Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dinner Plate Moon

We walked hard through thorns and cow patties. A fence stretched along a ridge of the hill. We sat next to it, sweating with the dirt and yellow jackets.

Grass hoppers chased us down, hopping on our shoulders and slapping wings against our faces until we crossed the road and climbed up onto the rocks. The setting sun turned the water pink and made my hair look red. I changed into my swimsuit; the water was dark when I splashed in. Fish jumped across the river--spooky sounds in the twilight, the full moon rising like a yellow dinner plate over the hills. I climbed back onto the rocks, my hair dripping cold against my stomach and my thorn-marks stinging in the night air. My fingers smelled like water. A friend and I discussed tattoos and life and death and beauty and sorrow, and the moon kept rising, shrinking, like a dinner plate flying into the stars.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lingua Latina

This morning I sat in the library, my gray computer chair squatting low like a tweed mushroom. The dingy cord of my earphones hung from the computer box; 14th century church music played in my ears. The words were in Latin, but I could understand them. Suddenly this "dead" language came alive to me. Because I am learning this ancient language, I am becoming connected with the church of the past.  Words penned by monks in candlelight and sung by monks in cathedrals are words that I can now understand. Quia Linguam Latinam novi, veterem iungor. Let this Latin chant touch your soul, even if you cannot understand the words.

Viderunt omnes fines terrae salutari Dei nostri:
Jubilate Deo omnis terra.
Notum fecit Dominus salutare suum:
ante conspectum gentium revelavit justitiam suam.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Headlights glint on the sleek fur of the moose. It throws its tall rack up as Bailey pounds the gas and her little green car bucks out of reach of danger. Blood shivering in veins, we continue the journey to the peak, slipping around three-foot ruts and barely avoiding potholes. The sky is stars as we start a fire and unload our camping gear by the light of the flames. When the tent is up and the sleeping bags unrolled, we bundle in jackets and move slowly through the dark, toward the rocks. I find my favorite crevice and curl up to stare at the moonlit Palouse, at the lights of man below and of God above. Stars fall across the blackness like acorns bouncing from oak trees; the Milky Way is bright and the Big Dipper hangs behind me. We whisper and laugh, but we don't tell ghost stories--we'll be able to hear coyotes as we fall asleep tonight.

Morning slips through the trees, the sunlight like a secret. And before us stretches an entire day on my mountain: to hike and climb and eat roadside berries, to study and dance with bees and find mushrooms and build fires and to breathe, to breathe that fresh, clean mountain air.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Apis Me Petit

Until this weekend, I had never been stung by a bee. On Sunday I was stung by a yellow jacket while hiking along the Snake River. Last night a bee dove inside my shirt and stung me three times while I was biking through town. Hives started to crawl along my forehead, around my back, up my arms and into my armpits. It felt like five hundred hornets and twice as many ants were having a family reunion on my skin and weren’t too happy I’d showed up.
My roommates told me to take a warm oatmeal bath and gave me Benadryl. While soaking in the mushy water, I called my mom. As we were talking, I started wheezing and coughing. Because I’ve had asthma for so long, I’m used to having a difficult time breathing. It doesn’t scare me anymore. But my eyes were swelling and my ears were hot and my whole body was red as a clown’s lips. Mom told me to go to the Emergency Room immediately.
Bobbi and Emma (two of my lovely roommates) and I piled in Bobbi’s ancient car, which smoked and shuddered us down the hill to the hospital. In Orlando, people are spilling out of the ER. You have to wait for hours as smashed skulls are sewn up and tree branches pulled out of stomachs and dangling bones set until it’s finally your turn to get fixed. At the Moscow hospital, however, there wasn’t a single person in the ER waiting room but the receptionist, who immediately led me into a room.
A nurse hooked me up to a pulse and blood pressure monitor, and handed me a nebulizer tube. After years with my dear Mr. Neb, this all felt very routine. Then she went for my elbow pit with a giant needle; I quickly told her that the veins in my arms are too small for needles. So, the thick needle went in my hand and I could feel the cold medicine shooting up my arm.

Doctors and nurses kept popping in and out of the room to check on me. It must really have been a slow night. But once I was finished being hooked up on the IV, we had the room to ourselves.  As I sat there in the hospital bed, feeling my veins carry the medicine through my body and getting loopier and loopier, I talked and laughed with Bobbi and Emma. In Latin. It was then I realized just how much of a nerd I am. I kept talking in Latin. After experiencing a severe allergic reaction and being taking to the emergency room, I was speaking Latin. And asking Emma to read her Lingua Latina chapter out loud to me. And telling her the story before she could read it. Gotta love Latin.
Hours later, I feel fine, albeit a little shaky.
And beware: I now carry an Epinephrine pen.

Friday, August 5, 2011


As Gary snapped pink gloves onto his hands, I tried to find pictures in the blur of tattoo ink all over his arms and legs. His ear lobes, empty of their gauges, hung floppy against his cheeks. Jessie, Julia and I joked around with Gary as he cleaned my nose and prepared the needle; all of us had been there before, for other piercings. Finally everything was ready. He stuck a metal tube up my nose and I squeezed my eyes shut as he pulled a thick, hollow needle through my nostril. The needle hung there for a minute, stretching. Then he pushed a hoop ring in and pulled the needle out.

After three years of begging my parents to let me pierce my nose, I finally got it done! Even though my mom gave her permission, she is not happy about it. She thinks I look like a bull. But that was actually why I wanted a hoop: it’s symbolic. A bull’s nose is pierced so that it can be controlled by its master. I pierced my own nose as a sign that I want to be controlled by my master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the first things that made me want a nose ring were these Bible verses:

"And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver…And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 16:12, 14)

"Then I asked her, 'Whose daughter are you?' She said, 'The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.' So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to take the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son." (Genesis 24:47-48)

The first verses are from a passage in Ezekiel that is an analogy of God’s unwavering love and faithfulness to Israel, even when they are whoring after other gods. The second passage is from the story of Isaac and Rebekah, when Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac. In both of these passages, the nose ring seems to signify a sense of ownership, but loving ownership.

My Savior shed his blood to make me his own. I am his, just like Israel was God’s, just like Rebekah was Isaac’s, just like a bull is his master’s. I am Christ’s slave, and the silver ring in my nose is a symbol that I serve him willingly, with all the love I have.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dirt Nap

When I was a little kid, I used to get freaked out about going to Heaven. Forever? What would I do for forever? The incomprehensibleness of it was terrifying, and shadowy images of harps and clouds made me feel sick. But what if Heaven isn't some Platonic state where we float around in infinite it-ness? What if we have these same bodies, transformed and glorified? What if we still have toenails and we still have to clip them? What if we can still get muddy and there are still trees to climb?

That's the Heaven my hope is in.
That Heaven doesn't make me cry.

Stephen Sampson, one of the seniors at NSA, shared this sketch at Senior Disputatio on Friday. It captures many of the lessons I have been learning and thoughts I've been thinking since moving out to this place of yellow wheat and furrowed hills.

Dirt Nap:

Waking up in this box is the first thing I remember.
As far as I can tell I've been lying here for a long time, my clothes show the signs of worm and decay and the cushions are no where near as comfortable as they used to be.
Where I came from, people asked a lot of questions about what this day was going to be like.

Will we be recreated from our former matter?
What happens if I was burned to ashes?
Will it be like waking up? How will we know it's not just another dream?

I'm still not sure why He didn't tell us.

Anyway, I'm here in this box now and I'm beginning to realize nobody's going to get me out.
Panic sets in. But it's not the kind of panic that comes before an unavoidable tragedy, but rather the kind that inspires you to do the barely possible. Think midnight the night before an 8:00 AM deadline. Not impossible. Just crazy.

I rip the upholstrey off the roof of my box, piling it at my feet. My family realy went all out, this silk is pretty nice.
There is now nothing but bare cherry planks in front of me.

I do a couple of those short sharp in and out breaths that kids do right before diving off a rock into a freezing river, propping my self on elbows.
Letting my body drop I throw both fists directly into the wood. I expect to bleed. I expect it to be like Kill Bill.

Shocked, I watch as my hands bust through planks like rocks falling onto rotten logs. My fists are full of dirt now, and I'm beginning to see why He never told us.

My vengeful pistons now drive forward in 2 stroke beauty -- crushing and smashing my box till there is nothing but splinters. I have dug out a little space and I can finally kneel.

We had been missing the point entirely, we had no clue. We were still so small, arguing over the Thomistic particulars of the glimpse of the truth we were given, like children arguing over the rules of a game their Dad made up. I want to laugh but there is not enough air here yet, and the worms are watching me, waiting to see what comes next.

I oblige them and become like a boy again. I become the boy I used to be, digging holes in the mud with bare hands. I dug then because the dirt had a gritty reality to it that I craved. I had no idea back then that I was being prepared for this day. Digging a hole was easier back when you could put the dirt somewhere other than on top of you, but I am finding that my hands speak to the dirt better now, and it is molding itself to my whim.

Digging further up now, I am able to stand and work windmill swipes at the earthy ceiling with the worms cheering me on.

I am sweating now. This new body is actually sweating. Aquinas couldn't have guessed this one.

Hanging with my right hand from a root I get a swing going and throw an arm through the dirt, grabbing another root with my left. I get a rhythm going, one after the other, swimming upwards through the dirt.

I grab for the next root and find it is thicker and I can see now that it feeds up into a trunk. I am close now. My limbs are tired, tired like they used to be when I was young. Tired like it's sundown in summer and I want to keep sun up with my 8 year old activity. Tired like I've been up all night preparing for a trip to the Lake. Tired like swimming for the raft under the blanket of midnight. Tired like I'm taking the boat out for one more sail before we leave for home in the morning. Tired like it's the second to last dance and I still haven't danced with my girl.

One final upwards heave.

I don't know what feels better, the dirt under my fingernails or the brand new breeze through my open hand, but I'm glad He never told me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Yellow Ocean

I was born with the ocean
tossing spit balls over the rocky California beaches
into my windows.
I was just a baby
when Mom and Daddy loaded everything in the car and we drove
over mountains and through wheat fields
and past the sunflowers dancing along Kansas highways.
I was crying
when the air got heavy and the wind drooped with salt and
Mom and Daddy parked the car in Florida.
I was a stranger there.
Palm trees and swamps and millions of people crowded me in for eighteen years.
But I was a stranger there.
I was all grown up
when Mom and Daddy loaded me onto an airplane
and I flew over mountains and past the Kansas sunflowers.
I was laughing
when the air turned fresh
and the wind teased the mountains
and the hills that rocked like a thousand marching camel humps.
Yellow wheat rolled and swayed like ocean waves:
I was in a new sea.
I was home.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Fish

A prose adaptation of Elizabeth Bishop's poem.

I wriggled my toes in the water sloshing in the bottom of my canoe and a beetle bumped against my foot. A green spider scuttled along the hot aluminum, wobbling like it was dancing with the burning metal. When it hid in the shade under my seat, I baited my fishing hook and tossed it into the green water. Then I closed my eyes and let the sun flicker orange over my eyelids and freckle brown across my shoulders. Dangling my hand out of the boat, I ran my fingers through the lake water and felt the weeds slither through my grasp like water moccasins. 
            Suddenly my fishing pole moved and I snatched it and reeled in fast. A tremendous fish jumped out of the water and landed on my foot. He didn’t wriggle or flop. He just stared up at me with eyes that were bigger than mine and tarnished, like dirty tinfoil. I reached to pull the hook out of his lip and found that it was tangled in four or five pieces of old fish-line. They looked like medals hanging from his bloodied lip, and I stared and I stared at them floating in the water and the victory in the bottom of my canoe. Then the sun caught the edge of the hook—stuck in that old fish’s lip—and light glittered over his tinfoil eyeballs and sparkled on the hot aluminum canoe until everything was “rainbow, rainbow, rainbow. And I let the fish go.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Florida in the Summertime

This is a trochaic poem (at least, I hope it's trochaic...) I wrote for Rhetoric class.  As much as I love all this snow, a warm, Florida thunderstorm would be pretty nice, too.  

Black across the sky appear
Clouds as dark as growing fear
Crashing thunder, lightning bright
Shapes revealed in shining light

Pounding rain is harsh and yet
Children dance with rivulet
I am driven out to play
Hands and fingers meet halfway

Sticks and stones in water race
In the gutter they embrace
Splashes, screams and shouts we make
In the road we find a snake

Actually, it is a worm
Poke—and watch it twist and squirm
Covered in a gooey slime
Florida in the summertime

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes

Not that I would ever do this, or anything....

Friday, February 11, 2011


I wrote this for Rhetoric Declamations yesterday.  It was nice to think of a warm summer's night as cold crept through my doors and windows and plopped itself in my lap.

If you turn a flashlight on at the beach at night, you can watch the light bob along on the backs of all the crabs swarming around you. There are these places at the beach called jetties, where all these big rocks are piled up like someone tried to build a road out to sea. One night I climbed out on a jetty with my friends. Barnacles nipped at our toes like snapping turtles as we tip-toed along the boulders slimy with algae and fish guts. When we got to the end of the jetty, we nestled in with the barnacles and sea shells and watched the waves come in. At first they were pretty small, just splashes on our legs as they rolled to shore. But as the tide rose, the waves grew until we could see the water start to swell up hundreds of yards out, as if a monster was going to burst from the depths. Then the swell moved toward us, growing bigger and bigger until the top of it turned white and it looked like hundreds of miniature sheep were getting sucked into the sea. And then it was all over us, slamming our faces, our stomachs, shoving us into the barnacles. As it went back out, it tried to take me with it. My friend grabbed my arm as I was yanked off the jetty and threw both of us against the rocks, back with the sea shells and the barnacles.