you will find shelter here

Latest

Still Life

I look for Him.

My day is already shouting at me, and I am its whipping boy, jumping up in subservience to kiss its feet. I don’t know how to slow down. My heart beats fast, I “jimmie-leg” my legs, vibrating them up and down. I slept eleven hours last night, four weekends of company plus school weighing in. I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee.  But it’s later than I thought. I ignored the alarm this morning because I could.

Laundry’s wet in the laundry machine! My mind screams.

Meet Justin to get coffee before meeting with Becka!

Becka! Are you ready for your meeting with Becka?! You don’t want to look like a fool!

Have to leave by noon!

Drink a healthy smoothie for breakfast!

Hair’s a mess! Need to blow-dry bangs!

Spend time with me, comes the whisper.

The porch outside invites me, with its shade and screen and bougainvillea. It’s quiet there, green and lush, and cool enough, for a little while longer.

E-mail! Check your e-mail!

I open the lid, log in,and read:

Genesis 2:17 … but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”Click here for related Bible Study

 

And then see:

It is a still life: Caravaggio’s Basket of Fruit. c. 1599.

As a writer, and let’s be honest, as a human being, I’m wired for connections like this. The jimmie legs bounce up and down in anticipation.

I answer an e-mail from a grad school friend and am reminded that I need to order some books.

Order the books! Check your grade on your Carib Lit paper!

The porch beckons, and my eyes wander back onto Carvaggio’s Basket of Fruit and the verse from Genesis. God’s is the voice speaking to his beloved Adam and Eve, warning them for their protection. He does not want them to fall, for the earth to fall, for the children of Adam and Eve to fall and suffer. But he must know they will.

Caravaggio, I find, was an Italian painter known for his startling realism. He painted things as they were, not as they symbolized. He was fascinated, wikipedia says, with the nuances between light and darkness.  

I long to be like Caravaggio, I think, although he was killed at an early age in a brawl. I long for his focus, a days-long intention on a basket of fruit, a world where a basket of fruit was worthy of that attention.

A modern consequence of the Fall, as I see it, is monkey brain. There are voices all around, from the beginning of the day, calling me away from minutes of quiet intention on my bougainvillea-ed porch where I can focus and hear his voice.

Yet, He speaks to us where we are. I flipped the lid of my computer to find God’s voice speaking to his first children and Caravaggio’s still life.

This morning I will drink my smoothie on the porch.

It’s the Small Things, Round 2

I need this, actually. What, you may ask. To be grateful for winter in Florida, for one. Even though I may inwardly be swearing at the Snowbirds choking up the roads, the beach, and the sidewalks, here are some of my favorite small things for the week:

Exhibit A: The egg timer. No more than 10 minutes per paper. I am my mother’s daughter. But how else do you grade forty-four six page papers in eight hours?

Exhibit B: Grading papers in my yard. The yard that I mow, too. That traveler’s palm peeking up over the hedges in my neighbor’s yard is my favorite

Exhibit C:  Multi-colored pens. Yes, I avoid red.

Exhibit D: My favorite view from the couch in my favorite light of the day. What? You don’t have a favorite view from the couch? Find it,  take your eyes off Glee, and enjoy for a moment.

Exhibit E: Beach hair

Getting to Know You

From the King and I:

[Singing] Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you,
Putting it my way,
But nicely,
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.

This post is compliments of Katie Hobbie (www.thelifeandartofkt.com) and her muse, Amy Paul. This is a grad student’s answer to the question of: when, if I have 1,000 pages a week to read, forty-four six page papers to grade, and two essays to submit, do I post on my blog. Thanks KT and AP!

1. What’s the farthest place you have ever traveled? Kho Phi Phi Don, Thailand. The moment my friends and I started running uphill after a tsunami-warning gong sounded. False alarm, but as I ran up the dirt road with my friends, I felt a distinct we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore feeling.
2. Would you rather lick the bowl of chocolate brownie batter or cookie dough.? Scrape out that cookie dough. It is my crack.
3. Ever been bitten by an animal? What kind? I’m two, and “Woolf” bites me on the face. My grandparents’ farm dog/coyote. Woolf, got put down by Grandpa’s rifle and I got stitches. I still have a scar, but people nicely tell me it looks like a dimple.
4. Ever ride a motorcycle? One of my favorite things in life is to go on a ride with my dad through the back roads of small Florida towns.
5. How many {if any} times have you been in a wedding? Flower girl: twice. Bridesmaid: four. Wedding participant: twice. I will be in two of my friends’ weddings this year as a reader of my own poetry/prayers. I’m still waiting to be a flower girl once again.
6. What famous person would you most like to be friends with? John Krasinski. I feel like I am already friends with John Krasinski.
7. Ever dialed 911? I was eight. I was a big fan of the show Rescue 911 and dialed out of curiosity. My eight-year-old self then pretended to be a mother of a small child who had dialed accidentally. I was a really good liar.
8. Are you related to anyone famous? Who? A certain George Bush, by marriage. No, not the former president. Just someone also named George Bush.
9. What are two things you are wearing right now and where did you get them? A high-waisted jean skirt from Urban O., and brown cowboy boots. I’ve been wearing these things constantly.
10. How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? 10-15 minutes. I’ve given up on my hair. It gets pulled back.

Love + Gratitude

Setting: I am in my favorite writing spot: the Society of the Four Arts patio. I’m trying to write about February and love, but I can’t help but noticing a

Character: the elderly man behind me, in full Safari gear, peering into his camera with…AN EYEGLASS. I’ve never seen one of those things in real life until today.

Now he’s muttering to his companion while a group of geriatrics, one among them who is wheeling an oxygen tank, circle the gardens.

Moral: I guess the long and the short of it is that some of us will end up unglamourously circling gardens with oxygen tanks or peering at the latest technology through an eyeglass.  Eyeglass man just said, loudly, “Fat man and the little boy.”

It’s a perfect transition, really: fat men and February. And Love.

(Painting compliments of Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli…detail from “Primavera”)

Insight of the Day: Love and Gratitude are married. Here’s what I mean: I am sick. A sexy three-packs-a-day voiced, sweat-at-random-moments sick. I used to brag about my immune system the way Dennis Rodman bragged about his weirdness, but I have been humbled. Two months, three colds, and two stomach viruses later, I am weak and pale and extremely humbled. So here I am, lounging on my couch during this beautiful, warm,  Florida-winter day,  read a verse from Psalms and gratitude floods me.  And in my gratitude I remember God’s provision for me, a reminder of His love.

The blog I’ve been  reading via my sister-in-law Katie is called The Simple Wife  http://thesimplewife.typepad.com.  The author, Joanne, is a strong believer with a husband and two young girls. A little over two weeks ago, Joanne (age 38) had a severe stroke and has been in a coma. I’ve been checking in on Joanne and her blog, and have been blessed by the archives her friends have been posting to keep her blog going. Joanne’s December 15th entry is from Psalm 16:

You are my portion and my cup;

You have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

Surely I have a delightful inheretence!

And then Joanne writes, “When we surrender to what God has assigned, when we accept our portion and our cup, we are bound to be free.”

And even though Joanne’s road to progress is slow, it is evident by guests posts by her husband and friends that they still believe this to be true. It reminds me that my life is not really my own, anyway. I am thankful to God for what’s in it. And I intend to express gratitude this month as often as I can to Him, and to you.

Thank you for being my portion and my cup…for the boundary lines in which I find myself today and this year.

Something Real

Today I took a step away from the B.S., if you will.

I am supposed to be reading two books called The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself and Reft and Light.  One of Reft and Light’s poems goes a little something like this:

                canzone

                and and

                                zone

                none whatsoever

                canzone

                and and

                                zone

                none whatsoever

This one was by Marjorie Welish. I don’t know who she is either.

The best thing about Reft and Light’s poetry is that it is in a sense, playful. I think  (I hope, anyway) that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It  reminds me of my long ago favorite pastime: reading aloud poems from a book called “The Anthology of American Poetry, 1987,” where people wrote lots of poems about cats and love and cupcakes and clouds and took themselves very, very seriously.

Those of us in grad school tend to take ourselves seriously. Sometimes grad school seems, like the card game, B.S. (Or “I Doubt It” as Mom prefers to call the game)

And then I long to read real life things like my sister-in-law  Katie Hobbie’s blog (www.katieshobbie.wordpress.com)  Katie is a Wonder Woman so immersed in her family and being creative that she has no room in her life for B.S.

But today, as we say in grad school, I found myself more focused on the concrete details of life. I was at the Society of Four Arts garden (Eden!) on Palm Beach, reading Plutarch’s biography of Alexander the Great, and decided to slip on my green Keds and take a walk.

I was thinking/worrying/praying/attempting to let my brain solidify again, when I spotted it. A huge pile of oranges!

Now if you know anything about my obsession with oranges as of late, you know that I value them for more than their vitamin C sweet acidity or cancer-fighting powers.  To me, oranges have become this really strange metaphor, one that I don’t even completely understand. Something that causes my friends to tilt their heads while reading something I’ve written and ask, So what is it about the orange again?

I don’t know. I might not know until I (grad school word again) flesh it out in my thesis. Something about sweetness and acidity and the violence of juicing reminds me of the human heart. And I know that I live in Florida, so walking around a corner and coming face to face with a pile of oranges shouldn’t surprise me, but these were different. It was as though an organic orange stand had taken 2 barrels of oranges and dumped them next to a rich person’s house; beautiful specimans of oranges just left to rot. I picked up a few that still had stems and hadn’t been infiltrated by gnats. I can’t wait to taste them.

It will be so nice to taste something rather real than swipe a paw at its hypothetical postmodernist meaning. Take that, “canzone.”

[insert my heartbeat]

Sometimes I have these flashes of insight…I read something so poignant and piercing to my situation, that even a stack of ungraded papers or stack of books-to-be-read can’t distract me.  Today I found Psalm 45, or it found me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the man I will marry. To be honest, I try not to, often shoving that wistful longing aside because the who and why and when and where are invisible, unpredictable. The If has been big in my mind lately; it hasn’t happened yet, so don’t I need to set my desires aside and just get on with life, get on with the potential that my life might be an “if not”?

But the mystery of the who and why and when of him  has been dogging me, lately. I try to shake it off, but the thought hasn’t left me alone. “It might…” and “be great…” follows me. And then I, who have been praying through the Message Psalms this year came upon a doozy, Psalm 45 sung by the sons of Korah to the bridegroom:

My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out a poem to the king, shaping the river into words: “You’re the handsomest of men; every word from your lips is sheer grace, and God has blessed you, blessed you so much. Strap your sword to your side, warrior! Accept praise! Accept due honor! Ride majestically! Ride triumphantly! Ride on the side of truth! Ride for the righteous meek!

Do you hear that, all you husbands-now, and husbands-to-be? I believe in you…you’re royalty, adopted as kings, meant to ride triumphantly on the side of truth…ride on, men! Ride on, man I will love!

It’s the Small Things

I don’t know why, maybe it’s my new Early Caribbean Literature class, but when I see the phrase, “It’s the small things,” I hear a Jamaican accent: “It’s ta small tings, mon.”

Why do some cultures seem to enjoy the simplicity of life over others?

So today, I present the small things I’ve loved lately.

Eating mac and cheese in a pretty glass with a three-pronged (?) fork

 

 

 

Drinking strong tea fresh from India, compliments of my new roommate, Becca.

(so far, all things food-hmmm)

My friend Grant picks out 2 outfits for me to teach in. Very impressive!

Inspiration cork boards above the stove in the kitchen. A record of life…a $20 bill left by Mom for the laundromat (2 weeks and two broken washing machines later),  a cool bag from Heidi, a Denise Levertov poem typed by Jenny, and an unlikely week of Cowboy culture right smack dab in the middle of West Palm Beach. Yes, I plan on joining right in, and celebrating those Oklahoma roots. Howdeee!