Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sacred Harp and Hawthorne

I had Stumptown coffee this morning in my pretty new portable mug. 

Ahhhh. Life. 

So I'm back at school, and ridiculously happy to be here. I love my classes already. Yes I do. 

SPAN 317 Latin American History: with Profesora Coleman, the sweet grandmotherly professor I had for Spanish 203. She makes you dance and sing rap songs to remember the preterite. I love her class. 

ENGL 324 American Renaissance: Sooo . . . I'm honestly not that big on American literature. No I'm not! At least - not of the 19th century. Recent American lit., yes. Thoreau? No. Why am I taking this class, then? Only because it is taught by the a-ma-zing Dr. Rosemary Fisk, my favorite professor, the one where you basically want to copy everything they do, and have not been under her wonderful tutelage since fall semester 2006. I have confidence in Dr. Fisk. If anyone can make me appreciate Hawthorne and slave narratives, she can. 

ENGL BCF Internship: So, I get to write articles for Birmingham Christian Family magazine this semester (if you live in the B'ham area, you've probably seen it laying around in doctors' offices and random churches). I get to do scary things like interview people at the Lovelady Center, a transitional shelter for women, only then it is really interesting and I fall in love with what they are doing helping families get their lives back together, and I want to write a brilliant and passionate article that will garner oodles of much-needed money for this wonderful organization. Whew! Yes, the internship is on my own time. Which means that right now, I don't have any Tuesday or Thursday classes. Unless someone drops out of yoga. 

HIST 434: Folklore: I'm battling the urge to write this paragraph in all caps, because I'm so EXCITEDTHRILLEDREALLYREALLYHAPPY about this class. Ahem. 
Point A: It is taught by Dr. Brown, history professor from last semester that made me see the World in new ways. He even made wars interesting. 
Point B: I have been hungering for the opportunity to slip into this class since last semester, when I found out it involves fishing from canoes and fa-so-la singin'. I also found out it was closed
Point C: On Friday I found out the History department let him open another section. I sort of shrieked at poor Claire, who delivered the happy news, and ignored her in a feverish daze while I signed up. 
Point D: We get to do an oral history project with an older relative, analyze folk tales, memorize folk ballads, and yes, weave (read: attempt) a traditional Cherokee reed basket. As we went over the syllabus, my grin just kept getting bigger and bigger and finally split into an outright smile when I found out that we do a weekend canoe trip ending in an all day Sacred Harp singin' followed by dinner on the grounds. Just let me die of happiness. And yes, I know it sounds like a hippie class. I'm So. Excited. Knitting my own underwear and canning tomatoes comes next. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm a big girl now, see my big girl shoes

Yesterday, I turned 21 on the 21st.

[I've always liked that number. It's very satisfying.]

So here's my birthday post. Let's go.

Logistics: I didn't really do very much. I'd been down to visit my brother in Tuscaloosa, where we had a very good time, so I spent Wednesday morning driving back up. And going on a walk with my dog. And shrieking with horror when aforesaid dog got into a fight with the mutt down the street. And falling on my knees and holding his head when he couldn't walk on his poor little foot. Um, TRAUMA.

But I am planning to celebrate with my dear Samford people on Saturday. I made cupcake petit fours with pink icing in anticipation.

Thoughts. Deep Thoughts. Deep, Serious, Morbid-but-Important Thoughts: What with Ms. Betty and some recent medical tests and turning 21 (less than 10 years til 30. Solemn look), I've been thinking about how fragile and fleeting are our lives. Cliche? Yes. I guess what I mean is that I've been feeling my mortality. And the only conclusion it's pushed me to is that I do not want to spend my life chasing the rabbit trails of my doubts about God when death is so close. Now? How to live that out. I'm open to suggestions.

Drinks for all my friends. I wanted to get a Vermouth Bianco, because that is the drink on the picture I like so much. And it's fun to say. But Bottega didn't have it on the menu. Hmph. So I got champagne instead. It was ok. But THEN, the waiter brought us DESSERT WINE (gratis), which was AMAZING. Why don't people just drink that instead of regular wine? That's what I'm asking.

In other news, I am finally (finally finally) BACK from allll my travels. Well, except for the trek I get to make tomorrow to Samford. Then I get to stay in one place for more than five days. For - gasp - a whole week. Which I am very ready for. Because I love to go places and do things, but I also like routine and rhythm and not running around the country like a crazy person.

But while I was gone, I learned to ski. Yes I did. In Utah, no less. I was afraid that it would be terribly hard and I would be miserable because I'm not athletic, etc.

Instead, I fell in love.

Skiing was not miserable. It was absorbing and fun and addictive. I went to sleep at night thinking about it and woke up thinking about it. The second day was the very best because I learned that in fact you do not lean uphill. Instead you commit to going down the mountain and let gravity pull you as you ride on one foot and float the other, and then let the other foot fall and float and you feel graceful and breathless and free.

Beloved, listen to me - don't believe all that you see
and don't you ever let anyone tell you
that there's anything that you need
but Me

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Childhood of a Non-Famous American

When I was a little girl, there was a special bookshelf in our small-town library. It stood against the wall with the windows (I said it was a small town), in the childrens' section. It was - the biography shelf.

I loved the biography shelf. They were all hardback books from the '40s and '50s in the "Childhood of Famous Americans" series, with titles like Robert E. Lee: Boy of Integrity and Jane Addams: Little Lame Girl (I kid thee not). Because of these lovely books, I know about obscure people. People like Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. And Dorothea Dix, instrumental in reforming women's prisons. People like Babe Didrickson, that golf lady, and Clara Barton, who started the American branch of the Red Cross. I know obscure and useless things - that Dolly Madison grew up a Quaker, for instance, and that J.C. Penney's parents made all their children start supporting themselves from the age of eight. I loved these books. I read them over. And over. And. Over.

When I was seven, at the height of this biography obsession, I noticed something. There was a voice in my head. A voice that narrated all my activities, in the past tense. Even the mundane. The voice - British, male, lifted from those PBS documentaries my mother loved - noted every detail of my life, and I remember wishing it would shut up already.

Fast forward fourteen years, and I still narrate my life. Only now it comes out in blog posts and diary entries and the random daydream monologues during afternoon classes that never make it to press. Thank you, Childhood of Famous Americans books, for this long-lasting obsession.

So imagine my delight last month when I walked into Reed's Books last month and found my old friend Narcissa. Narcissa Whitman, that is.

I loved Narcissa Whitman. She had an awesome name.

Narcissa made hooked rugs. So I bought hooked rug kit. I almost finished it, too.

Narcissa is my hero.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In between

Announcement: This is my 50th blog post. Officially. Since June, when I started this whole thing. If I was an itinerant blogger and wildly popular with lots of ads, I would host some sort of glitzy giveaway. But I'm not. I'm just here to tell you I wore my cherry apron all day and listened to Spoon. 

Yes, I am back from Texas. And leaving tomorrow for St. Louis. And getting back on Sunday, and leaving two days later for Utah. And I worried about being bored during Jan term. 

So in the two days between Texas and Missouri, I have produced my own version of the famous Page coconut spice cake, cleaned my room, and caught up on blog reading (of course). 

I also attended Ms. Betty's funeral (and gosh, it's weird to write that). But I don't really want to go there right now. You know those people that are so brimful of life and energy and passion? Because of her life, it's easy to see her death in the light of truth. I'm not grieving that she's dead, because she is alive. But what's left is this terrible sadness, the prospect of life without her quick wit and vibrant stories and just - her. 

So thinking of Ms. Betty makes me think of Jim.  I just called and interrogated him about his first day back at school. And he told me they are living like hobos with a shopping cart full of ratty clothes parked in the main room. Other than that, he is normal. When I get back from Utah, I am going down to Tuscaloosa to see his dorm and go to RUF and basically pester the life out of him. And fatten him up with a loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread. 

Oh could you tilt in so you're leaning down
Or would you pull me back inside . . .
So carry me home, to the door beneath the sound
So carry me home, to the sound of angel bands
-Wild Sweet Orange, "Tilt"

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Everything really is bigger

So I am sitting here posting from the esteemed town of Denton, TX. Home of funky courthouses, very cool brambly-brushy parks, and real live cowboys. AND one of my bestest friends and sometimes clone, Anna Page.

I like living with Anna. I like her hilarious sisters, and her witty dad, and her sweet mom. I like eating potato bread. I like discovering even MORE objects our houses have in common (count to date: 37). Like obscure Mennonite cookbooks and glass bluebirds and old coffeemakers.

And I like Texas. I love the wildness of the landscape, and the sunset over the smooth horizon, and the easy courtesy of alllll the native Texans I've encountered. I like the old farmhouses out in fields, cradled by a grove of gnarly trees. And I like reading every other sign in Spanish.

And on the second day, when I was walking with Anna and Emily in the perfect 75 degrees breeze with the last orange light gloaming through the black trees - I had one of those moment of perfect happiness, those random drops of grace that come unasked for, unexpected. And I was glad.