Wednesday, July 6, 2011

in which a favorite gets its due

I am writing this in between shoving huge chunks of watermelon into my mouth. To me, watermelon is like a magic cake that appears in the summer, a perfect cake with calories of nothingness, beautiful pink cake that I can eat until my tummy bursts and still not gain any weight because it's basically all water. Watermelon, kids, it's the original 100 calorie snack. Except it comes in huge green melons bigger than your head instead of a sissy little pouch that you can inhale in a couple of seconds.

Ah, where was I? Oh yes. Today has been a rewardingly productive day. And it has been one of those days that is both wonderfully and realistically efficient, so that I'm left feeling like, "Yeah, I can do this EVERY day."

For all that, it started pretty slow. I woke up feeling like I'd been kicked in the head (which I was, in fact, a few weeks ago - more on that later), which is per usual these days what with summertime allergies, and slowly dragged myself to life through means of coffee and internet (i.e. blogs with more pictures than words). Then I went to the John Webster seminar, which I have to admit is pretty fascinating right now, and I sort of talked a lot. And yes, this is the class I have told everybody about that is going to be so boring. It's not.

After I talked poetry with one friend and had a happy reunion with another, I was heading out from the chapel when I turned my head and there, on eye level, sitting on the fountain, was the very fattest robin I have ever seen. Puffed out even more by his bath in the fountain. It was one of those things that made me smile before I even knew I was smiling. I love those moments. They catch you in pure, unconscious delight, instead of the "Oh yes, I should smile at this" forethought. And then they stay with you all day.

I also:

*added two poems to the portfolio, including one about The Full Monty. This alone makes the day. Don't judge. Quick -- what movies should I write on next to complete the project?

*visited my man at work and met his co-workers. I like this living in the same town, seeing him every day thing.

*rounded out dinner preparation for tonight, and planned meals for the rest of the week, and made a ginormous load of stuff that used up a ton of the stuff I needed to . . . use up.

*got through more of Bleak House and realized I'm going to be sad when I'm done. Hello, my name is Anna, and I love Charles Dickens. Hi Anna.

And at the end of the day, what can we say but that we were faithful to the day's work, and that everything else is grace.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

the color of summer

I don't really like alcohol. Just don't. I grew up begging sips up my parents' wine at dinner, and waiting for the time when my taste buds would suddenly change and I would also drink that magic liquid from pretty glasses. My favorite Bible story was even Jesus at the wedding in Cana; I would enact the scene in the bathtub at least once a week.

"Jesus, there's no more wine!" I'd say while my mom or dad sat on the edge. "Please make some more for us."

After filling the "jars" (read plastic 1992 Alabama National Championship cups), I would take a huge swig of bathwater and proclaim that "this is the best wine I've ever tasted."

I tell you all this to make the point clear: when I turned 21, I was disappointed to discover I don't like wine (which turned out okay; more on that later). When we went to Spain, I thought maybe this would change. If I had to drink red wine at every meal, surely I'd learn to at least tolerate it, right? Nope. Especially after this one horrible night where I drank it cause I was thirsty and then the wonderfully generous bartender gave free lemon liqueur to the strange family of Americans as a sign of friendship, and Jim was hissing in my ear, "drink it all, or you'll look rude" and NO I never wanted to see the stuff again in my life.

Except. Except for this magic in a bottle:

Tinto de verano. Ice, lemon, and you've got yourself the best summer-afternoon-at-a-European-cafe drink, ever. I thought it was sangria. Literally, it means red wine of summer.

When I got home, I missed tinto de verano more than even the groaningly delicious Italian pastas. I found the recipe after a search of about, oh, 3 seconds. Wanna know it?

Red wine + Sprite + ice + lemon.

That's IT. I've even substituted ginger ale for the sprite.

So go put on some Drunkard's Prayer by Over the Rhine, set out on the porch, and sip your glass of summer.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hear Me Calling Your Name

On Friday morning, I woke up from the first night in my bed in over a week, wrote one poem and finished another, cleaned my room, and got in the car to go to a family lunch. At the bottom of the driveway, there was a dog. This dog, in fact.

In our lives, there has been the lack of a dog. One dog, in particular, but also dogginess in general. In fact, the night before we had just been talking about getting a dog, whether it was too early, etc. I slammed the car stopped, jumped out, and the tick-covered little love ran straight into my arms.

I could tell you about how she crawls way down low because of mean people that hurt her, how she flips over on her back and puts up her tummy to be rubbed, how she scrambles herself into one's lap as if she thinks she's still a small puppy. I could tell you about the sickening number of ticks that covered her, the way her ribs feel as though they are about to break through her skin, the complete sweetness and trust with which she endures medicines and tweezers and all kinds of doctoring.

But to make a long story short, I'll tell you only this: her name is Gypsy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

tulip poplar iris. and no, i didn't forget my commas

Today, I went out to feed the amazing survivalist cats (another post on them another time), and a blur of neon orange and yellow caught my eye. "TULIP POPLAR," I thought. Dr. Brown and the folklore days brainwashed me well. On closer inspection, I found it was an iris, but imitating the tulip poplar blossom in its electric colored blossoms (I should write for an agriculture publication, no?).

Warm and lovely and velvet. I can't get enough of color these days, and this much pure joy saturation sates my hunger.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stove by a Whale

 At some point during high school, I decided that I needed to read Moby Dick. Even then, I think, I knew my calling as an English scholar, that my commitment to musical theatre was fading and I needed to start preparing for my future discipline. 
Or maybe I was just a stupid teenager who read big books for show. 

Either way, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had a tempestuous, tenacious relationship with Melville from then on. "Why do I need to know how they swab the decks?" I wailed. "Can we stop talking about harpoon technique?"
Perhaps if I'd known Melville based his gargantuan tome on a real live story, I would have found it more interesting. Probably not. But what I'm trying to say is - Moby Dick was REAL. And there weren't no happy ending for them fellas, either.


A couple of weeks ago, I picked up this book. I've been a Nathaniel Philbrick nerd-fan for four years now, since I read Mayflower. (Every American needs to read this book. Not even kidding. Did you know Squanto was evil? It's TRUE.) The man can make any history into a fascinating adventure-mystery tale. If I was ever to teach Moby Dick (or any of Melville's sea stories, for that matter) I'd have the students read this first. Philbrick explains the Nantucket culture, ship life, and the whaling industry with clarity, sharp and urgent prose, a sense of humor and humanity (he was an English major, yepthat'sright).

Did you know that men spent 3 years at sea? Did you know that men went out in these tiny little boats and stuck their own dang tiny harpoons into these enormous creatures? Did you know how amazing their ships were?

Oh my word, yes, I admit it. I'm interested in whaling. And I sort of have a huge academic crush on said Nathaniel. 

I won't say much about the Essex history except: a whale rammed their boat. But they didn't die then, oh no. There were 94 more days of horror at sea in tiny boats to come. Fascinating. Terrifying. Superlative-ing. It - it even - it makes me want to (sort of) read Moby Dick again

And if that's not an endorsement . . . 

Friday, April 29, 2011


Words don't really have a place in the raw pain of such devastation, except in stories. And I don't have any story apart from my grief. Grief for cities I love, neighborhoods I know, people I see helpless in the face of the monster.

I'm praying for healing, of these new hurts, and of old, old hurts. Hurts of white and black divide, of mountaintop mansions and 3 room houses in the hills. I'm praying that this great evil will lead to greater healing for the city. 

And I'm looking forward to getting back and finding a way to help. Go here to look for ways you can make your compassion particular.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

la Corrida

Hey folks. Instead of me complaining/praising/ignoring Mississippi life, I have, for only the second time in the history of this blog . . . . a guest post!!!

That's right. Today I am featuring none other than my own flesh and blood, my kith and kin, my only brother and world traveler extraordinaire, Jim. He's in Spain for the semester, and every week or so we get emails from him full of juicy cultural details, stories, and spectacles. His last writing was on attending a Spanish bullfight, and he's agreed to share it with the world. Enjoy!

la Corrida

Yesterday (Sunday) I finally made it to my first bullfight, called a corrida in Spanish. Honestly I hadn't known what to expect. History? Cruelty? Art? Brutality? Turns out it was every one of those, with a lot more mixed in.
First I suppose I should explain how bullfights work. Every corrida consists of 6 different rounds - 3 toreros (bullfighters) each fight 2 bulls. The bulls are usually around 1100 pounds. Within each round are 3 stages, called tercios. First the bull is fought by the picadores, who are men on horseback with lances. They attack the bull with their lance, striking it in the back to weaken it somewhat. Their lance points are limited to a certain length to prevent any real damage to the bull except for blood loss. The picadors also provide an opportunity for the torero (the matador) to gauge the bull's strength, and see if he has any tendencies to hook to a certain side. The fights between the picadors and the bulls are really intense - the bulls are trying their best to gore the horse and the rider. There were a couple bulls that got low and used leverage, and almost flipped the whole horse. The horses are protected by armor, as are the legs of the picador. They blindfold the horses to keep them calm, but I still couldn't believe how tranquil they were while an enraged bull was trying to flip them over. I never heard them make a sound, and afterward they almost seemed bored.

Next come the banderilleros - I'm not sure if any person in the ring is braver than another, because everything is dangerous, but these guys are pretty gutsy. Their job is to place banderillas in the back of the bull - basically 3 foot sticks with points that keep them stuck in to weaken the bull some more. The way they do this is to face off with the bull from across the ring with a banderilla in each hand, arms spread out wide, and then both charge toward each other full speed. The Banderillero runs toward one side a bit while he's charging, and at the last minute jumps to one side and drives the banderillas into the bull. A couple of times the banderilleros bailed at the last minute and jumped out of the way of the charging bull, inciting boos and jeers from the crowd. I wondered how many of the people booing would go into the ring and do what those guys do....

Finally, the matador enters the ring alone with his sword and his cape and begins the faena, or the dance with the bull. It was absolutely incredible to see this in person. The bull was at times brushing the matadors as he passed them. There are countless techniques and styles to this, which is part of the deep, fascinating world of bullfighting. If the matador is doing well, the crowd shouts out "Olé!" after every pass and goes crazy as he walks away to begin the next series. Finally, the faena comes to a close when the matador kills the bull with his sword. The matador lines up about 10 feet in front of the bull with his sword pointed straight out. He draws the bull to charge using his cape and lunges forward at almost the same instant, ideally burying the sword up to the hilt between the shoulder blades of the bull as it passes by him. If it's not delivered well, the sword won't go in all the way and the matador has to pick it up and face the bull for another try. During a couple of rounds the matadors had to try 3 or 4 times - they were relatively inexperienced matadors. If the blow is delivered well, the bull can fall almost immediately. Other times it'll take a few minutes of using the cape to make the bull charge.

After the bull is dead, the sword is pulled out (risky at times - think Monty Python's quote "he's not quite dead!") and a team of 3 mules pulls the dead bull out of the ring really fast. There's two guys driving the mules and another one popping a huge whip on the ground yelling, and the mules are absolutely hauling. After the last bull was killed I was leaving through the tunnel under the stadium with all the other spectators when the team of mules came flying past right past us, going out of the stadium with the bull and leaving a trail of blood behind them that you had to step over.

So that's a how the corrida actually works. My first one was at the bullring of Madrid - built in 1929, it's not as old as some others (the one in Sevilla was first used in 1785), but it's regarded as one of the best and most important in the world. It was a fantastic day - warm weather, but not too hot and without a cloud in the sky. I took the 8am train to Madrid to hang out in the city for most of the day, as the corrida started at 5pm. The atmosphere outside the stadium before the match was awesome - all the old aficionados were there hanging out for hours before it started. There's tons of old men that go to every single corrida, and they were all arguing and talking about bullfighting constantly.

The corrida began with the parade to salute the president of the bullring. Two marshals of the stadium - older men, wearing 18th century clothes and mounted on horseback - led out the three matadors, each of whom was followed by his entourage of 3 banderilleros on foot and his 2 picadors mounted on their horses. They marched to the center of the arena as the band played the traditional entrance song of the Madrid bullring. It was pretty awesome - it really gives you chills. The stadium was only about half-filled (the toreros weren't really famous - still pretty young) but there was so much energy it felt like it was full. I sat on the first row, right over the entrance to the tunnel that the bulls run out of. I had the great fortune to sit next to a really nice old guy who goes to every single bullfight. He explained everything that happened, and I learned a ton. It was also great to hear his commentary on the bulls, the matadors, the crowd, and everything else in between. A particularly fierce bull entered the ring, rushing past mere feet below us, and he studied it intently, saying, "See! This is a bull's bull!" Later the same bull sent a banderillero diving over the wall, taking a big chunk out of the wood where the guy had been not even a second before. The old man exclaimed, "$#&@! That's a lot of bull! That's what I was talking about!"

The craziest part of the day was during the second fight, when the matador from Madrid was about to strike his death blow. He lunged towards the bull, but it must have hooked left or right, because it caught him right in his stomach and he was flung through the air like a rag doll, landing about fifteen feet in front of the bull. He rolled over, and I immediately saw a huge, dark red stain all over his stomach. The whole crowd made a collective gasp. It looked like his stomach had been skewered right through. He started trying to crawl away, but the bull rushed him, pummeling him further. The bullfighting version of rodeo clowns rushed in to distract the bull, finally bringing it over to a far corner to keep it distracted. Miraculously, the matador stood up and limped to the center of the ring, where his banderilleros were waiting to help him. He stood doubled over for a minute, and then suddenly stood up straight. Everyone realized that the blood all over his stomach was actually from the bull - he had somehow escaped the horns. I still have no idea how. The matador slowly walked over and picked up his sword and his cape, and motioned for the banderilleros to leave the ring. The crowd went crazy. Everyone stood up cheering for him for a minute or so as he caught his breath, then the guys distracting the bull in the corner hopped over the fence and he was alone with the bull once again. He faced it down again, and his next strike drove the sword home. Afterwards everyone went nuts. He walked out of the ring into the infirmary, and no one knew if he'd fight again. Sure enough, he came back out for the last match, blood still covering his stomach, and did very well considering the beating he took. It was an impressive performance to even finish the fight, because that bull absolutely nailed him. It really drove home that it's not a sport or a show - it's a life or death thing for them.

So that was my introduction to bullfighting, and I'm afraid I'm hooked. It was absolutely fascinating, probably one of my best experiences here so far. I can't say how I justify watching it though - it was indeed very cruel, and it goes against what I believe about not making animals suffer unnecessarily. However, when I saw it I immediately understood why they call it art. It portrays so much about the culture of Spain and about life and death that it's astounding. But it's definitely not for everyone - when's the last time you went to a sporting event or performance and had to step over a blood trail on your way out? In spite of my doubts about it - which I'm sure will always stay with me - I can't wait to see my next corrida and continue learning about this incredibly unique national pastime.

Monday, March 14, 2011

a thousand stars

Today, I have to share with you one of my favorite artists. I discovered him through a children's book. Yes, that's right. Children's books have some of the crappiest art out there, but they also have some of the loveliest, imaginative, creative, real art.

So I discovered today's artist in The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Yes, it is a children's Bible. Yes, I may like it more than my actual Bible (except for the Psalms). And you know it's gonna be good because the writer and illustrator are BOTH British. [Note: if you go to the Storybook website, check out the video - it's narrated by David Suchet. Whoa, I thought. Not THAT David Suchet? But it is! The Hercule Poirot, British actor David Suchet, and I'm probably the only one who is nerdy enough to watch Agatha Christie movies so I have to tell you how awesome it is that David frickin Suchet is reading the Jesus Storybook Bible! Ahem. Back to our regularly scheduled program.]

Anyway. Back to the artist. Jago is his name, and he makes a living illustrating children's books. How wonderful is that. The first thing I noticed about his art on the Storybook's pages is the beautiful use of texture and layering. His creations are simultaneously earthy and luminous, whimsical and poignant. I don't know how. Apparently his work is all digitally done, and it is absolutely. gorgeous. absolutely.

What's even better - I discovered that you can buy his work at deviantART, and also at photobox, if you are so inclined (I am).

Unfortunately, due to both copyright laws and my own technical ineptitude, I can't share any of his lovely stuff directly with you on this blog. So, as the Reading Rainbow guy would say (I love you LeVar!) - don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself!

P.S. Okay, now you can expect a post in homage to LeVar Burton. I was seriously in love with that man. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Me and Emily Bronte: the difference

If you have hang around this English nerd girl for long enough, sooner or later you will hear me tell a story about Emily Bronte (the Wuthering Heights girl. Yeah, that one). Emily, see, was in charge of the kitchen in the Bronte home. So one day, she's in there whipping up some gruel, and a mad dog dashes through the open door and bites her on the arm. So what does she do? Does she run screaming for Charlotte and Anne? Does she pass out in a pool of blood? Does she hightail it to the nearest pharmacist who claimed to practice surgery?

No. She didn't do any of those things, because she was Emily Bronte and she's a pillar of the literary canon. She sticks a poker in the fire til it's nice and glowing, and cauterizes her own bleeding, rabid wound.

Apparently she didn't think this was important enough to mention, because nobody knew until 3 weeks later, when Charlotte walked into the kitchen where Emily had her sleeves rolled up, peeling potatoes. I imagine it went something like this.
           "Sister!" Charlotte said. "What injury did your limb so grievously undertake?"
          "Dog bite," Emily said coolly, and kept slicing potatoes.
Charlotte starts to panic. In a town of 88 people, news about a mad dog gets around. It's been the most exciting thing since that farmer lost control of his herd of pigs market day three months ago.
          "Shut up! Was it the mad one?" Charlotte asks. Emily nods and flicks a speck of potato skin of her apron. She nods toward the fireplace.
          "Poker," she says laconically.

       I tell this story to make two points: One, Emily Bronte was a beast, and there's a reason she wrote a book like Heights (which I do love). Two, I am not Emily Bronte. When I sliced my finger open peeling an apple last night, I stared at the wound in horror, covered it from my sight with a paper towel, and called my dad. I already knew I only had two options, but I needed someone to know that I had done this horrendous thing to myself and that there was blood. I drove to the Urgent Care clinic. They were darn CLOSED. So I went to Walgreens, all the while wearing black fleece pajama bottoms covered in hearts, peace signs, and daisies. I staggered up to the pharmaceuticals counter and said, "I know you probably can't do this because of insurance and I understand if you just don't want to cause it's really gross but I cut my finger and can you please help me but a bandaid on cause my roommate's in class and I can't do it with one hand but if you don't want to that's okay."

She stared at me. "Yeah, just let me put some gloves on . . . "

So what lesson do we glean from this, children?

One: I will never write a novel like Wuthering Heights.
Two: I am immensely thankful I do not have the life experience to write a novel like Wuthering Heights. 

And that's how I cut my finger. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Walking the Line

 On Sunday, I spent an hour with Old Crow Medicine Show. One of the better decisions I've made in a while. Wisdom, humor, and darn good music. I love those guys.

On Monday, I helped myself to a small cluster of daffodils growing outside the education building. They're huge and fragrant and starry. 

Yesterday, I talked with Erin and she made me laugh because a) she's hilarious and b) I love her. And we talked about life, both heavy and light.

Today, I woke up to sunshine and and peace and bluegrass. And when I went out into the morning, I felt like running up the stairs and singing Gillian Welch songs at the top of my lungs. I should get this type of sleep more often.


In other news, I have a great brother in Spain. Even when he's not in Spain, he's pretty great. When I told him of my passion for Mumford and Sons, he sent me this video. New item on my to-do list: live in Paris and be serenaded by a British folk band.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


These are not the first daffodils of spring. I didn't have my camera with me when I spotted the first.

But these are so wonderful, because they are just one cluster from a whole rash of daffodils growing by the side of the road, here in the mountain top neighborhood. And today was full of warm breezes
 and I worked up a sweat hiking the old asphalt road. The warmth and spring and sun made me so happy, there's no other word for it. Happy. A lift from heavy thoughts and prisoned feelings, from the chest-tight worry of the week. Just the plain bread happy Denise Levertov names, just -


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Breathe in. Breathe out.

What is the best thing about February in Mississippi?

Three whole days of a sunshine wash, of the black branches turned hot to the touch in the sun. I don't want it to get cold again, ever. It feels like everything is splitting open warm and sweet again, and I keep wearing turquoise and fuchsia and other color-bright t-shirts and shoes. Today and yesterday, I sat in the sun on a wooden bench and ate my lunch and read Tinkers and then just soaked in blue sky and sun and turned my mind loose.

You know those rubber squeeze toys, that you press all the way in and they slowly expand back out. I feel like I've been compressed and it's hard getting enough air before anxiety closes my throat again. No one ever told me that peace is a discipline.

What other things made me happy today?

My brother wrote me an actual email. Yes, a bona fide long one, and it made me laugh so hard. I mean, really hard. I soaked it up and shook with laughter.

Today is a Sam day. That means I get to play with the sweet kid and have 3 hours not school-haunted.

The spring holds gelato, and train rides, and medieval roads.

There are two chocolate chip cookies in my bag. I got a day's worth of laughter in one morning.

Things aren't easy. But they are good. In the deep kind of way, as a certain boy would say.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mississippi Ice

It's snowing outside. I mean, it's really snowing. For the second time in a month. I'm a little bit cranky about it, honestly. I want to get through this semester, by golly, and they've already added a make-up day and if it keeps going this way school won't be out til next August and then we'll start all over again.

Am I old? Does not wanting a snow day make me old and boring?

No, I say, no. These are the reasons I don't want a snow day: because I want Michael to make it here safely tomorrow. Because I want to leave for Spain on time in April, and missing school days could interfere. Because even though I love winter, the word and the season, I'm ready for spring this year weeks earlier than usual. I want to paint my toenails turquoise and wear yellow sandals. I want to go stretch out on warm white sand in North Florida. I want to gather a massive bouquet of daffodils and bury my face in the fresh golden smell. I want warm.

General Beauregard Lee, I just hope your little furry tail is right about an early spring. Else we's gonna get a groundhog stew goin.

I never will get over falling snow, though. I stood in front of the window with baby S. in my arms, and we looked out at the fat falling flakes, and even as I sighed at the weather, I reveled in it. At the soft flakes, and the weight of the baby in my arms and his sweet warm baby smell, and all the soft silent white outside and the warmth of the quiet room. He was lovely and sweet and sleepy today, and I think I was more comforted to hold his tiny weight against me than he was to be held. And all was peaceful and he went to sleep while we stood watching the snow come down.

In other news, did you know that Mozilla Firefox has REAL live baby FOX CUBS???? Which you can watch on a live webcam (I actually don't recommend this, the room is mint green and depressing, and you will be tempted to stage a rescue mission as Michael suggested).

Been hankering to watch Bambi lately. When my dad came back from a deer hunt when I was 3, I was terrified that he had shot Bambi. No, it was Bruno, my dad said. And I was like, "Whew! Okay good" and kept watching Land Before Time with a diapered Jim.

Over the Rhine NPR interview. Go listen! Now, slave. (Note: pay extra attention to the photo. I want to play in a field of six foot Queen Anne's lace).

Irish Postcolonial class = marvelous. It also makes me want to stuff myself with oatmeal cookies and speak in a fake Irish brogue all the time. I've managed to resist the latter (most of the time, at least).

Old dirt road
Knee deep snow
Watching the fire 
as we grow old
well I'm sold

Monday, January 31, 2011

Babies, undocumented.

Last week, I got to hold a baby. An extremely small, barely seven week old baby. He spit white gluey stuff on my sweater.

I'm in love.

People usually call babies "miracles." I don't know that I agree. It is a natural thing, after all. I think when we say "miracle," we really mean wonder. Which it is. I sat there and jiggled Baby S. until he fell asleep in my arms. He curled his head into my chest and held his impossibly tiny right hand up to his face. I sat there for over half an hour with this tiny person sleeping in my arms, and the whole time I was full of wonder. At the crook of his knee. At the small sleeping grunts he made with each breath. At the way his left arm strewn out wildly to the side. At his face, his small and perfect human face. And at the way he woke up, his eyelids slowly opening and closing like the wings of a butterfly when it lands on a branch and you sit watching it suddenly still and slow.

And then he opened his eyes for real and stretched his neck out and squawked like a flightless bird and I couldn't stop laughing. Babies are incredibly weird. And entertaining.

So all this got me thinking about babies. Why do I love them? It's not that I'm romantic about them. Heck no. I spent two months this summer changing diaper situations I never thought I'd face, and handling scream fests 6 times an hour (not to mention toddler meltdown every 3 minutes). They are hard hard work, and I want to wait a long time before I get one of my own. They know they are being bad a lot earlier than we give them credit for, and they are selfish little devils. So . . . why are they so much fun?

Because they delight in things like a roll of toilet paper. And because . . . they need us.

You can understand dependence when you know the Maker's hand
-"The Cave," Mumford and Sons

Friday, January 21, 2011

Awake My Soul

When I was a little girl --around the 3-5 age range-- my mom used to think that I would be a performer one day. I sat in my car seat and sang songs to myself with words like, "He left me, oooohhhhh, and my broken heart, he left me, ohhhhh." She thought I would become a country singer.

I became an English major instead.

However, after an older childhood spent hating twangy music, I fell in with Nickel Creek. And then I fell deeper down the bluegrass hole and then newgrass got popular and now I love the Avett Bros. and Ralph Stanley and Emmylou alike.

And yet I've still got this thing for folk music. Which is my I love Mumford and Sons so much. Ballad-esque lyrics, the strings I love, but the movement, the energy, that's what's most wonderful. One risk folk music takes is of all the songs sounding alike, but these guys craft each song into a separate orb of meaning. And yet the album, all the music taken together, creates this lovely prism of song.

Awake my soul
for you were made to meet your Maker

Good Day Sunshine

Should I be writing a blog post now? Yes. Of course I should. It doesn't matter that it's a Friday morning and I could be working on other things. But one of my resolutions for the new year was to blog at least once a week. And you can look at the sidebar and see how faithful I've been. This will change.

What do you say after days that have been less than blissful? I'd like this post to be strong, triumphant. I'd like to say I'm so much farther along, that I left despair and its cousins in 2010, for good. I'd like to be an overcomer.

And. I'm not.

I've been discouraged this week to be dealing with thoughts and feelings and crap I thought I'd somehow gotten past. Instead I am staring my own unbelief in the face, and it hurts. I say along with Kathleen Norris that "faith is a sad business." Right now, what I am seeing and feeling is that living by faith sort of sucks. What I mean is, it is contrary to what I, as a human, want. None of us want faith in something we can't control. And that is where God says life is found. And I'm not really sure why I keep trying to go to Him except for Jesus, where else would I go.

This week, though, is sandwiched between two wonderful weekends. One past, one future. This past weekend, sweet boyfriend drove 7 hours to spend 3 glorious days with me in the wilds of Mississippi. We didn't do anything but regular life. Schoolwork, reading, cooking, walking, movie watching. Pretending that we were a normal couple who get to share every day life face to face instead of over the phone. It was bliss.

And this weekend, I go home to Alabama. To my parents. To the bare limb trees and wide brown fields around my house. To be with my dad and hear my mom's stories and tell her mine. You know, it is a huge blessing to like your parents. Thanks, guys.

I'm gonna learn to love
without fear

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

i won't worry

This morning, I left a month of sweet Alabama home time, and drove back to school and work. Only one class today, so not that bad. I'm not teaching this semester, and while I'm pretty sad about that, I'm also energized by the thought of more time to devote to school work. I'm in a fiction class this semester, which is highly exciting (would be more exciting if it didn't have a Friday class . . .). I like writing fiction. Why? I don't have to be good at it! Writing a poem is sweating blood and crafting and cutting and putting back in and basically agony. Writing a story is like making mudpies.

So it's back to the flatlands and the cozy apartment, which is only made cozier by the wind-sharp drizzle outside. And above, you get to see a little glimpse of how lovely and homey Jannell has made the apartment. And how I clutter it up, as demonstrated by the two black blobs on each sofa (my coat and blanket, respectively. I have a bad habit of dragging around in blankets, especially in the morning. It makes me look like a depressed hobo. Which is terrible, because all true hobos are happy and lighthearted. I would be too, if I had a campfire and songs every night. "I'm a singin' hobo, not a stabbin' hobo." Name that quote!).

The maps are courtesy the history department via Dr. Brown, via Alan and Lee who told me about them and led me to the room where we chose and cut and rolled and went away happy with our spoils a few years ago. I have a map of the Balkan states from 1683-1914! I love the Balkan states. True riches.

Tune in next time for the first half of my reading list for 2011. Suggestions welcome/appreciated/needed!