one of the courses i’m taking is ‘southwest literature and film’. my reading list includes local and regional writers including the poet jimmy santiago baca. we received our reading list months ago and i am happy (and shocked!) to admit i actually did most of the reading ahead of time. perhaps i turned a new page in my scholastic patterns where i leave procrastination behind? we shall see.

i read baca’s poetry first, then his autobiography. both are gripping. his story is an amazing story of brokenness and redemption. i highly, highly recommend all of his poetry and his autobiography: A Place to Stand.  read them together. at our welcome dinner tonight they announced he will come for a reading of his work. i heard this might happen, but when it came official, i got tears in my eyes! i am so excited! ok, so i had tears in my eyes a lot as they explained all of the courses (i wish i could take them ALL…well, except the gothic and chaucer ones). plus all of the opportunities to learn outside of the classroom: lunchtime discussion groups on classroom strategies, To Kill a Mockingbird, film viewings, traditional fiesta dances, repairing old churches with adobe mud… on and on and on…

back to baca.

he writes a lot about nature, particularly the rio grande river. nature is healing to him. this resonates with me. personally, one aspect of nature i love is it’s healing beauty, but also it’s uncontrollable power. nature is soothing but also terrifying. sometimes putting me at ease means putting me in my place.

one of my most terrifying encounters with nature was a snowshoeing trek in colorado. i told no one where i was hiking. i went alone up to 12,000 feet in an avalanche warning area. at the start there were tracks of previous snowshoers and i ran into two women on their way down, spoke with them for a moment, and proceeded upward.  here is a picture of the trailhead:

the tracks stopped well before the summit.  i continued. i walked past an avalanche warning sign and realised i had absolutely no gear to use nor knowledge of how to survive in these conditions. i did not care. in my mind i had come too far to turn around.

some people do reckless things in their teens. i saved them for my twenties.

the wind became fierce. i’m guessing 30 mph sustained and up to 50-60 mph gusts. i kept walking even though there was no trail. eventually i could see the summit. there was a lake at the top. i wanted so badly to make it to the top to see the frozen lake. there was no path to get there, just a 50 foot hillside covered in snow.

i made it about 20 feet up the hillside. the wind blew so hard i literally could not take a step forward. the snow felt very deep but very unsteady under my feet. the top layer was crunchy with ice and i felt like a sheet could break off easily, sending a cascade of underlying powder (and me) down the mountain. i stood there for a moment encapsulated by fear. i knew i could not go any further. i took this picture:

i have yet to experience another moment of utter beauty and complete terror so taoistically bound.

“click,” said the camera….then i hauled my little ass down the mountain.

when i was a kid i used to feed the horses at night. in the early darkness of winter nights, i let into my mind the idea someone was hiding in the barn waiting to get me. i would run as fast as i could from the barn to the house. i hated when we left the horses out because it meant i had to stop to chain the gate. but if we left them up, i could sprint right through. i knew i looked ridiculous.

high tailing it down this colorado mountain, i think i looked about the same. looks aside, i’m certain fear feels the same whether you are eleven or twenty seven.

on our adventures around new mexico last week, julie and i took a great drive along the mighty rio grande. we wound along its banks for a few miles and came upon a very old wooden bridge. i slammed on the breaks and pulled the car off the shoulder. the bridge was condemned, sagging and plastered with warning and no trespassing signs.

naturally, it becokoned me.

i saw what i think was a fox scamper across the length of the bridge. i tiptoed out a little ways and could hear the creaking of the old wood, which was at least beautiful if not stable.  i went back to the edge. i thought about it for a moment. i judged the situation and gave julie my camera.  i’ve heard it said you should do something each day that terrifies you. i decided this would be the event of the day.

the wood creaked and the river roared underneath my feet.

beauty and terror.

peace and fear.

infinite and finite.

i don’t regret it for a second.

now back to baca.

this poem is one of my favorites of his and comes to mind as i think about my walk across the river:

This Day
I feel foolish,
     like those silly robins jumping on the ditch boughs
     when I run by them.
            Those robins do not have the grand style of the red tailed hawk,
            no design, no dream, just robins acting stupid.
They've never smoked cigarettes, drank whiskey, consumed drugs
as I have.
            In their mindless
            fluttering about
            filled with nonsense,
                 they tell me how they
                       love the Great Spirit,
            scold me not to be self-pitying,
            to open my life
            and make this day a bough on a tree
            leaning over infinity, where eternity flows forward
            and with day the river runs
                       carrying all that falls in it.
            Be happy Jimmy, they chirp,
            Jimmy, be silly, make this day a tree
            leaning over the river eternity
            and fuss about in its branches.

so, i’m hoping to make this summer a tree.

the truth is, the life i lead is eternal. there is time to open it up to my fears and my joys, to be happy and silly…

which is why i need to go to sleep pronto so i can wake up for the traditional first day of class 530 am sunrise hike led by our loco (local) alfredo!

go read baca. you won’t regret it.

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I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still…
and the world spins madly on.

the weepies-

October 4, 2009

My mind pictures Charlotte in the heat of summer.  Green grass and shade giving trees, just as I left it.  I pressed pause and walked away.

Babies celebrated, engagements bestowed, moves away, leaves dropped.

People on pause do not pick up and move away while I’m gone.  Wait.  They do.

I realised these as I walked under Cambridge’s glorious Autumn canopy.  There is blessedness in enjoying a foreign city.  An autumn I may never experience again.  But there is a season I’m missing.  A season with joy and sorrow, hellos and goodbyes.  There are people I miss.  The ocean feels too big some days.

Even though I return in the season of winter, the epitome of death, life remains.  In friendships, in delayed celebrations, in tears finally shared.  Though things, trees, and people may look different, I will treasure them more fondly after walking in longing.


i had the priviledge of returning to l’abri for my final three days in the UK…

i realized i’ll never find words to adequately describe…

these images tell parts of the story of the place that brought me to tears, joy, uncertainty, insecurity, laughter and peace.

images, rather than my feeble words, leave room for God to fill in the blanks, the spaces, with exactly what you need to know of Him and how He met me there…

…THIS much!

11/05/2009

i love fall….this much!

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my new favorite picture.

i’ve been back in england a while now, greeted by golden leaves and just the right mix of cozy gray skies and crisp autumn sunshine.

kate and i enjoy mornings on the bike and at the park.  they always culminate in “miss jessica, i love you”.

emma, john and i enjoy “art class” where emma works on beautifully detailed watercolor designs, john designs houses and i destroy my fear of art failure one stroke of the brush at a time, usually attempting to recreate a watercolor of a landscape photo i took.

melissa made the most delicious homemade pumpkin chocolate chip bread (roasted a real pumpkin and everything!).

and though my return flight from south africa landed over two weeks ago…i’m still floating on a cloud.

a sweet season, indeed.

When I got a fancy bank job my first major purchase was a fancy Saab convertible.  My goal was to own a convertible once in my life,  to drive across the country in it and then sell it.

The novelty of the shiny ride faded and actually began to loathe having a “nice” car.  A few years ago I grew tired of worrying about the dog claw marks in the leather, the nicks in the paint, the fraying, sure-to-leak-someday top.

I sold the Snob and “downgraded” to Ruby the Subaru Wagon.  It’s the perfect car for me really, much more of a lifestyle fit.  I love not worrying about keeping a car “nice”.

However…. I saw this beauty on the streets of Norwich and fell in love!  I would love to find me one of these if I ever moved here someday.  I think Tillman would go with it quite well, too.

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[i interrupt the regularly scheduled report from the UK to bring you this peek into my family tree…]

one of my relatives recently posted some old family photos.  my resemblance to my dad’s mother’s side of the family is quite obvious.  people tell me this but now i can see it myself.

my great great grandfather:

great great grandfather

the little girl from above, my great grandmother all grown up:

great grandparents

my experience waitressing (and i’ve heard the same from others) included people often telling you what celebrity (they think) you look like.  overwhelmingly, i received meg ryan and susan sarandon.  i was ok with meg ryan (at least her you’ve got mail days), but susan sarandon?  i was always embarrassed (insulted); i think by the vast age difference.  at 22, it’s not easy to be taken as compliment when someone says you look like someone who is fifty-something.

well, i think it is time to accept it.  in my biographical film, mrs. madge gritton, my great grandmother, would definitely be played by susan sarandon.

susan sarandon

Tillman enjoyed his first taste of McDonald’s (sigh).  The horror!

Tillman at Mom and Dads 001

Dad split his egg mcmuffin with him on the ride to Georgia.  The feast continues as mom feeds him the highest quality dry food mixed with cooked hamburger meat and cottage cheese.  I feed Tillman first thing every morning but mom waits a few hours.  Apparently the second or third morning he paid no attention to the bowls of dried food he passed, met her in the kitchen and sat there staring at her…..drooling…..waiting for the good stuff.

Beyond delicacies, he swims the lap of luxury enjoying his own private swimming pool.  Dad plays fetch (my mom’s prissy dogs do not jump in the pool after him).  Tillman plays lifeguard with uncle Jackson, apparently he worries any human in the pool needs rescuing.

I like to think he misses me…but I’m not so sure.  He is pretty much in doggie heaven.

tillman and me

07/07/2009

“When he falls asleep next to his dog, he thinks to himself that heaven is probably holding hands with your gal by a beautiful lake and laying in the grass with your dog; dreaming of the sky, clouds and the smell of grass and rain.”

Ryan Adams –

as i’m packing up my life here readying for my british adventure (i’m moving to cambridge, england for 4ish months if you haven’t heard…), overwhelmingly the most common question i get asked is:

what about tillman?

tillman has no idea, but he’s headed to sleepaway camp at the place i grew up: the farm/zoo also known as my parent’s house.  there he will have 8 acres to explore, a pool to swim, an endless supply of horse apples to eat and squirrels to chase and about 10-12 other dogs to keep him company. which means 10-12 food bowls to lick clean.

heavenly, right?

i claim he has no idea, but i think he’s getting suspicious.  sunday evening i started packing up things i’m not taking with me, which meant suitcases came down from the attic so i could stow away clothes i won’t be taking with me.IMG_0068

dogs are difficult to lie to.  he knows the difference between no socks, casual socks and running socks.  the first two means i’m going to work or play, so he barely glances my way from his choice resting spot on the cool marble fireplace.  the latter mean a chance at a walk, so he gets giddy and paces the floor.  suitcases are a dead giveaway i’m about to disappear.  case in point:  last night he jumped in bed with me.  he hasn’t done so in months because it’s summertime and way too hot for both of us.  he knows something is up.  i sweated it out because i couldn’t bear to kick him off the bed.

we go on lots of walks these days and i have a few hikes to complete before i leave.  i spent a lot of time deciding the best “transition” for us… and, for now,  have opted for dad to come pick him up a few days before i leave. i don’t think i can drive away, so i’m going to let someone else be the bad guy.  considering every time i leave him at my parents house, even just to head to town to the walmart, he looks at me with his deeply concerned muppety eyes that say “please, please, please you cannot leave me here and i am coming with youuuuuu!”  as he chases my car down the driveway…

one visit home i went to grab my ipod out of my car and he jumped into the backseat and refused to come out.  he slept there for about 3 hours.  i kept checking on him and he kept refusing to get out of the car.

i like to think he’s introverted, like me.

i’m not worried he’ll forget me.  i’m worried he’ll run away to find me or come back home.  but my parents ease my concern by reminding me he’ll have one of those great invisible fence shock collars.  great!  the dog who is terrified of a balloon tied to his collar or a paper bag rustling over his head will love shock collar training.  poor guy.  at first my parents wanted me to train him by walking through the border and getting him to follow me so he would be zapped.  yeah right.

the first 30 seconds i ever pictured myself in england, i imagined running through the countryside over hill and dale, getting caught in the occasional rainstorm, climbing over the intermittent rock wall, trapseing through a lavender field… all with tillman by my side.  then i realised tillman would not be with me.  then i cried.

for a while, i’ve had this idea for some pics with tillman and one morning a few weeks ago, danielle played impromptu photographer.  i love the results.

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for some perplexing reason, multiple dear friends have put me under strict orders not to watch or read marley and me until i get back from england.  even then, they have reserved the right to forbid me from it.

i can’t imagine why, but i’m going to go ahead self-impose old yeller restriction also.


broadcast delay

05/28/2009

i have a delay.

it has up-sides, for ince, kitchen fires:

  • in college, while pulling something out of the oven, my oven mit caught on fire.  i calmly announced “my oven mit is on fire” while i held out my hand, fingers aflame, walked through the living room and out to the Berkeley Place concrete porch where i could stomp it out.
  • a few months ago while sitting in my living room reading, my roommate D calls out from the kitchen, “we have a small fire.  and it’s ok.  do you have an extinguisher?”  i call back, “yes, it’s under the sink, but just try keeping the oven closed.”  i finish the page i’m on and walk into the, now fire-less, kitchen.  then we have a good laugh because we realize how eerily calm we both were and wonder if it may be less than safe to have two of us quasi-stoics under the same roof.

so, basically:  if you get in a car accident, fall off a horse or become lost in the woods, i’m the gal you want with you.  i can count the times i’ve truly been scared to the point of not thinking clearly on one hand.  and it was terrifying to feel that way.  (i.e. clicking up the hill of my first roller coaster ride on the scream machine at six flags.  begging to get off, my dad calmly reminding me that it was too late for that.).

blessing as it may appear, there is always the other side of the coin.  if i go on a trip, though i know what i experienced, it may be weeks or months before i feel what i experienced.  and explain it?  certainly a few weeks or months more.  so back off, i’ll post pictures and tell you about it when i’m good and ready :)

or i may not miss you for months after you’re gone, so i certainly won’t tell you that i anticipate missing you.

it blew my mind when i told a friend about my moving to england and, with misty eyes, her instant response was telling me she would miss me.  i completely believed her.  i felt so loved, even though i totally fumbled the response.  by fumbled, i mean i basically sat there with my jaw open, marveling at her ability to communicate emotion instantly.  (note:  find friends like her to have in your life!)  in my head/heart struggle, my head naturally overpowers my heart.  it’s just the way i was made.

we see this idea of head/heart and the outworking of love, related to loving God in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  i don’t think it’s a coincidence that in all of those accounts, the first vehicle for loving that’s listed is heartmind always comes later.

as most of my life thus far was spent exercising my thinking muscles,  i now find myself in a season of exercising my atrophied feeling muscles.   sometimes (ok, most of the time) it feels like too much.  like i’m clicking up that roller coaster again, looking for a way to get off.  but again, it’s too late…thankfully!

my training aids?  the trifecta:  poetry, music and art.

take something like Easter week, for example.  i know the events of palm sunday, passover, good friday, resurrection.  at one time, knowing was enough for me.  now i want to know and feel the events.  no longer am i content with head knowledge versus heart knowledge.  we all need both.

here is some good stuff i enjoyed around Easter:

“death be not proud” by john donne:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


“between worlds” by hyatt moore:

and it’s no coincidence i’m just getting around to sharing this with you…a full two-ish months after easter.

baby steps.

people are strange

05/19/2009

volume 1, issue 1

venue:  test taking

people are strange.  i see it all the time.

my friend, luke, recently hypothesized i might be a magnet for this strangeness, as it always seems to happen to me.

to that, i say: no, no!  it happens to and around all of you too.  i think i just notice it because i’m more likely to be watching, observing than i am talking both when alone or in a social setting. …and now i sound creepy.  but i promise it’s not, i’m just taking it all in.  observing.  analyzing.  introvertizing.  or as my neighbor g says, “i am just always lookin’.  i just look.  and i say, huh?”

onward and upward.

people are strange.  today’s venue:  a final exam.

it is amazing the quirks that come out in a silent room when the pressure is on. today’s strang-er:  a test taking lad.

he sets out blank paper, pen, waterbottle, pen, pencil, extra pen, pack of gum.  removes three pieces of gum (stick gum), sets them to the right of the paper, puts gum pack to the left of paper.  goes up, gets his exam.  sits down.  (right now i am watching the gum, positively dying to see what his next move is.  his black and white modified houndstooth polo shirt tipped me off he might provide some entertainment). the play by play:

unwraps one stick, puts it in his mouth.  crinkles wrapper, places to left.  unwraps second stick, puts in mouth, wrapper discarded to left.  (surely, he’s not going to go for…) unwrap third stick, in mouth!  discard.  begin exam.  THREE sticks of gum.  really?  really?  plus, the entire pack there just in case.   and i know you’re justifying, but no, it wasn’t even juicy fruit which runs out of flavor in 23 seconds.  it was extra.  and was going to stay minty a while.

weirdo.

i mean, doesn’t everyone rip one stick in half and place the other half back in the gum package for later just like me?