June 30, 2009

The Elder [justin]

We shared a room when
we were kids, when we
still used to dream of
dragons and sword fights
and princesses. I,
even though scared of
heights, was on the top
bunk, he the lower;
we were made to be
this way. Our stories
were different yet the
same, his with danger
and mystery, mine
with deception and
nobility. Back
then we had more things
in common than blood.

He wrote to me about talks
of a drought in the city
which he escaped to; he told
me about the women with
their fishnet stocking legs, their
collared necks, their chocolate on
strawberry lips; he told me
about his pets and parties
and excess. He was a pig
and we hadn’t been the same
for years. He was out having
the time of his life, but I
didn’t mind. I didn’t mind.
I am the one after all
that picked up his share of the
work so easily; I am
the son that is faithful to
his duty; I am the good
boy; I am the brother that
won’t stand for such blatant and
carnal debauchery. I am...

I am now jealous.
There is my father
flung around a corpse
of a son, servants
preparing a feast
for the lost. It has
always been this way;
mom and dad treat us
the same though we act
completely different.
Whenever I get
bored with life I go
running, he flicks a
needle; I go buy
something, he gets the
maid’s legs wrapped around
him in the pool house;
I manufacture
art, he sleeps in till
three. Bastard. How comes
he can get away
with living it up
and still be welcomed
back? Didn’t he lose anything?

We have more in common than
I thought. In fact, I want to
be the younger.

...continue reading...

7.23.7 [tony]

when the pen hits the paper
I become hypnotized with
the sensational movement
of my eyes rolling in the
back of my head, you voice that
“it is not the time to be
uptight but to hang loose
and listen to what I have
in store for you”

because when the pen
hits the paper I
have no reason to
cry about death or
rejection because
I’m now in the heart
and soul of your protection is now within my grasp

cause when the
pen hits the
paper there’s
no questions
there are no
tasks because
you are in
my grasp

...continue reading...

June 26, 2009

Writing is a Love.Hate Relationship [jessi]

Preface: When I first I read Bird-by-Bird in college, it made me nervous about wanting to be a writer, because Anne Lamott is so neurotic, and it seems like every writer she knows is also neurotic. I thought, “If I have to be that dysfunctional in order to be a writer, I don’t think my homeschooled, two-parent, Conservative Christian, middle-income-America upbringing is going to cut it. I may have to choose another vocation.” But the truth is, no matter how well anyone starts out, your dysfunctions always find you.

putting pen to paper,
the creation of black marks on white background;
marks that convey meaning and emotional resonance.

The blinking cursor of my open Word Doc is flash-flash-flashing,
and I stare blank-blankly at the screen, trying to
how-how-how much of myself
to bring to this

Which filters, like colored lenses, do I slide into place to make myself seem more insightful, because insight can create emotional resonance, and I live for the moment when someone, anyone, pulls me aside and says that my writing is relatable, because that means you’ve looked at my moment of truth and said, “me too.”

At least, I tell myself that.

But the truth is even that
Very Small Bit
truth and resonance
can turn out to be conjured.
Maybe it’s mere emotional exhibitionism—
the chance to smear my soul across
the page
and dare you to respond.

It’s addicting, this flinging of one’s insides out into space for whoever and whenever. How strange to have this public street corner on which to strip myself down to just bones in a gory display of flesh and blood. Somehow in the painful process of baring there is an element of hardening, and I wonder if I’m developing calluses on my soul.

You might ask,
“if you’ve finally
Figured this out,
the hell would you let
this revelation see
light of day?”
And, “why-why-why
would you
click submit?”

But I’m desperate for affirmation, and I’m armed with the knowledge I can manipulate the written word to help me find my worth. Worth that ought to be found in only one place, but that relationship is too hard, takes too much time, and gives so little—at least at first, and I haven’t stuck around long enough to find out what happens later.

So I’ll sit here
most of the day—
waiting for a response, and
hitting refresh


...continue reading...

The Ice Man excerpt [jake]

Arizona was vastly beautiful! Speeding down a cliff-side desert road, hundreds of miles away from the “place of my frustration,” as I’d come to call it, was a very liberating feeling, to say the least. I loved rolling down the windows of my blue pickup and letting the winds of freedom enter in. I hadn’t told anyone that I was leaving, of course. My mother’s heartache and my father’s demand for explanation would’ve been too much. I could just envision myself in their bedroom, talking for hours upon days about it, deliberating back and forth. The weight of my mother’s pain was a terrifying foresight! Questioning my assurance through her tears again and again—what would I have chosen? My father would have certainly attempted to impress selfish motive upon me, and betrayal and neglect of responsibility. Just imagining these conversations poured a dark cloud over my once-clear vision.

“But I am right!” I shouted reassuringly into the windshield, slamming both hands down on the steering wheel of my truck. “I am right. They were all selfishly stifling me. They knew I was destined, but wanted to keep me for their own motives. There was no decision at all; I had to leave. They are in the past, and I am pursuing the future.”

I had packed up that night after writing in my journal and had left many hours before sunup the next morning. To say that I left without saying goodbye would be a bit of a stretch; I didn’t say “goodbye” personally to Acacia, my parents, or my brother, but I did write a “goodbye note” addressed to all of them. It consisted simply of my explanation for leaving, my general feelings about the situation, and that I didn’t know when it was that I would return, if at all. I didn’t go into a lot of detail, aside from the justification of my departure—I didn’t intend to create any offense, so I thought I’d pen my feelings generally. What else was there to say?

Well, I had also made mention to Acacia that the wedding was off. I thought she’d understand. After all, she didn’t seem to like me all that much anyway.

A strange incident had occurred while stopped somewhere to fill up on gas. The gas station itself was sort of rundown and in the middle of nowhere, but I had been riding on “E” for quite awhile and needed to fill up, whatever the cost. Only one other vehicle, another truck, was in the lot—assumedly the proprietor’s—when I pulled up. The pumps had no “Pay Outside” option and so, while waiting for my tank to fill, I perused the inside of the gas station, waiting to pay. It was not stocked with much, but I did approach the counter with a bottle of Dr. Pepper and a recently expired bag of Chili Frito’s. Upon placing my items near the register, I curiously noticed that there was no one else in the store. I retrieved my wallet and pulled out my credit card, anxiously waiting for the gas station attendant to appear from somewhere, anywhere. No one came. A good three minutes had passed that felt much longer. Nervous now, I tapped my card on the counter, looking around. After all of my waiting, nobody came. My only option was to leave without paying. Being that I felt guilty about stealing the gas, I decided to leave the chips and soda behind. On the way out to my truck, I took another gander around the parking lot: empty but that one other truck. I shrugged and turned back toward the pumps.

“Where are you headed?” projected a chillingly stern voice from behind me.

I whipped around to see a heavyset, gruff old man with a weathered look in his eye. I felt as if I was staring into death.

“Er, I—no, I’ll pay for it. It’s just, well, no one came so I just thought—”

“No, no,” the man corrected, “where are you headed? Your plates clearly aren’t from ‘round here.”

“Oh,” I laughed uncomfortably, “I’m moving to California… to pursue a career in writing. You know, writing books and screenplays…”

“Heh, yeah…” the man snickered and trailed off. Under his breath, I thought I heard him say, “You’re not going anywhere.” If what I heard was not in fact what he said… well, then I don’t know what the man said. I paid for my gas and left, too shaken to eat.

Otherwise, the travel was astonishingly inspiring—not just the surrounding sites and scenery, but even the simple feeling of my exodus poured lucid visions and passions into my mind. Surely my hand would create masterpiece after masterpiece on its own the moment I found time to sit with pen and paper. I could see the endings to works of mine that I’d left long unfinished; I could see beginnings to brand new pieces that were groundbreaking, even in my mind; I could see vividly the themes in all of my writing to-date tied firmly together by a sure and certain strand. My life’s work was laid out before me in a clear and cohesive path; all I needed was to come gallivanting across each plot point until my death and then: legend, fame, remembrance.

In all of the exhilaration, I became careless and nearly lost control of my vehicle, swerving away from the short, metal barrier preventing me a long, long fall to my right. That rollercoaster feeling of giant bats in my stomach caused my body to cringe, and I thanked God for solid ground and functioning power steering.

“Man,” I thought aloud, “I’ve got to focus. I can’t get too far ahead of myself.” I paused to take a breath, and the visions again seeped through the filter of my brain. “But it is so hard to contain my excitement! I mean, it’s beautiful how plainly I can see my future! There are no obstacles! Nothing could possibly stop me now!”

It was then that I rounded a corner to see an enormous block of ice appear suddenly in the middle of the road. Four-letter words flew from my mouth in a continuous stream as I attempted to put my brakes through the floor of my truck and wrench the steering wheel again to the left. Eyelids clenched shut and knuckles clutched white. I swerved to a screeching, perpendicular halt, inches away from the massive, frozen chunk. I remained in rigid fright as my truck, which was on its two right wheels, slumped fully onto four tires. The giant bats in my stomach panicked and shrieked around their trembling cave. All the blood had rushed to surface of my skin and I sat sweating while my complexion fought between flushed as a phantom and red as clay—I know it felt as if my spirit and my flesh had separated. My body shook like an abandoned dog in a thunderstorm. My spirit frantically observed from aloof. The scent of burnt rubber wafted through my windows. After my body felt safe enough to allow my spirit to reenter, my mind was able to engage the predicament.

“Okay…” I assessed my situation slowly and somberly, “I am Garret Aveny. I am alive. I just broke up with my fiancĂ© and I am in my truck, driving to California.” Content with the past and the present, I pressed on to matters of the present and future. “Now… what the hell is that?”

I casually stepped from my car and calmly approached the colossal crystal cube. My nerves got the better of me for a moment.

“What in the hell is that damn thing?! What is it doing in the goddamn road?!” My hysteric tantrum escaped into the wind. I heard it echo, that damn thing… echo, goddamn road

I timidly drew near the monstrous object and placed my hand on its surface. It was bitter cold upon the skin of my palm. I retracted it instantly—yes, it was in fact an insanely huge ice cube in the middle of an Arizona road amid 90-degree temperatures. How did this get here? I thought. It was impossible. There had to be someone else around. A “Candid Camera” crew if nothing else.

Stepping back a few feet I shouted up the cliff wall to my left, “Hello? Is there someone here? Anybody?” I heard my voice echo, someone here?… echo, anybody…? There was no answer. “Somebody! Anybody! There is an enormous chunk of ice here in the road! This could be dangerous!” Echo, echo. There was no one else around. I was alone.

I made a quick scan of the road, ensuring that there no vehicles were coming anytime soon from either direction, and returned to the frigid roadblock. I couldn’t believe it! This could not have actually occurred. All visions had ceased; all thoughts had stopped. My entire focus was pulled into this phenomenon of circumstance. As I observed the block, I saw that it had only just begun to respond to the effects of the heat. A few beads of water had formed on its surface and began trickling down, making glassy pathways through the icy fog on its walls. I speculated as to what I should do with this gigantic obstruction. I sized it up and examined my truck bed. The block had to have been at least four feet long and wide by eight feet high. If I consolidate, I pondered, I could probably fit all of my belongings in the passenger seat of my truck. Though I figured getting the block into my bed would be the more troublesome task. Shoving against one side of the block I found that, with much exertion, I could actually slide it because of the extra leverage of its melting surface. I had some rope, but I was still unsure if it were possible for just one person to heave it into my truck. I decided that, if need be, I could more than likely push it off of the cliff.

Once again I patrolled my surroundings. There were no cars coming in either direction.

I returned to the block and I stopped to laugh to myself—there was nothing else to do! Perhaps the shock was wearing off, or even setting in, but I simply exploded in uncontrollable laughter. I was bent over for several minutes just hooting and cackling, long enough to hear the reverberations of my mirth join me in my hilarity. Coming to my senses a bit and catching my breath, I leaned against the block of ice with my right forearm and rested my forehead against.

“Oh man,” I expressed, still lightly chuckling, “what a day today has been—he, he…! I can only imagine what might happen to me next.”

As I lifted my head, my arm slowly swiped the fog from the wall of the cube, leaving an open window into the ice as clear as glass. I placed my hands around my eyes as if holding binoculars and peered inside.

“Ah! Ah-h-h!” I screamed and jumped back. I stumbled over my suddenly uncoordinated feet and fell flat on my back. “Ah! Ah! Holy shit!”

Even from my place fast to the ground, it was all too obvious: there was a man inside of the ice.

...continue reading...

Ozzie [nate]

When I came home for the first time after nine months away at college I didn’t expect to learn that the thing I loved the most at my house had died nearly seven months ago due to neglect from my parents. Ozzie, named after the baseball player, died locked in my old bedroom in the corner of the basement. My parents were having a dinner party, and didn’t want “my old cat” running around their friends, so he was locked in my room. A week later he was found dead, forgotten about. He was sixteen years old, which is quite old for a cat, and his body was later “disposed of” by my parents. They waited until late Friday night, my first night in town, to tell me what happened. I don’t think they planned to tell me at all, but my persistent questioning forced them. Thankfully, an old friend from high school, who I bumped into at a gas station on the way home from the airport, had invited me to a party that night. I used this as a reason to leave my parents house. Before I left, I went in my old room. The posters had all been taken down and my parents had painted it a different color. In my desk I found an old picture of Ozzie. I folded it up and put it in my back pocket.

When I arrived at the house, I was engulfed by a mass of faces I hadn’t seen in almost a year. I could hardly remember anyone’s names as they all fought to be the first to say hello to me and shake my hand. It was strange they were so happy to see me; I had hardly known them in High School. I thought it was weird that this many people were back from college the same weekend as me, but I would later learn that none of them had gone to college, and this was a regular weekend event. When we stepped inside the house I was instantly handed a beer. The room was full of a thick smoke that smelled like a strong mix of both cigarettes and marijuana and someone was lying on a couch watching some old Nickelodeon cartoons on the television. Cigarette smoke is hard to get rid of, I thought, it’s going to smell like this for a long time. “Whose place is this?” I asked.

“Oh it’s Jake’s. You remember Jake? He works full time now with his dad out at the cleaners, he’s loaded.”

“It’s nice.”

“I know, right?”

We stepped out of the front hallway and into the kitchen where a group of people were all focused on the center of the table, playing some sort of drinking game. I remembered how my dad used to hate that Ozzie would sit on the kitchen table, and I always enjoyed watching how angry he would get. He would run in screaming and Ozzie would look at him like he was nobody, like it didn’t matter what he said. I reached back and touched the picture in my back pocket.

“So what are you doin’ with yourself now, man?” a face with a name I couldn’t remember asked.

“I’m studying engineering over in New York.”

“Shit man, New York? How’d you afford that?”


“Nice man, yeah I’m not in school right now, but it’s great. Pretty much do what I want, when I want,” he said, over the muffled sound of the cartoons still playing in the other room.

I was not upset when a rather drunk guy stumbled into the room, screaming, interrupting our conversation.

“Let’s have a moment of silence for our good friend Tommy.”

Everyone in the room looked down at their drinks. A few seconds crawled awkwardly by as I tried to figure out who Tommy was. The drunk guy interrupted the silence with a loud “Yeeaahhhhh!” before he chugged his beer and shouted “Tommmmmy!” He flipped the lights on and off a few times for no apparent reason.

“Who’s Tommy?” I asked the guy next to me.

“Oh shit, you didn’t hear about Tommy? Tommy Catalano? He died about 3 weeks ago. Car accident.”

I did know Tommy Catalano. We had P.E and History together. I wondered when the funeral was and if many people had gone, if it was a beautiful service or subdued. For some reason, I felt like I should have been there. I remembered when my aunt died and my parents didn’t want me to go to the service, they said I was too young. When they would leave, as they often did, they would leave me with one of the neighbors who would fall asleep on the couch. Ozzie was my only real company at that time. We would play and when I fell asleep, Ozzie would sleep at the end of my bed.

When I went home from the party I had to crawl in through an unlocked window around back because my parents had forgotten to leave the door unlocked for me. I unfolded the picture of Ozzie and placed it at the end of my bed before I went to sleep.

The next day I decided that I would give Ozzie a proper funeral. My parents had placed his body in a box, taped it up, and thrown it away. I found an old shoebox filled with dusty old baseball cards, dumped them out, and placed the picture of Ozzie inside. Across the top of the box I wrote “With Love” and I started towards the backyard. On my way out my father asked what I was doing.

“I am going to give Ozzie a funeral, you and Mom may come if you would like.”

As I stepped outside I heard my father say to my mother under his breath, “If I wanted a good cat I would have gone to a Chinese restaurant.”

Outside a cool breeze blew by and the smell of rain was in the air. The clouds, too, were dark with the threat of rain. I hoped I would be able to get back before the rain, but didn’t really care anyway. In the shed behind the house I found a small shovel, and unsure of where I wanted to go, I just started walking. I walked past the dull metal slide I used to play on as a child that was now rusted with age and into the stretch of forest that expands from my parents’ back yard for miles. About fifty feet or so into the trees I thought I heard rain, and upon looking up, saw something in the branches I had completely forgotten about. Roughly halfway up the tallest tree three boards were nailed into two branches close to the trunk, creating a small platform. A friend and I had put them up years ago and would spend hours up there, watching clouds or for animals, away from everything.

I decided that this was the perfect place to bury Ozzie. I dug a small hole near the base of the tree and placed the shoebox inside. I knew I wanted to say something, but unsure of exactly what to say, I thanked Ozzie for always being there, said goodbye, and filled in the hole. I felt the breeze across my face and looked up at the platform in the tree. I wanted to climb the tree and sit on the platform and stare at the sky one more time, but I didn’t think it would hold my weight anymore, so I started off towards my parents’ house. I looked back one more time at the freshly packed earth over Ozzie and hoped I had done him justice with the funeral. I thought of Tommy Catalano and his funeral, and wondered if I had missed any others that I didn’t even know about. I thought of school and getting back and my plans and my scholarships. Then, I turned back towards my parents’ house, and I heard the rain begin to come down harder.

...continue reading...

June 23, 2009

Untitled [julie]

I know I'm selfishly entangled
Holding tiny mirrors in my hands
Cutting into veins that shouldn't feel
Mixing life with only a reflection

Colors that I've never tasted
Find their way into my dreams
Perfect symmetry in motion
Spilling cycles to the wind

Catalyst tongues exiled to islands
Images counted and weighed
Measuring the distance between seconds
Doing what I can to be still

Quiet conversations in rooms that you left blank
The breath or the voice in your back pocket
If I was anything but the other
I would be farther than I am

...continue reading...

June 19, 2009

True Blue [judd]

Don’t be deceived by the
Plain rusty crest
On the bluebird’s chest

When he flies he is all indigo
Azure lightning flashing

Gone faster than
Strawberry season

You want to catch
The blaze blue bird
Banking away from
Telephone line

Sear the image
On your mind’s palate
Beat it into your mind
With a memory mallet

You might as well
Grasp at a gasp

True beauty is rare
Offering itself in
Glimpses, glances

Second chances
Come to those who watch
And by first appearances
Are not fooled

...continue reading...

June 16, 2009

The Cross [kory]

Cold, dark and alone
Why do you allow me to visit this place
My demons dance freely, with smiles of contentment
As I begin to settle for the fate of my acts.

I call to you humbly
Your answer comes swiftly
Like an arrow headed straight for my heart
Piercing the darkness
The shadows grow dimmer
My focus is drawn to your light from above

Drawing me out to the place of your sacrifice
Feeling droplets of love covering the farce that I am

You love me
I need you
A match made in Heaven
Cemented this day at the foot of the cross.

...continue reading...

June 12, 2009

The Part of You I Can't Forget [jason]

there's a part of you that hearkens me
like a siren call in my memory
from years ago I remember yet
and in my mind I still can see
the part of you I can't forget

it's odd to me that such a place
can tether me through time and space
to the person whom I yearn for yet
to see your smile and feel your face
near the part of you I can't forget

to follow your lips until they crease
upon your cheekbones you release
fingers that flourish refined, and yet
brush brunette bangs back with ease
behind the part of you I can't forget

you smile shy but with a ponderous grin
make me wonder what trouble you're in
inside your mind, you're youthful yet
you break gaze with mine and so begin
to expose the part of you I can't forget

once again we find each other here and near
our hearts still fresh beyond the years
these crossing paths not departed yet

seal your essence as a spiritual sear
upon my own, for one thing I fear
that I'll forget the part I can't forget

so in words I write, expecting yet
again to see you as flesh more clear
as you tuck your hair behind your ear

...continue reading...

Channeling Dante: A Poem in Terza Rima [jenna]

Oh for the simple strength to speak the words
of she whom Gabriel called 'full of grace'
"Behold," said she, "the bondslave of the Lord"

Till then, to look upon the tortured face
of Mary's son, stretched out upon the cross--
the fusion of divine and commonplace

For there is made the only sense of loss
of waiting, trouble, trial of all kinds,
of suffering, of all that sin has cost.

If on the skull-marked hill a spirit finds
himself, why should he find himself alone?
This tormented, spread-eagled form unblinds

the human heart to sight beyond its own.
There weary souls, still swirling in the mix
of sin and sorrow, may at last be shown

the joy of carrying their nails and sticks
for love of Him upon the crucifix.

...continue reading...

June 5, 2009

Almost [liz]

The maddening complexity of almost
Torments and divides the brooding soul
Passionate energy smiles with words flowing together
He felt connection, his other
Almost, but never
The swing that could push her into youthful love
Had all the pieces but one
Words on a screen fill him with hope
Followed by an ever-widening silence
Almost true, but never real
He builds a barricade with brick
Almost waits, and waits, and waits alone

...continue reading...

June 2, 2009

Paints and Brushes [rachel]

I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life –Walden, Henry David Thoreau

I glanced down at the plate, cutting around the bone at the center of my slice of ham, enjoying the brown sugar sweetness of the meat. Thoreau’s appetite for marrow has always perplexed me. How could anyone relish the taste of that gooey pinkish matter in the middle of the bone when they could choose, instead, the more succulent meat surrounding it? My mother, however, assures me that even as late as the 1950s and ‘60s, marrow was a much coveted part of the meal. Wikipedia, that ever reliable source of random information, concurs, adding that while marrow might have fallen out of fashion in most of American culture, it’s still quite popular in Vietnam, India, Mexico, and Alaska. It’s apparently packed with protein.

On the particular occasion during which I contemplated the marrow staring up from my plate, I was dining at the home of my friends the Boyers, and I was not expected to eat this would-be delicacy. In fact, Naomi had prepared a simple and taste-full meal of salad, potatoes, and ham—the presence of marrow was merely incidental. But I took a moment to appreciate its meaning; this was a visual picture of the metaphor I’d so often mulled over in my mind: Thoreau’s ideal, the very center, the very core of life.

“I’m working on decorating but the border on the walls is making it hard. I thought maybe if I had a new piece of art for the space above this table . . . I think I’ve seen something that would work. Would you be willing to paint a larger version of your tree for us?“ Naomi has impeccable taste. I’m convinced she can take any room and transform it into a space marked by style, simplicity, and class. This is one of the primary reasons I was taken aback by her request. I’d only started painting this past autumn, and the tree to which she referred was the only thing to date that looked like anything of substance. Her request gave new meaning to the experience of having painted it—the project had begun and would apparently continue as a community endeavor.

Before I moved into the second floor theatre apartments that house the intentional community I call home, I had visited the apartment for a once-a-month art night. Kris, whose personality is as vibrant as her color palate, hosted the gathering sharing paints, brushes, canvases, chocolate chip cookies, and good conversation with a small group of friends. The chaos of the art cart both intimidated and excited me. I beheld the beauty of it and the art that resulted but was continually reminded by my own efforts that I was either far too much of a realist without talent or simply too bound by rules and fears to make anything but a poor imitation of the artwork around me. Even with these limitations, Kris’s art nights whetted my appetite for paints and brushes of my own.

Once I moved in I watched as Julie, another housemate, touched canvas after canvas creating pictures: delicate pink and white flowers on a vivid blue background, hands reaching out to touch Jesus’ robe, a stirringly dark mixture of colors bursting into the flame of a phoenix. Something in Julie’s heart was conveying itself through the brush and color onto those once blank surfaces. The more I watched her paint, the more I was drawn to the potential of that experience, wanting to break through the boundaries that felt so suffocating. Somehow painting symbolized both the strictures enclosing my heart and the freedom and fullness to which God was introducing me as He taught me trust and love.

Soon enough, I purchased my own set of inexpensive paints at Walmart and often settled myself on the living room floor with all the necessaries fanned in a half circle in front of me: a roll of paper towels, the paints, a plate, a glass of water, a sketch pad, and some borrowed brushes. Painting became a sort of hobby; the trouble was it remained a sort of tease, both introducing me to a measure of creative freedom and reminding me that I really didn’t know how to experience any form of release from the boxes in which I’d been living. All of my brush strokes had to look exactly like something real and because I simply don’t have the talent of drawing, all I created were unrecognizable splotches of color.

With Christmas came both the half-way mark of my life in the community and our holiday gift exchange. By this time, I’d come to love and trust my housemates, symptomatic of a deeper love and trust building between God and me. I watched as D. Jay enjoyed his Dark Knight DVD, Kristen her paisley scarf, Vanessa her keepsake box, Marci her movies and peanut M ‘n Ms. Eagerly unwrapping my cylindrical gift, I gazed on my new set of acrylics, brushes, and canvases. Julie had seen me flirting with brush and color in the months prior. Her gift and the awareness and love it signaled added new vigor to my painting enterprises.

Around the same time, Jay, the pastor of our church, offered the congregation an “out of class” assignment. We’d been studying Genesis 1-3 for some time, and Jay proposed we each create an art project that reflected what we’d learned about the fall and redemption of man. This suggestion aroused a mixture of curiosity and dread—now I had a theme and purpose for a painting , but I was sure the brush would fail to produce anything of substance as it had for the previous five months.

On one particular afternoon, I sat in the living room contemplating a wall Kris had painted before she moved out of the apartment earlier that year. I often gazed at it, my eyes hungry for the vibrancy, brilliance, and depth of the colorful swirls that chaotically dip and turn, collide and blend. The wall was, to those of us in the apartment (six at the time), a visual picture of the mixture of chaos and order in which we lived. On this specific occasion I had been alone, contemplating the Genesis art project, when instead of simply swirls and dips and dives, I started to see the leaves of a tree, giant bright almost Dr. Seuss-style leaves. And then it occurred to me, there are certain notable trees in the Garden of Eden, one of which embodies a paradox not unlike the chaotic order of this wall: The Tree of Life, forbidden but enticingly beautiful. I set to work, a dinner plate covered with pools of quality paint, and two hours later I was surprised to find a fully defined, quirky, colorful tree.

On my birthday, just over a month after Christmas, my friend and mentor Olivia supplied me with the final piece to complete my painting needs. While I’d become committed to the hobby, I kept the supplies haphazardly on the floor of my closet. The plastic container in which the brushes came was starting to crack and the cardboard box that held the paint was irreparably ripped. I’m normally hopelessly unorganized. As she’s done in so much of the spiritual and emotional journey of this year, Olivia offered structure, organization, and perspective: she bought me an art bin along with a tool for more effectively mixing color. Now the chaos of creativity is paired with a sort of refreshingly ordered method.

“I’d love to paint a tree for you,” I replied, smiling at the thought. Naomi was speaking along with the other voices of community. All this time, while I was painting on canvas, God has been painting my heart, and so much of the transformation has come through the people that surround me. He is the master artist splashing colors of His creativity in and through the lives of His children, drawing them, drawing me into the open air of love and trust, color and shape, paint and brush.

As I glanced back down at my plate, it occurred to me that I am indeed living deep and sucking all the marrow of life. And it tastes quite good.

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My Body, Me [teddi]

I walk. I run. I dance. I leap.
My body, me.

I sleep. I cry. I laugh. I express.
My body, me.

I taste. Fruit, water, spices, sweets.
My body, me.

I see. Family, friends, faces, pages of poetry.
My body, me.

I breathe. Steady, thoughtless, continuous breaths.
My body, me.

I hear. Music, conversations, voices, laughter.
My body, me.

I touch. Holding, soothing, digging, gripping.
My body, me.

I feel. Warmth of sun, touch of hand, snow on head.
My body, me.

I am not plagued with pain. At ease. Comfortable.
My body, me.

I move. On a bike, a walk, in a jog, a swim.
My body, me.

Skin. Muscles, Bones. Cells.
Life giving. Life enhancing.
Life enabling. Life moving.
My body, me.

Not a place of hatred.
Not a harborer of curses.
Free. Grateful. Healthy. Strong.
My body, me.

Thankful for a frame which:
Sustains, feels, gives, perseveres, creates, heals.
My body, me.

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