Old Friends and Bookends

I began today with a surprise visit from Sarah: my roommate at Oxford, my travel-companion around Europe, my comrade-in-writing through our senior year, Super America to my Captain Teamwork (as with all best friends, inside jokes abound). I continued the day with an informal presentation by Kali on waterborne pathogens and something to do with microbial ecology (I got to draw pictures with crayons) and Star Trek: Generations with Kelly and her fiancé. And I ended the day with Trivial Pursuit and Scattergories with the the science nerds and the two or three of us who kind of tag along, during which we determined that none of us know anything about pop culture and paid homage to the Splenda Gods, who are apparently more reliable than the ever-trusted coin toss.

Friendship is laughter. If there is anything I am going to be nostalgic about from this town it is going to be the living room of the Little Red House, and the home we created there.

Official update

The official things are falling into place regarding graduate school: I am definitely going to Scotland for university in September, and I am going to Saint Louis University in Madrid in Fall ’09.

This September is as far ahead as I am capable of thinking, let alone the abstraction of actually moving to Europe for three years.

Angry sky-gods

It’s spring-time in Oklahoma, which means storms that can become quite severe. I awoke this morning to one of the most eerie experiences of constant crashing thunder and a sky that would not stop flashing, yet there was no rain. The following lines tumbled into my head and I, as Coleridge recommended, recollected them in tranquility.

The crack of the whip, and crash:
the rolling, tumbling of cosmic bowling pins;
the rumbling growl of giants;
the war between Chronos and his sons,
As the dark room is lit by the lightning flashes,
Flickering.
Silent save for the war cries,
and birds chirping because it is morning.
Awoken out of a dream about a girl in a faraway country,
who, like Sheherazad, would use stories for her escape,
who, like any dream, is inaccurate,
who, like any child, is interrupted.
It incites fear in children, shortened breath in adults,
watching warily, wondering how this would affect their morning commute.
They breathe a sigh of relief when the rain begins,
hissing in a whisper to calm mortal fears,
“Shh…”
Standing in a small white space waiting for the black,
the dark that is inevitable;
Feeling redundant: water inside, water outside,
sopping wet hair either way.
Cringing at the dragon on the other side of the wall,
but without it
you might not have heard the
Siren.

So many words…

Went to Dylan’s thesis presentation tonight on Sayyid Qutb. Fascinating and excellent and has incited a desire to do further research into this subject. Spurred thoughts about the Ramirans in Orion… wanting to base the political climate off of Egypt in the mid-1900s, also play around with Pakistani folklore–problem: requires research! Not a problem except that there are already so many books I want to read before I add Milestones, books about Pakistan, and yet more of Oxford University Press’s “Very Short Introductions” (of which I already want to read at least 20 titles…).

This summer is the best opportunity for me to write because I will have time to do so; the next one-to-three years I’ll be back in school, which will monopolize my reading and writing to be on academic subjects. But, how do I balance research with the actual writing? And on top of this, I often can’t read fiction books and write creatively at the same time; I can only exist in one world at a time, so to speak. I have a list at least 40 books long that I want read by September. …I also went to the microbiology lab with Kali this evening, which made me want to review my science textbooks this summer as well. And, math… geometry, calculus? Ah, me!

How fortunate am I that my greatest dilemma is that I have too many books to read! I just want to know everything…

An Invitation to be Beautiful

“This is grace: an invitation to be beautiful.”
-“Add to the Beauty,” by Sara Groves.

I don’t like to double-post, but I spent roughly two hours walking around the campus barefoot this evening. I haven’t felt so incredibly myself in quite some time. To walk along the stone fences with a rose in one hand and my flip-flops in the other, listening to Sara Groves’s Add to the Beauty. I climbed a tree. I watched the sunset. I saw God in the shades of living green.

Worth the Sacrifice

A week or so ago I decided to stop writing TGN. I finally discovered what was wrong with it, what was wrong with Cords, and found a solution for the fact I had nothing for the third book of the supposed trilogy. The result is that I’m back to square one. Starting over, again, and it’s going to look completely different by the time I’m done.

I’ve been paging through The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell–a novel that changed my life–for inspiration (I really need to reread it). There is an interview at the end, and it only cements my opinion that Russell is nothing short of genius:

“The idea came […] as we were celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World. […] That’s when I decided to write a story that put modern, sophisticated, resourceful, well-educated, and well-meaning people in the same position as those early explorers and missionaries–a position of radical ignorance.

[…] I found myself drawn to Judaism and eventually converted. When you convert to Judaism in a post-Holocaust world, you know two things for sure: one is being Jewish can get you killed; the other is that God won’t rescue you. This is the theology I was dealing with at the time. […] The central theme is an exploration of the risks and beauties of religious faith.”

And here I am, attempting to recapture the energy that propelled the first novel, the conviction that carried my characters Jenai and Dimitri along, and discover how both they and I lost that firmness of belief half-way through the second story. Trying to figure out why I haven’t been able to shake this story from my blood or my bones for the past eight years. Consciously asking myself, “What are the central themes?” I bemoaned to Kelly how I am not dealing with any universal themes in my novel like Russell does. She said, “Freedom.”

Freedom… and its cost. The sacrifices made by the individual to serve the universal. All of my characters give up their personal dreams for the sake of one larger than themselves. Of exiles recreating a community they lost. Faith, doubt, betrayal. That there is something worth that sacrifice, something worth fighting for, and how each character responds differently.

That’s what I hope to capture, anyhow.

The Ongoing Search

As Kelly and I drove home from the Bison Jazz Orchestra concert tonight, we passed one of the many churches in this small town. “How many-” Kelly started to ask, and I expected her to continue with the exasperated, “churches are in this town?” but instead she asked, “churches have you been to in Shawnee?”

A very interesting question, and as I recited them all, she declared it “post-worthy,” so here I am. In alphabetical order, with *’s indicating churches attended with regularity:

Bean & Berry Mission (I don’t actually remember the name of this one, but it was a home-church type deal held in the Bean & Berry CafĂ©… back when it was on Kickapoo)
*First Baptist Church of Shawnee
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
*Emmanuel Episcopal
Immanuel Baptist (English)
Immanuel Baptist (Spanish)
*St Benedict’s Catholic
*St John’s Lutheran
*University Baptist
United Presbyterian
*Wesley United Methodist

I’ve probably forgotten a few… for half a semester a friend and I would choose a different church each Sunday to go to, but I can’t remember more than a couple of them. More often than not, I would go to one church’s early service and then to another’s later service, or go to one in the morning and one in the evening. Currently, I only attend one church–but I say this as I’m considering going to two churches this Sunday, since the Episcopal bishop is in town. I’ve come full circle: I began by attending UBC, and now attend there again, and plan to until I leave in June.

“If you were a character in a book, I’d wonder what you’re looking for,” Kelly said. I would too. In some ways I wish I’d had a “church home” the past five years I’ve lived here, but in other ways, I’ve really gained a lot by experiencing a wide range of churches. I confidently call myself “Christian” without claiming any denomination; a multilingual Christian: finding beauty and wonder in the liturgy, joy and freedom in an evangelical service.

I’d like to say that I would settle down once I move back to my hometown for the summer, but I’ve rubbed off on my parents. They attend both Lutheran and Baptist services, and when I’m with them, I attend either, or a Methodist church on my own. Maybe in Scotland, maybe someday.

Apples & Bananas

Me: Well if I were to write a thesis at Saint Lou– Kali, did you draw a girl on my bananas?

Kali: …Maybe.

And on Kelly’s, a girl burning a thesis on Austen and mother figures. Ah, this house.