27 September, 2007

for in a minute, there are many days

Thank you, global warming, for this lovely day. It seems that summer is loath to leave us, for here we are on September 27 with cheerful temperatures in the 90's. I'm okay if you stay, Summer. Just so long as you promise to leave by October and drop some red and orange and gold leaves behind you.

"Guys, what if Satan sent text messages? That would be so freaky." -- Catherine

"I want to be a mad, frenetic theorist one day and sit around spewing ideas and philosophies and drinking vodka and eventually getting syphilis. Yeah. That's what I want to do." -- Poet Lad (Did I peg him or did I peg him?)

"Yeah. I'm getting married." -- Betsey (BETSEY AND LUKE ARE ENGAGED! I seriously do not have enough words to contain my excitement!)

Now I'm overcome...

After much vacillation and prodding from my athletic, victorious girl friends, I went to frisbee Wednesday night. It wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be; the guys on my team were especially kind and encouraging and even threw to me--despite the fact that I possessed the two great curses to frisbee success, being both new and a girl. So that was a big step. I really appreciated Meghan, too; I just met her about a week ago, but I already like her. We randomly passed each other on the field last night and very smoothly and naturally fell into a side hug and she looked up at me and said, grinning, "How's it going?" That was probably the best part of my day.

I'm reading "Richard III" now and it's very complicated, particularly since my knowledge of the British tango between queens and kings and dukes and lords and whatever else is poor. But I really like how bold and plainly evil Richard is; it's more heartening to meet true villains in literature than to try to point them out in real life. There are gradations of wickedness in reality. But not in drama! No, we have pure, untouched evil. I enjoy that because you can point at a character and say, "Now this, this is evil." It's rare to get that chance in life. Wow, get this: "And thus I clothe my naked villainy/with odd old ends stol'n forth of Holy Writ,/And seem a saint when most I play the devil." That's so clever and delightfully malevolent; you almost admire him for being such a demon.

Listening to Josh Ritter, whom I love... It's 12:03. I have an advising appointment tomorrow morning. And a quiz about Hiroshima that I should probably be studying for... but I feel so peaceful and so uninspired to do anything productive. Not sleepy at all. That mug of white tea probably won't help much with the whole sleep thing.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

I am trying to learn more about forgiveness. How to practice it, what it looks like, who I need to show it to. It's tricky. "Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have someone to forgive" (C.S. Lewis). I'm still not convinced that I know what to do about forgiveness. How do you make your heart feel something--namely, forgiveness--that it doesn't want to? Or is forgiveness a feeling? And can it be forced? Or is it something that we have to rely on God to do through us, because on our own strength we couldn't actually forgive anyone at all? Too many close questions; too many far away answers.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

24 September, 2007

a penny for the old guy

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men

My Shakespeare professor is right; Emmylou Harris does drop off the end of every word when she sings... sitting here, sipping white tea now gone cold, listening to Feist and Fiona Apple and Explosions in the Sky. It is a languid night, a peaceful one. (Praying with my small group always lends a considerable amount of gravity and contentment to my Monday evenings.)

I went home this weekend with Emily; drove Rachel's own Mary Margaret and made it without problem (despite everyone's insistence that I "probably didn't know how to drive" or "couldn't find my way home"). Long conversations in the car were so excellent: we talked about everything and with every word, I felt like I was getting closer to her. Covered women, motherhood, love, paradox of action, Ireland, foolishness, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, our future lives, model U.N., the husbands we want and doubt (hope?) are out there, Islam, debate, relationships past and present... she is so beautiful! Every time I look at her, every time I hear her speak, I am reminded of that. (And if you don't know her, the photo below can prove that to you.)

Home was perfect: bright and clean and safe and welcoming. Laughing with family over good food. Watching two very different and very excellent films: "A Very Long Engagement" and "Blades of Glory." Reading poetry on the couch. Frisbee in the front yard. Lunch with old friends at Brixx (that got mysteriously paid for)--remembering why I loved them and how they've changed and how I've changed. Walking pointlessly around a mucky reservoir in the blistering heat. Going back to Harvest (how I miss my church!): "A heart committed to eternal things will be a heart committed to prayer."

Emily, I love you. Thanks for being in my life. And for coming home with me. Let's do it again.

When we got back last night, I tried to plan out my week before going to Compline. (For the unfamiliar, Compline is a prayer/meditation service put on by the Episcopal chapel on Franklin Street. They burn incense and turn down the lights and a choir sings Gregorian chants. A handful of my friends and I have been going on Sunday nights since last year. It's an important part of my week: a time for solitude--and incense--and aloneness with your heart and God.)

So I went to Compline--they were robust last night--and struggled at first to focus. I kept shifting my body: head in hands, head on pew, kneeling, arms up, arms down... I did make it through the restlessness, though, and was finally able to pray. I thought, "Compline is a place to untie things," and I saw an image of my thoughts being untied like a knot of white rope. Not that I reached any conclusions last night, though. Not that I am certain of things. But it was calm. And I welcomed the quietness and the cold and the English tea and talking to Mr and Mrs Steddum afterwards. And so another week begins. (Where am I going? What am I headed towards?) I am learning to be okay with not having the answers. Emphasis on "learning."

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

19 September, 2007

"I feel fat and my legs itch."--Kathryn

May 31, 1988 - September 19, 2007

This post is dedicated to the glory that is my roommate.

She may be dying soon, so I thought it would be fitting to provide you with an obituary of sorts. We are "studying" right now in a random corner of Hamilton Hall, quite possibly spending our last moments together.

This afternoon she asks me, "Hey, have you ever had milk before that tasted... fizzy?"
"Um. No. Definitely not."
"Well. My milk was carbonated when I drank it this morning."
"Kathryn. That should not happen. Milk should never be carbonated."
"Well mine was! When I opened the lid, it made a popping noise, like when you open a soda. And then there were little bits of fizzy things on my tongue."
"That is not right."
"I know."
"You are probably going to die."
"Yes, yes. I probably am." And then she looked at me with deep and sincere eyes and said, "Don't forget me when I go."

And I am here to say, to my one and only Barge Train, I will not forget you when you go, as you are certainly about to do, judging from the itchiness of your legs and the general restlessness of your person. I cannot forget you. How can you forget someone who hates everything that you eat? How can you forget the girl who has suffered the pains of folliculitis for her whole life? How can you forget someone who drinks orange juice straight out of the bottle as if it were gin? How can you forget the late nights of laughter and insanity and "Shure, Daddy, shure"? You cannot forget such a life. You cannot.

And so here is my eulogy, for my beloved, beloved Kathryn Randolph. I will simply stand at the front of the church, as she lies--beautiful in death as she was beautiful in life!--in her coffin, as rows and rows of weeping family and friends look at me with tear-stained faces, and say:

"Milk was a bad choice."

18 September, 2007

signals cross and love gets lost

A volatile day.

Walking to the DTH this morning, crossing the street, my driving mocs soft on the pavement, I was thinking, “thy mercy my God is the theme of my song, the joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue.” As Rachel so perfectly says about this weather, “just breathing is worship.”

I love getting to that point in a friendship where you can be totally uninteresting, not supplying any conversation, and just sit and be content. Cat Klaw and I have reached that point. Catherine comes to our room and rolls around on our carpet as our three lamps provide some quiet light. Sometimes I play guitar. Sometimes we eat. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don’t. Whatever happens is okay. I am especially grateful for this phenomenon of friendship in my life.

I talked to Paul on the phone for about half an hour today. I asked him how he was and he said, “I’m standing on my balcony and the sun is shining and the leaves are blowing and it’s heaven. I’m happy. I almost expect a seagull to fly by.” We talked about his recent job—juggling on a cruise ship (“The cruise line was mostly senior citizens,” he said, “and so by the time we returned to Vancouver, half of the ship had died of natural causes.”)—and his eagerness to succeed. “I’m a slave to the whims of celebrity,” he merrily confessed. We talked about the Alaskan landscape and love won and lost and the faithfulness of God. Paul can always draw some laughter out of me; it is always good to talk with him.

Sometimes self-sufficiency anchors you to despair. It’s a strange pairing, but today it seems true.

Really interesting article I read yesterday on Boundless: “Becoming a Godly Woman.” This is something that’s been a recent topic of conversation among myself and my girlfriends and so I was particularly curious when I found this. (I especially like the point about wisdom in Watters’s response.) I am relieved to know—and to convince myself from the portraits in scripture—that a godly woman is not a meek, pot-scrubbing doormat.

Listening to: “Ghost” by Indigo Girls; “Tables and Chairs” by Andrew Bird
Reading: To the Lighthouse (Woolf), Wuthering Heights (Bronte), and Reading Like a Writer (Prose).

"I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name." 1 John 2:12

14 September, 2007

keep on doin' my thing

The thunder! It rages! I am listening to Bjork right now and somehow she seems eerily appropriate to the violent weather.

Today I bought myself a book because I felt like I deserved it. Though initially overwhelmed by the vast number of titles begging for my attention (Kerouac! Marquez! Chesterton!), I made my choice and am very happy with it: Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. I've desperately wanted this book since it came out last year. It is safe to say that Francine Prose is my vocational idol; I want to BE Francine Prose in thirty years. She writes the best reviews for The New York Times Book Review and never fails to amaze me with her skill, her observations, her light and incandescent diction. I cannot wait to start reading it. I'm not sure when I'll make the time -- juggling the new duties of being a journalist for the acclaimed Daily Tarheel with being a mildly successful student has been more of a struggle than I thought -- but I am going make time.

Recent exchange in our room:
Catherine: "God will spite you!"
Me: "No, He won't!"
Kathryn: "What?"
Catherine: "Psych!"
Check out Cat Klaw; it will probably change your life.

*Addendum. Kathryn and I just had a knock-down, drag-out fight about the spelling of "psych." She insists, along with Urban Dictionary, that it is spelled "sike." Which I think is ridiculous, because Merriam-Webster spells it "psych" AND! Furthermore! Urban Dictionary has an entry just below "sike" that says it is the "misspelling of psych." "Miss English Major over here thinks she can put slang in grammatical terms," she says, snarkily. Slang can be spelled correctly. Just because it's slang doesn't mean you have to spell it like garbage. I'm right. She's wrong. End of story.

We're going out now, venturing into the dark rain, looking for people to call friends...

11 September, 2007

that mean-spirited heart? it's mine

I had an embarrassing episode in class today. Embarrassing only to me, but I guess that's what makes it embarrassing.

Before I relate it, I have a confession to make. When I am not paying attention in class, I write little vignettes in my notes about my classmates. I give them pseudonyms and make up all sorts of insupportable things about their unknown lives. It's a dreadful and addictive habit and it's a wonder I've managed to make good grades.

So there's this kid in my class. I call him Poet Lad. He likes to wear loose button-down shirts and colorful pants and black-framed glasses. And he waves his hair. ("Never trust a man who waves his hair, old boy."--P.G. Wodehouse) According to my notes, he listens religiously to indie music and likes to draw spiritual parallels out of lyrics. He smokes cigarettes under trees and pretends to love Thai food and the representation of the sublime in modern art. Poet Lad likes to talk a lot. He especially likes to talk in that winding, intellectual fashion representative of his class. You know what I mean. It's the kind of speech that is peppered with references to all of the obscure literature he's read and all of the deep, probing theories he knows. Brevity is a stranger to him. His insight runs in free circles, never reaching an intelligible destination, but seemingly content to wander and spew ideas.

I have to temper my portrait, though, lest you take it too harshly. I actually like Poet Lad. Somedays I admire his pretentious loquacity. He seems incredibly interesting, for all of his posturing, and I think we ought to be friends, because I have a hunch we'd be good ones. But today I was getting tired of his affected comments.

I was writing some snarky remarks in my notes about him, because I am unkind, and then he raises his hand to make a comment about the novel at hand. He said something that sounded like this: "I just wanted to make a point, or, rather, pose a question. Do you think that this passage is indicating the emergence of the early structuralist philosophy? Possibly with some Hegelian reactions, at least, that's what I'm getting here. The obvious humanism is overpowering to the context of the novel blah blah yes, that's clearly the intention blah!" (He seriously used those words. I wrote them down.)

And as soon as he opens his mouth and all of this tumbles out, I react. Involuntarily. Horribly! My face twists into a strong and very clear grimace. The whole scornful lip curled up. I scowled at him. Utter disdain written all over my countenance. As soon as I realized what I was doing, my stomach dropped. I could have just died that I couldn't control my face. I wiped it off as soon as I realized what I was doing. I hope no one saw me. Especially not Poet Lad. Because I do want to be his friend. Repentant, afraid, I began writing real notes.

This seems like a very insignificant incident. Maybe it is. But I was so mortified and so alarmed at my visceral reaction... at my lack of self-control! It is proof that I am far too critical; it is proof that my heart is black and cold. Out of the overflow of the heart the face moves?

That's all for tonight. Maybe soon I'll write about my perceptions of being a "journalist" and Owl Glasses and the spectre of doubt. But soon is not now.

05 September, 2007

numbering the days

Yesterday I went for a brief afternoon run through the Gimghoul Historic District, down that shady road across from the theater. There weren't any cars or people and it was so calm and beautiful; I felt as if I'd discovered a treasure all my own. The houses are grand and self-contained; they look as if they were acutely conscious of their vastly high real estate value. It is a heavily wooded and secluded landscape. The trees and the gardens and the grass were so fresh and inviting that I think I could have been content to run for hours (had it not been ninety-three degrees). I'm not entirely sure why, but being there brought considerable joy to my weak little heart. I felt hope; I felt the sovereignty of God. As I ran, I chanted the first few verses of Psalm 23 out loud in a gasping rhythm. The Lord is my shepherd inhale exhale I shall not want inhale exhale He makes me lie down in green pastures inhale exhale He leads me beside quiet waters inhale exhale He restores my soul. I prayed and I rejoiced. I knew, with a throbbing conviction, that there is a Living God.

To cool down, I walked through the graveyard behind my dorm, which is my general practice after a run. It is a peaceful place to me. Yesterday in particular the graveyard held a strong gravity: it refocused me, reminded me of the triviality of my problems in the scope of eternity. As I stepped between the headstones, crouching down at some to read the names and the dates, to imagine who these people were, what lives they must have led, my heart quickened and I prayed, Let me not leave only dirt behind. How I fear the wasting of my life! It is so preciously short, Father; forgive me for what I have wasted even now. My life is so short; I grow closer to death with every passing day. Thus do not let those days pass without meaning. Do not let me squander them as I am so prone to do; do not let me become so consumed with myself and my infinitesimal world. Whom have I in heaven and on earth but you? From everlasting to everlasting you are God.

It is good to be reminded of such things. I do not think it is a morbid propensity; rather, it is a much needed reminder of mortality. College so easily makes one passionately self-centered and freely deluded that you are indestructible; you cannot die, there are a thousand promising years stretched out before you. It's a seductive lie and I've believed it. I don't want to believe it anymore. We pass away too quickly to believe such dangerous things.

"The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:10-12

03 September, 2007

"Well, I didn't do much today. But I WAS blogged about!"--Kathryn

Washing hands with a bar of white soap. Eating off fiesta ware. Open windows and blinds that sway with the breeze. Laundry hanging on a line. Singing loudly to good music in the car. Laughter. The God card. Fine, organic, natural food. Genevive. “America’s Next Top Model.” Reading outside under the shade of the gracious trees. Climbing in the hammock and telling prophecies of our future lives. French words. The New York Times. The compost pile. Refined language. Shucking corn. A doe and her fawns in the front yard. The quietness of the soul.

These are the images from my Labor Day weekend; I went home with Catherine, joined by roommate Kathryn. It was a lovely and peaceful day and a half. Staying with the Steddum’s was the ideal sojourn from a thoroughly demanding start to my sophomore year. I haven’t felt that peaceful since I came to school.

I am sitting at Caribou (in the fish room) with Kathryn and Catherine now (the three of us have been inseparable since school started, give or take a few hours). We’ve been here since I don’t know when, but it’s been a long time. As Kathryn asserts, “If you want to get anything worthwhile at college, you’ve got to get up early.” So we woke up earlier than we normally would on a school-less day and hiked over to Caribou since the Union and all of the libraries are closed. Now the two of them are standing up and pounding their thighs with their fists. Kathryn explains: “It’s the poor man’s massage.” I have no idea what is going on with the two of them… now they’re talking about microwaving rocks. And, “Do your muscles ever itch?” “Nope. That never happens to me. It only happens to psychos.” They giggle. Now they are hitting their legs and trying to get each other to guess which song they are beating out. Oh. My friends.

Yesterday morning we went to Vintage21 (creators of the entirely amazing Jesus videos) for church and I really enjoyed it. I confess I went there with preconceived notions. I went there expecting it to be just another GenX, yuppie church catered to seekers and twentysomethings, complete with performance-like rock music and a watered down Gospel. While they did clearly cater to seekers and twentysomethings, they didn’t dilute the Gospel. On the contrary, the flat out preached it, with fervent sincerity and faithful incorporation of scripture. I was sincerely touched by the message and it cut my heart. Rob, the visiting pastor, spoke about 2 Corinthians 5, being ambassadors for Christ. It is a passage that could have easily slipped into clich├ęd Christianese, but there was such authenticity and such zeal in his words—the Gospel was real to him. It colored his world. And as he spoke I longed for it to color mine. I would like to go back again, if providence allows.

Tonight we have our first small group for freshmen women. I am very excited, but also nervous. What if they don’t like it? What if no one comes back? Many fears dart in and out, but I rest in the Lord’s strength, as I have been more than ever these past two weeks. I cling to His promises. He will not abandon the works of His hands.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4