen, 3 cups of caffeine, and I was feeling much better and found myself awake and thoroughly entertained for the better portion of the evening. More loopy bliss, as I like to say. But that has always been my favorite setting. Some guitar in the background with lots of laughs and stories going around the room.

June 29th day 7: Last full day. Most of us went to another house to work on more concrete floors, while I and a few others got to go to the school to do a short Bible story, a song, some coloring and passing out a snack. We only spent an hour here, my shortest time in any spot so far, and there was a pull that I had not had before. For some reason, being in this place, this school, it affected me differently. My heart has always been in education and simply eliminating ignorance, so maybe that has something to do with it. I don't know. But I had a harder time leaving the school. "Knowledge is power" may be a strong statement, but if only everyone knew how many problems could be eliminated by simply educating people. I don't know. Perhaps it will be a while before I understand fully that feeling I had.
That afternoon, we walked around Zambrano for a bit before we played with the kids one last time. Saying goodbye wasn't easy. But I hope it's not for good. I doubt it.

June 30th day 8: As I said before, I did not want to leave. We stopped at the grocery store before the airport so everyone could stock up on that heavenly coffee and other things. Then of course the battery dies in our big van, so we all pile up in the mini-van to go the the airport. Some were not so lucky to be squashed as we were:

But we made it to our plane, we made it home. So thanks. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will be talking and posting about this for a while to come, so I hope you'll journey back to my messages from the wayside!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Southern Gothic

It's interesting to me how genres can split in countless ways over time. It wasn't fifty years ago that you bought a record, and it was classified as "this." Now, we by albums that are more likely to be classified as "this, this, this, and that, and a little of that." Some people like this, some don't. There's no such thing as "rock music" anymore. It has to be classified as alternative, experimental, art rock, grunge, heavy metal, instrumental, progressive, punk, southern rock....

We have come a long way since the time of The Beatles. Life is not so simple anymore. We are genre-less.

My favorite band changes every few years, and of course this is because of what I'm drawn to in other areas of life, and of course that has to do with where I am at the time. As a writer, I'm drawn to the rawness and honesty in the stories around me, the books I read, the friends I make in my writing classes, the burnt coffee, the hidden family secrets, the struggles of my neighbors. The things I am drawn to in my personal life and the situations I find myself in when I study for my degree strangely seem to coincide with each other.

I've been a Joy Williams fan since I was 12 years old. The first CD I bought with my own money was her debut. I was sad when she disappeared for a couple years after she released her third album. Then in fall 2007, I ran across an article online that stated she had created another Myspace profile in addition to the one she maintained for personal and what little musical activity she had been sharing at the time. This one would be for her songwriting activities. So for several months, I visited these two sites to see what she had been producing. She released a few EP's, wrote for some pop artists here and there, did a handful of shows, then in early 2009, she announced that she was teaming up with some guy I'd never heard of. Two years later, almost every show of theirs is sold out. Can you put them into one category? No. The best one can do is: folk, Americana, singer/songwriter, country? We are all being influenced by so many, and so the art we produce in these times will exude traces of the many, and there rarely exists these days a musician or a singer who falls strictly into one style of music. And these beautiful artists don't care where they're put. They just want to play. And they're always sold out.

I believe that this is largely due to the fact that so many people are realizing how malnourished they are musically. For the past several years, pop radio has ruled people's ears, and sugar, though delicious and loverly, eventually makes you sick. So when someone comes along with something so organic and pure and unglistened, it pierces needs we didn't even realize we had.

These are artists who realize that the stories we tell should be honest, the tension in our relationships should not be brushed under the rug. And that's what people need to hear. We need to be okay with the fact that our stories can't be put into one box or one category or one section of the music store.

This comes as a relief to those of us who grew up in the setting that inspires many of these songs. But honestly, we're just glad that more people are starting to realize this. Some of us have already been familiar with these concepts because we have Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Kate Chopin, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Cormac McCarthy, Larry Brown, William Gay, Harper Lee. Writers who defined what has come to be known as "Southern Gothic". This is basically defined as stories that reject the common stereotypes of the South in the form of the happy slave, the southern belle, the God-fearing preacher, and the chivalrous gentleman, and instead write stories about what life in this environment is really like for some people. It's okay if you had an uncle who did nothing but drink his family into depression and lifelong therapy. You can tell that story. It's okay if your parents never had enough money to buy you a pair of shoes without holes in it. It's okay if you never married like your family wanted you to. Life is hard regardless of the region you call home. But at least some regions have those who are willing to advertise it on the paint-chipped front porch if it will put others at ease and make them sigh in relief that they're not the only ones, even though not all will go so far as to admit it.

My favorite quote on this literature is by Flannery herself, "anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic." This can be explained by another quote of hers: "I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it."

little girl

Be thrilled, little girl
And smack your lips
From the fruitsy pops,
Lick every drip
Be frilled, little girl
Not with laces and things
With giggles and smiles
And summers and springs
Be blithe, little girl
The sun is still there
Behind the grey puffs
And the drab, dingy air
Be at ease, little girl
With tears, fears, and burns
Make a mess, if you must
Think not of your concerns
Be soft, little girl
And love all you make
Be proud of your hands
And eat lots of cake
And live, little girl
Make a splash in your world
Always keep a piece
Of the once little girl