Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Selfish Selfish Selfish (Is this post)

Sometimes, I get the feeling that more people are reading this blog than I would have ever imagined. (Although, I never imagined many people would read it, so it's still not that many.) I'm fascinated by the dynamic created here. This is my scratch-pad. This is where I go to really empty out my head so I can play with my ideas. Insular ideas don't get shaped and molded. We really are social beings. We can't even think alone for very long.

Anyway, thank you for being here. I'm so glad you are. I wish I could have you all over for a big pot of soup and some really nice beer. (Alas, I am not a wine person. Perhaps it says something about my lack of refinement.) Would you like to come for dinner?

I also have very small and quiet thoughts that run around inside my head and never come out. Only God is present for those conversations and when I try and bring those secret things into the light, they fade away so quickly that they never get the chance to stew and ruminate and grow into something good. I mostly have that kind of thought when I'm driving home from school. (Montevallo is my school-home in a way that Auburn never was. Montevallo is a sort of sacred space for me. An oasis in the desert.) It's a kind of exercise in the sublime as I listen to the road pass beneath my tires and wonder (as I wander) about everything I wonder about. I pray and listen for the answers. And they come in surprising ways. Maybe I pray for you.

I think about what I'm grateful for. I'm surprised to be grateful for the ties I've severed this year. I'm grateful for the ties I've made. I'm grateful that as 31 screams down the pike for me, I don't have any children. I never thought I'd say that, and of course, if I were to get a "surprise" I would be thrilled. But mostly, when I hear mothers talk about their kids, they're complaining.
I don't sleep, they say. I don't get to have fun anymore. I saw a woman at the store last week with one of those gigantic baby strollers lumbering through the aisles. She looked lost inside her skin and I felt sorry for her as I walked unencumbered out the door. Maybe she felt sorry for me. (Why do babies need strollers as big as my VW?)

Now, this is a new place for me. And I wonder if I'm at all evil for being here. Maybe. But, the thing is that I have some freedom now. I have a little bit of money, and the time to invest the sense I've obtained in my thirties in something I love. It's a sweet setup, really. It's something I never would have if I had been given the life I planned. I'm grateful for this scrap of time I get to cherish. Thank you. Thank you, God, for this respite from a hard and weary year. If I were still at Red Mountain, I wouldn't be here. And that was good. But this is where I'm meant to be. It's a gift.

It's so weird how this stream of consciousness progresses. Sometimes, I think it is very beneficial to just start typing and allow the ideas that float around in your head to come as a surprise to you. All of these things are a great surprise to me. I'm reading what I'm writing here for the first time, too. (Wild. You've got to try this.)

I think I've had enough of Mothers and their Complaints. To be fair, I've seen Mothers tending to their little ones in surprising and tender ways. I've seen some Mothers glow in the knowledge that what they are doing matters. And not just to future generations, but on some deep spiritual and whispered level as if Heaven reaches down and breathes that what's going on here
matters. I mean really matters. (Maybe it isn't babies that we want. Maybe it's just the opportunity to matter like that.) But most often, I see Mothers who complain. I mean, a lot.

And I think about that and I get angry. Especially when I look at the little faces of their little ones and see the thumb print of God there. (Do they realize the situations of the people they're complaining to? No. What a silly question.) There's a woman in one of my classes with four children. One of them is autistic. She's carrying 16 hours this semester. (I'm carrying seven and I'm dying, for reference.) She doesn't complain. Why? I think it's because her children didn't come easy. So, if this not having children thing is going to help me not be a complainer, if it is going to help me value the small immortals I hope to be responsible for (after my thesis, I hope) I choose it. I actually step out and choose it. The hardest thing about "infertility" (can I even call it that?) is not the absence of children. It's hearing so many mothers complain about children that came so easy.

And as I write this, I wonder if I'm complaining about something in a way that hurts someone. I hope not. I
hope not. I hope not.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Natty Bumppo & The Mississippi Travelers

The makings of my first book? (Don't judge me harshly. I'm not a web designer.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Silent Night. Holy Night. I dream of a boy in the water.

It's cold today. In Montevallo, the trees are bent under the weight of rainwater in cupped leaves. The trees are changing colors. I can see them from the window on the third floor of Comer Hall. I watch the night come over the green space between the buildings and brush gold and amber across the shadow of the building on the pine trees. I think of swimming late in summer and I imagine someone from another country cutting broad strokes across the dark water away from me.

Last night, I woke in a start to the sound of silence covering the neighborhood like a wool blanket. No air conditioner. No refrigerator. No dog or husband snores. No sirens. No car alarms. No traffic on the street. No insects. The silence pulled me back into the world. Me. Who can sleep through a firetruck rambling down the street. A late-night band practice. It was too quiet to sleep. This is how I know the city has overcome my brain and made a home in my heart. The woods scare me, the concrete is comfort and people and move go move go throughout the silence of the night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Houston, We have a Thesis (Topic, anyway)

For Three Years He Walked the Earth: Intentional Vagrancy Across Continents
An exploration of homelessness and travel in Wordsworth, Thoreau, Melville, Fenimore Cooper, and Kerouac.

And yes, I need a better title.

Maybe, "What would happen if Natty Bumppo met Chris McCandless on a bus somewhere off the Stampede Trail in Alaska?" (Well, for one thing, Sean Penn wouldn't have a movie. But Krakauer would have written a marvelous book.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

I need a phone call. I need a raincoat. I need a big love.

It's raining in Birmingham and the big black men at Dreamland have put the first rack of ribs on the fire. The smell of the Deep South comes off the asphalt and the concrete and the rooftops. Creosote and pork ribs and steel.

It's a hot October. The hot makes me crazy. Humans were meant to see a spring and a fall and a summer and a winter.

Last night, a car on the road abandoned, doors opened. We were afraid to look inside. I called the police. The man on the phone knew what I was afraid of and didn't make me say it. (I heard the story of someone from another country who was afraid to look inside. Couldn't finish his thesis. Couldn't see the point of putting theory on words on words on words on ideas. Moved back south like a falling star no one sees. )

October is the month of all things good and bad. October is the nexus of my life. All things start in October. All things end. I can't imagine it will pass me by.

The Southwest jets fly Birmingham to Midway all morning over my cottage. Southwest to Midway, United to O'Hare. Take the orange, take the blue to the heart of the Loop and find whatever it is you look for. Chicago beats a rhythm on the inside of my head.


Here I listen to the stories of coal mines and lynchings and steel mills and hospitals and lives made and remade in the shade of the honeycomb mountain. Home. Home. Home. Has a face and blue eyes and a red beard.

My house is haunted. My mind is free. My sadness is forgotten. My heart is hopeful. My head is sore. I need to come back down. I need to come back down. I need to come back down.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Drink. Blech.

I make hurricanes that taste like Robitussin.

Bold, but maybe wrong.

When we write, we breathe into being the unformed void of thought and make it tangible, accessible, relatable. Ideas, written, spoken and released into the world work to change it as they pass from paper to paper, classroom to classroom, student to student until finally, they are the discussion of the shoe-shiners and gas station attendants and butchers and housewives. When I was a student in junior high and high school, my teachers knew the dangers of ideas. So, they taught us to be wary of them. They served their truth cafeteria-style: two scoops of suspicion smothered in fear. Take what you can eat; eat what you take. I looked for an evolutionist behind every bush and at night I dreamed of long-faced Liberal Humanists with child-catching nets skulking behind me as I waited for the bus.

When I got to Hoover High School, Mr. Sturgeon, my social studies teacher asked me to stay after class. He looked at me through his round glasses behind the mask of his Princeton education and said, You know Susan, only the ideas you refuse to understand can hurt you. What you know, you can change. Have a great day. And then, he snapped his newspaper to attention. Conversation over. That is what teachers do.

When I consider how the greatest universities of the world were founded by the Church, I wonder what exactly happened to us that we would give away our love of knowledge and let our brains atrophy. We just got scared, I guess. I heard Nancy Leigh DeMoss on the radio as I was driving to Montevallo yesterday. Be holy! she said, the implication being that Christians should separate themselves from culture. And while I heed my mother's admonition to be careful on the thin philosophical ice I so love to glide across, I consider the alternative. I wonder about this "holiness." Should we sit in our own homes watching PAX television and let the heathens think for us? Is that what God had in mind when he told Adam to take dominion of the world. (William Wordsworth spoke out against the "savage torpor" that comes from consuming too much existential junk-food. And this, is where we find ourselves.) I don't know exactly what N.L.D. was talking about, but it scares me. I have a sneaking suspicion that I wholeheartedly disagree. I need to know more about this "holiness." I don't know that it has much to do with movies.

I don't like what I see when I see Christians attempt to "engage the culture." It seems we're stuck in this limbo of "engaging the culture" yet being consumed by the wicked and harmful ideas it has to offer. "Come savage torpor!" we say. We take it to bed and think we're open-minded. We court it and yield because the television tells us to. We're not fierce. We don't want to offend and we're scared of making people "feel bad." And yet, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord starts with self-loathing. At least it did with me. But this isn't something we can do corporately. This is something that starts with individual acts of boldness with love. Real love. Not the kind of love that seeks to illuminate sin apart from the magnificent hope we have in Christ. (Do we believe we have a magnificent hope in Christ? Do we believe he died to give us Life Abundantly?) I hope we can do this and cling to the knowledge that God fathered art. God fathered literature. God fathered creativity and we must humbly and boldly proceed in the paths of our callings knowing that it is a gift to reflect him with the work of our hands and minds.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

from an e-mail I sent today

Seven years ago (at almost exactly this date, actually) I was sitting in a little apartment in Auburn brokenhearted because of a broken engagement. I never thought I'd ever be happy again. But I am. And when I look back at him and at that time, I can't imagine that I was so upset over something that now feels like something I read somewhere. I realize that I don't remember most of the things that happened to me that broke my heart, but I do remember every single time God was faithful to me. All that hurt is gone, but the memory of a faithful God remains.

Anyway, I am humbled and grateful. God has got all of our hopes and all of our heartbreaks in his hands and He is faithful.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mantra Yields to Question

Someone is not stupid just because you don't like them
Intelligence does not necessarily decline in inverse proportion to arrogance.

But the wicked cavewoman who inhabits my interior keeps saying But yes. Yes they are. And yes it does. And the trouble is, most of the time, I believe her. And why is it, that whenever I think of such people, I automatically think of bad Thai food? Always. Curious.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Friday Quote

"And them that don't know him won't like him
And them that do sometimes won't know how to take him
He ain't wrong he's just different
but his pride won't let him do things to make you think he's right"

--Waylon & Willie & The Boys

True. True.

The-reaus in an American Landscape

Lately, I find myself spending a great deal of time thinking about this American desire to throw off material possessions and hit the road. I think of these Travelers who aren't satisfied with the comforts of a status quo. Who feel stifled by the comforts of American life. Who want to live just a little less well. It's an underground movement, of course. Always has been. The typical American is content to sit in his typical house (in the suburbs, of course), eat his typical food and show up at his typical job. Our bodies are only as fat as our minds. But beneath this Great Numbing Ordinary are rumblings of revolution that transcend time. All the time travelers run beneath the radar of popular culture trying to be different. Trying to find the Life beneath the confines of The Matrix. I think of these travelers as "The-reaus." They've taken some of these philosophies of Thoreau and Emerson in the U.S. and Wordsworth in the U.K. and made them real. Thoreau wasn't real. Emerson wasn't real. Transcendentalism wasn't real. But nobody told these guys. And it's interesting to watch the metaphorical rubber hit the theoretical road. I'm thinking Kerouac. I'm thinking Chris McCandless. I'm thinking Ed Abbey. I'm thinking me.

Across the ages we Beat Beat Beat on the constructs of civility. Give me life, not pleasure. Give me difficulty, not ease. "I want my happiness! Where is my happiness?"

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Friday Quote (on Wednesday, I know)

"All hail the Dominant Primordial Beast. And Captain Ahab, too."

"Alexander Supertramp"/Chris McCandless, 1992

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rotten Apples, Rotten Pears

Lately, I find myself straining against the limitations of my own mental capacity. There is so much to learn and instinctively I know that with each bit of knowledge conquered, I'll gain an ability to learn even more. I've never had a challenge like this. I've never really come close to hitting the end of my intellectual tether. Not because my capacity is particularly vast, but because I've never tried. This is the first time my desire to know first, and then to use and apply has exceeded my ability. There is something to this, I realize. It is more than learning and then manipulating a jargon to sound knowledgeable. This is cool. I throw myself into deep waters with wild abandon. I have nothing to lose. I sink or swim. My instrument is yet untested, the limits of my ability unknown.

How much organic insufficiency can be surmounted with the will to work? Answer to follow....