A volcano lives inside you,
constantly burbling and hissing,
and sometimes it erupts-
a noisy announcement
of shouts goes spraying,
ignoring the walls like air.
Did you trap a bird inside you?
A tropical bird like a squawking
church hat; I hear it rustling
around and screaming for
fruit or insects or whatever
it eats. It clicks its beak.
There’s a bulldozer inside you,
scraping your tongue smooth
as you crawl on your knees
in a white tile work zone.
Tire treads comb you from
the inside; I hear them grind.
Half the world’s inside you,
and another half of who knows
what; they fill the house and
subdue it with tidal volume.
And what I want to know is:
will they drown you?
Someday past 6 you will
sit in a quiet place feeling
inside of you, sorting soul drawers.
You will find the volcano,
the bird, the bulldozer and
decide. Until then, boy, amplify.
is an artist
I ask her
to hurry when
she is composing?
I too am an
you cannot soon
eat your own
To my adopted extended family,
It’s funny, because you’re sort of my real extended family because Michael married Emily. So since he’s my brother-in-law and you’re his family, it’s like we’re family-tied. I have the hardest time trying to explain that to people. But my heart really gets it.
I guess it’s kind of weird that I’m almost 21 and yet today I was playing leapfrog with you. It’s a weird I can live with, though. Because you are some of the best things in my life. And when I say “my life” I don’t mean right now. I mean ever. Always. You are the best. I never could have imagined our current situation- you and me and Michael and Emily all living on the same property, two minutes’ drive or 6 minutes’ walk away. It’s just one example of how God takes things that scare me (moving to the country) and turns them into things I adore.
I’m so sore right now. When someone suggested we play football on our knees, I had this thought that I probably shouldn’t ruin my jeans. But I played anyway. Because I can buy new jeans and my sore knees will be back to normal tomorrow. But this? This absurd experience of scooting across a sandy field on our knees and looking laughably stunted as we tackle each other is going down in the venerated book of Good Times.
When we played Red Rover (my first time since age 8ish), I squeezed your hands tight- partially to keep our chain together, and partially because you are my favourite kids and I love feeling like your sister.
When we made hot chocolate from scratch, I sang Pompeii with you and was glad of the cold weather and warm friendship.
I’m just so thankful for you. My family and your family and the joining of us through Michael and Emily. Thanksgiving isn’t for few weeks yet, but I find myself feeling this way all the time. When you hold my sister close, Michael. When you show me how itunes works, Josh. When you break the line of scrimmage to run and keep Caleb from shutting his fingers in the car door, Andrew. When you half-hug me whenever we pass, Sam. When you quote the same phrase 3 times in a row, Noah. When you show me sandcastles, Abby. When you say “Grace! You’re home!” when I get to your house, Caleb.
I love you. I don’t always tell you stuff like this because I guess I’m afraid you’ll think I’m sentimental. And I am. But I don’t care. I look at your dirty faces and I see your patchwork hearts and I love you with everything God has made me and all the ample love with which he has deluged my soul. I don’t know what time will do to us, but I hope to keep you close. You are my family now. You and your parents and the new baby who has yet to make an appearance. The Lord has done great things for us and I hope you notice even the tiny ones- the brightness of the day-moon in the afternoon sky and the sprinkling of leftover cocoa powder on the counter and the way people laugh when they feel secure. I notice them and I remember them and I keep them locked up inside me so that whatever happens, wherever we go, whatever we become, I will always have a piece of you with me.
Good times indeed.
there I was lying on the carpet,
raised on my elbows, making bookmarks
precision knife poised like a tiny javelin
red squeeze marks on my knuckles
the promise to come downstairs electrified solitude
and as my bedroom reverberated with strains of his symphony
Tchaikovsky cradled loneliness with reverence
there were the Proms in their last week
and I leaving for a two-week vacation,
voices and orchestras made me fade
blowing wide their memory
the anticipation of leaving intensified festivity
and as the walls reverberated with strains of applause
Petroc Trelawney described the Albert Hall with reverence
there you went leaping over garden rows
spiking the volleyball, sipping your milkshakes
fresh haircuts, tan and taut legs
stretching my heart
and the thought of me ever going from you- or you from me- energised camaraderie
and as the Honda reverberated with strains of your mirth
no one listened to your laughing with as much reverence
dinner at the window, the dandelion sun used to heat your hair molten
someone’s eyes were always squinting at the bright stirring of water
stray cats balancing the fence made small hands print the panes sweaty and curious
and you were catching your belt loop on drawer pulls and laughing
glee was a tide pool in defiance of the moon
at night when the sky pretended to not be there and we pretended to not be tired
static electricity made fireflies under the sheets and we danced
we danced with lampshades on our stupid heads and forgot the differences that made us mortal
too early to know itself, our soul tripped on eager feet; half agony half hope
half yours half mine
the sun used to turn your hair molten
who drives; who mows the field so unbearably slowly
hacking at the stalks of remembrance bruised and breaking
almost-healed blisters from chopping down trees with Andrew
walking barefoot in short-clipped grass and red garden soil
Anna browsing Pinterest
boys throwing pebbles at my window
dirty cowboy hats in the garage
all hands on deck in the garden with rakes
Dad “forcing” people to put their banana peels etc. in plastic compost containers
sudden spring and sneezing in hay
everyone sprawled out on the Lathams’ couches watching Phineas and Ferb
Sam owning everyone at video games
the bounce board
Mom wheeling Caroline around in the stroller in the afternoon
Alan poring over library books and lining them up across the living room floor
Noah helping me play Lego Batman
Josh going back to old subjects when everyone else has moved on to another topic of conversation
“Guys don’t really like a ton of people. Girls are like, “I love everyone!!”” -Sam
lots of yelling. all the time.
borrowing Emily’s camera
random power outages
spotty cell phone service
bumpy dirt roads and radio turned up loud
throwing the frisbee
spontaneous dinner parties
Emily’s homemade bread
Caleb dancing to Gangnam Style
cuddling and tickling on the couch with Noah and Abby and Caleb
sunset light filtering over the hill behind Michael and Emily’s house
“I can’t wait until you make your pickles again, Grace.” -Anna
Alan eating too much peanut butter every morning
Caroline and Sam tickling each other with grass
the way Alan screams with his tongue out when he’s hurt himself
Andrew wearing The One Ring on a chain under his shirt
Abby’s glass collection at the fort by the free-running course
that one piano app on Michael’s phone
“There are these magnetic mushrooms… but they go to sleep during the day so you have to give them a coffee bean..” -Michael
Josh and Andrew’s garden-dirty hipster shoes
medieval philosophy lectures and silhouette bookmarks
getting poked in the ribs
broccoli and cauliflower plants between the blackberry rows
crowding around Michael’s television watching the extended Lord of the Rings
everyone annoying everyone else
everyone loving everyone else anyway
hugs and head-kisses
He only wants yes. And he’s willing to throw his 4-year-old weight around to hear it. He begs, he whines; he even tries to make use of logic, which is always amusing.
“I want it. I neeeeeed it.” But sometimes the answer is no. And today, when the answer was no, he groaned and said, “But that’s not being sweet!”
Oh, wait. He thinks kindness equals yes. He thinks that if I don’t give him what he wants, I’m not being nice. I’m not being courteous unless I capitulate.
He doesn’t understand yet. He doesn’t realize that a closed door directs you on to a better house. He doesn’t realize that sometimes, “no” is the nicest answer I could give. Sometimes, “no” is neither noxious nor niggardly. Sometimes, “no” is nutritious.
When he wants to watch yet another movie. When he wants to go outside alone. When he wants to eat Cheez-Its for dinner. No is nurturing.
But he doesn’t understand. And, often, neither do I. Or, rather, I forget. When God doesn’t affirm my wishes, I stand wistfully in front of locked doors and wish there was a way; neglecting to turn my head and see the welcoming lights shining from the house down the street.
I want yes. I beg, I whine; I even try to make use of logic, which must be so amusing. But sometimes the answer from on high is no. And when I hear it, I groan. I equate kindness with “yes”.
But sometimes, “no” is the kindest answer He can give. Sometimes, “no” is meant to drive me on to something noble. When He says no to one of my wishes, He’s saying yes to one of His. He’s taking the rough draft of my life and rewriting it- taking out paragraphs I thought were important and replacing them with unsuspected plot twists and adventures that jump out at me from behind. He’s replacing all of me with Himself.
And it means that sometimes I find myself yanking on a locked door like a disappointed child.
But I cannot beg, whine, or reason myself out of the fact that kindness does not equal yes.
Affirmation does not lead to affluence.
And sometimes, nothing is more nourishing than “no”.
Three days after the wedding, we’ve finally cleared most of the evidence off the dining room table. My sister and my new brother are in Colorado on their honeymoon. I’m sure they’re having a beautiful time, and it makes me so happy to think of their happiness.
But you know what?
I miss her. I miss her desperately. I stood next to her and held her bouquet as she pledged herself to her man, and as they both dedicated their marriage to the Lord “for as long as we both shall live”. I smiled and cried. Because it hurts to let her go. “For as long as we both shall live”, we’ll never share a room again. “For as long as we both shall live”, I won’t wake up to her tiptoeing up to bed at midnight. “For as long as we both shall live”, I won’t have to sort her laundry. “For as long as we both shall live”, her towel won’t hang next to mine on the bathroom rack. For as long as we both shall live.
Saturday was a joyous occasion, full of hope for the future and gratefulness for God’s graciousness. The man she married is noble and wise, and I trust him to take care of my baby sister. She never looked so beautiful as she did in that pure white dress, in that pure white church, with her pure white heart.
I’ll miss her borrowing my clothes. I’ll miss sorting through her sheet music to find my own. I’ll miss laughing when she jams the sewing machine. I’ll miss talking until 5 in the morning. I’ll miss how she threw her laundry down the stairs, the way we absentmindedly harmonized in the kitchen, the living room, upstairs, outside. I’ll miss waking up and seeing her asleep in her bed, so exhausted from the day before, looking so adorable. I’ll miss the way she always asked me to scratch her back when she had asthma.
Now I can put my extra books on her vacated shelves. I don’t have to worry about her hearing me talk in my sleep and what I might say. I can keep the AC at whatever temperature I like. I can talk on the phone late at night. I don’t have to wait my turn for the bathroom. And if I cry myself to sleep, I don’t have to do it silently.
But I miss her. I miss my precious baby sister. I miss having to be strong for her, even when it hurt. I miss seeing her beautiful face every day.
She won’t be far.
I can still see her any time I like.
But “for as long as we both shall live”, it will never be the same. Sometimes, I don’t mind. I know that, in many ways, the best is yet to come.
But sometimes I miss her.
5 cousins at Sea World in 2003 and 2012
So many things have changed, but some things have stayed the same.
And happiness follows us everywhere we go.
I don’t have much to give you. A little manual labour, some cookies from time to time, a bit of music when the baby isn’t sleeping, and these words. Just a few clumsy words. You’re the man who has everything- you say that every day is like Christmas. You don’t need gift-wrapped, earthly treasures because, for you, happiness is just a book by Chesterton on the banks of the Frio River. I wish I could give you that today. I wish I could find a spectacular way to make your 50th birthday special. But I know you prefer simplicity to spectacle, and so instead of a gift wrapped in paper and tied with ribbons, I give you a letter wrapped in memories and tied with words that will never die. I’m not sure if, when I’m finished, I’ll be proud to set these words free upon eternity, but I hope they honour you despite their inadequacy.
I cannot hope to express what a blessing you have been in my life. In a world parched for courage; a world silently calling out for its men to stand up and be examples of Micah 6:8; a world full of children looking for someone worthy of admiration, I had to look no further than you. In a world packed with absentee fathers, you were always there. You were my lighthouse on the shore, guiding me to safe harbours. You were the rainstorm in a drought, the philosopher among the peasants, the work by Lewis on a shelf of works by lunatics. All these you were, and are, to me. When I wanted your advice, and especially when I didn’t, you pointed me along on the straight and narrow path. And whenever I sat down on the journey, you showed me the ugliness of the pools of apathy I poured for myself. You were, for me, a living picture of who I wanted to become. Perhaps that is because you were, and are, and are becoming a living picture of Christ. He was, and is, and is to come in you. I have followed you as you uncovered the truth He wanted you to find, seen you bind it to your heart, and prayed for such devotion to be found in me. I have watched you hold our family on your shoulders, lightening our burdens, and prayed for such faithfulness to be found in me. I have read the books you love, listened to the music you enjoy, laughed at the jokes you find funny, and cried when you were passionate, because if you think something is worthy of praise, it is. Over time, I’ve come to admire all those things for myself, and not just because you do. But I think that just makes me trust you even more.
You’ve been my guardian and my inspiration; my father and my friend. The Lord has done wondrous things for you, and thus, for me. Thank you for being the wind of love and clarity and nobility in my life. Thank you for the evenings hitting golf balls in the empty lot across the street and the harpsichord concerts in winter. Thank you for the times you took the frogs out of the pool, the games of “Squirrel” in the yard, the annual trips to the Dollar Tree in the mall at Christmas time, and the annual trips to RiverBend in the summer. Thank you for the times you apologized when you were wrong and the times you made me apologize when I was wrong. Thank you for forcing me to read those long, boring Carson history books, getting me all the way from long division to derivatives, and blasting Praetorius in the car. Thank you for reading The Lord of the Rings aloud, driving me to all those voice lessons, coming up with my Facebook password, and twirling me around to Joplin before we bought the coffee table. Thank you for brainstorming more syllables to add to the word, “antidisestablishmentarianism”, setting the alarm during tournaments, and all those Mars Hill audio tapes and discussions about God and culture and ideas. Thank you for showing me how to stretch barbed wire and spread peat moss and rip my clothes and get dirty knees working on the land. Thank you for teaching me to shine with a light and follow a star that isn’t mine. You have been all and everything a father is called to be, and I am blessed and honoured to be an arrow in your quiver. Wherever I go, your legacy will go with me. I am proud to carry it.
Your Devoted Daughter
It’s my favourite way to commemorate the year just past. I hope you enjoy the following collection of quotes from 2011.
Dad: Now, this is a narrow street, so watch how I make this U-turn. *makes turn while explaining* Okay, so see how tight that was? Sometimes U-turns are illegal, though, so you know not to make those.
Me: *looking back* Uhhhh… I’m just now realizing that there was an “illegal U-turn” sign back there…..
Dad: Oh, really? Oh. … Yeah, it’s hard to make U-turns on tight streets like that. They put those no U-turn signs up for people who don’t know how to make turns like that. Thankfully, I know how to do it safely. SO it doesn’t really apply to me.
Anna: Come this way, Alan!
Alan: To Isengard, to Isengard!
Me, pop-quizzing the family on vocabulary: ‘Extraneous’. The root is “extra”, which means “out”….
Emily: OUT OF A TRAIN!!! ….um, out of CONTROL! Like, extra “reign” eous.
Mom: Oooh! Extra rainy!
Dad: You’ve been a good boy during devotion tonight so far, Alan!
Alan: I would be happy if you finished.
“Alan, don’t swing the sword around. Just point it at people.” -Dad
“You are being especially clever tonight.” -Emily, to me
Me: (looking at senior photos) I can’t pick one!
Christina: It’s because you’re just too lovely and photogenic.
Me: But you don’t mention those 300 pics you deleted.
Christina: Well… we just won’t talk about those!
“The topic I’ve chosen today is self-worth. Now, judges, *pointing* you’re ugly, you’re fat, and YOU’RE stupid. Now listen up, especially you, the stupid one.” -Luke (*spoofing impromptu*)
Nathan: Grace, are you a yankee?
Owen: Of COURSE she’s not!
“Yay, my cupcake is here! I will kill it!” -Emily (at a rehearsal for the battle scene from Beauty and the Beast)
“Death is only romantic when the SINGLE person dies.” -Alison
Anna: The reason there’s paint all over the floor is because Michael..
Michael: I did NOT make paint angels on the floor, Anna.
Anna: *laughing* No, no, it’s just, (*to me*) Michael kicked the bucket!
Michael: *he and I chuckle* I’m standing right here! Don’t tell lies.
Anna: I’m not! He kicked it! It was an accident!
Michael: Well at least I didn’t do it on purpose! *he and I laugh again*
Anna: *totally confused* …and it spilled everywhere.
Michael: Ugh! Gross!
Me: Hahahaha! Anna, do you know what the phrase, ‘kick the bucket’ means?
Me: It means to die.
Anna: …*starts laughing*
“I have a photographic memory. In my mouth.” -Isaac
Nathan: Well, if you have to go, I don’t want to keep you.
Me: You just want to throw me away??
Nathan: How did I know you would say that?!
Me: Because you’re you and I’m me and we get along. =)
Alan: Awww, look at yourself!
Alan: Because yourself is pretty!
I took a week off from real life. I wandered up and down the bank of the Frio River like a wanderer come home, stepping on the same ground I visit every year. I remembered a game I made up when I was very young: trying to walk as far as possible without touching anything except cypress tree roots. I spent my childhood here, and somehow I managed never to take it for granted. It’s the simplest place in the world, a combination of peaceful and exciting that I needed so much. When did I turn into a grown-up with a life to escape from?
You would love those sprawling cliffs and the deep water below them. When you swim ten feet above the lazy catfish parties, it’s like you’re alone in an aquamarine mystery, and the mystery is more beautiful than the answer. I don’t think there is an answer, and that’s why it’s beautiful. The breeze turns the stillness into contented energy, and little ripples kiss your upper lip again and again like there’s no tomorrow and all we have is now. The past is gone and the future will never come and no one cares. You just swim into the 4 o’clock sun. You see poetry in everything. And for once, you exult in being alone… but then you’re not alone. Because your little sister and your fabulous cousin come and play seals right next to you, and then you exult in being not-alone. And you swim through the ripples to the diving log and pretend it’s a ship. Sometimes you can feel a fresh-water spring under you and it’s so COLD you scream and everyone thinks you saw a snake and then you laugh at them.
Then it’s eleven in the morning on another day and you’re alone again, down by the rope swing without much sunscreen, building a waterfall and channels for three hours. When you’re finished, it’s a quality establishment, and that sunburn on your back? It hardly matters. And your chipped fingernail polish? It doesn’t matter at all.
There’s a big hill from the upper campground to the lower campground, and it’s perfect for riding your bike with no brakes. People talk about throwing precaution to the wind, but I don’t think that’s what happens. I think the wind whooshes around you so fast that it snatches your precaution away from you, whether you’re holding it tightly or not. And I never hold mine tightly on that hill anymore. I’ve been hurtling down it at top speed ever since I was nine years old.
You would love the annual catfish-fry… sitting on rocks with fishing poles all day long, baiting with hot-dogs, naming the fish you catch, and throwing away the “stanleys”. And then at the end of the day, you haul your stringer back up to the cabin and your dad tries to show you how to clean the fish and it’s disgusting but now you’ll be able to survive in the wild. If you had a knife. And matches or flint. And cornmeal and Lowry’s salt and oil to coat the fish with. I fried them this year, and it took forever.
Oh, and then when you feel like it, you can walk up to the office and charge any number of ice-creams to your family’s account.
It was a week of enchantment and detachment. When being alone didn’t ever feel lonely. A week of painted rocks and curious fish and family and hardly any other campers to bring my mind back to the present. I don’t think I took a week off from real life, really. I think I took a week of visiting it. Maybe paradise is what’s really real, and everything else is simply the contrast material.
Scratch the maybe.
Ah, but the contrast material always seems so very contrasting when I come home. When I was a kid, I used to be sad to come home because home wasn’t as fun. But now I’m sad to come home because home is so much less home. It’s so much more complicated. Here is where I have to think about the future and figure out how to deal with the past. Here is where alone always feels lonely. But I tell myself to get a grip and wear a smile, because even while I miss that carefree river, a River of Life is flowing inside of me and I only have to look to the Source to realize that I will never despair and I will never let go. Even when all I want is to fade, there’s colour holding onto me that won’t let me give up. I can’t stay in paradise, but I can carry it with me always. And I will.