Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Loss

A Facebook post from a former colleague alarmed me. It was a news story from Oklahoma about a suspect being gunned down by a police officer. The photo under the headline was of a black German Shepherd police dog that died as a result of the suspect's having stabbed him with a knife. What alarmed me was that my former colleague described the story as having involved one of her former students.

I read the story until I saw the name of this former student. Mark Salazar. I knew that name. I saw the image of a nice Hispanic youth with closely buzzed hair. He was a tough guy, but never disrespectful. Surely, it wasn't the same boy. I scanned the story, scrolling until I saw the photo at the end of the story. It was him. 22 years old. The dog got top billing, and for many who read the news, this will seem appropriate. Just another piece of trash dealt with swiftly. He won't waste any tax payers' money by being processed in the judicial system.

But for those of us who knew him, the story leaves troubling questions unanswered. Why did our boy end up in a robbery in Oklahoma? What did we miss when he was in our classes? Was there something we could have done to turn him a different direction? When we spend 50 minutes a day, five days a week with someone who is in a class with 29 other kids, how well can we actually know him?

I have nothing eloquent to say about this tragedy. It just sucks. I'm sorry for the officer who had to kill this young man. I'm sorry for the dog who died doing what he was trained to do. I'm sorry for the Salazar family who will never be able to get their boy back. I'm sorry that for whatever reason, Mark Salazar found himself dying this way.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thinking about the First Day of School

This weekend has been a pretty nice farewell to summer, despite the fact that my truck is in the shop with a $500.00 repair bill waiting for me on Monday. I'm excited about tomorrow, and not a little apprehensive as well. I will be teaching Art and Electives at the Alternative Discipline Center for our school district, which means I will be working with those high school kids who were suspended last year. I will be part of program that is completely new to me, with new people and procedures.

After years of teaching High School English to classrooms full of students, it will be strange to have only a handful of kids. I won't miss every aspect of teaching English, but I know I will miss the students I had the blessing of working with last year. They were incredibly conscientious and sweet-spirited, for the most part, and they made coming to work every day worthwhile.

I wish I could have been a better teacher for them last year. It was the worst year of my life personally, going through the separation and divorce, and having to get used to commuting again, after years of living one mile from my classroom. It literally took me less time to ride my bike from my front door to my classroom than it did to walk across the parking lot. When I got to school, seeing my students generally made me smile, despite the frustrations I was experiencing inside.

There were the sophomores who were a little goofy, but were still capable of communicating with adults like human beings, and there were the AP Literature Seniors who were ever aware that graduation was coming soon, yet still gave a solid try at most of the things I asked them to do.

I've never been a well-organized man, and grading papers has always been a challenge for me. After teaching for a full 8 hours, I found it next to impossible to sit still at the end of the day to grade writing. My eyelids are like the screens on a smart phone, if they rest idle for a moment, they black out. I've tried staying up with a fresh brewed pot of coffee, but by the time I had consumed 12 cups, I was just a jittery mess, and not really better focused on the task at hand. And last year, with the emotional turmoil of being alone, I found quiet time with a stack of papers very disconcerting.

I started making peer evaluations more a part of my day, when I realized that the kids could, when working in concert with a clear rubric, give fairly accurate evaluations of their own writing, but this was never as satisfying as it should have been. I remember my wizened old English teacher would write barely legible notes on my papers when I was a kid, and those notes could inspire me to write better or crush me when I knew I had not written up to her expectations. When you have 160-180 students, and you spend just a minute on each paper, the time adds up. I was never able to spend just a minute; instead, I would get bogged down, trying to think of the best advice to fix a poorly constructed sentence, sometimes rewriting a whole paper before getting frustrated and just writing a number at the top of the page that roughly represented what I thought they deserved.

Now, someone else will be worrying about that task, as well as the standardized testing our politicians have given us to make sure kids are learning. A.P. Exams are no longer my concern. Starting tomorrow, I will be in completely different world, and tonight, my thoughts are racing a bit.

Across town, I know my boys are in bed already. My youngest will be starting first grade, and he is excited because his kindergarten teacher has moved up with him. He learned so much from her last year, and he is eager to be in class again. My oldest will be returning to regular public school after spending two years at FWAFA, the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. We were thrilled when he was first accepted into their program, but we had hoped that he would receive more support in his primary artistic concern, playing guitar. He learned a lot about music through being part of the Texas Boys' Choir, but he missed playing sports. Starting tomorrow, he will be attending the same school where his mother teaches art, and he plans to try out for soccer. My nephew, who lives with me, will be attending his old high school, and seems enthusiastic, if not for the work ahead, for the chance to see his close friends who attend with him.

My ex wife, bless her heart, is probably more stressed than I am. The last time we spoke, she still had not received confirmed schedules, so she will be unable to prepare for her first day the way she would prefer. She is a natural planner and a maker of lists, so not having her student rosters has got to be stressful for her.

It's time for the serenity prayer, I believe...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Silver maple...Acer saccharinum

"All the good ones leave."
"Excuse me...what did you say?"

"I said, 'all the good ones leave.'"
"Why would you say that, kiddo? You know it's not true."

"The last one was the best one, and she left."
"Look, son, it's not a matter of 'best' and 'worst,' she didn't fit."

"Mom left."
"She did. I know. But we didn't fit either."

Silence filled the cab of the truck as we lumbered down the gravel road.
The child's truth must be balanced by a kind parental lie.

"Look, son, when the right one comes along, it's all going to work.
Until then, we learn something from each new friend we make along the way."

Silence, except for the gravel crushing under truck tires.
"If mom didn't fit, then why did you cry so much when she left?"

"I wasn't ready to change when she left. I'm getting there.
 Being together defined us, but now I'm free to find a better fit."

"Dad, I'm never gonna get married."
"Never? That's a long time. We'll see."

"I made Mom cry the other day. Over our house. I told her it was the last thing I have of all of us together."
"Don't be cruel to your mother, boy. That house is just a thing. I never even liked that place."

"You planted fifty trees and a hundred plants around that house; I told her I'm going to go and dig them up and plant them in our new back yard."
I imagined my garden growing in his stepdad's yard. "Son, there's nothing special in those plants."

"Dad, they are symbols."
"I'm proud that you want to keep a garden, but I planted those things for the next generation that lived there. I knew it wouldn't be us, son."

"You did? Then why..?"
"Every place you go, you should leave a mark. Something that will live beyond you, boy."

"Remember that silver maple you let me plant, Dad? It's taller than the house now!"
"Brittle wood...we should have planted it further from the house."

"No Dad, it looks strong. It's big around as your leg even."
"A tree that grows too tall too fast... you can almost guarantee the wood will snap in a storm. Oaks grow slow and steady...you can count on them to last."

"Is that why she left, Dad?"
"Your mother?"

"No, the new one."
"Maybe so, son. Maybe so."



Monday, August 18, 2014

Petrarch and Laura and you

Petrarch, poor fool,
loved Laura from afar.
If Laura was anything like you,
who could blame the sad monk
for dreaming and desiring
and wiling away the hours
letting words do what he would not allow his body?

Like him, I have no peace,
I can not now make war nor love,
to impress you, except with words
and rough-drawn sketches on a flimsy page.

If Laura had ever kissed Petrarch,
we would never have known the beauty
of his rhythmic lines,
the nuances would be lost...
who writes a poem
when ephemeral love lies in your arms?
So if my lines tire you, there's an easy remedy:

His love lives on in the lines of his poetry
because he never tasted her lips...
in ecstasy and agony, he let his
pent-up passion pen his prayers.
Even when his words described
an idyllic woodland stream or a field full of lavender,
Laura, like you, was at the heart of each line.

So be careful when you kiss;
one might be tempted to believe that heaven
is wherever you happen to be,
then prayers and poems would have to wait
as I will for you.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Night Riders Cowboy Ride August 2014

My first day of work at my new job is tomorrow, so I was tempted to skip Night Riders tonight. If it hadn't been for the fact that it was the Cowboy Ride, during which all of us were supposed to wear western clothing, I would have stayed home to do some laundry and prepare for my work day. As usual, the inner child in me won out because I just couldn't turn down a chance to wear my hat and boots and ride my bike down Main Street to the Stockyards.

By the time I made it to the Chat Room Pub, which is really only a couple of blocks from my front porch, I was already a sweaty mess in my Wranglers, my long-sleeved plaid shirt, my heavy leather boots, and my palm straw Larry Mahan hat. I had tied a brown bandana with Fort Worth printed on it around my neck for the extra flourish of city pride and stereotypical cowboy attire, but it was too hot, so I gave it away shortly after I got the pub, where a group of about 40 riders milled around, socializing, sipping beers, and generally not dressing as cowfolks.

There were only a handful of us crazy enough to sweat it out in jeans or boots, but I have to say that some of the ladies pulled off the look with much better grace than I could muster. My buddy, Hector, looked at my outfit, which is not far from what I wear on a regular basis, and said, "Hey man, you really dressed the part...you even brought the gut.." and he looked at my belly and laughed. Yeah, that's why I love Night Riders.

A number of the red Bcycle Bike-Share bikes were among the wheels gathered tonight, and we soon found out that we had genuine circus performers in our midst. Usually, Troxler is the biggest clown, with his off-color and punch-line-predictable jokes, but tonight, we had a proper clown, a woman who gets frequently shot from a cannon, and a trapeze artist, just to name a few. I had seen that the circus was in town, as I sidewalk-surfed around town earlier this week, but I never imagined that we would be so honored by their showing up to ride with us.

We left Magnolia and the near south and headed North on South Main. As we approached the Sundance Plaza, we dismounted and walked our bikes right past the fountains as the late summer crowds turned to take our pictures on tablets and phones and children waved and commented about all the cowboys and bicycles. After cruising down Main, and congregating around the White Elephant, Night Riders split up to visit various saloons along Exchange. I casually smoked my pipe, letting the toasted Cavendish cover any offensive odors that my sweaty hairy manly self might be exuding. I thought about skipping the beer, but then chose to walk over to the Beer to Go Booth next to the White Elephant, where a cute young bartender looked up at me and said, "Aren't you a teacher?" I may have groaned because I generally don't like to have a beer near my students. It's certainly frowned upon at school.

"Yes ma'am, I am. I thought you looked familiar..." I lied. "What's your name again?"
I have the world's worst memory for names. I leaned against the bar as another member of the gang sidled up beside me and said, "she's cute...what do you think?"

"I think you better back off, brother." I laughed and explained how this paternal attitude comes over me when I encounter my former students out in the world beyond the classroom. Even ones whose names don't readily come when I try to remember.

As we started to rally the forces at the end of this first stop, one of our regular riders got a flat. And unlike a seasoned Night Rider, he had no tubes, tools, nor air pump. Fortunately, Kyle Blake was riding his fat-tired Yuba, a cargo truck of a bike, and had plenty of gear and even a floor pump stashed in his oversized panniers, and with Macy Moore working on the flat, the tire was ready to go in under five minutes.

We headed out passed what used to be the Spaghetti Warehouse and as we approached our final turn before Samuels, we saw that a train was stalled on the tracks, so Troxler led the group down an off-road trail frequented by horseback riders. Soon, we were back on the main part of the Trinity Trails, skirting the Coyote Drive-in Theater as we made our towards infamous Taylor Street Hill.

The circus clown whose name I was too bashful to ask, and the cannon-baller were our slowest riders, partly because of their use of the Bike Share bikes, and partly because the clown claimed she hadn't ridden since she was a child. I hung back to give her and our tail-gunner or drag person (the one who makes sure no one is left behind) someone to talk to. She really was a cool person, warm, and affable, describing how she lives with the circus, and gets one month off every two years. She said that it gave her a chance to see what she had never seen before...and she was glad for the opportunity to ride with us like normal folks. I quickly explained that the Night Riders are far from normal!

The ride continued through town, all the way to Malone's Pub, where I waved farewell so that I might get home and get ready for my first day back on the job.






Gravity assist

The science teacher tried to draw us a picture: a big circle for the sun, smaller ones for the planets, and a dashed line representing the trajectory of a space probe.

I was not a physics person, but the idea was plain...
We could harness the power of gravity to propel spacecraft further
or to slow them down so that they could enter another planet's orbit;
a near miss could pull the spacecraft rapidly into a new direction,
saving payload space for scientific equipment rather than fuel.

The math required to get this right boggles the mind.
I can't even throw a baseball over home plate, but these scientists were shooting rockets
and aiming at hypothetical grains of salt in the sky, and yet, it worked.

It works the same way in the orbits that make up our lives.
We aim for what we think we want, but as we get closer to the object of our desires,
we may be slung like a shot into a tangential orbit, destined for something we never imagined.
In this way, we may spend our lives, propelling ourselves toward an uncertain planet
until the day someone's gravitational pull is too great to resist,
and then we find ourselves, bound in a collapsing orbit, steadily falling towards the surface of this beautiful destiny, just missing as it follows its own elliptical orbit,
oblivious to the tugs upon our souls,
until one day, we collide and forever our gravity becomes one force, ever falling towards the sun, and always just missing until the day our solar system has run its course.

Power of Suggestion

No, I don't want to be set up with someone, but thanks, really, I mean it, thanks...
I've shown her your pictures, and she likes them, says you are "hot!"

Hot? You've found a blind one, then, thanks, but really...which pictures, anyway?
Only the good ones, stop it, you know you are an attractive man!

Ok...but, set-ups don't work...does she have dimples?
Yes, yes she does! She is funny, she thinks I'm funny...my mom says to tell you she's hot!

What's her name? You didn't meet her at some redneck bar, did you?
No, her name is ...... and she looks exotic, well look her up on Facebook, you'll see.

Wow... (I sent her a message.)
Did you ask for her digits? I'm telling you, this girl is perfect for you!

There is no such thing, friend, but thanks, thanks a lot. She looks nice, I can see something in her
        smile, those eyes! I'd be undone if she smiles at me.
Hush, get her digits. Be cool. She's new in town, be someone she can see the sights with.

Did I tell you that we talked until 2 in the morning? She's not just a pretty face, she's deep!
She told me. She says she really likes you. Be cool.

Did I tell you that we are meeting? Where should we go? Just to talk, to see each other face to face?
The Old Pub, it's laid-back...good selection of beers, a good patio to get away from the crowd.

Did I tell you that when she walked in the door, she took my breath away?
Shhh, take it easy. She said she really likes you.

Did I tell you that we rode bicycles all over Fort Worth? She makes me feel like a kid again.
You owe me, big guy. She really likes you. Man! What a story we will be able to tell...

Did I tell you that I would come undone if she smiled at me? I am. What if she's the thing I'm
      missing?
You just met her. Don't get carried away. The thing you're missing is Jesus. God, man, get a hold of
     yourself!

Did I tell you that I'm writing poetry again?
Oh Lord, do NOT send her poetry so soon! Don't do it!

Did I tell you that I will learn to dance the salsa and the Merengue like I mean it?
You are going to look like a goof! Don't embarrass the poor girl. I'm happy you're inspired.

Did I tell you that she is leaving? She is a good woman, and her family needs her.
Leaving? Oh no.

Did I tell you that life is not fair? ...
Have patience.

Did I tell you that I've made a fool of myself, again?
Do not send that sketch to her...she will be overwhelmed. Cool it, buddy.

.....hmmm.
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

What? What did I do?
YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID. Fine, you won't take my advice.

Thanks for trying... I should have listened.
I'm sorry. If I had known, I would never have set you up. I meant no harm.

It's life. It felt so amazing, and I felt so sure, and she told me to be confident, and I was, but...
But it was too soon. I'm so sorry.

No. She woke something inside me. I feel young again. It was worth it. I swear!
I wish it could have worked out for you, I loved seeing you so happy.

I'm just a regular guy, but for a moment...I thought she felt it too by the look in her eyes...
She was not ready for something so intense right now...be patient...

She thinks I'm crazy. I imagined holding our kids.
Lord, you will never learn; just don't fall in love with the next one by Tuesday...be patient.

I had good intentions...
To the wrong person, you will never be worthy...I kind of dig this.

 Summer is over, my friend...back to work.
What a summer! Amen.















Saturday, August 16, 2014

Painting a moment

Late summer sun illuminates the outer leaves of the canopy
and dark shadows dapple the street beneath the oaks and elms and sycamores.
I'd love to be able to paint this moment,
capture the movement of each limb and each leaf
as the warm August breeze
rushes through the lacework of branches, making their asphalt floor seem to dance.

Inspiration exists in a moment and then is gone.
I remember being 20. Being able to seize the day.
Pulling my pick-up over on the shoulder of a farm road because a moment caught my eye.
I reached behind the seat and pulled my three-legged easel out
and set it up in the gravel and tickseed beside the road,
offering a casual wave to the curious rancher who slowed down to see what I was up to.

I painted a quick wash,
embellished the scene with a paint horse I had ridden with a friend the year before,
and then, when the watercolors were dry, I worked out some fine sketching, the details that would make the scene believable and purposeful.

I had the painting framed under glass, not knowing if that was the thing to do with watercolor art,
and I bought a bus ticket to Florida to see the friend whose image I had tried to impose on this idyllic scene.
You should have seen this young country boy,
holding the awkwardly-sized artwork in a narrow bus seat,
elbow to elbow with the cast of some rural tragedy.
There was the young Mexican man who smelled of oranges.
He got on the bus in some central Florida town with nothing but the scent of the fruit he had been picking.
I heard his stomach growl, so I reached into my bag and found one of the sandwiches I had packed days before. I split the sandwich in half and silently insisted that he take one of the halves, which he did, and he ate greedily, not saying a word, and looked silently out the window, slope-shouldered and alone.

In those days, I the urgency of a moment was palpable.
The lapse between impulse and action was a sigh.

But that was 20 years ago.
And time has lessons to teach the idealists.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, but know that once something beautiful is discovered,
it's only a matter of time before it will wither away.

She says she still has that painting somewhere,
and I still have that three-legged easel...

...but the inspiration is different
and my perspective has changed:
Waking from a long sleep,
my eyes are open
to see the day,
to seize the moment.
I've kicked my television to the curb
and I will have one less beer,
and I will damn my own complacency until I've burned every last molecule of inspiration.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August, 2014

It's been a pretty tumultuous summer, to say the least. In fact, any discussion of this summer has to be kept in context of comparison to last summer. Last summer was the beginning of my new life as a divorced dad.

This summer saw several firsts. It was my first wedding anniversary uncelebrated on purpose. There were a few anniversaries back when we were together that could have been done better, but this first one alone...well, I should never have gone to work. Every nerve seemed open and raw as I tried to make it through the day. When my shift was over at the Fort Worth Bike Share, I got on my Long Haul Trucker and rode. Though my knee had been hurting, the ride loosened me up and gave me clarity to focus on forward moving, literally and figuratively. A strong summer storm blew in and cooled off the air and my passions as I made my loop back home.

This summer was my first summer as a single man since my twenties. I don't count last summer because, well, I had hopes that the divorce was somehow not going to happen...that we would come to our senses and everything would end up a beautiful Hallmark movie ending. She would forgive my weaknesses and I would forgive hers, and we would hold hands and our children would embrace us, and all would be well. That did not happen, so by the time Summer 2014 rolled around, I had already experienced the glories of new bachelorhood. Oh, the stories I could tell! (But I will save those for the nursing home when I'm old and stories are the most fun I can manage).

This summer was my first summer as a new art teacher. After 13 years of teaching mostly High School English, I finally found a school that would trust me to teach art of all things. I passed the art certification exam and I have been sketching and painting and being mildly artistic all my life. I will be working with kids who have been suspended from their regular campuses, and I will also be supervising their electives courses as they work on computer-based learning.

This summer was my first summer taking my kids on a family vacation without the Missus. We drove south, played in the San Marcos river with those cool refreshing waters and the accompanying aesthetics. Summer sessions at the local university must have been in full swing, because scores of college students seemed to be studying nature, each other, and everything but their books down by that river. Our final destination was Port Aransas and Mustang Island State Park. We stayed at a motel and enjoyed air conditioning and Texas-shaped waffles before heading to our campsite in the Sargassum-strewn sands. It was the week before the Fourth of July, and we had tentatively planned to see what fireworks we may from the beach, but my eldest son had received an invitation to view Fort Worth's fireworks show with the family of his sweetheart. My nephew and my younger son both agreed to cutting out early, so we threw all of our gear in the truck the morning of the 4th and I drove straight home just in time to ride bikes from Fairmount, across town to the Panther Island Pavilion for the show.

It was the first summer that my ex wife brought her boyfriend to live with my family. There may always be a slight tone of resentment when it comes to this, but in reality, his moving in is a blessing. It means that he will be teaching closer to Fort Worth, and therefore, my family won't be moving to San Antonio or Austin. And though it grates on my soul whenever I hear my boys speak fondly of their soon-to-be stepdad, I realize that it could be so much worse. He treats them with respect and kindness. He apparently treats my ex as the treasure she is.

It was the first summer I felt deeply inspired in many years. I have always wanted to be creative, but have squandered my gifts by doing other things. I have a very hard time sitting still. My imagination wanders and I grow bored with projects I begin long before their completion, but this summer, a beautiful thing happened.

In the year leading up to this beautiful thing, I had found solace for my loneliness and regret by spending as little time alone as possible. I signed up on dating apps that allowed me to find other lonely spirits and we would wile away the hours. Guilt would creep in on me as I serially dated, but a friend of mine suggested that the girls I had come to know were like band-aides to cover the pain while the healing went on inside. I'm not one to objectify women, and hated to think that I was using these women, so I developed a keen sense of candor. Right up front, I'd tell a prospective date that I was in no place to become someone's committed partner. I was not seeking true love, just someone to spend time with. I would never wine and dine or try to impress another woman again.

It seemed, for a while, that this candor had unexpected benefits. The women I dated became friends, for the most part. We would share our war stories and laugh at our mistakes and occasionally, we would comfort one another. In the first few months after the separation, I had a couple of dear female friends who would come over and help with housekeeping chores, organizing my closets, helping me to throw out the clothes I no longer wore, even helping me clean the scent of cat out of my bedroom which must have served as a kitty kennel in a previous incarnation.

One morning, I posted on Facebook that the song "Life is Good" by Los Lobos was going to be my theme song for the day. One of my dearest female friends soon texted..."is it because of a girl?" I laughed and replied that I was just choosing to see the good that my life offers. Three hours later, she sent another text. "I just picked up the perfect chick for you!"

I don't do set-ups. The last time I had a blind date, I was 21 and I will never forget the experience. It was one of those moments where you think about the friend who set you up and wonder, what about you made them think that this person was a suitable date? Well, when my current dear friend texted, she began telling me that she was showing my pictures to this woman at the bank. That this woman seemed to think I was cute. And her name was...well, for the purposes of this blog, I will just keep names to myself. I searched her name on Facebook and discovered a beautiful young woman, Latina, dark eyes, long flowing hair, and the cutest dimple...and though I hate to say that I have a type, because it sounds so superficial, I have always thought Latin women were attractive.

We exchanged messages and phone numbers via Facebook. We talked until way past my old man bedtime. There was energy and spirit in her voice and intelligence in her texts; she was both witty and deep, and I knew that I had been offered a special opportunity. We agreed to meet and have a beer the next day, and our meeting lasted for hours. The chemistry between us made me almost high.

When she walked in the door of the tavern, I saw perfection. She had dressed to impress. I will avoid the clich├ęs by not describing her curves as dangerous. I am not sure, but it's possible that my mouth was agape when she made her way to my seat. Of course, I tried to be a gentleman, and I got up and stammered a hello.

Now, this is where things get messy. Suddenly, I actually cared about impressing this woman. I don't know why, but I became a hopeless romantic again. I started writing poetry again. I felt so certain that magic had happened, that I grew reckless with my feelings. I heeded no warnings that all the sane people in my life offered. "How long have you known her, Hardy?" They would smile and raise their eyebrows and warn, "Slow your roll, dude!" And I would say, "I know, but..."

My imagination created this perfect story of how this was Providence, our meeting. That maybe her purpose was to restore my faith, not just in love, but in God and in all the beautiful things I had once believed about the universe. I did not listen when she told me that her life was complicated. In my romantic vision, all complications were just details that my newfound inspired creativity would overcome. All the knowledge and wisdom I had earned through years of living and observing others flew out the window, and I felt alive like I had not felt in years. I thought that I was the exception to that rule that only fools rush in, and when she asked me to be honest about my feelings, it felt like it was an invitation to ignore common sense and just thrive in the glory of something so simple and foolish as love at first sight.

We all know better.

I knew that I did not want to rush into a romance. I knew that I had found something precious enough to wait for, but my feelings wouldn't let me wait. Passion is powerful, but reason was what I needed.

People of faith say that things happen for a reason. I have faith that as long as I live, I continue to learn.

I remember the passage my preacher friends often chose for wedding ceremonies:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient." I was not. I wanted everything all at once, without regard for the complexities of life.

"Love is kind." Had I been more kind, I would have listened more and spoken less.

"Love does not envy." I envied every waking moment that she was not near, and every text message she received while she was near.

"Love does not boast." I shared her picture with every friend I ran into. I impressed upon my friends how blessed I was to have met her.

"Love is not proud." Though I wanted to hear her voice, I was too proud to listen to what she had to say.

"Love does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking." The elation I was feeling when I was with her mattered more than what she actually needed.

"It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth." I rejoiced in sharing what was true in my heart, but the truth of the situation was nothing I wanted to rejoice in.

"It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." We shall see.

"Love never fails." We shall see.


Until then, I know what I have to do.
I have to quit pretending I am a writer who doesn't write or an artist who doesn't paint, and I just need to invest in the gifts I have been given.

"Follow your heart," they say. "Use the gifts God gave you," they say. I say that if you listen to what they say, you'll get bruised and worn, but at least you'll truly be living.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes, I feel inspired to try my hand at poetry.

For My Friend

Barefoot on his bamboo longboard,
its sandy deck surface easily gripped by his callused feet,
he knows cruising is safe down neighborhood streets, the level boardwalk,
but sometimes,

sometimes hills beckon.

He is ill-equipped for this winding hill with its sensuous curves,
each bend promising a new thrill.
He knows he should play it safe,
go home,
get his heavy gloves with the pucks that turn his hands into brake pads,
even his helmet which turns his silhouette into some phallic caricature of a man,
but the hill is here before him, now...

And so he lets gravity have its sway,
and speed slowly thrills,
and his bare feet grip the board,
and he rolls on, knowing
he has passed the line he should not cross,
critical mass,
terminal velocity,
when braking is no longer an option,
and he must commit though calamity waits around each bend of her sinewy path...

Her?
As his descent increases,
the vibration of the road hums in the soles of his feet,
and he remembers the taste of her kiss,
and now it is his soul that rises as he and his board surf down the winding asphalt.

Onlookers with firmly planted feet hear his approach;
they shake their heads at his folly,
knowing what happens when fools lose control and their skin,
but this is not their ride, it is his.