October 31, 2008

See You at the Pole? [naomi]

Pole dancing? My eyes widened at an e-vite with an unexpected subject line in my inbox. Surely not. Images of girls in Princess Lea-like outfits slinking down greased poles flashed through my mind. I grimaced. Maybe it’s at some sort of aerobics gym or the YMCA or something (that would be some kind of YMCA! Hah!). Hmm… Goddess Movement Dance Studio. Wow. Bring your own high heels. WOW. Ok, umm… I’ve got some thinking to do.

I’m not the kind of edgy Christian chick who would think up trying pole dancing for my bachelorette party, and if I had, it would’ve been closer to a gag than anything else. Everyone would know that it wasn’t at all serious. But this was not my party, and these were not my friends (in fact, quite the opposite, I didn’t know a single one of them). I either had to get over my initial distrust of strangers, not to mention the potential awkwardness of the actual event, or give up an opportunity to hang out with my future sister-in-law and her Canadian buddies. I had a serious decision to make.

A note to the ladies: When you’re trying to figure this stuff out, I’m not sure that your husband would be the best person to ask, or your mother, for that matter. My husband got so giddy that I could hear him snickering and making “King of Queens”(season 8 episode 1) references for days after I told him the news. To be fair, he did snicker, but he’s not the kind of guy who objectifies women, and he did help me process a lot of the thoughts listed below.

My mind played the usual role of interviewer/interviewee. Ok, let’s figure this out. First of all, WWJD? Hah! I’m pretty sure it’d be hard to pole dance while dressed in toga-ish clothing. Hehehe. No seriously, let’s figure this out. Why does the idea of pole dancing make me so uncomfortable? Well, I automatically think of hookers and, you know, strippers, and Britney Spears. It’s all so sensual. So, what if the hookers and strippers (and ok, Britney Spears) part was taken away? Then we’re left with just the sensual part. Right. Is being sensual wrong? Hell no! I would have to never make love to my husband again for that to be true. In fact, I even know of a certain sacred Hebrew book that gets pretty steamy. Ok, so obviously there’s a big difference between what hookers do and what happens in a marriage bed, even though both are very sensual. So where does that leave us? Well, I guess that, like so many other things, it’s all in how it’s used. Sex isn’t sinful. I’m thinking that dancing around a pole isn’t inherently sinful either… unless I’m getting paid for it or if I’m thinking about some other guy while I’m doing it… again, just like sex. Right. I guess I’ll be buying some heels.

That was my basic train of thought. Even so, I was still pretty unsure of the whole thing, and it didn’t help when I learned that the lesson for the evening was going to be a chair dance. A CHAIR dance?!!! What does that even mean?!!! The biggest stretch for me was that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen there and I didn’t even know the people with whom I was going. The thing that I had to keep reminding myself was that a) I was going for my sister-in-law, and b) I couldn’t be forced to do anything that was sinful (i.e., if that chair dance had turned into more of a lap dance, I would have been packing my heels). Would I be uncomfortable? Undoubtedly. Would I be looked down upon by some people if they ever knew? Most likely. I have to admit, though, it was all worth it to be able to text my friend, “Sorry, I can’t hang out tonight, I’m going pole dancing”. Someday I’ll just drop it in conversation, “The other day, when I was pole dancing…” and see what happens. There’s a part of me that does love being edgy.

There are certain things that automatically get equated with sin: yoga becomes New Age religion; incense becomes bad spirits; drinking becomes being a drunkard; and smoking becomes destroying your body (oddly enough, overeating doesn’t have the same negative vibe, though perhaps weight gain might equal lack of self discipline). I wonder if one person had a hard time with drinking and so it became sin for everyone else too? Honestly, I don’t know who drew those lines or why they were drawn in those places, especially since some of those “good” lines seem pretty harebrained if you think about them (try: “only Christians should be your close friends”, or, “Christian women should only ever wear one-piece swimsuits AND a cover up to the beach”). I know one person who bowed out of the pole dancing. I don’t hold it against her (I wonder if she holds it against me?); I probably would have too if I were a younger single woman. But the point is that she thought about it long and hard before she said “no”. She takes risks, but this is not one of them; it wasn’t time. I think that’s brilliant: know who you are and know why you’re doing or not doing something, but don’t just base it out of what you’ve grown up hearing, and certainly don’t base it out of a fear of looking (gasp) bad.

I went that night and actually had a really good time. I took the risk and it paid off. Did I almost fall right over in my heels? Oh yeah, at least twice. All in all, it was surprisingly relaxing and, honestly, a very insightful experience as far as moving my body in a way that only a woman can. It really was pretty cool to see one of the women there who might be considered overweight by some standards be really comfortable in her own skin and get into the dancing. My husband is happy, not because he has even seen any of the “moves” that I learned that night without both of us busting up laughing, but because I was willing to try a slice of life that was commonly forbidden because of the color, and nothing else.

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Figure and Form [jana]

figure and form
definition, imposition
negative space
relative grace

delicate line
crumbled edge
liquid element

reflection, perception
perspective, invective

the discipline of hand, eye
mind and train of thought
falls next to the discipline of fasting
refusing to be controlled,
patrolled by flesh

refusing the gnawing of me
dwelling in meaning to be

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October 28, 2008

My Brother's Blood [jenna]

The other night I saw a holocaust movie called Everything is Illuminated. It made me cry. Holocaust movies will do that to a person.

The horrors done to the Jews—and whoever helped them—and whoever got in the Nazis’ way at all—outstrips the power of imagination. To read Corrie ten Boom, visit a museum, hear a Jew or someone else close to the situation speak, or hear any description of something that went on during those terrible years is to be moved with grief and a sort of repentance, even if it happened before your birth, as it did before mine.

I wonder what it would have been like to be a German German—as opposed to a German Jew—during that terrible time. Surely not all of them were in favor of Hitler’s ideas; surely, those who dissented did not all hide Jews in their homes; surely, they did not all speak publicly against Hitler and his guns. What would have been the responsibility of someone living out her life in a German town, someone who didn’t know any Jews, who had no real voice with the government?

Was it easy to ignore the situation? Was day-to-day life reasonably secure? Were all average people unwilling to speak the least word against the Nazis, for fear of retribution?

What does it mean, now, to live in a country where it’s legal to take a life merely because it is unwanted, or because its mother was impregnated in circumstances of trauma?

It’s easier to ignore this situation than that of Jews versus Nazis because it’s so hidden. Because the little ones have the same story, all of them, and without the character development that can be drawn up for a remembrance montage on television; their fear is sudden, silent, and then over. It’s easier to ignore this situation because so much of the psychological damage is hidden in the hearts of mothers tormented and burdened by their sense of guilt.

But it is easier to understand, and harder to condemn someone like Pope Pius XII (especially when we look at actual history, and not at the nonsense now often thought of as fact), when we look at what it means to be for the right to life, against abortion in this day.

Our decision of when it’s morally okay to abort a human baby is completely arbitrary; as I’ve heard several people say lately, the unborn can be disposed of silently within yards of a place where round-the-clock personnel and the very best technology are used to save lives at the same stage of development.

In Hitler’s time, speaking or acting against the regime could get a person killed. Nowadays, it just gets you marginalized. You have no voice; you’re labeled as an extremist.

It’s easy enough to marginalize those who criticize abortion as comparable to Nazism; the cold Nazi mentality seems so unlike the presumed compassion of abortion-rights advocacy. But if we actually believe that the unborn are human and alive, regardless of whether we believe in immortal souls, is the comparison really so extreme?

“I want the children”, said Mother Teresa so memorably some years back. She was not the only one who would have cared for the little ones. I will take that ‘unwanted’ baby—I and the thousands and thousands of other women throughout the world who long for motherhood. I will take it regardless of race, gender, or handicap. No child is ever truly unwanted; they’re just arriving at difficult times, and in our country at least, there is help for almost any situation nearly everywhere.

What, then, is my responsibility, living in this land of holocaust? The duty will be different for each person. What is that duty for me?

“God doesn't value people and things like we do. Jonah loved a shade tree more than an entire city of sinful people. We love our dogs more than a terrorist. We love our cars more than a beggar on the side of the road. And sometimes, we love our money more than a child growing in a desperate teenager's womb.

But God isn't like us… His love for us is greater than His love for a plant, an animal, or any other created thing. And the book of Jonah tells us that He loves even the most sinful people and seeks to bring them into His merciful arms. And it's a love that seeks to touch all of his created children: that desperate teenager, the baby growing in her womb, even tyrants and terrorists."

—Dennis DiMauro, Lutherans for Life representative to the National Pro-life Religious Council

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Night Voices [rachel]

For a long time they made me angry. For weeks, every night after midnight and before 3am I’d hear them. Their sharp tones would startle me from sleep. Bewildered, a hint of fear rising inside, I’d listen, straining to make out each syllable. Understanding the content made me nervous, pressing my head to my pillow, pulling the covers up around my neck. There was no way I could ignore the screaming, threatening, pleading. Is this real? Is it a dream? Should I call the cops, lift up the blinds, make sure no one has a gun?

People tell me it can all be explained by the bar down the street, its patrons overflowing onto the sidewalks, striding or sidling down the block and perhaps taking refuge on the benches out front, just beneath my window. I’m not so sure they’re right. Whatever the case, the cries are sharp, the pain is real, and the arguments are heated.

Maybe I’m not attentive enough, but the passersby during the day seem more controlled, cold, stone-faced. They turn away, scowl, or say an abrupt hi. But they’re not sobbing, screaming, moaning in desperate tones.

When I first moved to Lebanon I laughed when one of my housemates suggested I didn’t need to drive to a park to take a walk. “Take a walk in this city, on these streets? No way! Something might happen to me. I might be mugged or kidnapped or murdered!” I was in the midst of change—stepping out of my attempt at a pristine and church-appropriate life and stepping into the pain and turmoil of circumstances so that I could actually experience healing. I needed to learn to honestly believe Isaiah 61:1. God came to “heal the brokenhearted”. I had spent so much of my life desperately trying not to be broken hearted. For the first three months after the move, I saw no connection between the healing work God was starting in my life and the city in which I was living. If anything, it seemed to me that Lebanon was a limitation, a dark spot in the midst of an otherwise hopeful experience. For most of my life I lived in a village, a town one street wide and four blocks long. More animals inhabited the backyards than people did the houses. The biggest conflicts were over noisy dogs, new trees for the street, and the possibility of bingo in the Mennonite fire hall. Lebanon was just plain intimidating.

That perception has been confirmed repeatedly by the reactions of people who discover that I a newly a Lebanon resident: “Oh.” “So sorry.” “Don’t forget to lock your doors.” In a game of association, the word Lebanon might conjure up adjectives such as angry, dirty, scary, run-down, hazardous, poor, ugly, mean. The stereotypes aren’t necessarily wrong. Plenty of grumpy looking people tramp the streets, signs announcing “condemned” adorn many a front door, I see more trash in the Quittie Creek each day, and I can’t number the fires that have claimed both property and life over just the past three months. Lebanon with its hardened exterior looks hopeless to many and has appeared so to me for as long as I can remember.

Then one night something shifted. That week I had once again, somewhat reluctantly, been pondering the benefit of feeling life’s pain. I have often struggled with the role that lament plays in the life of the follower of Jesus, long associating lament with doubt, rejection of God, unhealthy questioning. But I’m learning that God is not so religious. He meets us in our struggle. Where there is lament and longing, hope speaks and Jesus heals.

On this particular night, I laid down in my bed around midnight. The cold air of October crept through the just-open window enough to make me pull the covers up around my chin. As I settled in, I heard the first of the voices, this time a wailing complaint, the sound of a woman distraught, a barely consoling voice coming in response from an unseen companion. A shout a few minutes later. Something strange happened inside of me. I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t snuggle further down under my quilt. I didn’t wish the voices would stop. I found myself quizzically but earnestly thanking God for the sounds of my city, my home. I suddenly realized that Lebanon, though hardened by day under the gaze of judging and skeptical eyes, unveils its brokenness at night in the darkness where no one can see, when the hurting people think no one can hear. They shout their weakness and cry their vulnerability.

Lebanon is a broken city. The cement walls around the Quittie Creek reveal that nature is broken. The long-neglected houses show that home is broken. The sorrowful looking children demonstrate that family is broken. The drug deals are evidence that health, mental and physical, is broken. The weeping and screaming out my window tells me hearts are broken. And these same voices say something more: There’s hope for Lebanon.

I still don’t know quite what to do when I hear the night voices. Maybe one of these midnights I will betray their secrecy, their cover of darkness. I will lift the blinds and see the faces that bear the marks of pain. They might be the hardened faces I barely glance at during the day. And just maybe one of these nights I’ll open the window and call out ever so softly, “I hear your pain, Lebanon. I’m not afraid of you anymore. I know that like me, you are broken and God has come to heal us both”.

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October 24, 2008

If I Had to Wait until You Had One Minute Left to Live… [jake]

You are my Eden, where I once did dwell
But God is now the angel guarding, with a sword of flame
I have been banished from my home, now sent through hell
And I am longing to return to my Eden again
I am now labeled as a wanderer
Like a murderer I own the mark of Cain
I feel I have a home no longer
Missing my old Eden, where I have left you slain
And now it seems I find you as a beach
Stretching like dreams, vast beyond my reach
I try to hold you in my hand
But you sift through my fingers just as the sand
And no matter how many jars I fill to the brim
In attempt to be with you again
I could not possibly carry them all…

…It seems I’ve been given a sieve
That you spill right through
So much so that what I want to retrieve
I instead must leave with you
Because I try to hold you in my hand
As you sift through my fingers for you are sand
I cannot understand or explain
What has been planned
Or show you where it is that you stand
In this land of life yet-undiscovered
But my soul perpetually hovers
In search, like a lost lover, for my blocked beloved
So listen closely for the sound of this
Soldier scouting out unrecovered ground
That he still sees as home…

…So as Moses to his promised land
To which he led his people through wilderness
All those years I will wait and stand
Outside the gate
Waiting for God and fate
To satiate my desire to step in
I no longer want to roam
But to return again
I want to enter into my home
To reclaim my beloved, my Eden
I will, my love
I will see you again

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October 21, 2008

Everything [jake]

Don awoke. He had taught himself to believe that this was something to celebrate. He took intentional joy in every morning because, as he said, “Each day provides me with ample opportunity to discover unique significance.” Literally, every morning he would say that. Every morning.

Don deliberately inhaled. Oxygen entered his lungs through his trachea.

Don purposefully arose. He stretched his arms so that he could feel each vertebra in his back pop with extreme satisfaction.

Don exhaled consciously and contently. Said oxygen molecules had transferred by an involuntary bodily process into his blood stream and the air that expelled from his grinning mouth was now filled with molecules of carbon dioxide.

Don walked to his bedroom door. He opened his door. Don walked through the door and down the carpeted hallway and into the linoleum-tiled kitchen. He deliberated and planned what he would consume for breakfast. Don clung tightly to the principles of the food pyramid, paying daily, intimate attention to his healthy and well-balanced intake of food groups. If he had eggs with his breakfast, he had to be wary of the amount of meat on his sandwich for lunch. Perhaps he would skip the sandwich and have meatloaf for dinner, conscious of each gram of protein.

Don did a lot of things.
Don did everything.
Everything Don did needed to be significant.
Don needed to find something significant to do.
Don didn’t feel worth without this.
Don didn’t feel worth without this.
Don didn’t feel worth…

The door from Don’s kitchen and into his garage opened and closed. His garage door opened slowly. His car door opened and then closed. His garage door closed slowly.

Hours later, Don’s garage door opened again. Slowly. The car door opened and closed. The garage door closed again. Slowly.

And into infinity: etcetera-forever, amen.

The next day, the symphony of the various doors in Don’s existence played the same overt opus of opening and closing as they did every day. This consistent and comfortable song rang sweetly in his ears. Doors opening and closing, opening and closing by the hands of the contented conductor. The familiar melody resonated in Don’s heart and made him feel warm throughout. It always played the same. It was never out of tune.

It concluded solemnly with Don’s garage door closing again. Slowly.

Don arrived at work. On time. As usual. He always parked in parking place 213, which was not, in fact, reserved for him—he had not yet reached a position which provided such a perk as a predetermined parking place. However, Don was an immaculate opportunist. He believed that if he acted as if he were of high position, high position would be bestowed upon him. “Providence follows persistence,” Don would always say. Literally, he said that every day, every time he pulled into spot 213.

Don was employed by a moderately successful computer-software company. Don was not usually included in the larger, upscale projects. He was not actually involved in any part of the technical aspect of his employer’s work. In fact, his cubicle wasn’t even located anywhere near the particular wing of the building in which the software was developed. Don was basically a desk clerk. He passed papers, forwarded emails, inspected records and documents; Don more or less took whatever he was handed, ate whatever he was fed.

Inspirational posters and mugs (that Don himself had made with a cheesy customize-and-print computer program he had bought from his own company, called “May-Kit!”) sat on his desk or clung by a tack to the walls of his cubicle: “Providence Follows Persistence,” “Each Day Provides Me with Ample Opportunity for Unique Significance,” and “A Negative Attitude Hinders a Productive Work-Ehtic.” He had accidentally misspelled “Ethic” by swapping the “t” and the “h” and didn’t notice until after having used the mug for a week. Mindful of his mistaken mug, Don put on a very conscious smile whenever he glanced at it and reminded himself that it was now a comedic conversation piece in addition to an encouraging, earthenware mug.

“You see that?” Don would ask passing coworkers, “I accidentally spelled ‘Ethic’ incorrectly! Ha, ha!” His fellow employees would hesitantly, and then guiltily, enter “Don’s Domain,” as he called it. Literally, he had named his cubicle. He had made a poster with this title and hung it lovingly with four differently colored tacks. “You see though,” Don went on, “it’s pretty ironic because if I let that little slip upset me and I take on a negative attitude, then I’m just proving the saying true either way! So I keep using the mug despite the mistake because it enforces the message.”

Don told himself things like this. Often.
Don told himself a lot of things.
Don told himself everything. Anything that it takes to remain positive. To find his significance.

Hours later, Don’s garage door refused to open. He sat in his car on his driveway, still buckled in, continuously pushing the button on his garage door opener. Agitation welled up within him and he pressed the button forcefully until the plastic cracked. Don paused to take a deep, deliberate, and disarming breath and then opened his car door. He walked up to the push-button panel to his garage and entered his four-digit combination. Continuously.

Don’s garage door was stuck. It would not open.

He threw up his hands in confusion and disbelief. He was plainly frustrated. Don was full-out angry.

Don’s car—which he had left running—which he had left in “drive”—which he had neglected throughout the ensuing garage door crisis—had rolled down his driveway and into the passenger-side door of a passing station wagon with that fake wood side-paneling.

Don’s car made a loud, crunching noise. The station wagon made a loud, crunching noise. Don spun around and stared blankly. Don’s rear bumper was now wrapped in that fake wood side-paneling.

The man whose car had been impaled by Don’s car was now walking towards Don. He swore at Don maliciously with a burning red face, asking Don what his problem was and if he was blind, stupid, or otherwise. Don knew that he was none of these things, aside from perhaps ambiguous option, “otherwise,” but spoke no defense regardless. This man was older and stronger than Don. This man could hurt Don. This man wanted to hurt Don.

Don apologized. He sincerely, sincerely apologized. He knew there had to be a reason for this to have happened. The garage door. The accident. Everything. He just knew it. He told the man these things with a very conscious smile. The man hurt Don. Repeatedly.

Don awoke in the hospital. He was injured. Badly. Don had two missing teeth, a broken collarbone, a bruised rib, a dislocated shoulder, a swollen lip, and two black eyes. Don had lost a decent amount of blood.

But he did not complain. He was as kind to the nurses as he could possibly manage to be. He never once announced how excruciatingly painful it was for him when they were too rough with him. He didn’t ever consider bringing it to their attention.

“You know what a negative attitude does, don’t you?” he’d ask the nurses through an artificially whitened smile. They’d humor him by asking, “What’s that, Don?” but they never really listened. He had even trained himself not to wince when pained, in hopes that they wouldn’t even notice and go about their business undisturbed. After all, he didn’t want to be rude. So he was very quiet, extensively polite, and supremely cooperative. “What’s a patient that’s impatient?” Don cleverly asked himself.

Don did all of these things because Don knew—he KNEW—that things would be back in his favor when he returned home. He knew that fate and chance would look to each other and smile affectionately seeing Don behave in such a genuine and decent way. He knew that if he was nice, everything would simply be okay.

Don arrived home by cab weeks later to discover that his garage door had been opened. Don knew that he hadn’t opened his garage door, in fact quite the opposite. He also knew that he had not given his pass code out to anyone.

He entered his home to find everything broken and disheveled.

Don’s enormous, widescreen TV had somehow managed to be stolen, leaving in its place a perimeter of carpet that remained a lighter color than that surrounding it. Don’s expensive china had been taken or left shattered and strewn about the cupboard and floor. Don’s fireproof safe which he kept near his computer was missing. Don’s computer was also missing.

Don didn’t know what to think. His thoughts were racing in and around his mind like a fly or mosquito, just buzzing, buzzing, and buzzing. “My TV, my pictures, my computer.” Buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. “I have to sweep up this broken china, and all of my important documents were in my safe; I still have to deal with my car situation.” Buzzing.

Don had kept everything nice and neat.

Don had kept everything that had been gifted to him because he thought it would be bad-mannered of him to return or get rid of gifts that he didn’t like. The poster that hung in Don’s bedroom that said, “Pleasing People Is Primary” was ripped and crumpled on his nightstand.

Don had kept everything from his childhood in order to maintain a happy and healthy relationship with his family. All of his family photos were tossed into a pile, cracked and turned over haphazardly.

Don had lost everything.

Don awoke. He had cried himself to sleep the night before. Somehow, he thought, somehow he would come out of this alright. Don had trained himself to see the bright side of everything in all circumstances.

Don told himself that the grass would be greener if he just smiled. It also occurred to him that that would make a great t-shirt.

If he just kept his chin up, he thought.
If he just kept on trucking.
If he just got back up on that ol’ horse, even after being kicked off.
So Don did just that.
Don smiled, waiting for greener grass and painstakingly designing his next t-shirt.
Don kept his chin up.
Don kept on trucking.
Don got back up on that ol’ horse.
Don did a lot of things.
Don did everything.
Everything Don did needed to be significant.
Don needed to find something significant to do.
Don didn’t feel worth without this.
Don didn’t feel worth.
Don didn’t feel…

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Em-eye-es-es-eye-es-es-eye-pee-pee-eye [kris]

What I like about cities is that everything is king size,
the beauty and the ugliness.
~Joseph Brodsky

The cicadas are so loud here. A steady pulse that crescendos slowly, mischievously, until I am caught off guard by sudden and intense whirring in my ears. The air is thick here. Hanging—a lukewarm, sweaty mass. Both the cicada chorus and the muggy air bring to mind “Louisiana Bayou” (though I’ve never been south of Springfield). The streetlights are surrounded by soft orange-gold orbs against a deep violet sky, made of light strained through the heaviness. Hazy and moist, the air here is always in a transitional place. Not dry, not wet. This is a transitional city. “The Gateway to the West”. I am sitting in an overstuffed micro-suede chair next to an open window in the living room of my friends’ new house. This house is a first home for them and a transitional place for me. In between living with the closest of friends in a dodgy, or as Kristen says “bohemian”, one-bedroom in South Central Pennsylvania and something else. Here. Looking out the window I watch the steady stream of red, orange, and white lights cascading up and down Lindbergh Boulevard. Smiling, I remember Kate saying in 10th grade “cruising Lindbergh is the thing to do on Friday night, and the best way to meet guys!” I never cruised Lindbergh with Kate.

A crash course in St. Louis culture/geography: St. Louis County is separated into three basic sections: North, West, and South. The East side of St. Louis is across the Mississippi River in Illinois, home to strip joints and shotguns. Across the Missouri River on the West is St. Charles and St. Peters. Home to cheap land, cheap building, Wal-Mart culture, and white flight.

I haven’t actually lived here since I graduated high school, which for a true St. Louisan is looked on as the pivotal point in life. The time you look forward to, and, once completed, back at. While living on the east coast for three years I may have been asked twice where I went to high school. Anyone from St. Louis is well aware that this is the most important conversation-starting question from which a person can be categorized into a multitude of groups and labeled accordingly. Lafayette: rich. St. Joe: easy. McCluer: ghetto. I’m not a fan of the “high school question”. Growing up when I told people I went to school at Parkway North there were generally two equally undesirable reactions. I lived on the transitional line between West (rich) and North (ghetto) County. Anyone west of me and east of St. Charles heard Creve Coeur/Maryland Heights and seemed to think white trash, or “white trash of Parkway”—the term given by my freshman soccer coach when she chewed out our team for bad behavior on a rowdy bus trip home from a weekday afternoon game. The other response, this one received from people north and east of me, was an unspoken assumption that I must be spoiled and snotty (spoken apologetically later if we’d become friends). These memories are especially painful to me because I was just as much a perpetrator of the “high school question” as I was a victim (as all of us St. Louis kids were). I wouldn’t say it to their face, but for no truly identifiable or legitimate reason, hearing that someone was from St. Charles or South County initiated a change in my demeanor, lessened interest in their friendship. My more optimistic St. Louis friends would explain this “high school question” tradition as a way to connect. “You went to Ladue, do you know (insert relational connection here)?” Either way, the only place I’ve been asked about high school upon my new residence in St. Louis is on job applications—so far so good.

A favorite memory of mine growing up in St. Louis, before geographical location and the “high school question” determined our places in the social hierarchy, was in Mrs. Gaal’s second grade class at McKelvey School learning to spell “Mississippi” (as in our river, not the state). An over-full class of frenzied seven and eight year olds skipped past and climbed atop clusters of metal and plastic, navy mini chairs and laminate desks with colored construction paper name tags taped to the corners while practicing our spelling. As we moved in a mass both rhythmic and chaotic we chanted “Em-eye-es-es-eye-es-es-eye-pee-pee-eye!” while waiting our turns to go into the hall and recite the week’s words to Mrs. Gaal. This was terribly funny to us, for reasons I could have only understood in the glory of my seven-year-old mind. Mrs. Gaal had apparently given up on kiddy crowd control that sunny Friday afternoon. Crazy. Blissful. Everybody fit then. No divisions yet. Before our real initiation into St. Louis culture, before the time when our relationships were filtered through the labels and images we would soon learn to live under.

It didn’t occur to me that I might not like St. Louis until the end of Jr. High. By then I’d been exposed to enough places to know that there was a world beyond Busch stadium on the East and Old St. Charles on the West. My parents are from the Detroit area—Mom is from “down river,” or Rockwood and Dad is from Harper Woods. They’ve lived in St. Louis for 20 years now but when they say “home” Mike, Tom and I know that our parents mean Michigan. It’s always been that way. The Lantzy family settled in St. Louis on a whim. A string of moves—Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and then a sudden and permanent stop in St. Louis, Missouri. A place Brian and Deb Lantzy had never visited and had no previous connection to. Sort of like Powerball. There’s no specific reason that we stayed, I’ve asked. “I don’t know, Kris, it just kinda happened," Mom said. I guess not moving a family with kids one, two and four years old an eighth time is enough motivation for any sane person to stay put. So in 1987 the Lantzys came and stayed. But growing up we all knew Michigan to be home, and it was in Jr. High that I started asking my parents to move there. We talked about it for Dad’s job and Tom’s golf, but as a family, moving never happened.

A green and white Hazelwood EMT van speeds past the open window accompanied by sirens that break the cicada trance and flashing lights catch my eyes. Stirred from reminiscence, I watch as the van turns right onto Lindbergh and is quickly out of sight. I am living about 100 feet from Lindbergh (in North County). And another 200 from an entrance to I-270. Within walking distance there is a Walgreens, Starbucks, several shops, fast food restaurants, and the civic building. It’s a busy street, but apart from the single ambulance, those cicadas are still much louder than the traffic outside. St. Louis City itself is not nearly as populated as the County. Urban sprawl and white flight have left city population in many places sparse and marginalized, spurring a long transition from lively river city to largely abandoned ghost town in some parts. In many places St. Louis is now a dirt and brick shadow of who she used to be.

At this point in my second residence in St. Louis I’ve not found the nagging feeling that I don’t fit here to be untrue. It’s still true. I don’t fit here any more now than I did growing up. As far as my image is concerned, I’m a mess most of the time, and though I’ve tried I can’t convincingly pretend to care about the Cardinals—however, this time around I feel the cheerful freedom not to. The difference this time is I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who feels this way—something I believed in my core growing up. So true to me then that I didn’t even have to think it, or wonder. It was just true. I was alone. Alone in the loneliness I felt. Alone in the overwhelming sadness of assuming I was an outsider, and in the exhaustion of trying to find the way in.

What I’ve found here is a handful of kindred spirits who don’t fit either, and have actually ceased trying. People who have experienced life outside of the St. Louis bubble—life with true community, and deep relationships that are both messy and broken. Connections unrestrained by the haze of expectation, the sense of striving, and the fear that sits in the St. Louis air, buffering relationships. Ensuring a ‘safe’ distance. Keeping the surface of the waters calm. The image intact. What I can say about St. Louis, six weeks in, is that my new friends here have made me wonder if anyone feels like they fit. Especially the people who look so much like they do, and whose rejection made me feel so much like I didn’t. You can feel it at any social gathering, a slight tension. A mixture of defensiveness and over-effort. It’s the semblance of unrest. The feel of people straining to look good. Be good. Be liked. Keep their reflection/projection in tact. At the core, hoping to be someone worth loving. It’s this subtle feeling that can destroy a person in St. Louis if they aren’t aware of its presence and origin. Aware of the roots.

I also think that this feeling, this acute inconsistency, this small crack in the fa├žade that goes easily unnoticed if not given a closer look, is both the breaking point and the key to St. Louis. The greatest weakness and deepest source of pain. This is the space in which my heart has found a tearful warmth for St. Louis. A desire, though still small and new, to know what, or who, is beneath the shallow, manicured surfaces and the abandoned places, the scars that St. Louis would hide if she could. The vacant homes and buildings, the rejected, shameful city pockets. What would she be like if all of these walls came down, and with her image left behind the true design for this sparkling gateway city on the river came to the surface? For now I don’t know. St. Louis may be changing, and she may not. I can’t tell yet. What I do know now is that I am changed. And changing. So either way, here is different to me.

...continue reading...

October 17, 2008

John Rutter and Significance [jay]

can you hear the sound of the angels’ voices
ringing out so sweetly, ringing out so clear?
have you seen the star shining there so brightly
as a sign from God that Christ the Lord is near?
have you heard the news as they came from heaven
to the humble shepherds who have waited long?
gloria in excelsis Deo!
gloria in excelsis Deo!
hear the angels singing ‘Peace on earth’.

I write these lyrics from memory. They are inexorably burned in my mind and story. To some, they are simply song lyrics. To me, they carry much deeper significance.

a significant setting
From fifth grade through graduation, I attended a small Christian school in Limerick, Pennsylvania, a not-quite-Philly-not-quite-the-country sort of town and sort of school. Most schools generally have something at which they excel: football, soccer, painting, pretty girls, immature boys; something to call their own. At this particular small Christian school -- about 150 students in Junior and Senior high schools -- fine arts was the name of the game. We had sports teams, and every now and then we’d put together a devastating run through our league of six small Christian schools and capture a title in basketball, soccer, volleyball or softball. But when it came to fine arts, we were the cream of the crop, and not just in our small association of Christian schools, but nationwide. It was a truly cut-throat culture of choirs, vocal ensembles, instrumental ensembles, Shakespearean dramas, handbell choirs, handbell ensembles, dramatic monologues, humorous interpretations, extemporaneous speaking, preaching, vocal solos – and that was just the stuff in which I took part.

Maybe you are not familiar with the concept of “fine arts”. In most small Christian schools, and definitely the one I attended, there is a fear of culture in general. “Art” and “beauty” is something to be feared first, analyzed second and commensurately fed to you by your authorities with a large helping of “this is good” [hear fine] and “if you don’t like it, then you don’t understand the arts” [hear: arts]. Fine. Arts. Fine arts.

Most Christian schools see it as a way of indoctrinating young minds with things that are good and pure while setting up the next generation for a continued renaissance of the fine art that is high culture. Christian school fine arts is where Christian music becomes sacred music. Christian school fine arts is where acting becomes drama. Christian school fine arts is where nerds become heros and the socially-challenged get their moment in the spotlight.

a significant person
Fine arts was chiefly delivered to us in the person of Mrs Nawomb. A Bob Jones University grad and Frank Garlock disciple, Mrs Nawomb embodied all that was fine arts. A thin, beautiful woman with high cheek bones, and long, dark hair – she was the kind of woman you could develop a crush on but would be embarrassed to tell your buddies about. She was a typical choral leader, proper and disciplined with a voice like an angel. Mrs Nawomb could play a Chopin etude, sing a Handel aria and stare you down at forty feet all at the same time. Her eyes are what I remember most. During choral performances, I was always on the third row of risers, slightly to the right of center. Like all good choral leaders, Mrs Nawomb demanded attention and eye contact at all times. When she would seek a large dynamic swell, her eyes would bug out from her head, silently begging us to give more volume without losing feeling. I can remember wondering if her eyes hurt after a concert from all that bugging-out strain.

It was Mrs Nawomb who introduced me to the music of John Rutter. Rutter is a composer from Cambridge, England. His beginnings were at Clare College in Cambridge and his prodigious road of development and achievement has taken him all over the world. He is widely considered one of the finest composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, especially in the arena of sacred choral music. So accomplished is he, that the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred him with an honorary doctorate of music in recognition of his contribution to church music. Not just anyone can form their own choir of professional classical singers to sing his or her body of work around the world. Rutter can.

John Rutter is Mrs Nawomb’s favorite choral composer. She adores everything he writes and so esteems his music that she will only allow her choirs to perform certain pieces of his music because the other pieces are too good to perform. The first Rutter piece I ever heard was “Angels’ Carol”. It is a floating melody on a wind of concentric eighth notes that almost plays and sings itself. As Mrs Nawomb played the tape of Rutter’s “Angels’ Carol”, I was sitting in the back row of the choir in Room 100, where we would practice during seventh period, and had it not been for the presence of my machismo, I would have been led to tears. For the first time in my life, the words were not primary. In fact, they almost got in the way. This music connected to something deep within me, a place that I did not know existed. I asked Mrs Nawomb if I could borrow the cassette tape she had brought that day with Rutter’s music on it. Falling asleep that night, I listened over and over to Wexford Carol, Candlelight Carol, Dormi Jesu, Silent Night – all with no cognitive connection. But my spirit was beaming.

a significant experience
About a year later, I developed a major crush on Jill Nawomb. As Mrs Nawomb’s youngest, she was every bit as beautiful as her mom, and equally talented. I began the pursuit and a “dating” relationship began. I qualify “dating” with quotation marks, because Jill was younger than I and going out essentially took us to nowhere that could actually be considered “out” -- unless “out” was school functions, music practices, or her parent’s car or living room.

Dating Jill required me to date her extremely conservative parents and, as it turned out, they were not big fans of anyone dating them or their daughter -- especially if that someone was I. Mrs Nawomb was the only person I could never get to like me. Try as I might, as studious in choir as I was, as consumed with fine arts as I tried to be, as strapped with practice after practice as I was, as demoralizingly ass-kissing as I turned out to be, she could not, would not be won over.

At Jill’s beggings, the Nawombs invited me over for dinner one evening. I was so nervous. There had to be a way to get Mrs Nawomb to like me. Deciding to meet her on her turf, I read a book called The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers so as to have some knowledge of fine arts and high culture on which to engage the Nawombs.

Over our candlelight dinner of poached salmon and rice pilaf with Mozart dancing in the background, I said something like, “So Mrs Nawomb, which of Richard Wagner’s operas is your favorite? I personally prefer The Valkyrie.” The whole table became dead silent as Jill’s parents and sister stared at me quizzically like I had just asked whether or not they all shared the same underwear. Then Mrs Nawomb burst out laughing. She looked knowingly at Jill, who by this time had more than caught on and was doubled over in laughter as well, as were Mr Nawomb and her sister. I still had no clue what was happening.

Perhaps, like me, you read the composer’s name in my question as Richard Wagner (rich-ard wag-ner). In reality though, Wagner was German and his name is pronounced Richard Wagner (ree-kard vogg-nur).

I wanted to crawl under the table and die. I hate being laughed at.

I am pretty sure that I didn’t say another word during the meal. I finished dinner as quickly as I could, excused myself, sneaked to the living room, tucked the cordless phone in my pocket, went to the upstairs bathroom and called my mom. I told her to wait a few minutes, then call the Nawombs’ house and ask them to send me home right away. When I got in the car and started it, John Rutter’s tape (the one I had paid Mrs Nawomb to order for me) was in the deck. I was so embarrassed and angry from the dinner experience that I ejected it and threw it to the floorboard as hard as I could, breaking the casing.

It was hard driving home that night because of the torrential rain. Or maybe it was the torrential tears. I don’t exactly remember.

a significant redemption
We would continue to sing Rutter pieces in choir now and again, and I would continue to pursue Mrs Nawomb’s approval of me (which I never obtained), but never again did I willingly pursue John Rutter or his music.

Last Christmas, I was preparing a teaching for our church about the sacrifice that was the incarnation of Jesus. God sent Jesus knowing exactly what Destiny awaited Him. I wanted a song of reflection and meditation for the congregation to simply listen to and I wanted it to feel beautiful but be mournful at the same time. I researched many popular pieces, but none seemed to fit. I was talking to a friend about looking for just the right piece, the kind of piece that bypasses the mind and goes straight for the spirit. Something like…and then I said it: John Rutter.

I broke up with John Rutter and his music fourteen years ago. We haven’t spoken since and I burned the paper where I had his number recorded. But Rutter was exactly what the worship gathering needed. Actually, Rutter was exactly what I needed. God was saying something to me about the beauty of the incarnation, the fragility of the baby and the wonder of His calling. My spirit began to sing “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter:

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How can you measure the love of a mother,
Or how can you write down a baby's first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and starglow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn.
Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo!
Angels are singing; the Christ Child is born.

Shepherds and wisemen will kneel and adore him,
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep;
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Savior,
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep.

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger:
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay.
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation:
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day.

I sat in our pitch black sanctuary and played the song on repeat, over and over. I felt again the spiritual ecstasy of the music and my spirit bowed to its beauty. At the same time, like an ogre rudely awoken from a deep sleep, my mind remembered Mrs Nawomb and my emotions felt the sting of embarrassment and inability to succeed in a place I so desperately wanted to be significant. These two things warred against one another for over an hour.

The music won.

a redemption of significance
The hero in this story is semi-hidden. I wonder if you saw her.

When I got home that evening, I did what I always did when I wanted to be alone: I shot hoops. Grabbing my ball out of the trunk, I didn’t even go inside. Late into the night I was out there, replaying the scenario over and over in my head. Feeling more and more like an idiot. I decided I would not be going to school the next day, and possibly never going to school ever again.

Dressed in her floor-length robe, Mom came out of the shadows on the edge of the driveway and gave me a hug. She didn’t ask a single question. Holding my face, she told me she loved me and that whatever had happened or would happen, her love for me would never be shaken. In doing so, she declared my significance to her, not because I was good at fine arts or because I had somehow won her approval, I was significant to her just because I was her boy and no matter what, I would always be her boy.

The thing about significance is that it must point to something outside the one feeling significance -- something better, something solid, something true. That is why it is called sign-ificance. Significance that is earned or merited is significance that is cheap, disingenuous and easily broken. Whatever significance I had earned in the eyes of Mrs Nawomb, that feeling of significance was easily broken with the slightest word or experience, because I am easily broken by the slightest word or exerience. Significance that is unmerited but freely given and received based on the merit of Another is the kind of significance that is truly significant. It is the kind of significance my mom understood and imparted. This is the kind of significance present in the incarnation and at the Cross.

And again, the music wins.

...continue reading...

October 14, 2008

Preparing for Winter [melanie]

It’s almost here. Winter. Where I live in the South, winter generally lasts from November through February, spilling just a bit over into March. But since March carries with it the hope of spring, we’ll go ahead and toss it into the post-winter category, rounding the number of dreary months needing to be endured down to four.

It’s important that you understand I’m not a fan of winter. The cold is a big part of it, as is the ever-growing darkness. You can also throw in the frenetic and demanding spirit of the holidays, the bleak emptiness of January, and the climactic melancholy of my birthday which falls soundly on Valentines’ Day, year after lonely year. But let’s not go there right now. After all, we’re just brushing along the first whispers of the season. No need to dive headlong into absolute depression.

With this level of pessimism going into the season, it is absolutely vital that I seek out every possible method of preparation for the coming days. Winter will still attack me, but if I plan it right, I will see its assault coming in time to grab some of my stockpiled resources and fight back. Or at least to get a running start toward my cave of last resort.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but this is the first year it has occurred to me that preparing for the impending season of dread might be a way to thwart it. Nearly every year, I rest 100 percent of my sanity on the magical threads of hope. “Maybe this year won’t be as bad as last year,” I say as I click my heels together three times. I grin and bear it as best I can, and as one would expect, outside forces determine the severity of my winter depression. Sometimes it’s mild. Sometimes it’s nightmarish. But what can I do about it? Move to Miami?

This year, I’m thinking differently. Giving it a little attention, I find I’m able to make a list of things that I will need to make it through the winter with as few scars as possible. I wouldn’t try to weather a hurricane or an earthquake without adequate preparations, so why should winter be any different?

1.Stop making excuses and buy one of those Seasonal Affective Disorder lights you’ve always been curious about.

It seems silly. To buy an expensive lamp and sit by it for hours a day, expecting it to enhance mood. But studies show it works, and I need to get over myself and just buy one. Consider this winter a testing ground. If it doesn’t work, donate it to folks in northern Alaska. (Honestly, how those guys survive one winter is utterly beyond me.)

2. Make a list of comfort foods.

Things like … chili. With chopped up onions and shredded cheddar cheese. Yes. I can feel the love just imagining it. I’ve always wanted to make chicken chili (tomato-based, not white), and never have. I could eat off of it all winter! And I can add things to this list and every couple of weeks try a new dish. Let cooking be your frosty day companion. Solid advice.

3. Go ahead and use the gas fireplace.

This is not the time to conserve. It’s always a fight in my home this time of year. How cold does it really have to be before we can justify using the gas fireplace? This year I suggest using the cash I’m saving on dropping gasoline prices to pay the natural gas bill. This is my well-being I’m talking about here. It’s okay to pull out all the stops.

4. Embrace creative projects.

I’ve wanted to get back into maintaining my painted journal and pull out my brush and watercolors. And here’s a confession. I also love coloring. In coloring books. I should fill the house with my Crayola-colored pages. And it might not be a bad idea just to brainstorm a creative projects list. Maybe there are some other things to help me over the hump of the cold days when I’d rather not leave the house. The goal is to light my creative furnace and to embrace the challenge of entering into projects that have a beginning, middle, end so that before I know it, March has blossomed.

And what would my winter survival guide be without the crucial spiritual element?

5. Seek the Lord.

Winter generally means more time at home. Which, if used efficiently can also mean more time to read, more time to meditate, more time to pray. I constantly yearn to spend more time actively seeking intimacy with Christ. Here is my opportunity. Four solid months of it if I so choose.

So let’s see what we have so far. Light. Food. Warmth. Creative work. Intimacy with Christ. I’d say that’s pretty much the basics of life, wouldn’t you? And suddenly, what’s this odd sensation I feel? I hesitate to say it, but I think I feel rather optimistic. Could it be that winter doesn’t have to remain the vicious bear I’ve always made it out to be? Could it be that simple planning is the key to thriving rather than just surviving?

Time will tell. Maybe this will be the year that finally strips me of years of seasonal discrimination and unnecessary depression. Maybe all it takes is just a little bit of preparation, seasoned with hope.

...continue reading...

The Short, Unhappy Life of Jack Everett [joshua]

One night he fell running into the field west of campus. The grass was wet and cold and the dampness made him wheeze. He once told a friend he hated wet grass, but there was no where else to go. For a while he stayed face-down on the ground. The girl came out after him.

Ivey called on him for five and a half months. He was happy to let her. One night she decided they had better prepare for her leaving. She told him it was over on a soggy night in the field west of campus.

"You're so dramatic," she said.

But she knew he meant it.

They trudged back. It was the beginning of the end of the night. They lived their lives entirely after dark. Time did not matter at the turnaround, the dollar theatre, the Perkins, or the utility hall in MEP. They never parted until daylight. They talked about her family and about sex. She wondered why his tone changed when speaking to dogs. He loved her accent.

When her leaving came, he took the picture of her on the beach in Massachusetts. He rode home in the wet and cold and the dampness made him choke. She rode home on a jet. That was the funny thing. No one else noticed but it was not the first time she flew away in the wheezing air. Time was when they both felt they were dating but couldn't let anyone know it. She never felt safe and he knew it.

"It's not that I don't want to get up in the morning," he told her, "it's that I just can't."

"You're over-simplifying," she said.

"You're all I've got," he said.

She didn't respond.

It went on like that for months. She traveled to Rome, Sydney, Istanbul, and Montreal. He spoke to her in Turkey. He told her that he had written her a letter thirty pages long. She said she didn't have time to read it so he summarized on the subway. He told her he loved her, that she was everything he ever wanted, how he longed to hold her again, that he was sorry for whatever. Her red hair looked like fire in the damp underground breeze.

He caught her the next year in Tangier. She was better dressed but her smile hadn't changed.

"Allo," she said.

He ached for her accent in his ear.

"How's the job?," he asked.

From the look of her, she was making quite a living selling custom handbags internationally for an up-scale New York company infamous for a 1995 scandal involving purses made from celebrity pets.

"The usual," she shrugged, "How are things for you?"

"Eh, been better," he mumbled.

He kissed her and it was reckless. Just as their lips met, she dropped her labrador valise. It landed right between the two grates on which they were standing and slipped through a crack onto the subway track below. As she reached to save it one of her heels got lodged in the iron mesh of the grate. He ran down the steps as she struggled to free her shoe. She reached the platform barefooted just as he reached the bag and the train reached him.

She collapsed in shock. She had hoped he'd finally propose.

...continue reading...

October 10, 2008

The Adventure of Tim the Glimp [mark]

Along the soggy path stood a ruddy Glimp. His face long and haggard from the night he'd just been through. You could see his cheeks were hollow and round, dark bags were slung under his sullen eyes, well, you could if you could see beyond his thick fur. To you and me he would look like a squirrel with a short tail or a hamster with a long one. But don't tell him that; he is very proud to be a Glimp. I cannot tell every detail from the night previous-- it was very dark, but this is what I heard from the Tarmar who claims to have seen quite well.

The Glimp had been walking alone along the river path in the evening colors enjoying the distant sounds of his chaotic and hurried village--there was really no way to enjoy these sounds but distantly for to be near is to be within the flurry of Glimp, Tarmar and Schaelmeter about their daily scurry. The Glimp, who we will call "Tim" because to say his real name without large incisors protruding from your lips would be near impossible and to spell it would challenge even the greatest of linguists. Which I am not, I am merely a teller of a tale heard once long ago... but I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, Tim the Glimp! Tim, in effort to chase the bustling city sounds even farther away, thus making them even more pleasant pushed along the river path deeper into the wood. Terrible things had been said about the wood but they did not seem so terrible now, no one had mentioned that when you reach the clearing and the bridge across the river the sound of the tumultuous city cannot reach you. And you are alone. At last! The drone could not reach him and he was alone with his thoughts for the first time in his short life as a Glimp. Tim reached out for the weather worn rail along the bridge across the river and all went black.

"I say we bash his head and toss 'im in the river!" a cheerful voice rang out somewhere in the darkness of Tim's thoughts.
"Oi say we fling him down them hills to the east! He'd not stop tumbling 'til next week!"
Tim opened his eyes, blinked twice and saw nothing. Night had fallen and the darkness was much darker in the wood. His eyes began to acclimate to the lack of illumination enough so he could see three dark figures towering above him. This is the moment when the fellow we know as Tim began to show the glimmers of who we know him to be today, the great Timothy Fairweather McGlimp. I know that I have just given it away that he gets out of this turbulent pickle but why not? What sort of storyteller would I be if I told a story about a poor little Glimp who got tossed down the hills to the east and didn't stop tumb'ling for a week?

Tim sprang to his feet as only a Glimp could spring and darted as only a Glimp could dart for the sound of the river and prayed for the river path to still be there. He was immediately seized by the clammy paws of a Schaelmeter. No paws are clammier than the paws of a Schaelmeter and these were the clammiest. Tim tore one shoulder loose but was quite suddenly grabbed about the legs and promptly tossed down the hills to the east which were not as far east as he had hoped and quite steeper than he would prefer. Now Tim was not one prone to enjoy tumbling for weeks on end so he acted as only a Glimp in his predicament would know to act. He spread out his furry arms and spun his tail vigorously and fervently, the tumbling quickly stopped followed by the falling and plummeting. As Tim clung to the shallow grass upon the hills to the east he caught his breath and thought. The thoughts he thought were thoughts of scurrying and running away but also thoughts of valor and victory... and those were the thoughts worth thinking. He flexed his muscles and climbed the hills to the east with courage and bravery growing in his chest. Upon the crest of the hill he laid his paws upon the closest Schaelmeter and flung him over the hill to the east ...now I could continue telling the story from the words that Timothy Fairweather McGlimp tells but I think this story is much better (not to mention more accurate) from the words of the lowly Tarmar who was asleep in the tree on the hill to the east.

The lowly Tarmar slept in the tree on the hill to the east as was his nightly ritual. His name was Jill, and he was the fiercest fellow named Jill that you would ever meet--which is not saying much because I have never met another fellow named Jill in all my years. There was Jill sleeping away in his tree when he was rudely awakened by the girlish screams of a Glimp in flight. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the murky blues of the mid-night he was struck full-body by the flightless flying Glimp. Jill, who was quite strong enough to do so, picked up the flightless flying Glimp who was now tangled in tree branches and heaved him back to whomever had thoughtlessly absconded with it into his arboreal resting place. Such a return toss was surprisingly accurate, accurate enough to place the body of the still stunned Glimp headlong across the two heads of the Schaelmeter standing upon the crest of the hill basking in their efficient disposal of a worthless Glimp. Needless to say they could not bask long in their newly unconscious state. The Tarmar, now irreparably awake from all the commotion climbed the hill to take on the task of basking in an excellent toss. Not one to move quickly, Jill took his sweet time getting to the top.

Upon reaching the top of the hill, Jill clearly saw the clearing and in it stood Tim the Glimp wielding a small dagger removed from the sheath of the Schaelmeter which appeared as a short-sword in his paws. Tim was swishing it at a creature who Jill had not seen before in these parts nor the adjoining parts nearby. Jill, the mightiest of all Jills lost all nerve, might and continence and flew away.

Tim swished his blade at the lanky beast hoping to intimidate it away but his actions did more to strike amusement than fear. The beastly form, feeling no need to keep secrets from one so near its own demise and feeling quite proud of his thorough plans with maybe a little frustration from the realization that he now had to perform them all himself because his henchmen could no longer hench from their unconscious loafing, began to speak.

"I am a little perturbed at you small child, you have gotten in my way." He scoffed with a chuckle, "Let me introduce myself. I am Charlemagne, I live in that prestigious cave just across the river from this here clearing." His nose pointed into the air as he gestured toward the bridge. "That Tarmar has used your small ballast to clobber my henchmen so now I must perform all henching myself. You see, I am on my way to destroy the town which keeps me up at night with its clamoring and clattering. Honestly, why should I move my cave opening from one side of the hill to the other just so I won't hear their noise? I would prefer to destroy the town and be rid of its sonic torrents for good! So now you must excuse me while I extinguish you and be on my merry way to topple the great stone upon your paltry counterparts."

With that Tim summoned all of his strength, raised the dagger and ran at the beast yelling the word, "no."

"Noooooooooooo!" he yelled as he ran. KAH-THUNK! WUMP!
The tall, fearsome Charlemagne took one large step out of the Glimp's war-path. Tim was surprised by such a swift and silent movement that he went dagger-first, head-second into a old and moldy oak tree. The ground shuddered from such a force into the tree and the old oak let loose of one big soggy, rotten and moldy branch directly above the monstrous and unfriendly giant. The branch fell quickly and confidently pinning him to the cold dirt.

At the gates to the city the sun began to rise above the mountains to the east just beyond the hills to the east. When the sun rises in a manner such as this, the guards change their posts. This day as the guards were changing their posts they heard these things, a faint "nooooooo." and a "kah-thunk" off in the distance just down the river path closely followed by an abbreviated wumping sound. The guards, fearing it was Charlemagne, who had written several unkind letters addressed to city hall, ran to curtail his unpleasantness. There in the clearing stood Timothy the Glimp cowering under the tree that had yielded its branch to save his life and the lives of the city-folk. And there under the branch was Charlemagne.

Tim was given a plaque and a walking stick with his name carved in it for his service to the city, he was also given the cave of Charlemagne who was banished to a noisy cell in the middle of town. The cave of Charlemagne wasn't such a bad place to live once Tim had installed a door and plumbing. Jill and Tim became good friends and if you ever happen to walk down that river path and across the bridge you may come across a Tarmar and a Glimp sitting on the porch of the cave of Charlemagne. If you listen long enough you will hear the tale of the adventure of Tim the Glimp. He will tell you his name is Timothy Fairweather McGlimp... but you can call him Tim.

The end.

...continue reading...

October 7, 2008

Black Dress Confidence [liz]

Put on that black dress confidence
Stroll about this town of abundance
Forget the doubting words that find you
When sleep becomes elusive as the dew
Take all your worry and weight
Throw it in a bag before you’re entangled in hate

We’ve got a mountain to climb
Though it cost more than a dime
It’s time to wade through the grime
And fight up to the top of the lime

Like a runner beside the morning’s tide
Catch your breath and find your stride
There’s greater strength in gentleness
If you’ll show it in your countenance
With compassion to your right
The burden you lift passes into light

...continue reading...

Shallow Pool [theodora]

I've always been one to second guess,
whether I am worth more or less
than what I feel
to be fake or to be real.
My inadequacies are plentiful
maybe somewhat pitiful.
I seem to bathe in my fraility,
wash myself in my depravity,
sink into the incompleteness
of all humanity.
"I want this" and "I want that",
"I am untalented" and
"I am fat".
I forget the bones of children
the hurting and the broken
laying seas away,
while I am swallowed up by
the idiotic worries of today.
"Damn it!" I say and I try to care
but isn't that unfair
if I consciously have to stop and think
that today there will be some who will not
eat and will not drink and will not sleep?
I don't remember, because my eyes are shut.
Shame on me! selfish soul who is so
sarcastic, sick, slick and can't stomach
the idea of it being less and less
about me and my mess,
and more about others. and I fear
Unless! I see the error of my ways,
and recognize how my soul daily decays,
I will always be in this shallow pool
being known as the fool
who can't find peace in the turbulant waters
of having so many treasures and being just
the self absorbed child with so many toys
but so little true joy

...continue reading...