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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This I believe #5

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31 comments:

  1. There used to be a zipline that stretched the entire expanse of our backyard. He even attached carpet to the receiving pole, in hopes that the soles of our feet would remain splinter-less when we used them as breaks. When the line snapped, my brother fell and landed on his back. He was there to carry my brother up the hill, and set him down, and say “I love you.”

    I always used to wear bows in my hair. My grandmother would make the most perfect bow with the prettiest ribbon. The bow was attached to a barrette with hot glue and then mother would fasten it to my head. One morning, my mother was too sick to put the bow in place. He never put the bows in my hair, but on this morning, he tried so hard to place it just as wonderfully as mother. It was crooked but it lasted the day and I smiled because of him.

    Before Cleo, we had Skeeter. She was furry and golden and weighed a fantastic 80lbs. At 105, she was the oldest of the siblings. The last year was the hardest for him. I remember the ramp he built over the stairs for her and the “magic carpet” he created to make up for her inability to walk. He pulled her around on it for six months until the doctor said we had to let her go. I remember him digging Skeeter’s grave and pulling her quilt-covered body through the snow on his childhood sled.

    I believe in my father.

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    Replies
    1. You should give this to him as a gift.

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    2. Wow, this is beautiful: a love letter to your dad. Yes, you should absolutely give it to him.

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  2. Storms in Honduras are like clockwork, rendering afternoons warm and gray in the small village of La Canada. And each day, when the clouds broke open, I huddle with my Dad in one of the small, concrete houses we are building. My boys, as I have come to call them, roll around in the mud or chase each other throughout the village as I look on.

    Standing in the doorway, I watch Anibol and Eddie rip and run through the rain. An urge courses through me to join them. With my dry hair and face, I feel left out.

    Screams of delight escape them as they climb over piles of rock to crash and sink into the mud. Eddie’s jet-black hair shimmers with rain droplets and Anibol’s long eyelashes look like wet feathers in the rain.

    I step out into the storm. Lightning striking just yards away. My clothes soak through immediately. My hair quickly goes limp and sticks to my sunburnt cheeks. My light eyelashes clung together like Anibol’s—I am one of the kids.

    Once Anibol and Eddie see me, the chase is on. No words are necessary, as they race towards me laughing. This is how we are meant to be. To feel, to connect with one another, to be a “we” rather than a “they.”

    I zig and zag through a field of lush corn. An uninhibited laugh rang in my ears and I realized it was my own. Turning a corner to run past a house, I tumble to the ground, the two boys right behind me. Anibol and Eddie trip over my legs. When their mother calls for them to come out of the rain, they go obediently. I, however, am not ready to leave my newfound playground.

    Sitting up, I see a mountain of gravel. I wipe my muddy hands together in determination. The pitter-pattering of the rain grew louder as I hike up the pile of gravel. It creates a rhythm in my mind. I look up to the heavens and lightning dances across the sky, giving me an idea.

    I raise my arms above my head, jumping, shaking, and rotating to the pitter-patter, pitter-patter. Voices and laughter echoed behind me. I swivel to see the entire group with smiles plastered on their faces, my Dad in the front. My joyful dancing continues.

    A camera rises, aiming at my mountain of gravel. I pause my dance for only a moment, my hands resting on my wet hair, still laughing.

    The camera flashes, and my moment is captured.

    I believe in “we.” I believe in dancing. I believe in the power of storms.

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    Replies
    1. your happiness in this story is contagious.

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    2. What a beautiful narrative, full of tenderness.

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  3. The elderly man in the old faded pink floral chair sits quietly on the other side of the room, as he peers blankly out the window at the snow falling down. He glances over at me in the silence of the old house, looking quite confused and baffled at my presence. He shifts his vision to the woman lying ill on the hospital bed in the center of the living room. He stands up out of his chair, walks over to me, and leans in and whispers, “Who is that man asleep in my house?” The “man” he speaks of is the bald woman in the hospital bed. This comment awakens her out of her light and uncomfortable sleep. She raises her head to say something, “He still thinks I’m his roommate, he forgets that I’m his daughter.” There is no point in insisting to him that the “man” sleeping in his home is his deathly ill daughter, who is going to spend her last living months, weeks, or days in the hospital bed placed in the center of his living room; he would only forget again. This will be his third lost child to death, and the second lost to cancer. But he doesn’t know that; not anymore. All he knows is what he sees, and his thoughts on his surroundings can often change within the same minute.
    After a moment of uncomfortable silence, a distraught look wipes over his face. The elderly man walks over to his daughter, reaches his hand out to hers and he holds it tightly; as if, for a moment, he remembered. A tear comes to his eye as he is looking down on his daughter; he smiles at her. There was a quick glimpse of the man we all knew, but before we realized it, the instance was over. His loving grasp of his daughter’s fragile hand turns into a handshake. “Hello, there,” he says to her, shaking her hand like he was meeting her for the very first time, “so far so good...” That’s what he always says when he becomes lost again. The moment was over. But as short-lived of a moment it was, it had happened. Something in his mind told him that he cared for this person, I could see it in his eyes.

    His smile turns back into a look of confusion. He pulls his hand away, turns around, slowly walks back over to his old chair, sits down with some trouble, and continues staring out the window at their snow covered backyard.

    I believe in love, and I believe love never forgets.

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    Replies
    1. My grandmother has Alzheimer's. You spoke right to my heart. Thank you.

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  4. “I hate Valentine’s Day.”

    “It’s Single Awareness Day.”

    “It’s a Hallmark holiday that was created by the industry to pressure men to show their affection for women through material possession.”

    Yes, I was the individual who found Valentine’s Day extremely cheesy yet here I am on February 14th thinking in a new perspective. It may be because I received flowers today from a special someone, but I also think it’s because of a story I heard, and also possibly because I went the Maroon 5 concert last night and have been on a music high ever since I heard Adam Levine’s gorgeous voice that conveniently matches his hot bod. He is literally the only guy I think who can successfully pull off a “mom” tattoo. Either way, no matter what made me think about Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share these new ideas.

    The story though in case you are wondering is a simple one and really isn’t much of a story at all, more like an observation. When we were little, we used to engage in our whole class exchanging valentines. You gave a card to the boys in your class as well as the girls in your class and it held no romantic sentiment. I had the Scooby doo kind to hand out as a kid. Tinkerbell cards were also a favorite. These cards we would fold carefully and tear on the perforated line and finally seal it with a sticker. Our mom’s would then sit with us at the table and let us pick out which card went to which classmate. She would then write our name on the “from” line and the classmates name on the “to” line. The cool cards went to our best friends and the not so cool ones went to the boys that picked on us. Either way, we all ended up letting everyone know that they are “rad” or “super!” I think that’s how we need to look at Valentine’s Day now, despite the fact that we don’t use the word much anymore .Let everyone you care about know that they are loved, not just your boyfriend. Send your bestie some flowers. Take your cousin out to dinner. Watch a rom-com and make fun of the cheesy lines with your grandmother. Celebrate everyone who has been put in your life and be grateful for those who have stayed.

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  5. My son asked me why I make the art that I do, why I feel a need to help people through art. The only answers I ever have for that question land entirely outside of the sandpit—like horseshoes thrown by my legally blind cousin.

    Eight years ago I lost a favorite colleague and Transylvania lost one of its most creative, insightful minds to a stroke. The stroke was brought on unexpectedly during open-heart surgery. The surgery was also unexpected. Peter never did or said anything that I expected him to, and I certainly never imagined working here without him.

    I cannot understand birds without Peter Sherman. I can only read the texts that he suggested to me, and I miss his habit of creating theories more convincing and well developed than the best books he had to offer. Peter told me that birds have nothing to teach us of altruism. Until this conversation, I had naively believed that birds shared emotion and occasional fidelity with humans. I believed that birds acted altruistically to protect and nourish their mates. Peter suggested that there was no such thing as altruism. Instead birds provide protection for their mates simply to increase their own evolutionary fitness.

    It is unreasonable to assume that I could act with the evolutionary intelligence of a bird. Their actions are not corrupted by free will and mine are controlled by much more than instinct. That said maybe I make the artwork that I do for the same reasons that birds protect their mates—personal evolutionary fitness. My life is richer because I have friends who spend their days as men and their nights as women. My son is more compassionate because he knows that some of daddy’s friends live on the streets through no fault of their own. He has interacted with them and some have known him by name.

    I believe in the intelligence of birds.

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    Replies
    1. I hope, at the end of the semester, each member of our class feels the way that you do about art.

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    2. I've always argued that altruism is our greatest fiction. This spoke to my soul.

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  6. During my last visit to Bulgaria, I took my grandmother to the cemetery. I had wanted to do something special for her. At 81, my grandmother would not consider going out for coffee or lunch. “At 81, I am half-way to the grave,” she said. “Please take me to the cemetery. I want to visit with your grandfather.”

    So you don’t think she was morbid, I will clarify: going to the cemetery is a treat for my grandmother. She visits the cemetery a few times a year, whenever my uncle agrees to drive her there and back. “Taking city busses takes too long. You never know when they’ll arrive,” my grandmother says. Personally, I think she likes the company.

    And so on my last visit home, my grandmother and I went to visit my grandfather’s grave. We packed 2 plastic bottles full of tap water (to make a cross over the grave so my grandfather would have something to drink) and a small hoe (to dig out the weeds and dead flowers). We bought fresh flowers at the cemetery gates where women in black dresses sold carnations out of large buckets.

    On my last visit home, the graves looked unkempt. Tall grasses peered from broken vases, the once-fresh flowers long dead. My grandmother told me stories about the people whose graves we passed. “He was a famous doctor,” she pointed at a tombstone with 5 shadowy faces on it. “He died in a car accident, along with the rest of his family. There is no one left to visit their grave.”

    I have always known that the old tend to the dead in Bulgaria. On that visit I wondered if my mother would ever be part of the grave-visiting old. As far as I knew, she had never been to the cemetery. She prefers going out for coffee and visiting the theater.

    I believe in tending to one’s dead.

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  7. I believe in adapting, changing like a chameleon to match your surroundings. Most people feel this way, but would never admit it. You always hear “I’m not afraid to be myself” or “I don’t care what other people think of me”, but we care. We always care, at least to a certain extent.

    I’m afraid of being that person who wears the wrong shirt, and having girls across the room stare and giggle, while they whisper to each other about how they wouldn’t ever be caught DEAD in that shirt or how it looks like a blind person designed it. I know girls do this, because regretfully, I have done it before. I think we’ve all done it before. You don’t mean anything by it, really. You’re just trying to convey to your friend how much you really just hate that shirt.

    We all do it in different ways. Words don’t even have to be spoken. It’s like that moment when you see something bizarre, and you glance at your friend just to find out that she has the same “What in the world?!” look as you do. Then you both burst out laughing.
    Except, I don’t want to be laughed at, that’s why I don’t believe it’s okay to judge people.
    But I’m scared of what people think of me, that’s why I believe it’s okay to adapt.

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    Replies
    1. You are right: most of us are all afraid of judgment. The thing is how not to let this fear be crippling...

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  8. There’s a picture I keep tucked between books on the shelf. Night’s velvet ripped apart by the flashbulb fluorescence of winter skin. This picture, of arms held high in an eternal celebration of plastic baptism, is the only one in existence. We agreed to print it once, delete all evidence, and never discuss it again.

    A little over a year ago, usual yuletide wanderings concluded and left me at home. I planned to spend the last few days of winter break in a quiet crawl around the primordial ooze from which I sprang. Paducah isn’t a bad place really; a quiet and conservative river town, with a “burgeoning at scene” that never fully burgeoned.

    At exactly 9:00 pm, a barrage of vibrations alerted me of an incoming call.


    “...Hello?” 


    “You have been given a very secret mission, you have no choice but to accept it. Meet at my house in an hour for further details. Bring warm clothes”

    .Click.


    Quietly musing, I threw on winter wear and slid a favored flask into my back pocket. Adventures with Walter are always fun, especially with alcoholic augmentation. Within minutes, I was swathed in hugs and hello’s as I entered the house. A large segment of my friends, the artists and artisans of Paducah, were crowded around a table made heavy by a communal bounty. 



    “Dammit, Walt. Why didn’t you tell me we were cooking tonight?”

    “That’s of little concern when we’ve got Jeez-eye to liberate.”

    “Jeez-eye?”

    “Yeah, you know, the plural of ‘Jesus.’ Now come on, we’re behind schedule.”


    Now was as good a time as ever to start drinking. Fireball’s candy-flavored whiskey coated my tongue as I followed the lanky frame of an old friend through the labyrinth of his home. Out the door and down the steps we walked to his ancient volvo station wagon parked in the grass. Toney, Bridget, and Alex were already crammed into the back seat as my emptying flask and I took the front.

    

“Adveeeentuuuuuure!” came in drunken unison, the excitement of my return was palpable.

    What happened after that, I can not fully say. It’s not my place to share shady secrets of memories made in a liquored haze. However, I can say that on that night in early January, baby Jesus went missing from several nativity scenes. I can also say that several infantile saviors were found floating down the river the next morning.

    I believe that Jesus and Moses are close enough... right?

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    Replies
    1. Your writing is wonderful every week.

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    2. This is a fantastic story filled with debauchery and wonderful writing. My young cousin used our neighbor's nativity scene as target practice with his BB gun last christmas and this story reminded me of that day. Thank you.

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    3. What a funny story. You are such a good writer, Sarah. Let's talk.

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  9. Atop a wooded mountain, in a clearing of beech trees, where five enourmouse stones have become dislodged from sheer face of rock, haphazardly thrown into a more or less circular formation, I stake my claim. This was my spot. My secret spot. With its ring of silver beeches in a constant state of green precipitation, the center of the circle was thick and cushioned with leaves. Perfect for basking in the sun shinning slanted through skyward climbing trees, or becoming devoured by the pages of a horror story that I was explicitly told not to read. But this was my secret spot, where the rules didn’t matter, and the blow of the horror stories was softened by the smell of honeysuckle and the endless trickle of a tiny mountain creek that snaked its way along the contouring belly of the hill until it rain nearly parallel to my ring of stones. This was my sanctuary, a temple of respite build for me by the hands of nature, and its secrets were my own. That is the mindset that the swaying of the beeches always put me in. But perhaps others did know about my secret spot. In fact, I knew for suspicously certain that my younger brother Ezra had been here with his little mesh topped table, digging tirelessly for arrow heads and other relics of a people who had haunted these hills long before my ancestors were even concepts. Perhaps one of them had known about the ring, and made it their secret spot as well. Despite my possesiveness of the circle, I often relished in this thought, that some spiritual connection existed between myself and a blithe, mysterious Cherokee hunter, both our bodies penetrated by the ray of natural power permeating from the center of the ring.

    I believe in the sanctuary of secret spots.

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  10. O, my sinuses. And as sick as I always seem to be.
    My sinuses!
    Exploding colloid mass of a green and yellow bubbling into my belly
    like acidic little bulbous sprouts, their only life cycle to render me dizzy or nauseous or a noxious combination of the two.
    But Alas!
    The advent of my couch!
    Flanked by a tall glass of water, a stocky mug of tea, pools of honey-infused cough drops.
    I mark this deliverance by ripping open a small packet of Kroger brand Emergen-C, watching closely as the fizz explodes in my glass of water, mind foggy with soggy phlegm.
    I drink fast, guzzle back chalky foam until is reaches the depths of my esophagus, latching onto synpases of immunity (I hope) and I choke,
    sneezing tangerine soda into the sinuses I tried to heal in the first place!
    The haze of my sickly sneeze catches me and im left exhausted on my lime couch, orange fizz dripping from my fingers, mouth and nostrils.
    I believe in the hilarity of being sick and alone.

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    Replies
    1. I completely identify with this.

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    2. You make the most regular of things beautiful expressions of how life really is. Also, this cold sounds awful.

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    3. There are so many great colors in this reflection, I am tempted to forget it's a narrative about being sick :)

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  11. St. Patrick’s Pilgrimage on Lent’s First Sabbath

    Side A:

    I. 7:18 am

    It was then that I saw the businessmen.

    Who billowed down the broad streets of Madison like shiny toy Abramas tanks, and flinging from their fingers the morning’s last cigarette, as they poured out of sand colored Chrysler Le Barons, yellow Gypsy Cabs, and jet-black Sentinels.

    Outside the hotel, there they were, generals gathered in their masses⎯brisk and busy, and in their fists, clutching Molotov lattes and leather bound parachute pockets, loaded with stock portfolios, profit papers, and fevered ad hoc pitches.

    Oh, those Goldman generals, who crowded ‘round the tallest Moloch buildings, while I just kept walking on. And with each stride I kept watch, as charcoaled suits pushed past twirling glass.

    Oh, those Mullen generals, who calibrated through revolving doors, spinning fast as Remington chambers:

    Push⎯Turn⎯Step⎯Repeat⎯Push⎯Turn⎯Step⎯Repeat⎯Push⎯Turn⎯ Step⎯

    Repeat: “the war machine keeps turning.”


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  12. II. 7:26 am

    It was then that I glanced at the black berry.

    Who promised the pop ups from last minute peoples, who offered up their company for when the cardinal’s bid would bargain to occupy my brain. Hoping for someone to show me the ropes, rear the rituals, and track the trains according to cathedral’s directions⎯the things in life that I can’t find.

    Oh yeah, they were all sleeping hard in their hotel beds⎯warm and wanton, and in their dreams, wearing pillow-top pumps and egg crate foam clocks, loaded from tequila canteens, post-grunge bands, and marooned graffitied Queens.

    “Oh, my golden woman, you must be blind who couldn’t help me with my mind,” I sighed, while I just kept walking on. And with each stride I kept watch, as heavy hands slipped quickly ‘cross her porcelain face.

    Oh, my sullen woman, whose laugh kept ticking beyond the blood red door, and with happy love unreal, I say to you, “indulge the moment, enjoy your life.”

    Look⎯Laugh⎯Sigh⎯Repeat⎯Look⎯Laugh⎯Sigh⎯Repeat⎯Look⎯Laugh⎯Sigh⎯

    Repeat: “I wish I could but it’s too late.”

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  13. III. 7:29 am

    It was then that I lit a cigarette.

    Who made me carry a caravan of camels through Manhattan’s endless skies, and outflank the Yankee earth in search of the holy pleasure to burn. Burning with want. Burning for St. Patrick’s cathedral to stick me deep, and into some sort of temporary heaven⎯as the cherries of toasted scrolls ashed into a purple blaze, sapphire haze, then orbited to the ground.

    And so I passed on by, toward the station and guttered down a concrete covered Lexington⎯cast and cluttered, from the rubbish dice of shifty handed gamblers, loaded with humpbacked bluffs, dawney puffs, and crimson-eyed Romans.

    Oh, the olden god of Mars, whose hold did rust to soup can cards, while I just kept walking on. And with each stride I kept watch, as Flora tossed the thumb picked stems, still burning for the Pont.

    Oh, the solon god of Mars, who raked in the chips toward sidewalk lips that lit the lonely light to Deimos.

    Drag⎯Hold⎯Blow⎯Repeat⎯Drag⎯Hold⎯Blow⎯Repeat⎯ Drag⎯Hold⎯Blow⎯

    Repeat: “As we travel ‘bout the universe.”

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  14. IV. 7:34 am

    It was then that I saw the station.

    Who burrowed down the broad streets of Lexington like chalk-lined chunnels to a metallic underworld. As the wakeless were die casted out of the their cold winded weary, they became rail-yard dynamos in the machinery of the barren bodied, half-live, half-dead morning.

    Inside the rick-rackety train that screeched loud as it stopped, I heard a scowling shrill, confessing, “I am the Talma! I am Phlegyas! I am Iron Man! How many up there count themselves as kings, who here shall lie like pigs in the mire?” That’s when I did see him there⎯crouched and cowered, a slag scrapped beggar clung to the steel subway bars as if they were the batteries, loaded into shell molds, cracked out casques, and frass wastebaskets.

    Oh, molten man of misfortune, who craves for your crumpled dollars when the stove door opens, and bustling black “Smiths” turn their titanium heads from magnetic fields of forgery⎯while I just kept walking on. And with each stride I kept watch, as he smelted his heavy boots to the led barred walls of Dis.

    “Oh, come on man of misfortune!” who shut the kiln door behind them as his skin became hot as pig iron wrought, in the dead sea green dimmed submarine light.

    Push⎯Turn⎯Step⎯Repeat⎯Push⎯Turn⎯Step⎯Repeat⎯Push⎯Turn⎯ Step⎯

    Repeat: “Nobody wants him, they just turn their heads.”

    Flip!

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    Replies
    1. Very Ginsberg-like. Clearly, NY had a poetic effect on you...

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