fragments, two.

Again I bring you a fragment found, this time, in the back of a book. I remembered it because of a tweet, actually. I remember now everything about writing it– low belly orange sun, whitewashed campus lawn furniture printing the back of my thighs. A few hours later, I would be sitting almost right in a fire, wine glass tilted in unsure hand, spectacular friendships kindling prophetic. That memory alone is a forgotten snapshot worth mentioning.

——————————-

I wouldn’t say we are a “broken family.”

“Cracked” is more like it–like we are that section [of wall] above a door in a house with a poor, dry, Texas foundation, fissure stretching from frame to ceiling, widening on days when the air is thick enough to cut, but so small and delicate on others that you can barely see it at all.

It’s just another piece of wall.

————————–

Image

I think I got the humidity thing reversed. Wouldn’t the crack get bigger the drier it was? Science, guys.

twenty-twelve debrief: part two.

you can read the first part of this debrief here.

I gave up social media for Lent. 

It was not, after all, all that spectacularly difficult. I didn’t even “cheat.” I checked once on Sundays for notifications and mentions, just, you know, to be polite. I didn’t have many; I had, after all, announced my  “fast.” The quiet was nice. I found myself not obsessing over dings and buzzes on my phone, found the halt when I typed in “tw–” or “fa–” in my searchbar to be nice, too.

Nice. Neato. Not much more, if I’m honest. I wonder if I entered in wanting to be transformed, instead of to be faithful in observing the season, in grieving, in worshipping–and letting Grace transform me in the process. [I was fumbling for bright instead of the Light.] I paused once or twice in forty days to pray instead of tweet, to thumb a homemade chaplet in the middle of a coffeeshop. I didn’t do much of the real work, the heartstuff. Though there is something to be said for praying even when you’re not  paying attention, there weren’t even many prayers to yawn through. No repetition to lean on.

It was, in the end, a very nice exercise.

[Spring Break was nothing much to comment on. I spent the first four days completely in bed reading a book about mental illness and some other book I can’t remember but had been trying to finish for ages. This might have been the apex of crisis.]

Easter weekend came along, to be spent with the guys in Houston. I’ll spare you the gushing about what a weekend that was because I think I’m turning into the very worst mommy-blogger who brags about how awesome her kids are. What a blessing they are and how she can’t take credit. Just replace kids with friends.

[Except my friends ARE awesome AND a blessing AND I can’t take credit.]

But I will tell you that it was my first go-around of observing Holy Week in its entirety: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, Easter morning. And I will tell you that when the light came in on Saturday evening, when the sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal was suddenly overcome with new adornments and Resurrection-song, something of the Resurrection happened in me. As I write this, I wonder if my half-assed Lenten observation was the right juxtaposition with that Easter. That maybe the point of that Holy Week (and maybe all of them) was the redemption despite, not because.

We drove home to Waco with due assignments on our backs, and thus began the series of unnecessary all-nighters that marked the end of my college career. There were late-night baking frenzies, taco runs, library stakeouts, verbal drills for our Great Texts verbal examination, piles of articles and books on my desk that ended up amounting to a crazed and pathetic academic end to the semester.

I dreaded graduation week. It felt like the end of everything. It felt like I had nothing to celebrate.

But thank goodness for those wonderful people to end it with, to remind me of what we had accomplished after all. And we celebrated a lot. Early graduation morning, we sat in the living room of our favorite coffeehouse, favorite drinks in had. Months later, I would sweep beneath the chairs we sat in, wondering if I was gathering any of the last words we spoke as undergraduates, sacraments and pop culture references in the same breath.

We walked across the stage, greeted by cheers and the very best professors at the foot of the stairs.

I took a walk with Erica as the sun went down that evening, with my gifted pearls on, because neither of us could unclasp them. [The things you remember.] We circled around campus, tasting the word “graduates” for the first time. Both of us were staying in Waco, desperately thankful for that “both,” but not knowing how to proceed.

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sunset.

To be continued, again.

So, this has turned out different than I expected. I’m writing without edits, and that means longer posts, I guess. It’s not really fair to you, but you know, read what you can. Here’s part three.

twenty-twelve debrief: part one.

 debrief (v).

to comb over the events within a given amount of time (i.e. a day, a year, a singular social event.) to locate the highlights, the dark moments, the shoulda-woulda-couldas, the parts that are already a part of what is unmistakably you. distinct from a crippling nostalgia. to cup the past in your hands and breathe. in. everything. [a term usually used by Erica and me; (among other primarily female counterparts? theory untested)]

This year started as the last one ended–with extremely strong painkillers, prescribed for tooth pain that started Christmas Eve.

Sexy, huh?

I only mention it because the work I had done on my teeth spanning the next four months or so required my driving from Waco to Dallas every other weekend, meaning that I spent more time at home my last semester of college than any other. With my family now (and probably forever) living another time zone away, I’m glad I got some good weekends in with my family, especially during some of our most uncertain months as a family.

[One such weekend, I devoured Lauren Winner’s Still on iBooks as soon as it was released, in a half-Novocained stupor. I fangirled all over her google search, and found out she had just been appointed as a professor at Duke Divinity School.  I spent hours on their website, but was too drugged or too much in denial to give credence to anything more than a passing curiosity. ]

Sometime in January, I was not selected to join the Teach for America crew. [You get news like this via email these days, so you’re stuck wherever you are receiving life-altering pieces of information.] I was in public, but alone. Upon reading the first line of “we’re sorry, but…” I realized that I hadn’t applied with the purest of intentions. I do have a passion for the types of communities TFA serves. I do think I would do well in them. (And have.) But the two-year security blanket of the program and the prospect of picking up and leaving for an adventure muffled out everything else that told me this wasn’t it. With the email staring back at me, and my phone buzzing with consolatory text messages, I breathed a feeble, panicked thanks. And hoped that something would happen to get me out of Waco. 

I spent most of my last semester in yoga pants. As soon as I try to defend myself by citing my yoga class, I’ll admit to you that it was a once-a-week audit. But then, Preston and I decided to take a few other easy classes to make this last semester ohso easy, too. Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Ceramics I almost kicked our non-art-major butts with hours out-of-class coiling, and maybe there was a 11 pm run to the library to practice knot-tying for Backpacking and Camping during the most stressful week of the semester. What. But I think in making we learned about our Maker, and some days the arm-waving treks across campus and the obnoxiously loud discussions of saints and liturgy flecked with clay are the things I absolutely miss the most about this slice of my past life.

[OK. And impromptu taco runs. And Wednesday wine at twilight and midnight grocery trips for bread with the guys.  There were also the hard nights: drives into the darkness and sad margarita toasts and angry orders of chips and salsa. We each took turns with one another, really. I oddly miss these, too. The strange mosaic.]

And then there was Great Texts capstone class. Nothing brought our weird little group of majors closer to tears or to laughter (or together) quicker than Brooks 170 at 9:30 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Just imagine a tiny group of smart-asses at the end of their academic rope, paired with the most infuriatingly even-tempered, pastoral professor with a penchant for correcting our sloppy word choice and logical failures. Yup. But sometimes there were doughnuts, always there was coffee and a lot of camaraderie and grace. These things make a difference. I think that small room and small group of people will be with me always. I’m not sure I can do it justice.

[I still wore yoga pants on those days. With no excuse. Senioritis, yes. Semester-long existential crisis? Also yes.]

And then there was that one day you might already know about. A back-porch intimation that I was to stay in Waco for the next year. It was something of an answer, yes, but I kept wearing yoga pants 24/7. Even to a job interview.

[I needed intervention.]

Preston found out he got into St. Andrews an ocean away. I cried.

Erica decided to stay in Waco longer, too. I cried.

I kept counting the staying friends and the leaving friends. More irrational tears.

More days without real pants.

To be continued. Read part two here.

Depressing stuff, huh? I promise it wasn’t as dark as all that. I’ll fill in more later, but as this recap is getting longer than I expected, this is as good a place to stop as any. 

Also, do you use the word ‘debrief’ as I have ‘defined’ it above?

what i’m into, December.

OK, so I only did the last what I’m into hosted by the great Leigh Kramer a few posts ago–December’s been a bit bare around here. But I couldn’t pass up a chance to share the happenings and loves from this month: it’s been pretty full!

music:

  • a new song from David Ramirez. He breezes through Waco every once in a while, and I love getting to see him live. 
  • I pretty much just add on to old playlists as a listening habit. But here are the songs I added to last month’s playlist. Enjoy. 

books:

  • still working on Acedia & Me. I find that I get my best reading done on planes…and I haven’t done as much traveling as last month. Still loving it, though!
  • I love a good YA. My bedtime read has been The Thief  by Megan Whalen Turner on my iPad. Apparently it’s part of a series, under a slightly different name. I like Turner’s prose a lot, as well as her charming boy-protagonist.

blogposts:

TV:

  • my only addition from last month is Monarchy with David Starkey. Because this is the kind of thing we watch in the post-gift-opening haze. 
  • [but OMG 30Rock was ON FIRE THIS MONTH.]
  • and ok I’ll admit to a Kyle XY ep. Fine.
  • and I’ll also admit that I’ve stopped watching New Girl religiously. I’m just kinda over it.

things to wear:

  •  this month’s lipstick: Revlon ColorStay Overtime in Nonstop Cherry. I mean. This is serious. stuff. They’re not kidding when they say 16 hours. So make sure you want it on for at least that long!
  • I’ve got this freaking amazing chunky purple sweater-cardigan-thingy that I wear all the time. It’s turning into something of a security blanket.
  • …when I’m not wearing my chambray.
  • and I mean, scarves again. My sister gave me one like this for Christmas, and I’m obsessed.

moments:

  • lovely times with the Epsicopal Student Center in Waco, including the start of Advent party. I’m not technically a student, but they’ve accepted me anyway!
  • The Croft Gallery’s show displaying all the artists who rent studio space there, including my lovely and good friend Erica Wickett. She’s a big deal, guys.
  • a number of get-together’s at Lula Jane’s. Fellow lady-barista dates, longtime friends, new priests, quick catchups… it has been a month full of good conversations and yummy things to eat. 

    knitting with Mags. love.

  • one of my favorite humans ever came to visit Waco a few weeks ago: the indescribable Blake Trimble. He is probably the least likely person to read this post, but there’s a good chance you already know him. No? I’m surprised. He makes friends and creates a ridiculous amount of joy wherever he goes–good for a laugh and a great conversation, guaranteed. If I could just find a way to make him stay in Bear Country…
  • The Common Grounds staff Christmas party. There was much dancing and fancying to be had. And time for my soon-to-be-vacating-the-country friend Katherine to take this favorite picture of Erica and me:

photo cred: Katherine Walker. [Don’t go to France.]

  • got to see Jenni graduate! Wedding, graduation… 2012 has been a big year for this girl, and I’m glad I was there for both!

Erica and Jenni on one of our lunches. I have great friends.

  • I had the chance to catch up with my fearless leaders from my days as a Community Leader (or RA, pick your poison) in the freshman girls’ hall, North Russell. Lisa, Leslie, and Jamie played a huge part in my life as a college student, and I hope to hang onto them as friends for a good while longer.
  • scheming scheming scheming super-secret exciting things.
  • And hey, did you know Preston’s back on this continent? Like, not an ocean away?
  • my post entitled ‘to the girl who wants a boy for Christmas‘ was my most-read post ever. [go figure.]  I loved getting to hear from people who read, and talk about it with people in real life, too.
  • in case you didn’t know, my mom is serving in her first teaching position since 2009. I was able to come to New Mexico early to join her third-grade Christmas party. I wept for a number of reasons that day. There was the grief of being in an elementary school so soon after Sandy Hook; there was the incredible joy of watching my mother truly in her element, with a ragtag classfull of hilarious kids who clearly adore her. All day pondering gift given, gift lived. It’s a day I will remember for a long time.

    She’s just magic, ya’ll.

  • oh, you know, Christmas. My grandmother’s cousin and her family came to visit from California, and there was much laughter and loud and food to be had. This is a part of the family I have only really come to know in recent years, and I’ve treasured every moment with them. And did you know we routinely have four Christmas trees? And, um, 200+  Nativities/Creches from all over the world…displayed year round? yup. That’s us. Perhaps my favorite Christmas tradition is a strong one in New Mexico: Luminarias. The idea is that you light candles in simple brown sacks weighted  with sand to light the way of the traveling Holy Family on Christmas eve, to beckon the Christchild into your home, your life.

    The pictures are never much. In person, with no other lights but the stars, it’s breathtaking.

  • Les Miserables. Just go see it. Right now.
  • making this cranberry-orange-pecan coffee cake from Joy the Baker. I mean.
  • And TODAY my longtime friend Alia turns a whopping 23…AND is zipping over to NM for a visit! Let the wild rumpus start!

what I wish I was into:

  • actually finishing this Duke Divinity application. As you can see, December has been quite full, even my work schedule aside.
  • actually slowing down enough for Advent.
  • actually knowing how to observe the 12 days of Christmas.
  • eating like, veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I love all this New Mexican cuisine [pass the tamales!] but my body is tired of it.
  • actually finishing any book lately.
  • pulling myself away from twitter.
  • keeping my crass, snooty mouth shut. when it needs to be.

what were you into this December? No, really. Tell me in the comments. Or link a post of your own!

 

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh

writing young.

It’s kind of a funny story. I meant to sit down and write a post for Preston Yancey’s synchroblog, but somehow I ended up writing about it, around it. Here I share a tiny piece of the mosaic of hangups I have about writing, creating. I share this now, with the promise (eek!) that I will actually answer P’s prompt before the synchroblog ends. 

——————————————————————-

She orders an omelette, and I’m not sure whether I should warn her that the restaurant we have come to for this Pulitzer-winning-author-student breakfast is notorious for overdone eggs and slow service. Not only would her meal be mostly brown, but cold, too.

I decide against it. I’m nervous, and there’s no way I’m telling Marilynne Robinson what she should order for breakfast. I’ve already made a fool of myself by bumbling through a conversation about Nicholas of Cusa, making it painfully obvious that I hadn’t finished my class reading for the week. Instead, I had worried about meeting her.

We make some small talk, the group of us, while a row of redundant plain coffee mugs keep watch from a high dusty shelf, far out of reach. Very. Small. Talk. I crack a tired joke about the bustling metropolis of Waco. Someone finally asks something about gendered writing. Oddly, she seems more entertained by the former. It’s really not even a very funny line.

A question that has been forming slowly for months now bubbles to the surface, quietly, while she talks about writing male characters.

I think it began with that creative writing professor, the one that scared me away from composing much of anything for over a year. Almost as if he thought he was at a cocktail party rather than a room full of students, he mused that young writers don’t make anything worth much. He scoffed at the naiveté of those who think otherwise, fiddling with the thick pinky ring on his left hand.

That moment, and his highest praise for a poem I wrote in five minutes about thai noodles, made me question writing anything ever. I still have my doubts about modern poetry as a whole.

And then that day when Mom and I visited that prestigious writing center. I wore a too-trendy, too-tight belt and we got a ticket for parking illegally. The lady from admissions shifted in her seat when she mentioned the age thing.

“While age isn’t necessarily a factor,” she began, “most of our students do come in older. You know, after they’ve had more experience. After they’ve lived some life, you know.”

I was expecting this, I told my mom in the car. She thinks it’s crap. I think some is, but not all. Mostly, I use it as a way to put off creating anything. I’ll just let it all age, like wine, I think. Conveniently, I neglect the fact that the whole thing starts with picking grapes.

Back at the breakfast table, I finally ask my question–Marilynne is a writing teacher, after all. I nearly blurt,

“How would you respond to those who might say that a writer needs to be older? That she needs to, you know, do things first?”

I start to babble.

“But then, I guess there are plenty of great writers who were quite young, like…”

Oh no. Which John is it? Keats? Donne? Keats?

“…John Donne, who wrote everything he did before he died at 25.” Not much older than I am now, I think defeatedly. Somewhere along the line, I think it entered my head that all good artists are freak child prodigies or eighty years old. No in-between.

Marilynne Robinson squints at me a bit. She knows it’s a loaded question for me. I’ve gone on longer than I have transcribed here, and later Wikipedia would tell me that I did get the Johns confused.

Finally, she quiets me by opening her mouth. She’s calm, but also seems confused as to why I’m bothered by my own question. It’s an easy answer.

“If you have a story happening inside you, then tell it. If you have something to say, then say it.”

I lean back in my chair, staring, as if to say, that’s it?

The waiter finally comes by with her omelette, and it looks just right.

————————————————————–

If you have something to say, then say it. Won’t you join in Preston’s space to do just that, young ones?

Screen Shot 2012-08-07 at 2.19.15 PM

 

this is not a poem [or, notes on disordered love].

For now, we see through a glass, darkly…

1 Corinthians 13:12


somewhere between the breeze and brisket,

the lime and the laughter,

mid-heartbeat,

i realized that there are moments in which

i speak of the Poet,

but i really mean the poetry.

i have some new words,

but the struggle is old.

now i can talk about things like

sacraments, sacramentals

–and even mean it–

the divine in the mundane,

the twitching tip of a finger when

grace is more than ordinary, when

i can hear the humming Song.

at their truest, they are a communion.

other times, it seems

i’ve learned to love

how bright it all is

without turning to the Light.




“We surely made too small a part for God in these things…”

–Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

paradox of grace.

I’ve been thinking lately about how odd grace can be—how odd it often is, in fact.

I think I know by now that it does not compute, at least to us—if it made perfect sense, if there was always a 1:1 ratio, a traceable reciprocity, it might not even be grace.

(And maybe the wonderful thing about it is the mystery, the very fact that we cannot examine its entirety cupped in our hands.)

Grace doesn’t make sense, thankfully so. It is what makes salvation possible for the most wretched, even me. Against the odds, the darkness that seemed so complete, so pervasive, is redeemed.

But sometimes, it’s just weird.

Sometimes, pigs can be a source of prophecy.

OK, OK, that’s a little out of context, and the Flannery O’Connor story I’m thinking of doesn’t have pink things squealing “Thus saith the LORD”s, exactly.

But her character Mrs. Turpin is convicted by the sight of pigs, prompted to call out to the heavens like a Biblical character herself, probably for the first time. By the end, there are crickets chirping hallelujah.

And then, there is that alcoholic priest in Greene’s Power and the Glory—who offers Eucharist with wayward hands. It is an image I cannot shake; at once it makes me cringe and gives me hope.

And it is odd, so very strange, that a King should come as an infant, that He should lay His head against straw, that His audience should be a smattering of shepherds.

That He should even become man at all.

I wonder if we lose something big if we miss the strangeness of this story in particular.

For one thing, we forget to make the transfer from this story to ours. We miss daily offering cloaked in oddity. We cease to expect it.

When we miss the arresting strangeness of the Incarnation, we miss the possibility of the incarnate in the strange.

I mean this both in the receiving and the giving—we may lose a certain kind of vision, as well as a certain kind of action; we are blind to its manifestation as well as the ways we might make it manifest.

Perhaps the most gracious gift to give is a pack of cigarettes.

Perhaps counting calories can confer a striking lesson about spiritual discipline.

Perhaps the song on the radio you hate can impart a sort of wisdom.

Perhaps there is a beautiful image of sacrificial love embedded in the functional dysfunction of a divorced couple giving each other their time, their talents, even their resources and roof.

Perhaps the most perfect confirmation of journey and change can come through a random run-in with a stranger at a wedding, states away from home.

Perhaps friendships can be formed in the most unlikely of places.

Perhaps at the moment we admit possibility in paradox, we discover how present His Presence is.

There is more to this, I think. More, because I do not know all the manifold ways in which grace may be strange. I have tidbits, whispers, moments where all I can do is shrug, and hopefully laugh and give thanks.

I’m wondering, what strange graces have arrested you, lately or otherwise?