Don’t See Me! I’m Sneaking!

In the days when my family was very young, my parents lived in a double-wide trailer on the family farm. I have vague memories of this house, which we now refer to lovingly as The Blue House. It was situated at the bottom of a hill which held two massive rock piles we aptly named The Big Rock Chuck and The Little Rock Chuck. Back then I thought they were completely massive. (Age and perspective, as well as later visits, have assured me that The Big Rock Chuck is, in fact, quite massive. The Little Rock Chuck, not so much.)

mountainsMy mother had a rule that we were never supposed to play on The Big Rock Chuck, which was a rule we obeyed most of the time. When I was that age I imagined that these huge rock piles had once been a medieval castle. The home of a great king who ruled the land with power and influence. I even imagined once, when I found a formation of rocks that looked rather like a chair, that I had found the ancient location of the throne room.

And this was the playground of my youth. In front of the house was a stunning view of the mountains and a wheat field that was brilliantly gold in July and August. It was absolutely stunning. A very rare place to have a very rare childhood, I now realize. But as beautiful as it could get in the summer, it was equally beautiful in the winter. The entire land is covered in a thick blanket of snow until you can’t really remember where one field ends and another starts, and every here and there telephone poles jut out of the blank canvas. It’s lovely.

But there were dangers.

In the summer, the biggest danger was always rattle snakes. Oh, we got super good and hearing them and running away really fast to get help. If they were far from the house we would leave them be, but if they were close to the house my dad would come home from work long enough to kill the snake and dispose of the head. (It’s still very venomous and dangerous even after being separated from the body.) It was something he’d been trained to do his whole life, as shown by the little green jar of rattles he now keeps on a shelf behind his desk.

But in the winter, the danger was the ice and snow. On the farm, the winter can get exceedingly brutal. Very high winds, unheard of low temperatures. You name it. Winter as epitomized in every “I’m-lost-on-a-mountain” movie ever made. Winter is kind of scary at the farm.

It is in this context that one of our very favorite family stories occurred. The characters of this narrative are my mother, angel that she is, and my older brother Jud. He was about two years old at the time, which means that I was not a being who yet lived upon the earth. However, this is one of my favorite stories that we bring up as a family.

One snowy day, my brother Jud wanted to go outside and play. However, my mother wouldn’t allow it for one reason or another. Probably because we lived in the North Pole, or close to it, anyway. I think the weather was particularly harsh that day, and so for obvious reasons my mother didn’t see fit to let her two-year-old go outside and play.

This, however, did not stop Jud.

One thing it is necessary to know about Jud is this: he gained the nickname Mowgli. mowgliSome of you may immediately recognize this name for the character in The Jungle Book. Jud became Mowgli early on in life, and to this day he still responds to it occasionally. Why was he named Mowgli, you may ask? Because he never, ever, ever kept his clothes on. He ran around in a diaper or his underwear until he was fairly old, but I’ll keep those details private for the sake of his modesty.

So, on this very snowy day when my mother informed Jud he wouldn’t be able to go outside and play in the snow, she discovered him only moments later at the back door trying to open it. Wearing a diaper, boots, scarf, and hat. At seeing this sight, my mother asked, “Honey, what are you doing?” Jud turned around, facing her with wild eyes as he responded:

“Mom! Don’t see me! I’m sneaking!”

When I was three years old my family built a house in town. We now lovingly refer to this residence as The Town House, even though it was not, in fact, a townhouse. Merely a house that was located in town. For many years we moved back and forth between The Blue House and The Town House. Blue House during summer and potato harvest, Town House during the school year.

When I was probably about eight years old we began living permanently in town, as we’d given the use of The Blue House to my aunt and uncle. That was hard for us, but a few years later we moved back to the farm permanently to a different house and have been very happy with that choice.

Now, in this time of life when we lived permanently at The Town House, I was what you might call a daddy’s girl. I spent as much time as possible with my dad. We were the very best of friends. Which also consequently means that I probably got away with more things than I should have.

One night I remember very clearly. My older siblings, rebellious teens that they were at the time, had all been banished to their rooms. For reasons I do not know and can only attribute to my status as the favorite daughter, I was not forced to go to bed. I was sitting by my dad’s chair watching a movie with him and my mom. When very suddenly, a major rule was broken.

audreyOne of the bedroom doors opened. And one of my siblings emerged.

Completely unheard of under the present circumstances of: go to your room and go to bed. Do not come out until morning.

It was my sister Jessie. Ever the bold one.

She emerged from her room wearing a huge, poofy blue parka with fur around the hood and a large pair of sunglasses (very Audrey Hepburn). In this disguise, she walked through the living room and into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and then went back to her room.

We. Laughed. So. Hard.

My dad literally could not be mad at her. Her disguise was everything she needed to gain access to the kitchen and a drink of cold water. Mission accomplished.

What I absolutely love about both of these stories is how blatantly obvious, and quite hilarious, the “rebellion” is. Jud was very clearly not going to last out in the snow in his diaper, boots, and hat, and Jessie was obviously recognizable despite the parka and sunglasses.

But they tried anyway. One successful, the other not. Both equally funny.

I’ve been thinking about these stories today, and what they mean in several different contexts. And interestingly enough, I have found a parallel between these stories and something else. Something that makes so much sense to me.

God knows us perfectly. Completely and perfectly.

It is like the story of Jonah and the whale in the Bible. Jonah legitimately thought he could hide from God. And while Jessie didn’t legitimately think she was fooling anyone in her disguise, but she knew she had humor on her side. In Jud’s case, he was just fiercely hoping he wouldn’t get caught.

I know that I have done similar things a million times.

Sometimes it can be so hard to understand that God knows and loves us perfectly. Sometimes we try to hide away from Him, disguise our lives, or sneak away. Sometimes we have experiences where we just want to move in our own direction, in our own way, and throw behind our shoulder, “Don’t see me! I’m sneaking!”

But even though we are intelligent beings with our own minds, our own plans for cherishedourselves are never as amazing or perfect as God’s plan for us. Surprisingly, though, it takes a fair amount of humility and courage to admit that we shouldn’t be sneaking into the snow storm.

I love that these stories brought me to this spiritual parallel because both of them are some of the funniest stories in the family repertoire. And when compared to our relationship with God, it helps me remember that He loves me completely and perfectly. And yes, He can see through my disguises and see me sneaking, but He always loves me.

He knows.

Perhaps that can be ominous, but for me, it is the biggest comfort in the world. I don’t have to hide anything from God. Because He knows me. I can be completely honest and transparent with Him because He understands. He gets it.

So while the world may be confusing at times, or even a place of turmoil, I never have to be afraid.

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Stardust and Ink

Stardust and Ink

We are trapped behind bars
of paper and ink. Defined by
the black and white. Destined
to form the shapes they call
letters and words. We hide
behind pages and let our
weapons dry in ink. We
count syllables and words.

And in doing so we attempt
to make the everyday count.
We write about things that
aren’t true in order to whisper
about the things we hold inside
us in boxes of pain and scars.
Boxes make the best stories.
So we count those, too. But we
don’t talk about any of this, or
anything really. We just
construct chapters, themes, or
stanzas to surround it with
binding. That’s how we tell the
truth. We present things in a gold-
rimmed goblet empty of the blue
that we turned into ice and when
it shatters we count the pieces.

I lined up bottles of ink
and watched them slowly
drain. Holding in my hand
things mightier than warfare.
The things that foster or
pulverize the peace. Across
the room shelves filled with
pages covered in my new
patterns. I turned my boxes
into pages because they were
taking up space in the corners
where the sunlight doesn’t
reach. Now they are bound
with thread, imagery, and
symbolism rather than lock,
key, and prison door. I’ll let
you read the stories they turned
into. And once the words leave
the page and enter your own
corners they’ll belong to you, too.

Phrases stick out and people pass
by, all with different contents.
And so we pull them apart only to
string them back together to form
the realities that you escape inside
of. Rather like the equations that
we chose this work to hide from.

We go to lands misunderstood
and covered in shadow: a race
of explorers with no guide but
the organ we are more inclined
to follow. We discover things in
these dark corners, things we
attempt to explain with a form
of permanence. But ink only tells
the truth it is shaped into. And
understanding what we find is
half the battle of immortalizing it.
There is no table of elements for
the soul, no way to categorize the
mysteries it never told.

The only equation that we really
understand is the one that created
our kind: write and bleed. Bleed
if you do not write, and bleed if
you do. Bleed in every color that
your jar of pens contains – stain
the pages (line or unlined
according to your preference) with
the ink that runs in your veins.
And when the words stop coming
you count their swoops and swirls.

There are shelves lined with words,
bound with gold or silver or faded
like the edges of a hymnal. Each
the delicate account of one traveler
or another. I’ve often wondered
why we let others read them.
Perhaps to help them – to spare
them from their own discoveries.
But instead of learning they escape.
And when they put it back on the
shelf it’s nothing but another check
on a summer reading list.

I visited a library once and
saw tall plastic shelves, a
spinning column of paperbacks.
You know the kind I mean.
Sitting near the door they were
nothing but an impulse buy.
Soiled virgins, millionaires.
Centuries of art reduced to
cheap ink and thin paper meant
to heat your skin rather than
inflame your soul. How many
read and returned in one day?
And what is the story of the
tree upon which this is printed?
Tell me that one instead.
Let the ink dry on the thick
pages of that rare truth. How
many rays of sun did it soak in?
How many raindrops? How
many leaves did it love and
let go?

I learned long ago that when
we write we choose a life that
requires facing the wounds.
Whether they be our own or
the still open sores of humanity.
As long as you can remember
the feeling of the cold floor
on your cheek from where you
lay broken, you can write.
Some of us turn that cold tile
into books with pink covers
and some of us turn it into
roads with no destination.
But the shelves behind the
spinning plastic columns hold
them all. Maps leading the way
to the truth of everything.

We are drawn back to the
writing desk on sunset days
when the turntable crackles
in a song fit for David to play.
Or sunrise days when tea
whispers over porcelain. On
days when the memories of
the cold floor rise from
whispered conversations. On
gray days when humanity is
weeping from the sky. When
headlines use their ink to
inform, and fields of flowers
can’t find the sun. We sit and
open those jars of ink, and
watch as it bleeds across the
page. Writing is like the love
that you always go back to.
The love that creates the tempest
of chaos as well as the only
real peace. Writing is like
that love. Paradoxical and
necessary.

A fortune cookie once dared to
tell me that happily ever after
does exist. And I chose to believe
it because through the snuffing
candles and endless mazes I can
see a brighter light that sometimes
grows faint but never fully leaves.
Stars shoot across the sky when
I look at an endless night, and they
seem to whisper the same thing.
My heart settles into this truth
and decides to hold on.

I’ve always hoped to know the
truth behind the majesty of a
starry night. But the more I try
the deeper it gets, the further
into the stars I fall. So far that
I get lost there and don’t wish
to return home. And then the
bright star with two tails picks
me up and takes me back to the
soft warmth of a summer night,
and it tells me something good.
And I believe it every time.

Seeking The More

For at least three days now, I’ve gotten on my blog and just…stared. I look over past posts, or I literally just sit there and stare at the page.

ballpointI have felt the need to blog, obviously, which is why I come onto my blog in the first place. And then I sit here and can’t think of anything to say. I’ve written a handful of posts that never saw the light of publishing. Because I just don’t know what to say.

I’ve blogged about a lot of things recently, and have been very open about the goings on in my life. And now I sit here and wonder what I could say today that I haven’t already said a million times.

I’ve been working on my novel like crazy recently. It has been a really wonderful experience. When I write a novel, I’m constantly in a battle of quality vs. quantity. For some reason I have it in my head that in order for a novel to have an literary merit at all it must be long. Then I look at The Great Gatsby and realize that this opinion is rubbish.

Not that my novel is going to end up being pathetically short or any such nonsense. That would be ridiculous. But it has been quite liberating to just write like crazy and not worry about how long the novel might end up being. I remind myself often that I’m trying to communicate something on a much deeper level than word count.

I wrote one of the saddest scenes in the novel the other day. No matter how much I write truthsof a story, I never stop getting caught up in it. It doesn’t matter that I know what’s going to happen. I find myself getting scared or nervous or brokenhearted with my characters. I believe that this allows me to write them more accurately. If I can feel what they feel.

In this scene, the characters were faced with a very perfect maybe. There was an inevitability to the whole experience. My main character, Rosemary, understands this. And so her heart is not broken. She is not in pain. She just feels empty. It is the other character that my heart really aches for. It is the one scene in the novel when this character actually feels something real. When they really experience something. And you can just feel their pain.

Coming up are more scenes similar to this one. My characters come to a point where they break the surface of life and have to face everything they’ve been carrying underneath it all. Quite honestly, it is a pretty emotional journey.

My hope with it all is that I can communicate the simultaneous strength and fragility we all possess. I’m telling a love story in all of the ridiculous cliche-ness that is a cliche, but really I want to talk about something more than two people finding each other and deciding it would be a good idea to stick together. There’s more to love than that. There’s more to life than that. It’s that “more” than I’m seeking to tap into.

loveAlso, it’s set in the 1950’s which means I can reference Frank Sinatra as regularly as I wish and it is completely acceptable.

But mostly it is just a very beautiful, pure story about people finding where they belong and refusing to give up on it. They are afraid, and sometimes they run. But ultimately they don’t. They never give up on each other. It teaches me a lot.

Taper

taper

in the window of a cottage
burns a taper
bright and dancing
the flame never dies

breezes blow across the floor
drafts threaten the flame
but it burns on
the taper never dies

it shines through the glass
and down the dirt road
for miles it shines
it never dies

across the valley it can be seen
a lone flame
in the upstairs window
it never dies

through dark and light
summer and winter
it burns
the flame never dies

the taper is burning
the light is flickering
casting shadows and dancers
they are alive

they tell a story
the orange dancers
illuminating shadows
they are alive

they dance into corners
and back again
laughing they gesture
brilliantly alive

the dancers talk about the flame
and all it means
what it represents
how it is alive

the flame is love
and life and grief
it is eternity
it is alive

the flame is happiness
and joy and sadness
it is life
it will never die

the flame will never die
sitting in the window
shining over the valley
it is love

Stone Stories

I.

When I saw Piccadilly
the light was August gold
dancers moved to music
surrounded by crowds with stories
in courtyards of stone

I stood on the bridge
just one among many
I leaned against the stones
and asked the city,
“Please tell me your stories.”

A boat on the Thames
carried me to Westminster
back again to the Tower
under bridges of stone
that whispered stories passing by

I visited the abbey
saying prayers in a circle
checkered floors held stories
monarchs who live and die
oaths, stones, sacred chapels

I read sonnets on trains
stories in patterned lines
beside people who lived normally
stones lined tube walls
painted with the underground names

Raspberry pastries in museums
tea rooms, stores, and David
stone streets guided me
towards Oxford street and stories
it was lightly raining

Beside the river, writing poems
a man and typewriter
a desk on the stones
I will never know
the stories written about him

London showed me things
whispering stories I couldn’t understand
I walked over stones
trying to touch the things
I could only feel

At Buckingham palace stone statues
and others looking on
a sunset and discussing stories
the clock tower glowed
I had to whisper farewells

When I left London
a piece stayed behind me
in the grey stones
stories disappearing from my view
I haven’t found them

II.

there was a pile of stone
which formed an old cathedral
it was surrounded by green graves
sat beside a tall tower
stories were hanging in the air

the druids were there once
and monks in the stone tower
a stream was running nearby
a forest with moss covered trees
I wondered about their stories

half of the sky was storming
sunshine blazed in the other
everything was green, even in death
graves of stone were crumbling
the stories on them had faded

it is surrounded in mystery
this glen with its ancient stones
the stories long since gone
an old spirit still lives there
it alone remembers what happened

the tower stretched high toward heaven
the cathedral serenely beside it
gaelic stories swam before my eyes
I could not read them
the stones wouldn’t tell me anything

I sat beside the stream
and closed my eyes to listen
my back against the stones
there was depth all around me
but the stories wouldn’t speak

I brushed the stones with fingertips
in the cathedral’s open air
wondering about the stories they held
I looked towards the alter
standing where others had once stood

druids placed stones in grass
we hoped to release their magic
but the stories stayed trapped
inside the circle surrounded by green
the glen forever a mystery

III.

stone walls led us to Haworth
where a family wrote stories and lived
surrounded by moors with purple heather
the village spilled over a wild land
a road led to the apothecary

a small book store beckoned us inside
and showed me an old Burns
it sat beside a copy of Cymbeline
we could not leave them behind
we carried the stories over stone streets

a cemetery sits beside the house
the stones are all covered in moss
they tell stories of sadder times
when the village was shrouded in death
somehow held together by the literature

a path leads from place to place
atop the hill beside the moors
we followed the stones that led forward
understanding the stories they had written
we wished we could understand the process

a village made of old stones
Haworth lives in a sea of green
a sadness does live there still
it stays behind to remember the stories
there are so many to remember

the beauty that lives there is palpable
it serves as a powerful reminder
joy and sorrow go hand in hand
the stones seemed to whisper this
when I asked them about their stories

in a moment beside the house
I sat in the shadow of stones
there was rain in the air
and too many stories to be absorbed
I kept wishing I’d remember everything

as I walked through that beautiful village
it seemed to me a dream
and looking back now I can see
that world of stones and green
the beauty belongs solely to the stories

Heartbeat Part 4

My broken heart has been a funny thing.

Actually, in case you didn’t get this, it hasn’t been funny at all. Like…at all. After one month, I expected to be better. I expected it to not hurt any more. I thought that by now I’d have moved on. I’d have forgotten. I’d be okay.

Well, that isn’t really the case. It still hurts so badly sometimes that I have to wonder how I made it this far. I still feel so confused about so many things. I’d still give anything to have it be different.

But God is teaching me things.

I’ve always been the type of person who could look ahead and see myself in the future. I’ve always been able to just see ahead. That hasn’t been the case for me recently. Every time I try and look ahead past the next hour, all I see is darkness. So I’ve been praying about this very sudden shift in my vision. And what do you suppose He said in response?

“Be patient.” God said. “I have a plan. I need you to trust me.” God has been pretty adamant about teaching me patience and trust in the last year and a half. Don’t even get me started. He keeps telling me things like, “I have everything under control. You work on you. Fix you. Leave the rest to me.”

You’d think that this would be easy.

Turns out it isn’t. It turns out that I like to be in control of my life a little bit more than I was aware of. So this moment in my life, when I can literally only see for one hour at a time, is really hard for me. It is really hard for me to simply let go. To trust that God has a plan, that ultimately He is in charge, and that no matter what happens in the near future it will all work out the way that it is supposed to.

I’ve realized that pretty much everything is easier said than done. This last month of my life has been so incredibly hard. There aren’t words for it, actually. I honestly wasn’t aware that a person could feel this kind of emotional pain and live through it.

But somehow my heart is still beating.

I wish I knew what the ending was. As an author, I’m pretty used to knowing the ending of things. I feel very out of my element right now. But God is teaching me things, so I have to trust Him. The truth is that I don’t know what the ending is. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after that. And right now, I know that I’m not supposed to know. I’m just supposed to have faith. Trust God.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have my hopes or desires. I was praying about them earlier today, in the middle of a particularly hard moment when I couldn’t believe it still hurt that badly. God let me know very quickly that He understands exactly where I’m at, and He’s got everything under control. I get this feeling that something big is coming in my life. Something wonderful, just around the corner, and I need to be ready for it. God is just asking for a little bit of faith and trust, and something totally amazing is going to happen. I know it. I have literally no idea what this something is. But I know that it’s coming. One of my best friends in the world, Adele, said to me today, “You don’t have to know what it is. You’ve been given all the answers you need. Just move forward, hour by hour.”

She’s right. She’s pretty much always right.

Sometimes the pain is so fresh, like it just happened yesterday. And it feels like I’m drowning in it. And I can’t get to help fast enough before I absolutely lose it and cry so hard I can’t breathe. Sometimes I feel so confused and angry I could scream.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t learned anything, though. There have been a ridiculous amount of blessings in my life in the last month. I’ve repaired relationships with siblings, become closer to my friends, spent much needed time with my grandparents, gotten a stronger relationship with my dad, and have had countless moments with God. He and I have talked so much about all of this. And it has been really wonderful. God is good, everyone. He is so, so good.

I’ve realized so many things about life.

I have realized that life is scary. And love is scary. And there are a million things to be unsure about and worried over. And I’ve also realized that there will never be a moment when you feel you are 100% ready. It’s going to be terrifying. There’s going to be things you don’t know. So many of them. But you just have to do it. Just jump. That’s all life is. A lot of jumping off cliffs when you only have the tiniest seed of faith in your pocket.

I have also realized that for too much of my life, my priorities were ridiculously out of wack. There’s a really long backstory as to why that was the case, but I spent so many years being bitter and angry about the things that are the most important. I don’t feel that way anymore. Not in the slightest. Those things I was so angry about, those things I was so scared of, they are all I want now.

God is teaching me so many things.

Tonight was hard. Today was hard. I left work with a very heavy heart. The steering wheel of my car got washed with a lot of tears tonight. My very wonderful roommate got bombarded with a lot of my pain tonight.

Then she suggested we go for a drive. We ended up on top of the hill in our city. We shut the car lights off, unrolled the windows, turned on some music, and sat on the hood of the car looking up at the sky. It was absolutely stunning.

I felt truly happy for the first time since it happened.

We talked about God. About how He has a plan, and ultimately He is in charge, and sometimes we just have to have faith that everything is going to work out. Right as we were saying this, an absolutely stunning shooting star zoomed across the sky right in front of us. It had two tails. I’m taking it as a sign.

We laughed a lot, too. I can’t even remember what about. All I know is that it felt good to laugh again. God has been feeding me constant support and hope recently. He has never left my side. He’s given me numerous answers, and always sent me help in the moments that I needed it most.

I know there is hope.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t even know what I’m doing tomorrow. And it will probably hurt again tomorrow, because it hasn’t stopped hurting. But tonight I saw a shooting star.

And today God told me He has a plan. He asked for my patience. He asked for my faith. He told me He understood what my hopes, desires, and pain are, and He’s got it under control.

This is what He told me.

And for now that’s all I need.

Conquered

Conquered

I traveled once, long ago,
along a well beaten path
winding along an indigo lake

Mountains towered above
the path spilled away from them
leading to places that told stories

I sat away from rain
beside a fire, listening
hearing a tale of a fiery maid

She was hidden away
inside a castle and heart
behind the stones too high and imposed

Giants attacked at night
when nobody could see them come
she always fought alone, routine war

Behind the castle walls
that were never to break down
she sometimes wondered about her strength

She ventured outside once
twice, three times she tried to go
but giants always returned again

On a summer day then
she watched from a high tower
at the battlefields forming below

She advanced past it all
still with walls but somehow free
giants behind, she walked without fear

It took more than courage
hope in the one exception
standing just without the guarded place

But it was safer there
than it had been anywhere
the walls were never more protected

I heard the tale that night
of the fiery maid’s journey
walking where she never dreamed she would

But never happier
was she, or more safe and sound
choosing love and freedom, she arose