Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cracker Jacks

August 1, 2013.  Bottom of the 8th, The Mariners leading the Red Sox 7-2.  The popcorn-littered seats quickly cleared as exhausted Sox fans threw in the towel for the night. But for me, it was my first time at Fenway and I didn't care that they were losing; I was simply happy to be in the field of dreams, looking out across the Green Giant illuminated by Boston's skyline on that summer night's first kiss of darkness.

I had a long attraction to American football while growing up in New Wilmington, a scene of small town America equivalent to the stories that inspire Remember The Titans screenplays.  On Fridays, girlfriends would sport their player's jersey, a polyester symbol of their affection; Cheerleaders and band front members would be kitted out in navy and gold, carrying around inspirational quotes, balloons and streamers to adorn the players' lockers before homeroom; English and History teachers would wear dog bone earrings and yellow oversized sweaters.  Football fridays were everything; the friday night lights could be seen from every corner of town, the Western stars of familiar comfort and community.  But long before I became a faithful Greyhound cheering from the Band section for four years, and long before I discovered that rugby might just be my favorite sport to see live, baseball was my first love.  The smell of leather still reminds me of my first softball glove, freshly oiled and engraved with my initials so I'd never lose track of it.  My brother and I would spend lazy nights tossing the ball back and forth, working on our long throws for our respective third base and short stop positions. . .the pitchback gathering rust over its 4 months of use. The best Saturday afternoons were spent at Dunham's looking for a Lousiville Slugger and stopping on our way home at Coney Island for cherry soda and chili cheese dogs. Ah, early-summer bliss.

My mum packaged happiness in a cooler when we went to Three Rivers Stadium: Twizzlers, gummy worms, Capri Sun, Crackerjacks and peanuts.  You could never go wrong with Twizzlers.  A picture of me, Derek, Matt and Travis still hangs in my room in remembrance of the old stadium and those late night drives that ended with my Dad carrying me into the house after falling into a sugared sport coma in the car.

Even now the pace of baseball slows down the world for a little while.  For 9 innings, all that matters is hearing the crack of a bat celebrated with organ music.  Baseball transports us back in time to a simpler America, when going to the ballgame on a Sunday afternoon in the 1920s was like a trip to Disney World in the 2000s.  Baseball reminds us of the importance of family, friends, spirit and traditions.  It is America's favorite past time after all.


And at the end of the inning, the Red Sox rose from the depths of the dugout, tying the game with an unbelievable series of plays to clench a win by the end of the 9th.  The Green Giant vibrated with intoxicated laughter and surprised exclamations; it was the most perfect night to be a Boston baseball fan.  And although Boston has a very special place in my heart because of my Papa KK, I will never give up on the success of the Pirates in my adulthood. Happy Buctober!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Be Still & Watch The Leaves Turn

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt."

This morning the leaves were swirling on the gravel running path the way only an autumn breeze allows.  Fog settled around the pines, leaving its mark on the dewy wilted dandelions.  I could smell delicious decay in the forest; the earth is once again dying so it can be revived- a beautiful metaphor of rebirth gifted to us through nature.

Pumpkin spiced everything has already been promoted by the big corporations and small town country stores - the universal sign that an orange October is upon us.  The lattes and muffins are pushing nature’s time boundaries; their adverts and Pinterest recipes are suffocating the last breaths of summer.  I love autumn as much as the next person, but my truly favorite part of every year is the transition between seasons.  They have a way of matching up with our personal, human transformations, and summer’s death paints a Dali-like image of its beauty.

One of my favorite quotes about the impending autumn comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”  I love the dichotomy of death and life becoming a parallel structure as summer fades to autumn.  Even though the early frost covers fields of grass and the animals are preparing for a harsh winter, the late September sun is still awake after dinner time and summer’s background chorus of cheering baseball fans can still be heard on the streets of Pittsburgh.  The slow transition gives us reflective space; we take chilly morning walks accompanied by a light flannel, waiting for the temperature to rise so we can return to our back porch with sunglasses and lemonade, not wanting to lose one more minute of the green season.

I remember learning about forest fires in earth science class and how, although they kill almost all living organisms in their path, they are needed in order for the ecosystem to restore itself by causing a resurgence of needed nutrients in the affected regions.  The fire may leave behind scar tissue, and make it harder to rebuild, but in the long run the forest needed to die in order to gain back some of what it had lost.  Although summer becoming fall is more of a natural biological transition between life stages than a forest fire, the picture is painted in the same light.  Time must be slowed down before it can start back up again, our biological clocks melting like those in The Persistence of Memory.  The precious last minutes of summer mustn't be crushed by early pumpkin sales and premature Halloween costume shopping.  Autumn needs welcomed slowly, like the first sip of a steaming cup of tea or freshly poured whiskey dram.  

Autumn has always symbolized fresh starts amidst its endings: a new school year, a new sport season, a new Bible study, a new job - all time frames that give us the opportunity to set goals for ourselves like finally acing a Biology exam, scoring your first ever college football touchdown, understanding the gospel of John or learning how to become more efficient and prolific in your career.  Autumn beautifully lays to rest our mistakes or failures over the past year; it creates a golden, clean slate for the promise of personal growth as the cycle of a new year begins.  The crispness of the air parallels our fresh attitudes and makes way for changes.  

Ease into fall, enjoy the last minute amusement park trips and restaurant patio nights; reflect on the past year’s moments, memories and lessons; be thankful for the promise of a new year gifting new opportunities to discern the person you’re meant to be in this life.  

Happy autumn!



"The spring, summer, is quite a hectic time for people in their lives, but then it comes to autumn, and to winter, and you can't but help think back to the year that was, and then hopefully looking forward to the year that is approaching."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Palm Leaves

Palm Leaves

I've always liked hands;
they craft and mold,
shape and shift, 
creating unwritten histories
woven through transparencies:
veins -
life's blue reminders,
love letters interlocking 
pulsing hearts and hidden skeletons.

Fingers laced with calluses,
bruised from mistakes and excuses.
their gold embellished promises,
wrapped around four digits,
number discrepancies
and unspoken apologies
strummed across rusted strings.

I discover maps along palm paths;
notes scribbled and memories nibbled 
on the hitchhiker's thumb
released from the confines
of a closed fist
begging for escapism,
longing for Home.

Boney knuckles clutch a
handcrafted margins
whispering prayers,
questioning conflict
and the exchange of a ticket.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just A Flock of Birds

"Still I always
Look up to the sky
Pray before the dawn
'Cause they fly away
One minute they arrive,
Next you know they're gone
They fly on
Fly on

So fly on

Ride through
Maybe one day I'll fly next to you
Fly on, ride through
Maybe one day I can fly with you"

The other day my mum was talking about how it's smart to start collecting dinnerware or thrifting for future living room furniture when you're done with school and making a little bit of money; I giggled thinking about how far removed those thoughts have always been from my mind.  In the very first minutes of Outlander, a steamy time-travel historical drama set in the Scottish highlands, the main character, Claire, window shops in England; upon reaching an odds-and-ends store she stops and thinks, "I've never owned a vase.  I've never lived in a place long enough to justify having such a simple thing.  Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I bought that vase and made a home for it.  Would I have been happy? Who could say?"

It's no secret that I've had those thoughts on multiple occasions.  Family tradition in this part of the world, "the American dream," is to graduate high school, get a good degree at a good school, settle in with a lifetime career making more money than your parents did, marry a decent man/woman and start a family no less than 20 miles away from where you grew up.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing that way of life, and often I find myself feeling jealous that I don't fit into that particular formula of life after childhood.  I could have that life if I wanted to create it, but I would be feigning contentment to keep up with the Joneses, secretly yearning for much more than story book happiness.  Instead I find myself like Claire, staring at a beautiful set of silk maroon napkins in Tuesday Morning thinking, "These would be so nice for Thanksgiving dinner, such a great color for autumn."  After running the material through my fingers once more, I reluctantly place them back on the shelf, knowing that any previous signs of being settled in one location are obsolete, absolving the purchase.

In recent years, traveling has become my formula of adulthood, a means for me to explore the lives of others, gaining wisdom from watching how they converse, how they cook, how they pray, how they dress, how they overall react politically, morally, ethically and culturally in situations. It's difficult while at the same time exciting, knowing my life, at least at this moment in time, is meant to be lived floating along the edges of others' settled comfortability; I arrive and leave just as quickly as I come and the outlook remains a bit foggy, but by no means distorted.  I'm constantly reminded to walk with caution, without haste, with bravery, and without fear during each new adventure.  I'm not destined for a Disney movie ending, not quite an On The Road or Into The Wild ending either, but a different ending that's yet to be written, sprinkled with elements from each genre.

One of the hardest things about being diagnosed with wanderlust as a lifetime ailment is the challenge it poses for all relationships. I struggle so much, almost more than anything, to understand why relationships have to be so challenging sometimes.  But when a person is physically unsettled, emotional settlement must rely on spiritual settlement; it's a testament of how important it is to have faith and hope in Christ.  It's hard to accept the fact that some people are only meant to be temporary, clinging to our hearts and souls but no longer wandering through our daily physical life at this time; we need Him to share the sadness and pain of leaving others or others leaving us, whether temporarily or permanently.

As I've grown and spread my wings, flying away from my tree planted in Pennsylvania, my branches wound throughout the States and across the seas, bearing fruitful relationships that have planted seeds for new trees, adorned with a new flock of birds.  The more I keep flying, the more trees I see spring up in various locations, witnessing them being nested by another set of friends.  It's a beautiful image, the way these relationships branch off one another, but they need support so they don't become weak or broken.  This is where love, faith and hope are my anchor, rooting me in something much stronger than myself, and will continue to be my source of energy and refreshment when my formula of adulthood feels like too much to handle, or when I find myself slipping into those jealous thoughts: "What if I bought those napkins and created a home for them . . . would I be happier, would it be easier than this life?"

I believe in depth over distance; I believe love can conquer anything; I believe we can still keep relationships, even create closer relationships, when there's more effort required to communicate and more reliance on God needed for strength and encouragement during the inbetween.  You will know when to hold on and when to let go.

I don't know how to answer a lot of my questions but I do know this:

1. The American dream is not mine and that's okay.  It's okay to have a different dream.
2. To love a life of travel is tricky, often confusing and comes with a lot of change, adjusting and heartache. As long as I keep seeking what is greater than myself through these journeys, I have no reason to feel scared, lost, or broken. Patience, patience, patience is needed for the weary traveler.  Everything has a season and reason. "He has made everything beautiful in its time" Ecc 3:11
3.  We encounter many people, some for a moment, but some for a lifetime.  Seek those lifetime relationships with faith, hope and love, but know that some are meant to be short term.  1 Corin. 13:13

Psalm 121:8 "The Lord will watch over your coming and going now and forevermore."