Friday, April 27, 2007

Return to Earth - The Scheherazade Project

The latest topic for The Scheherazade Project challenges its participants to select a poem and turn it into prose. My selected poem of inspiration is included at the bottom of my submittal. It is long, but as with any Whitman poem, in my opinion well worth the read. Comments and criticisms welcome.

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Return to Earth

I visit this place to enjoy the peace. Walking among the stones that stand in requiem of lives and deaths. I read their names and imagine to whom they belonged - calculate their ages and strain to picture their face - struggle to remember something - anything - about them. Men and women, perhaps much like myself, remembered by no one anymore but me. Resting deep below in the cool darkness, leeching into the rich black earth to feed the new sprouts in the spring.

Tender blades of grass shoot up into the light and reach down to draw food from the dead. I run my hands over their tender tips - cool fingertips of life standing in tribute to the still fingers below. Perhaps one in the same - reaching up to touch whomever is there to remember.

A fascinating circle, a perpetually renewing cycle designed by God. Even with the finality of death, life will continue, and even begin long afterwards. New growth will cover over old loss, and in time all will appear as if it were that way all along. No seams in the blanket of green from one resting place to the next. Likewise, just as all men are equal in death despite what was done in their lives. Eventually no one remembers but the grass.

How funny for humble grass to make such a profound statement on the humility of mortality.

I will not visit the graves of those I know, partly for this very reason. Like the grass, the universe itself regards them with the same disregard - merely one with the Earth again. I hate that I alone remember that they were different. They were special.

And perhaps, I am a little jealous that they have slipped free from the chains binding them to the narrow perception of this existence. Perhaps, it makes me feel unlucky to still be here. Me and the grass, touching fingertips, and the grass touching the ones that are all but forgotten.

Do they miss me too?

Eventually I leave this place of fading remembrance. Life continues, with or without any of us. Best to get back to living while I can - I'll be back here for good soon enough.

I pluck a blade of grass and take it with me.

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A child said, What is the grass?
fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .
I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition,
out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .
the produced babe of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means,
Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff,
I give them the same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.
I wish I could translate the hints about
the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers,
and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life,
and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed,
and luckier.

Walt Whitman

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What fresh hell is this

My time on line has been very limited lately and I haven't even been around visiting my normal blog stops - but I'd imagine many if not most have blogged a bit about this terrible event. Therefore, I won't recap - I just wanted to share my herky-jerky thoughts.

Yesterday was a very tragic day not only for the students, faculty, and families of Virginia Tech but for the nation and the world as a whole. 33 people dead, without warning and (as of yet) no known reason.

A consciousness of mortality sets us apart from other creatures. But how "conscious" are we really? Yesterday morning 32 people got up and got ready for their day, none of which I bet dwelled on the possibility that this would or even could be their last. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing ... Ignorance is bliss. It's just that sometimes fate's irony floors me.

Students who have worked hard, followed their passions and pursued their goals are now gone. People the gunman may or may not have known - his randomness suggesting luck of the draw. Today their families grieve their lost children with no available closure. Professors involved not only in passing their wisdom to their students but highly regarded researchers and engineers on the track of improving quality of life for countless people. What would they have become? How would they have changed the world, and how will we be burdened in their absence?

What snapped in that gunman's head? What recognition in the frightened faces would cause him to fire at some and pass over others? Was it the simple opportunity of clear shots, or something else?

I know there are no answers to these questions, but I think about them all the same.

There has been a lot of squawk since yesterday about what could have been done and what should have been done to prevent this from happening. Armed guards on school properties and college campuses, missed opportunites for intervention by school psychologists, and the ever popular cry for stricter gun control laws (nevermind that at least one of the two weapons used was bought by the gunman through completely legal channels and requirements, and you know what that means if they call for tightening control. Don't get me started.). I don't see how any of those actions will help. Unless you can put on a Zoltar turban and read the future, don't know how anything could be done. Atrocities just have a way of manifesting. There really is no one but the gunman to blame, which being that he's dead as well, is a hollow and unsatisfying conclusion.

But there sometimes are no answers. Sadly, such is the burden and dangers of living in a fallen world.

We are reminded to live each day with purpose.

Pray for the families and friends of the victims in the coming weeks. Their agony is incomprehensible.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Searching for a Home

When Incrediboy started preschool last fall, we enrolled him in a school run out of a church near our places of work. Along with playtime and lessons on colors, shapes, letters, and the typical fare, the kids also enjoy Bible story time and a Christian centered atmosphere. We love this, both feeling it’s immeasurably important to instill a faith-based belief system in children.

Unfortunately, we’ve also used it as an excuse to not worry about going to church so much.

The Hub and I haven’t settled on a new home church since we moved away from the city almost 3 years ago. Our previous church was wonderful. Contemporary music, lots of outreach ministries, and a brilliant pastor who possesses an uncanny gift of consistent poignancy. Most people in attendance raised their hands as they praised the Lord. I rarely did, simply because I wasn’t raised that way and it wasn’t a natural impulse of mine – but it didn’t bother me in the slightest that anyone else did. I always left church feeling restored, revived, and closer to God than when I entered.

When we moved, our commute to this church grew from 10 minutes away to 40 minutes, and it was hard to justify the distance. Plus, we felt it would be good to find a church in our new community. We have visited our previous church’s new satellite church many times, only 5 miles from us, but the Hub doesn’t care much for the pastor's style. I feel it’s important for the whole family to agree and feel at home at a church, so we have yet to settle on a new spiritual home.

Hub and I both come from a strict, old-fashioned Baptist upbringing. We stopped going to church in our young adulthood, and when we met we spent a long time trying to find a place where we both felt comfortable. We were both happy at the old church, but as we’ve been searching for a new one, our tastes in approach seem to have grown in different directions. We both seek a Nicene creed, cut-the-crap, Bible-centered doctrine, with nothing added and nothing taken away. We also prefer a more casual dress code, not being much for fashion shows. But while I really enjoy the more relaxed approach to the music – live band, more contemporary, toe-tappin’ hand clappin’ worship songs, etc. – Hub is leaning back towards the traditional Hymnal-centered music of our upbringing. Honestly, I’m not against that – the old standards are fine! I just kind of like the contemporary stuff better – I *feel* the worship more.

The music really isn’t the important part though. It’s whether or not you’re being “fed”. Is the message making a difference in our lives?

We visited Hub’s cousin’s church this weekend. It was very much like the churches we grew up in – old fashioned, very Baptist, very reserved. Surprisingly, though, not stuffy in the slightest. Most people were dressed up, but a few were dressed down and weren’t receiving shocked looks in response. The music was very traditional – typical Baptist fare. Everyone sang dutifully and reservedly. Special music was courtesy of a barbershop quartet, which was certainly not a contemporary genre, but was very enjoyable. And the sermon was no apologies straight preaching out of the clunky verbage of the King James Bible (what I was raised on, and not my preferred version). But the pastor is young, and is a very good speaker. He would direct the congregation to a passage that he would read, and had a habit of injecting “now look at me” afterwards, which kind of tickled me. He encouraged participation, and had a great sense of humor. Most importantly, he exuded enthusiasm and out & out joy as he shared the message.

While traditional, this was not the huffy stuffy Baptist service of my youth.

We are not very good Christians. But we ARE Christians, trying to be better. I'm anxious to find a church to make home, especially for Incrediboy's sake. Hub was very receptive to this atmosphere, and Incrediboy had a blast in “Bitty Church”, clutching a small Easter basket in his hand and chattering all the way to the car. And while I enjoy a more contemporary approach to Sunday Services, a return to the traditional approach roots of my upbringing wouldn’t be an intolerable thing since my family feels at home there. In fact, it felt pretty good.

We’ll see how it goes.

Friday, April 06, 2007


She didn’t really care much about golf, but her friend from the radio station got a couple tickets to the celebrity outing, so she agreed to go with him. It might be fun to see who was there. She put on her hippest clothes and spent a little longer than normal on a cutting edge hairdo and makeup. If any photo ops came up, she wanted to look glamorous next to a favorite star.

The event was a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon. It was mostly smaller names – B-actors and sitcom stars of mediocre success, and a few up and coming recording artists – no superstars. But it was still kind of fun to meet some notable faces.

After the reception they decided to go to a nearby eatery for their famous battered fries and a few microbrews.

Her friend had always told her she looked like that one singer with the nose ring. She didn’t really know her music but had seen a picture of her, and took it as a compliment. She only saw a vague resemblance, though. Still, he was convinced she was a dead ringer, and to prove it he decided to pull a joke on her when someone stopped him on the way back from the bathroom to ask if his companion was who he thought she was.

Without a flinch, he confirmed she was, and sent him over with encouragement to talk to her.

She almost didn’t hear him when he tiptoed up next to her and stumbled through an opening line - partly because he addressed her by another name, and partly because his voice was barely over a whisper, as if they were in a library rather than a busy restaurant. But in a few seconds it registered. She looked up and saw the spellbound face of a stranger, and the smirking mug of her friend behind him. She knew what her friend was up to but didn’t have the heart to tell the young man he was misled, so she decided to just play along. They talked a while, and she signed his golf program for him with a silver Sharpie her friend conveniently whipped out. His eyes sparkled. As he walked away her friend nudged her and spouted about an acting job well done – but she felt kind of bad.

A few minutes later, a small gaggle of girls came up and said hi and how much they loved her debut album. Her friend looked at her with a grin and raised eyebrows. Apparently word was geting around. She shot him a split-second glance she hoped said “I’ll get you for this”, and chatted with the bubbling teens. One of the girls gave her a cassette by the singer with the nose ring. She opened it and signed a forgery on the cover, “With love” - wondering if she was breaking any laws.

As the evening progressed, a dozen or so similar interruptions followed. She posed for photos, signed autographs, accepted impromptu gifts. Her friend was delighted, but she was uncomfortable. She didn’t know how to get out of it now, though.

The funny thing was, no one even seemed to notice that she didn't have a nose ring.

She wondered, would the karma gods punish her for lying? Or was making the night of a few fans, even under the guise of deception, not such a bad thing?

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Mother Nature is cruel.

Two days ago it was 81 degrees here. We were wearing shorts and even sweating. In fact it had been beautiful for quite a while. Trees were budding, flowers were blooming, birdies were singing and courting. Life was beautiful. Then Monday night a storm front rolled through, and Tuesday it was winter again. I mean it was really winter. And yesterday? It SNOWED! My tulips are ready to bloom and my redbud is loaded with its cute little magenta flowers - and there’s snow on the ground today. Which means tulip petals and redbud flowers on the ground tomorrow.

That’s just mean.

The thing is, this happens every year. Every year the sweet blossoms of a new year are allowed to poke their little heads out, and we are all lulled into a false sense of security before our butts are all frozen off again. So many gardens, blooming perennials, and flowering trees are ruined every year, and the window we are allowed in which to enjoy it before the elements sabotage it all is very tiny. Why am I still here?

There was some miscellaneous trivia in the paper today that I’ve had on my mind. One is that something like six hundred million Peeps are consumed each Easter. Are you kidding me right now? Peeps are cute and all, especially the bunnies - but they’re nasty. They’ve got to be the fruitcake of Easter. Everyone buys them and gives them but no one really eats them. Actually I do know someone who loves them. But only one person. I can’t believe ANYONE likes them. The only thing grosser than a Peep is a Circus Peanut. Remember those? Nasty!

The other is that 76% of people eat the ears of a chocolate bunny first. I find this a conservative number. I mean, what would one eat first if it weren’t the ears? The toes? The tail? Who in their right mind would eat the tail first?

If I don’t see you, have a great Easter weekend!