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Monday, February 28, 2011

This I Believe #6, 2011

You know the drill, please post your TIB essay by noon on Friday, March 5th.

*Also, don't forget to email your essay selection for the book to Kurt and Kremena before class.*

11 comments:

  1. The screen flickered before him, hissing a long list of code before his twitching, half closed eyes. It had been many hours since he started this project; a project that was due very soon. The program was assembled in all the correct areas; variables, stack, setup and all others were there; ready to be shipped off…if it wasn’t for a teeny tiny error that reared its head every now and then. This, of course, infuriated the man, who had put so much effort into getting this program to work well and in a professional manner. To have this intrusion, to have this mischievous demon appear in his program with the sole purpose of annihilating his timely work right on the due date was appalling. More so, he was afraid…afraid that he would fail the task set before him. This did not stop him, however; it simply drove him to search through each line of code until the problem was solved.

    For hours, this went on. Back and forth, hundreds of lines of code were familiarized with his memory. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt and this particular. Eventually, with a shout of jubilation, the man discovered the problem and quickly squashed it before him. The program worked…and the world rejoiced.


    I believe in determination in the face of adversity.

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  2. i am broken.
    i am shattered and scarred beyond repair.
    i am an assortment of pieces of what could have, might have been.
    i am irreversibly irreparable and irredeemable.
    i am broken.

    i have known this fact for years. i have known all of my life that something was wrong. that i was not right. that i could not be fixed. it was fate. it was destiny. it was whatever you want to call it. it was.

    i am broken. i have repeated these three words so many times that they now come unbidden without a conscious calling. i have spoken them to puzzled friends and frightened lovers. i have said them to my mother – an accusation, even if it was not her fault entirely.

    i am broken. the refrain of my existence and the principle by which i have lived. i am broken and, thus, i cannot be trusted with things yet unbroken.
    i am broken. i broke. i break.
    i break teeth. i break hopes. i break hearts.
    i break.
    i broke.
    i am broken.

    i am broken. i cannot and could not find or fix the problem that lie at the core of myself.

    i am an assortment of pieces of what could have, might have been. i am fragments of a soul left shattered by something greater than itself. i am a being torn and marked by scars from life and from its own hands. i am broken.

    i am broken, but i will not be broken forever.
    for the very first time in my life i believe in myself.

    i believe that i might not actually be
    broken
    after all.

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  3. I always start with the best of intentions. The new blank page in my notebook at the beginning of class is going to look neat and orderly this time, just in case someone doesn't show up and asks for my notes.

    It starts off fine, of course. The date, the title of the book we're discussing, or the main topic of conversation for the day on the first line. It's going well. There are a couple of lines of thoughts and the margins are still clean.

    But it never lasts long. It's not that the mind really wanders off the discussion at hand. Not for very long anyway. More that the words about class seem bored and uptight without quick sloppy sketches surrounding them, hemming them in and making them bolder because they must fight for attention with eyes and faces in profile and sometimes dragons and familiar hands.

    I do not think my notes have always looked this way. In high school I remember stern looks and comments in what was left of the header of the first page of each chapter of notes telling me to pay attention in class. The drawings that flowed from everything I was thinking about other than the capitals of all the states were more regulated then. They knew which classes they could survive through. English, psychology, physics, sometimes biology and chemistry.

    Now they grow more complex. They curve around corners and weave their way between words and around the holes in the margin making room for a binder they'll never see.

    They tell stories which have nothing to do with words or articles or the musings of whichever academic has been read for the day. It is like the notes are made to become and island, and they must watch the sides crumble away as they huddle from the center and allow the edges to be abandoned to imagination.

    Sometimes I have to give friends my notes, to help them catch up on something that was unclear or missed entirely. They are never neat and orderly, as I imagine they will be when I start writing on that fresh page.

    I believe in doodles.

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  4. Falling off the couch. Mindy in front of the fridge. Saying that Pa was dead for the first time. Only words.

    Needing everyone I loved around me; an obsessive urge only to calm the deep desire, need to lay in the dirt grass of the garden alone and let my tears wash over me like rain.

    Strong hands holding mine on the sterile, man-made linoleum floor. A soft blue t-shirt with a gray-brown tree using the strong hands coming into my life just as frail ones left to carry white on black flowers to the car.

    A hug from the only man left on earth that will love me unconditionally. The man that lost his love of the land with no Pa on it. Diet Cokes from the gas station we never stopped at. Upside down and all wrong like our lives had suddenly become. A dark night with small flickers of light.

    The next day, sending a text message whose text I don't remember, while finally feeling a little safe. Laying in the avenue, loving our grass, our earth, with the sun streaming on my skin.

    Long-sleeve blue shirts with a pocket worn halfway around the world, pretending it wasn't true. Coming home to a changed place.

    Knowing all land is holy, all land is sacred when walking down the lane to look through the big tree at the setting sun. Walking through a stranger's corn and loving our land, my home with an appreciation at a new level.

    I lived at my home for the first time once it wasn't home anymore. Without Pa, the farm ceases to be. Instead it's 300 acres with a title named McGuffin. Not wanting to let go of the home of my childhood once it was no longer left to let go of.

    I still do not believe he is gone. I only sense it is so because his connection to the land is now found inside of me.

    Hobert McGuffin always believed that when people retired, they died. Hobert McGuffin was a man of incredible wisdom. Though I knew the day Mommy told me he sold his cows, I will never believe. To believe is to give up hope of going home and finding him at the stove. I get to pretend, because I was away and Pa is only a visit home away from me.

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  5. You always talked about how you wanted to die young.

    You would have liked to have been 27. Like Hendrix, Morrison and all the other legends--at least then you might have been satisfied.

    You sneak up on me every few hours, tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me you’re gone.

    But that isn’t what you’d want. I realized it the other night, and I think this sums you up perfectly: you were the kind of guy that would rather people make a toast than pour out a drink for him.

    Then, as we so often do, I try simply to recall memories that make me smile:

    Like when we first met as kids on skateboards, still too young to drive.

    Like the time we convinced ourselves we were telepathically communicating. We didn’t believe it ourselves, so we tested it. I went into the adjacent kitchen, heard “Chocolate Cherries” and returned with the bag that we finished together.

    Like the time we drove down to my first, your second Bonnaroo, blaring the strung-out guitars of the Velvet Underground during their heroin years. The best stories came from those four days, but no amount of recording devices, personal recall, or reconstructive brain surgery could help me capture them fully.

    Like every time we discussed, in detail, our shared love of Regina Spektor.

    Every time we called each other in absurd situations, only to find we were coincidentally doing the same thing.

    Every time we talked.

    Every time we talked about how we'd talk later on as haggard adults: I'd be the Hunter Thompson to your Dr. Gonzo type of thing.
    One of my first thoughts when I found was a hope for the afterlife. I don't think about it often, but I just want you to know the void you left.

    I'm going to remember the space you occupied, the room you made, the parts of yourself you shared with me.

    I believe in remembering the good things.

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  6. Defeating the smell of homegrown spring greens, a fresh gash claws its way out of the hollow that cradles my house and over the hills where an industrial power line will ease itself soon: a pipeline for electricity to service New York City, four hours away. Thanks to my mother’s campaign which kept the leaking lines from corrupting our county, children elsewhere will suffer the risks while we reap the benefits of a utility company that left a scar in the hillside: our private path to Gus’ still-water pond. On days dripping sun, we fill a wheelbarrow with clouds of clear jelly peppered with black seeds.

    In the pond of our kitchen counter the seeds grow into bullfrogs.

    Soft steps were guided by deep croaking in the late light of hot summer nights and a neighbor loaned us fishing poles to snag them from the overpopulated pond. Large un-baited hooks pierce slippery jaws: lives end under graceful strokes of a blade scaled with rust. Bodies plummet into compost and legs stretch out, grilled, on dinner plates long scrubbed free of floral decals.

    Tadpole tails dissolve into legs that will jump from two yellow buckets next to the breadbox.

    Sandwiches eaten and juice drank we returned from school each day with the plastic bags and straws so they could be used all week. On Saturday morning the straws became ours and I covered white Birch trunks with green spit-balls of chewed grass while my brother blew air up a frog’s ass and tossed it into the pond. Unable to deflate, the frog floated into a pool of gold and orange leaves collected by cold wind.

    Winded, I ran home as my brother blasted holes in the floating frogs.

    Echoing through leafless trees, the sound of breaking ice ruptures our skating. The still pond opened up and swallowed my brother.

    I believe in the seasons of a still-water pond.

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  7. Basset ends in a cloud of old woman’s hair that boogies in the spring breeze. Margaret hollers “good morning.” After a winter of dark mornings, no one to greet, I am glad to see her again, glad to know she endured, glad to see her Daisy resting under morning primrose. “I love you,” her voice chases after me, “honey,” as I slide swiftly towards Ridgeway. She knows I can’t stop to chat.

    Hart corners tightly around empty pots that hide the promise of summer under soil that will feed Kentucky beefsteaks, mint, and oregano: free for the picking. Squeezed between freshly shorn lawns, they taunt Martha Stewart homes with a look too disheveled for deliberate fashion. “I know you,” I shout to a man who steps outside to collect morning news from his sidewalk. Named for a saint, he waves at our joke. His laughter rolls after me all the way to Turkey Foot.

    I chant, “Please do not hit me,” leaping over the driveway of the Church of the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ. The spell works. White vans pause politely as I continue, a big blue stadium just before one-way streets dotted with couches and a red-and-green park where a woman lives with her pink Kroger bags. She doesn’t see me. She is talking to the bags. They nod, concurring that spring is the best time of year, the friendliest too this side of Sycamore.

    I believe in long Saturday-morning runs.

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  8. Blair, as someone who never doodles, I am thankful whenever someone explains the value of doodling, whenever it becomes clear that it doesn't always indicate boredom, that it helps some people focus on what they are hearing or otherwise processing. I also really like the playfulness of your reflection. You are a good writer.

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  9. April, this is a moving reflection on the importance your grandfather holds for you, on his connection with the land, on what home means for you. Thank you for sharing such a personal piece with us.

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  10. Clay, your writing is, once again, full of emotion and the kind of detail that makes personal stories easier to share with others. It is difficult to deal with death anyway, but even more so when it is the young who die. I hope that writing has provided a degree of comfort.

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  11. Cody, I like your descriptions of the flickering screen and of the demons that sometimes haunt them. You know, because of your major you have access to a world most of us know very little about. I would love to read more reflections about the world of a CS major.

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