Tag: family

the 4th of July

I laid in bed, my husband’s arm hugged to my chest as fireworks popped off outside our window, and I felt a vivid realization of time as fluid. Centuries past seemed to collide on me as I imagined the millions of others who had laid in bed listening to fireworks as July the 4th burned into July the 5th. I don’t consider myself a patriotic person, and I’ve tried to call myself a-political, but it seems I can’t lack an opinion no matter how hard I try. Still, the bursts of colored fire, tightly packaged in these combustible popsicle wrappers, the booming echo of their explosions radiating across the sky…there’s nothing in me that can fight the bits of poesy in the starbursts.

As I sat on the porch, my love in front of me, mosquitos biting my wrists and ankles, we could barely see these cannon-fire magic shows above the tops of neighboring trees. Faintly, lightning crackled its superiority in the clouds surrounding us. The stars were covered by weary storm fodder; the gray skies had been present all day for their heavy rains. But, it was clear now, and all the darker was the sheet of sky for the fireworks to balance themselves against.

In between bursts of expensive, gunpowder parades we watched the empty space and our eyes caught a single floating flame. My heart, my heart…a paper lantern. Dear me, do I love paper lanterns. If I can see poesy in the ostentatious shows of colored explosions, then how much more so can I see it in the small glinting flame, puffing up the balloon which carried across the sky and into the distance. It was alone, there. And as it carried itself gently, never drooping, never showing signs of weakness, the fireworks did not go off. All eyes were on this tiny balloon, a humble “Here I am.”

Parker said, as the popping off continued, “I don’t think many people think about fireworks like they’re meant to. It’s supposed to represent cannons and gunshots. It’s supposed to represent war.”

I thought on that for a little while afterwards. In fact, I never had realized that. Of course, I knew it was supposed to represent many other concepts like freedom, victory, and independence. I knew that it was supposed to blaze in colors of red, white, and blue as if we were branding a giant American flag on the stars. Yet, I don’t think I had ever quite seen them with so complicated a lens. The red, rivers of blood from desperate men, jamming their own rifles so they wouldn’t have to shoot. Rivers of blood from men who were screaming out their last, heavy groaning calls of identity.

War is not beautiful, no matter what many people think. Perhaps, if I try, I can see that valor, patriotism, and sacrifice are some of the most beautiful things in the world, but I can hardly see blood, broken families, and murdered surrogates in the face of mixed up ideals as beautiful. But, here I am writing about the poesy of colored explosions.

I used to be enamored by military, and in many ways, I still am. I am enamored with military persons and the bravery that they have that I simply don’t. I am enamored with their minds and bodies, honed for protecting strangers here, and strangers abroad. I am enamored with women fighting alongside men, proving that every kind of heart and every kind of face seeks justice. But, I don’t know that I’ll ever get over the glimpses of dying fathers, brothers, and uncles, mothers, sisters, and aunts, sacrificed for a disagreement that apparently couldn’t have been solved by communion, by peaceful negotiation. I suppose what I’m saying is that I wish mankind were different than they are. In some ways, at least.

This is why I sometimes feel like politics are a game. For me, life itself is precious. Not each breath that I take, though I do honor and gladly receive those, life in the utter implausible existence of beings that go about their existences with a purpose. I wonder what our purpose is.

It’s impossible to sit at a fireworks show and not think back on every other fireworks show that you’ve visited. For me, sometimes these flashes of time gone by only come back to visit with a surge of tears and heartache. Fields, itchy grass and picnic blankets, cokes and lawn chairs, pomegranate chocolate in the cool air of the elevated city of Denver, photo shutters clicking and shlacking, cousins and grandparents. My fourth of July of the past was never really thinking about war or fireworks, not about being grateful, or about creating a ruckus, because none of those things were a part of it. Our chaste celebrations of the past didn’t mean much to me at the time, but each passing year further glues them, further jams them deeper into my mind because my 4ths were about family.

Family has come to mean a great deal to me. And of course, fireworks, war, and family…these are all matters of great poesy.

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=160978&picture=4th-of-july-fireworks

 


International Women’s Day

In small ways, at small times, when I was small and insignificant, women who were large, so large they obscured my vision, annihilated the darker parts of me and taught me something new.

From the first woman whose brown eyes were the largest portals to truest love that I could conceive of, gracious receiver of Crayon pictures and macaroni glued to paper, humble cook, hard-working co-bread-winner, independent woman, I learned that I must not throw my pearls at swine and that loneliness is not forever. I learned that compassion is dangerous, but I am good for it. I learned that I can do anything, but that I must try. I learned that I need no one, but my Creator, to conquer the world and to do right. It is you who teach me that I am worthy, and that is the most important lesson of all, for a small girl with sensitive ears, in a loud world with no discretion.

English teachers, my English teachers, receivers of early-dated manuscripts whose stories were wrought by inexperienced hands. You cherished and read them, you smiled, and encouraged. It is you, the Kosechatas, the Swanns, the Eddlemans with your mighty endurance, your kindly tongues, and your incredible brains that brought to budding, no–flaming vividness my passion for writing, for intelligence, for womanhood.

Friends, friends of many ages, abandoned, moved and displaced, torn by hurt, but never forgotten. You have shaped me, and you I thank for gouging out the bigotry in ever small, but earth-shattering waves.

It is the Elizabeths who breathe only patience, kindness, and acceptance for the unloved and unexalted, willing to be hidden so others can be lit up.

It is the Hollands who feed their brains with books and poetry, with politics and social justice, small remarks of Democratic ideals, long tirades of dissatisfaction with the way things are; it is you who teach me not to be satisfied, to speak up, to not give up, to remain vigilant, so all may receive compassion.

It is the Samanthas who cook, who pay, who listen, and show up. It is loyalty without many words, but by actions that scream and resonate in my eardrums. It is you, who teach me that I need not say anything, if I am there, if I am breathing, if I am willing to be human to someone in need, then I have done great things.

It is the Lexis whose attentive listening, surging, beating heart, ripe with desire to love and be loved, ripe with sensitivity to the hurts of others, ripe with forgiveness for those who have never asked for it. It is you who teach me to humble myself, to remember God’s grace in the face of inexplicable betrayal.

It is the Stepmothers: carepackages, assumed role, second mother. It is expenses given in times of need, clean room, stocked refrigerator, exclamatory texts at the most timely opportunities. It is you who teach me that family is chosen. It is you who teach me that love cannot be bought, cannot be tossed aside, cannot be beaten into submission. It is you who teach me steadfast and resilient love in difficult situations, never giving up hope, always offering that foundational love, even when my heart aches.

It is aunts. Many aunts whose indelible marks print continuously on my being. It is an aunt who is also a friend. Sailor Moon posters, four-poster bed with cats the size of me, giggle-writing sessions at the computer, sketch book full of wonders. It is a horse play set, and a generous heart, a laugh that is boisterous and beautiful. It is you, your talent, your patience, and your persistence through abuse, hurt, abandonment, and trial that inspire me to be more. You inspire me to hold on, to push through, to keep trying at myself, at my writing, my art, my human essence. You, a figure, a fascination for the one who I shall also list:

cousin, best friend, oldest accomplice–It is you, strange and creative mastermind who teach me to laugh and never stop laughing.

You, hard-earned laugher, reader, writer, lover of people in need, are my oldest friend, and most forgiving of all wrongs. You, my confidante, butt-kicker, and inside-joke scribe, teach me that life doesn’t have to be grim, and I do not have to forget myself to the chaos. I may look to books, to movies, to friends, to Nature, to myself for the humor to break the despair. My laughing friend.

Women-shapers, women. Teachers, all. I love you for your interest, your fortitude, and who you are.


Experience and the Sponge

Sometimes, when the thick gray air of winter sits on brick towns with painted windows, when old courthouses with cylinder blocks for foundation and the smell of restaurant food and newly paved roads tickles my nose and forces me to imagine worlds into existence, I think:

How wonderful it is to be an artist.

Small things…

-the way the leaves twirl around moving cars in wind shapes like the faery world’s gentle collision with reality

-the way the clouds project the moon from out of the black carpet behind it, concealing, revealing, concealing, so dark they look like midnight dragons on a run through the heavens

-the way caterpillars float, transcendent, I imagine, ecstatic through the air on their silky strings, totally carried by their ingenious invention…and their weightlessness

They make me proud to be an artist. It is these things which fill me up like a thirsty sponge, squeezed dry from the harshness of the atmosphere, from the constricting agenda of hate, smothering, smothering. I eagerly fill myself up on this holy water of this world’s majesty. I drink and drink until I am contentedly wet, ready to purge these beauties out onto other things that are dry.

Yet, sometimes, as I am a sponge, and I absorb, I find that even the filthy water gets in, and I’m already too soaking wet with filthy water to take on anything else.

Yesterday, I printed pictures of a dead woman. Her car was like a flash-frozen, half-melted conglomerate of metal with blood spatter on the ceiling. Children’s toys stretched out over the car, through the air, nestling near the railroad tracks and lying down to rest in the dead, winter grass, broken, wet with mud, dislodged.

I printed pictures of little girls and boys, of big girls and boys, of mothers, of fathers, of friends. Little girl in a blue dress with frills down the front, clippies in her hair as numerous as the twirling braids which stuck off her head like antenna.

I ached. I ached. I ached.

Drunk driver. Too fast. Satin coffin. Orphan family. Orphan friends.

I ached, and I ached.

I found that when I tried to draw breath, my chest was shallow. There was no more room in the cavity which held my non-compliant lungs. I found tears with no logical explanation breaking through my resisting eyes, I felt that the toxic water was so deep in my tissue that I was about to rip myself open to get it all out. I wanted to scream, to scream so loud that it would all come spraying out of me and I would be dry again.

Unfortunately the toxic water didn’t come out. It did, some, purify for a brief moment in the company of friends and laughing and story-telling, but when more toxic water lay itself down on top, urging itself into my widened pores, settling in with the rest, I decided to shut off the tap completely. Nothing will try to fill me up again. Not today and not for now.

So today I am empty. I covered my face with pure bath water so hot it scalded the infection off. I watched videos of things which normally fill me up with healthy water from the world, hoping it could sit on the surface and not move in just yet. I need to be empty for now.

Just let me be empty for now.