Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On fireflies and friendship

The evening ended with a dark backdrop that swooped and curled to the outline of trees on a canvas of a summery, navy blue sky.  The air was warm, and the slightest breeze hushed through the leaves.  The orange glow of candles in glass lanterns flickered on the table.  A chorus of fireflies twinkled and flashed  a silent symphony of light and dark.

Around the table, the few who had not yet departed for home talked in the stillness, the kind of conversation filled with honesty, hopes, dreams, stories, and truth.  The kind of conversation that begins with ladies arriving in one place, filling the table with decadent treats, some homemade and others specially made at the supermarket.  Coffee cups waited to be filled with whipped cream, sugar, espresso granita, and freshly brewed, steaming goodness.  Carafes filled with water and floating slices of citrus sat next to mason jars, all shiny and clean.  

As the room filled, each of us taking a pause from our roles that are wonderful and exhausting, we naturally gathered around the food.  The air was rich with coffee and deep, refreshing exhales that laughter and the highly underrated delight of slow, casual enjoyment of food can bring.  And though our lovely host had stacked fiesta ware and cutlery for us, all that seemed to civilized; we felt it our responsibility and duty to forgo the rituals of such adult-ish behavior,  trading them in for grazing and leaning over each other, evidence of our comfort. 

It still feels unreal to me, that I now find myself in these situations with a mix of new faces that quickly become friends and those who I’ve known for ten years now.  This bizarre migration of college friends to this new city and the connection we carry into these years well past classes, travels, and sleepless night of our own choosing.  This time where our majors and associations have little do to with our identity, because it was in the years after that we began to know life, and the world, and ourselves.

But it was in one question from a new friend that really got me thinking,  the kind of thing makes the introvert in me thrilled.

So, what are some things that I should really know about you?

Cutting past the small talk, the walls that we build up for the sake of facades, far beyond the parts were we autonomously say, “I’m good,”  this is the sweetness of conversation, dripping and raw with life.

Who are you?  What are your dreams? What makes you feel the most alive?  What is your story?

We sat around the table under the gentle song of a summer night.  Conversations rich with vulnerability, inspiration, and truth.  Laughter that melts away the hard parts of the beauty journey. 
Deep prayers answered, wrapped in luxurious beauty, beyond our belief.

It’s extravagant really,
and I’d be a fool to not jot down this piece of the story.

Friday, June 21, 2013

on the morning of June 21, 2013

I heard the squeak of a bedroom door and soft, rapid footsteps heading to the kitchen. At the table, in the dim morning light, daddy ate his breakfast of peanut butter toast. And for the next twenty minutes, one voice, young and loud and another, deep and calm talked, while sister and mama slept in their rooms.

The hum of conversation passed through hallways and walls, the rise of fall of exchange, between a father and son taking the opportunity for time alone. It doesn't happen too often, the chance for a captive audience, no girls included. I don't know what they discussed, but his enthusiasm was felt all the way to my room, and I know that a deep smile rested on the face of a father. A man who loves mornings and his family. A chance to be with his son, before hours of work that he doesn't love, but will never complain.

When the time came for him to leave, he gave me a kiss and lifted one tall, skinny boy into the open side of the bed, and said goodbye. And that little boy, he pulled the blankets close, rolled over and fell asleep, not even whispering a sound.

We stayed that way for a few hours more.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Wild Eyes and uncharted territory

I feel as if I would be doing a great disservice to my little collection of words here if I neglected to share these tales, because this is the place where my stories live, safely in time, phrases and sentiments, a time capsule of moments adorned with punctuation.  Likewise, in sharing them, I incriminate myself with the levels of  brutal honesty that others might simply ignore and most will surely find amusing.  Of course, I mean my mother.

But a good story is a good story and surely, I must continue typing.

The daughter of this family, affectionately known as Wild Eyes the Brave, has stepped up her game in the name of uncharted territory.  At two and half, she is emotions that spill over and overwhelm without warning, she is a mushy, melt in your arms bundle of love, and she is a wildfire of daring, fierce instigation.

Help. Us. Lord.

The resident twinkle in her eye, it knows absolutely every miniscule way of interfering with her older brother’s world.  Even the slightest sound that will always, always send him over the edge.  There’s this chomping sound a person makes when they pretend to eat something and he just will not accept the fact that she is NOT eating his robot-block-flying-boat-car or his bear or his pillow or his ear.  To date, all of those items are still in tact and uneaten by little sister, part best friend, part public enemy number one.  I will inform you of any changes.

This is the part where my mother’s face is now overflowing with tears of laughter, because the saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you know, damn clich├ęs.  Meet Queen Instigator, hi.  And my brother’s begin to feel vindication for the endless fights that I would prompt and quickly call for help, because daddy will 9 times out of 10 side with sweet little girl over mean, rough brothers.  You know how that games plays out.

Sister is a force.  

Part of me is amazed at her skills while the rest quivers in terror.  I saw this early on in those wild eyes.  I always knew we were in trouble.

Today, she slowly inched her bottom down the hill and ran down the sidewalk away from us, laughing the whole way.  The resident spark of ornery glowing brightly.  One might argue that they do if for the chase and that is most likely true, but others might also determine that a fearless two year old inches from the road is not really time for psychological games.  I’m on the latter team.  Sister made it five houses down by the time I left my seat, descended two flights of stairs and snatched her up.  She felt it a great injustice that she was thus confined to the porch and she expressed the injustice with all the drama and zeal one little soul could possibly contain.

Also, I regret to admit that she is just days away from realizing that she can climb out of her crib.

Any moment now… the ice is thinning.  These days are fragile, before the great enlightenment.  Fragile days.

I won’t resort to comparison at the end of each sentence, but guess who didn’t have interest in running away or destruction or leaving the safety of his bed….right. 

Surely, it’s been said by all parents of the human kind, and even the snowflake kind, the uncanny differences of children birthed from the same womb.  My evidence here is nothing new, but seriously.

These are fragile days and someone has stepped up her game.

Send reinforcements.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

on the power of stories and language

This morning I reaped the sweetness of the torture that was yesterday’s bedtime.  The children who refused and fought and struggled and waged war against the quiet oppression of sleep.  We’ve been fortunate with these two good sleepers, but last night was a dark cloud in that happy world and when we finally collapsed into bed around 10 pm, I’m certain their eyes were still open.  Alas, it consumed our entire Friday night, and sadly my husband who left bright and early for work would be very disgruntled to know that they slept in until 10:15.  Do not tell him.

And since I was taught early on to never wake sleeping baby, surely, I would have been a madwoman to disrupt their sleep and negate the hours of silence, coffee, and reading that I enjoyed. 

Currently I’m reading Walking on Water, by Madeleine L’Engle, it’s a true treasure of words, a reflection of faith and art as the subtitle reads. And as you know, those subjects delight me and are so interwoven, that I can barely distinguish one from the other. Read it, I know you’ll love it.  (That’s what Kathleen Kelly would say.)

And on this quiet gift of a morning, I read this,

For language, like a story or a painting, is alive. Ultimately it will be the artists who will change the language (as Chaucer did, as Dante did, as Joyce did), not the committees. For an artist is not a consumer, as our commercials urge us to be. An artist is a nourisher and a creator who knows that during the act of creation there is collaboration. We do not create alone.

Language has always been my first love, and sometimes I neglect it, letting it sit quietly untouched and ignoring the invitation to stir around the words, mixing and sorting, to see what comes to life.  Language is communication and power and art; I could go on and on.  I may forget the online password to my cell-phone account every month, but there are stories that will stay with me forever.  I walk down the sidewalks of our neighborhood and all the knobby old trees make me certain that I might see Jem, Scout, and Boo Radley just around the corner.  And Atticus, who will always look like Gregory Peck, of course.   I can forever picture Laura Ingalls and her family sitting by the fire and then Ma blows out the lamp and the girls climb into the loft at the end of the day.  Or the twinkly-eyed professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who listens to the children tell him of this fictional place called Narnia.  I will forever feel rage when someone mentions The Lord of the Flies or Ernest Hemingway, and will always question humanity when people say that the Great Gatsby is one of the greatest books of all time.

When we were young, my dad would write stories for us.  I can still see the typed pages of this wonderful tale about fascinating forest creatures and their adventures.  To be honest, I don’t remember anything about that story, but I will never forget how much we loved it, we’d all sit on the couch, keeping within our own cushion (rules), and he would read the newest addition to the story.  I fear those pages might be gone now, due to many moves, divorce, and the harsh reality of a few loose pages standing the trial of time and change. But their memory lives, as is the way of stories.

I majored in English in college.  When  I read L’Engle quoting Chekov, I remember when Dr. Cotton made us read his letters and asked, “Does it edify?”  In fact, I still hear, good writing is truth, beautiful, and edifying.   And I’ll never forget the time he called me into his office after I turned in a deplorable paper, deplorable because I had been highly distracted by other things, and by other things I mean a boy.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, this is terrible, this is not you. I will not accept this.  I’m giving you another chance, write something else. These are the things that are interlaced into my days.  A rich treasury of knowledge, instruction, and truth.  These are the things I want to carry and pass on.

I studied French for eight years.  I’ve yet to go, but my sister studied there for her last year of high school.  She wrote me letters that said, “the air always smells of the salty sea and freshly baked bread.”  And clearly, since that sounds horrifying, I no longer wanted to travel to France ever.  But one day, I will and I would be so disappointed with myself if I let that knowledge slip away into a forgotten place. So, I retrieved a few books from the attic today and have decided that I will not let that tongue disappear. 

This post has little reason, other than the way I was reminded about the power of language this morning.  And the way that important things can be traced from our early memories to today.  And I wonder, what about you?  What is it that has always fascinated you? How does it shape your days and your world? What stories have lived on in your heart?  I’d love to hear.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

on a quilt, a bucket, water, and soap…

The sun casts its warmth over the green earth as the quilt danced in the warm breeze.  Handmade by my husband’s great grandmother it has aged with charm and grace.  Tiny squares of soft cotton, so many squares, have faded and frayed, but unlike superficial beauty, time does not diminish its quality.

It dries in the sun because of a sick child and certainly not for the first time, I’m sure.  And it hangs on a brand new clothesline, as of today, because necessity is indeed the mother of invention.  We still don’t have a washer and dryer in the large laundry room, off the kitchen, but like the Beatles, we get by with a little help from our friends and it hasn’t been anything more than a slight inconvenience of hauling laundry baskets from cars to houses and back again. 

But, rather than letting vomit wallow and stew on blankets for later, which would be just as disgusting as it sounds,  I greeted my inner-pioneer woman and set to work with a large plastic tub, soap, and water.  Some soaking, swishing and rinsing later, problem solved.

Sometimes I think I would have made a good pioneer, except only ideally, because while I enjoy kneading bread and sewing clothes, I also like lattes, the internet, and air conditioning.  Still, today, as my afternoon was quiet thanks to sleeping children and a hard-working husband, I found the act of hanging clothes on the line and watching them dance in the sun peaceful and mesmerizing.   A great awareness of provision swept over me, reminding me though at times we may lack materially, we remain in such abundance.  In the way that sun gives us energy and life and power and sustains the whole world, it also freely and effortlessly dries wet blankets and cotton shorts. No questions asked, no machinery needed.  And it’s free and available to all.

I’m not anti-technology one bit, as I type this and instantly post it to be read by anyone, anywhere, but there is something calming and reassuring about doing things the old fashioned way, something gratifying and real, participating in timeless rituals.  In working with the hands, clarity comes to the mind and connects us to what is before us, both visibly and unseen.  And these days we’re constantly managing machines, while our heads run at frantic speeds with thoughts that aren’t given proper time to be wrung out, straightened, and arranged.

This act of hanging laundry on the line, it also speaks about control and reminds us how little we have, as we wait for the sun and depend on its presence.  It’s overwhelming how much the earth tells the story of God, the one who sustains and provides, and does it all in his timing.  It’s everywhere, isn’t it?

And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Isaiah 6:3