Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prayers and Pie

My little six-year old nephew has quite the air of "sass" about him already. I'm fairly certain that it's one of the prerequisites for being born into our family. One of the many things out of his mouth today were the words "prayers and pie, OMG." Yes, he even said it in an almost perfect "Paula Deen" tone. He was mocking last night's church service. I didn't go this year. I haven't been in awhile. But I went once. It was either when I came back for a holiday visit or when I first moved back to town. I can't remember exactly, but my mom's church has "free" pie in the fellowship hall after the Thanksgiving eve service. Whatever you like, it's there for grabs. Pumpkin, apple, cherry, chocolate, even banana creme. The canvas of life is kind of like that. Here's all the flavors. Try one. Try one more. Keep sampling until you find the one that you love. And it doesn't matter what your neighbor chooses -even if it's the one you can't stand. You're all there, eating a bunch of fillings spread over the same kind of crusts. You laugh, you talk, you discover somebody new. Then you leave, full and satisfied. Your heart is light, your stomach heavy, and the sweetness of what's good is still lingering in between your teeth and on the sides of your mouth. You walk out into the parking lot. The air is cold and dry. You watch for patches of ice as you walk to the warm shelter of your car. Against a black sheet of sky hangs a few stars. You look, you smile inside, and you wonder. Will all the prayers and hopes in your heart and those spoken out loud inside a dimly lit sanctuary be listened to? Are those set of ears out there, hidden behind the twinkling lights or have they already recorded what you said? The ignition fires up the whir of the engine. You rub your hands together, shiver a little, and turn the heat dial as far right as it will go. Outside the windows are a few parking lot lights and old, fancy homes that were probably considered estates in their heydays. Back when the town was young and further west was just a bunch of untouched fields full of grass and open possibilities. The evergreens are there. They're always there. A few of them are lit up with the lights of Christmas. As if to say that the twinkling lights exist down here, too. You look around. This is your life. Everything is still here. Everything as you've always known it. Most of who you know is still here, too. The radio starts playing and the two boys in the back begin to sing along. You smile and close your eyes. This is the flavor that you keep coming back to. The one that you love. The voice that says "I hear."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Old Lady with the Knitted Hat

I entered the room full of bluish-purple chairs, lined up in rows like pancake stacks. In front of me was a podium, a makeshift stage hung with studio lights and a white-screen backdrop. I was dizzy and unsure of myself. Lost and spinning in an ungrounded dismemberment of my former ego. I sat in a chair, by myself and looked around for something familiar, something I could know, something I could grasp. You sat behind me, unknown until your small voice gave me that something. I turned around to join you, to acknowledge your presence. There you were in bright blue, my favorite color. A knitted sweater, a knitted hat to hide the hair that you'd lost. The white hair that was growing back. Your skin was worn and fresh. Your face innocent, open, wise and bright. We said a few things. About Eat, Pray, Love. About Emma Donoghue's The Room, where we were from, how we got here, and why. You listened. I listened. I laughed. You laughed. You smiled. I smiled. You said it was okay to feel out of sorts, that was normal. You still did, at times. You asked me if it was okay if you could friend me on FB. I said of course, here's my name. And unlike many people, you lived up to your word. Six months later we sat together in the same room, near the front. You were graduating. I was only in my second term. We listed to other students, famous writers, and teachers read their words. We said more things. I don't remember all of them. Then we left. We both had long drives to make. You somewhere off the 10, me up to the hills just past the 101. "Makes for a long drive, after a long day," and "Have a good night" were our last words to each other's faces. We smiled and you turned down the hallway. I went the other way, out the courtyard with white lights and a staircase up to the 5th level of the parking garage. After a while we'd settled back home. You in the same city I'd departed and me on the plains looking up to the Rockies. You offered to keep reading my stories. I offered to keep reading yours. You published a few things. I read them. I smiled. I told you thank you for being so kind. Thank you for being a light in the darkness. Then you got sick again and somehow I knew that this would be the last time. I waited. I hoped for better. But when silence replaced your posts and your words, I knew that your release would come. And now it has. I hope that the release has brought you peace. In fact, I'm certain you have found it. Because your example has given me peace. If you can do this at the end of your life, without any hope but to leave behind your words of wisdom and light, then so can I. What we knew of each other seemed small and insignificant. But what you gave was part of the greatness of the unseen. An introduction to a writer that taught me to never stray from your instincts. They're always "right." A bright blue knitted hat that made me think twice about giving up on originality. A friend when I had none. And a reason to stay open to the good in the midst of something bad. Thanks "D." Keep shining, keep touching, keep traveling, keep smiling. And most of all, keep writing, in peace.