fog.

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It was all very perfect.

I don’t say that often, but sometimes life hits you just right, and you live in it.

Up and down, through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fog, cutting through trees. It reminded me of how I pour icing on cinnamon rolls. Filling all the cracks, making things a little hazy, but all quiet.

I needed to see that horizon again.
Being on the road allows me to stare into them, push into them, dream into them.

I got to visit my dad, and I watched his garden grow.
I sat next to a girl who was very adamant letting everyone at the table know that she was the Chubacabra on NBC’s Grimm. We all drink some gin drinks and called it a night.

I cooked dinner for my dad and his wife. I petted their big dog Angus who has big sweet eyes and thinks he’s a human, sometimes.

I drove further up north and met some more friends and got some hugs from quite possibly the most beautiful little one. I cooked dinner there too and drink too much wine and talked about God and divorce and food.

All of which seem to be cut from the same fabric of our desire to learn about each other.

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I felt sad, a bit.

Like, really felt it. Like the way you feel when something sets in and there’s no way to stop it. You let it cut through you, like Appalachian fog.

I felt love though, too. Loads of it, in different forms. Through food and hugs and proximity.

I stared endlessly into those horizons, where I knew the curve of the Earth would never let it stop. So I kept driving. By rivers and more little mountains. I smelled the cool damp rock smell. It reminded me of the wild Oregon — the one I was haunted by. But not so much scared as unsure as to what it was all about.

There is still plenty of beauty here.
That’s what I came to realize.
I opened my heart and a lot of things got out and a lot of things got in.

That’s the way I like it.
Because I also learned I’ve gotta lot left to learn about myself and how I treat people.
About my intentions — my humanness — my icky insides that make me wanna hide, at times, from the messes I’ve made.

I remember my sister-in-law Leah used to say, “It was just your turn to spill…” when someone knocked over a glass.

And maybe, that’s what it feels like. A knocked over glass. A little ashamed of being clumsy with something. And a million times I think I could have moved another way. But I sit and think that we all spill over.

The road took me back to Mississippi.

Where it is warm and not as pretty as them foothills.
But it is where I am, and how I felt myself looking forward to settling back down there.

Road weary. Thankful. Ready to stretch. Ready to move, again.

I guess home has a way of doing that.

apple cobbler

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Anne Lamott always talks about life not having a manual.

I have a hard time knowing that regardless of what I read, what movies I watch, or which people I connect with, there will always be a curve and incline.

We are all feeling it, thinking it.

The Earth keeps moaning and we are feeling its wrath.
I think people are getting tired and weary, and all the weight that gravity lays on our shoulders is wearing us thin.

Two police officers were killed in my city this weekend. A senseless act of violence, among so many, fed with fear.
My community is heartbroken. Not just because they were cops, but because they were people in our community.

Southerners are emotional people.

They probably won’t admit it, but that’s just being Southern.

I feel their weight, not because I’m also a Southerner but because they are my people. We all mourn together. I take an active part in feeding this community, so in a sense, I worry for them and take their burdens as I hope they take mine.

It is a tough season for so many. My family. My friends. Moving. Change. Fear of the inevitable unknown.

Time is so uncertain and it is so precious of a thing.

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So I settle into myself, for at least a moment. I let sadness in and I let it out. I do the same with all of those things. I become vulnerable with the people I work with, and it’s hard. It’s hard to lead and to also be vulnerable, though I think the best leaders are. We confuse vulnerability with weakness, when it is the opposite. It is strength. And it is your immeasurable power as a human being.

I grew up keeping so much in. A fist clenched tight with worry and anger and doubt.

I’ve certainly had my growing seasons, and also months where I wilt a bit.
But I have also learned that exposing your wounds to air helps to heal.

Sure, there are others things that heal. Time and a bit of care.

Okay. A lot of care. Self-care. Other-people-care.
Ice cream-and-warm apple cobbler-care.

These words are the sound of settling, of embracing my humanness and I want to crumble and dissolve into something bigger. Something, somewhere that knows me and places its palm on my arm to say, “Broken world, son.”

I hear those three words more often than not, floating around in my subconscious, reminding me that we are beyond fixing.

But we are not beyond healing.
And we are not beyond changing and growing and shifting. We are all okay to do that.
We are okay to open.
We are okay to bloom when the sun shines brightly and we have just enough water in our veins to be a gift to others.

We are…okay.

In these seasons, we are not asking anything but to be loved and heard.
To be set free and to live as wounded healers.

To be fierce sons and daughters of the Beloved.

I am okay today.
And though I wish I had that manual for tomorrow, or the day after that, but I do not. Neither do you.

That’s okay.
If you need me, I will be in my summer-warm kitchen, shoo’ing off a few fruit flies and washing dishes.
I will offer you a place at my table.
We will both dissolve into that something bigger and embrace our humanness.
And maybe, just maybe,

there will be apple cobbler.

hands lifting

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I like being imperfect around other imperfect people.
Or at least the ones who submit to the fact that this world is hard and unruly and unpredictable.

I like hearing parents tell me how hard it is to be a parent. How their kids cry because sometimes kids just cry and that they are exhausted beyond any thing they’ve ever imagined.
I want the world to know that I love those little hamburgers from Wendy’s and that’s the stuff I won’t put on Instagram with a fancy filter.

We like real. At least I do. I think we are meant to struggle with each other. Sometimes we get to celebrate with each other too. Like anniversaries and new jobs.

I like that with each hard thing, I learn a tiny lesson. A gift in the form of a small train wreck.

I move forward with more confidence. I absorb it and I let it run through my system — the one that has felt this way before and can somehow manage to feel it though again and again.

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In and out, I think about the people in Nepal. I remember walking through their streets and I remember their people and their food. I remember playing guitar and singing with their kids. My heart is breaking all over because I know they are not built for such a thing. Who is, really?

I see rubble and pain. I also see hands lifting them both.

The Earth keeps spinning and moaning. Friction and heat and release.

I am saturated in it.
I mourn, with the rest of the world.
I pray and I remember how beautiful the stars were.

Somehow though, I am spared, and I am allowed to keep moving, each day.
Lucky is a word I use a lot. I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t consider myself a person of great luck, but I have become accustomed to feeling the good when it is good, because I know how bad things can get.

I’ve seen how deep and dark depression can be.
It feels a little like being at the bottom of a well, hoping you become the water that someone will just scoop up and save you from being in the dark.

Some days you feel a little bit like dying and it becomes less so. You just have to keep waking up and keep opening your heart to other people. I know that sounds cheesy and redundant, especially on this blog.

But I could never hear it enough.
I have written on my left arm, “These things take time”, and it’s surrounding a big pot, inspired by my friend Callie. Another friend of mine actually gave me the tattoo. I think I knew then that time was a gift. I wanted to remember that. I wanted to remember them. My people, the ones actually placing their hands on wounds.

They were my own wounded healers.

It carries over into cooking. I find myself cutting corners and knowing deep down, that is not who I am and it is not who I want to be. Time is nitty gritty. It is tiring and always pushing you forward, like your friends helping you to jump off the high dive.

You will plunge deep into the water, and it will sting your eyes and burn your nose, but you will rise up to the top and take in a deep breath.

That breath is a small victory.

So celebrate and throw up your hands,
eat a piece of cheesecake,
buy some new curtains,
hold tightly to your love,

and celebrate our healers as we are the hands,

lifting.

moaning.

mourning.

singing.

cooking.

cleaning.

tickling.

feeding.

rebuilding what is broken.

holy ground.

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“She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”
– Alice Walker, The Color Purple

I think there are a few truths that are certain.
That life is full of pain.
That life is full of joy.
And that life is really funny.

Certainly, you can file ‘funny’ under joy, but I believe that it is its own form of spirituality. I believe Anne Lamott says that laughter is a ‘bubbly effervescent form of holiness.’

You have to understand, that writing about pain is important. I think some folks imagine me sitting, all Poe like, hunched over a dark writing desk with a human skull as my muse.

In reality, I am only exploring the things that allow me to feel shitty.

A mean customer.
A drunken man.

Then there is a group of people beheading prisoners on a beach.
There’s another man testing nuclear missiles for fun.
There’s a woman on death row in Georgia who is close to a dear friend of mine.

Daily, I allow myself to take in the human condition. I hear people talk about money. People with six digits still stressing about the world and their things and I digress. Those are not my problems.

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Yes, I cook.
But I also empty trash cans and mop floors. I have plenty of time to think.

I chose to cook.

I choose to serve, and I keep choosing a life where my hands bleed and my bones ache.

I can’t help but to think these things are hilarious, too.
I laugh a lot.
A lot.

Probably at things I shouldn’t. Whatever that means.
But also at things that deserve a good belly laugh.
I think, if God does reside in the Heavens, they laugh often. And with their bellies.

I also know, that if God resides in the Heavens, they also cry.

I don’t believe you can measure any of this. Amounts of pain or joy. Considering they are building blocks of a day. When we’re not doing our jobs to help grow our businesses or make the places we are, better than they used to be.

Last night, I came home late from a catering job.
I’d say there was a lot of pain in yesterday. Both mental and physical. I wanted nothing more than to forget about it, but instead I came home, sank into my couch and decompressed. Granted, a few episodes of Parks and Rec and another late night wanderer made my world a little softer.

If there’s one thing, among many things that I know to be true, is that dignity covers our scrapes and bruises. It helps to wash away the ever-pressing job of being fully human in this wonderful and heartbreaking world.

At the end of the day, I resonate with those very first words from Alice. That what we are looking for, is each other.

Mother Teresa also said that we belong to each other. More so, that if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

So, I am ready.
To dissolve into you, because you are the face of God.

and for all I know, I’m always standing on holy ground.

tiny worlds.

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Okay. Okay. Wow. Hmm. Okay. It’s okay.

Those were my thoughts on a Monday morning.
Two of my best friends, terrified and excited and worried and exhausted.
Their details, I won’t share here, but the circumstances had me holding back tears on the line.

“I need sides on 48 and 12!” I would holler out to my buddy, also cooking on the line.

I would pace back and forth, heart beating and trying to keep it together.

After things settle, and my heart is more at ease, I start focusing on my week, getting things tucked back in, like tapping a stack of misaligned papers on a table.

Tuesday, Work and Ramen night. Visit friends in hospital.
Wednesday, Work and Cater Captain of Zeus party. 13 hour day.
Thursday, Work and Prep for private catering gig. 13 hour day.
Friday, Cater private gig. Clean. 10 hour day.
Saturday, Record day of lunches at work. Cook gumbo for Mardi Gras event. 12 hour day

More often than not, I would say to myself, “Okay dude, don’t freak out. It’s going to be okay.”

My friends, so heavy on my heart, and so many other hearts.

I did what I always do to clear my head.

Clean.

After my private catering gig, my kitchen was horrid. Tomato sauce splattered everywhere from rushing around in my tiny space. Pots and pans stacked and my oven was a mess. After visiting with my friend, I came home and put on some music. I steamed my windows with the heat from the water and washed dishes till my fingers were wrinkly.

I get my steel brush and scrub the tomato off of everything. I remove my burner tops and scrub scrub scrub. I scrub it all away. I tear up a lot. I take deep breaths.

On my knees, I’m scrubbing my floor with a towel, enjoying how easily the dirt just washes away.

I take out the trash, let out a sigh and turn off the light to my kitchen knowing I will be doing this exact same thing again in 24 hours. I am okay with that.

I don’t mind cooking for people. You have to know that deep down, they will not know how much work goes into the food you cook. How much you have to clean up afterwards and how serious you are about your craft.

It is, at the end of the day, about the table we all sit at. That place I write about so often where we sit and talk about hard things that make our necks tight with fear and also the place we fall in love again and again with the people we share our tiny worlds with.

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I think about the breath of a new baby, and its cries that are as natural as breathing. Cries that make you believe in God again and restore in you that there is something bigger that ties us together, even in the midst of small nightmares and restless nights.

The truth is, you never know when the world will crack beneath you. You live in the terrifying moments and exhausted moments as you would when waking up next to a warm body, while the rain taps against your windows.

We live in all the moments, and we breathe life into each others worlds.

We are all, like I always say, small galaxies, floating infinitely, capable of such deep love and pain and beauty,

Birthed from the bellies of our mothers, and the mothers before them,

breaking water. breaking bread.

discovering again and always, the sacred life of the Beloved.

metamorphosis

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Today is a day I feel I don’t quite belong to —
but hopefully the next.

Missed cues,
dropped plates,
small insults
and a bed with too much space.

I lay there, now, with a book on my chest,
full of people who have said it better.
(And to be honest, didn’t have the luxury of choice)

But I do.
I have so many choices.
So many ideas of change and movement,
like some impatient larvae anticipating
the metamorphosis.

I cry out,
and shake my head
and pull a bit on my shirt.

What is this thing I’m doing?
What on Earth am I learning about being lonely,
except maybe being a little scared from time to time.

I’ve never been a fan of scared.
In the deep recesses of my mind,
I come across a tiny ruin.
It is there, I imagine a person like Job,
picking his scabs with broken pieces of pottery,
but singing, “G-d is great!”

Oh, I am a fool for so many things.

When I close my eyes,
I see a tree on the horizon.

It is a silhouette against a big red sun.
I am there, again,
pulling slightly on my shirt,
explaining,
“I don’t know how else to be…”

Like some form of confession.
Like these things don’t already know.

I crumble. I melt away.

I come back.

I let whatever it was hanging on my hips,
return to where it came,
which just so happens to be a place I left long ago.

The place where dead things live.
The place where I shed a ghost or two.
The place of the old shells and skins and
skeletons.

I lean forward into the horizon
and allow myself to float free
of the old wineskins.

I close my eyes,
and fall asleep to the rain outside of my window.

energy and space.

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My head is feeling a lot like the state of my room at the moment.

Scattered on my floor are clothes that I really need to put away. A new heater I spent 10 minutes at Wal-Mart researching, because well, the weather has taken a cooler turn in the South. I’m always a little giddy at that. I also grew comfy with the sound of my little heater in Portland. (That is, when the breaker wouldn’t switch in the middle of a frigid cold night.)

I see quarters and nickels and dimes everywhere, because I pay with cash a lot and have been used to Oregon’s zero-tax thing. The good part of it is, it’s a very messy way to have a savings plan. I have little treasures all over my apartment.

This week, I’ve been dealing with back pain on and off. Mostly muscle related, from all the twists and turns and bends of being a cook, no doubt. So, I’ve been needing to take it easy. I’ve stayed off my feet to the best of my ability and my surroundings showcase the laziness of my strained frame.

That’s okay.

To be honest, I have to fight with every sentence to not complain about being single. I tell myself not to write about it, because it makes me feel as though I’m looking for pity. I hope you don’t see it that way. I really don’t have too many complaints, to be honest. I think about what a gift it is to have a partner, and to also be single. I think about how both sides give us plenty of room to grow into good, strong people. Though it’s always through some pretty mucky stuff. Sometimes sad and frustrating, washed over with plenty of goofy-lovey-sweet stuff.

You notice peoples physical touch a bit more when you’re single. I went to an amazing show last night, and noticed all the lover things happening. The neck kisses, the couple that’s been making out at the bar for an hour straight who should probably just go home and get things settled. The sweet dance via bass and snare and high-hat — of getting closer to someone you don’t really know. Maybe the lightest presence of another close to you feels like it’s all going to be okay.

And while I’m being honest, I’ve been waking up quite often, missing her. I’ve felt embarrassed and sad about a lot of things. The Black Keys say that a broken heart is blind, but more so, it is the most fragile thing on our planet. I wonder how often we take responsibility for each others broken hearts…not that we should carry the weight of it, but that we should live knowing our actions are always echoing through the bones of those we know.

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I saw a picture this week that said, “Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.” by Jill Bolte-Taylor

I’ve probably posted it to every social media outlet I can stand, for the sake of how it resonates deeply, and how I need to be better of it myself. I think being aware of your energy is hard hard hard. Some people know it and are comfortable with it. Other people suck it up like a vortex, and you can almost hear the collective ‘sigh’ when they leave. I think about the people who tell me I’m a calm presence to them, and what that must mean when I am in a room with others.

I suppose if they saw the inside of my head, my appearance would be much more tired looking, with my hand rubbing the sore muscles of my back, dazed and maybe a little hectic. Probably confused that I would be thinking about the sandwich special of the week, or how many leeks I needed to order for the butternut squash soup.

More often than not, I suppose all of our heads are cluttered from the things we just have to do now.

And much like the story I wrote about in my last piece, you have to start one at a time, most likely.

When I get out of bed, hungover from a dream or reality, I pick a good song to start my morning to. I stretch, more so, considering the state of things, and find comfort in the warmth of my gas stove.

I drop in a spoonful of butter and let it get the lightest bit brown, before dumping in my eggs.

I squeeze the last, most flavorful drops of my bag of PG Tips with my bare fingers, because the heat doesn’t much bother me anymore.

I let that incorporate into whatever it is I can’t control,

and I let that, for the moment, be enough.

 

 

back to love.

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I wanted to write something really quickly before I headed into work today.

Your pain, and your sadness are absolutely yours. It is unique and it hurts and it finds its way into all the cracks, like discovering a cut on your hand while squeezing a lemon.

People will tell you things they think sound good, perhaps even coming from their own experience. But you also know, and you are right, that they can’t possibly understand the things you went through and how that made you feel.

What I hope to make sense out of this, is that generally we don’t want answers or silver linings. We want to be heard. We want to feel loved and we want to return love.

This is your journey back to love.

Listen to others, but more importantly, listen to yourself because remember how it was you who decided to keep choosing love and to not put your heart in that concrete box.

Getting back to love is something of a mess in itself. There’s sometimes less to say about the beginning parts of feeling ‘happy’. For me, it’s harder to write about. Especially how attachment plays a role in my own happiness. That, is for another day.

But last night, I sat with my head in my hands, and remembered so many parts of my story. I felt my wounds again. I discovered some new things. I felt those too.

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This process is not one cured by a crush or even a kiss.

How do you trust like you used to? How do you begin to love without abandon?

I’m not asking you for answers.

I’m asking for the sake of my own heart, because I know time will lend me its wisdom.

I am growing.
And changing.
And moving.

So are you.

moving towards love again.

towards trust.

towards that great reconciliation.

time is peace.

time builds up your body,
full of the things it needs to
place your feet on the ground again.

you are so important in all of this.
I cannot emphasize that enough.

and you are so, so loved.

 

menders

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This has been a week of extremes.

Both ends of the life spectrum have flashed before my eyes, and I think that maybe this week has been about breathing. Thinking about first breaths and last breaths.

On top of all that, a nasty head cold that triggered me making a delicious bowl of noodles. (Recipe to come at a later time.)

But that’s not really what I want to say.

I still dwell in anger from time to time. I hate that so much of my energy is put into a place that will never change a single thing in the past. It’s insane how much energy we put into things that have already happened. And for me, things that haven’t even happened yet.

I’ve gotten choked up twice this week, for things at opposite ends of that spectrum I mentioned earlier. Things that had nothing to do with me, but have reminded me of this precious little life we’ve been given.

I recognize my place in the midst of it all.

Some of it is a balance of give and take. Like always, it seems that life is zero sum, and that the pendulum swings both ways. I don’t like to look at the world in such a way. Because the truth in my belly tells me that there is a great sum at the end of our lives. Yes, things are given and taken away, but we each become these little holy scripts, filled with words and pictures and memory.

I think about energy, too. That maybe the balance of things is thrown off. Too much crap. Too many people tapping on cell phones, heads down, tap tap tapping. Swiping. Not paying attention. I am guilty of all the above.

I had a day off this Friday, and soaked each tiny drop out of my slow morning. I made tea and ate breakfast at my little table. There, I read through my newest cookbook, “Roberta’s”, which may just be my soul restaurant.

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There was a spider hanging from a web. Most people know that I’m terrified of spiders. Usually, I have one rule, “If you don’t crawl on my face at night, you’re cool with me because I really don’t want to smash you with a shoe..”
This was a little spider. It was there because it was snagging fruit flies. For that, I cannot blame it. I became aware of my place in my tiny home. I noticed the power that I had over small and delicate things and for a moment, and humbled myself before its nature.

I watched the birds attempt to figure out my new bird feeder. There were a few squirrels burying things near my clothesline. On my wall is a print of the coffee shop I used to work at, that became my home in the midst of terrible divorce.

I was deeply aware of my place at that moment. Images of the painful things were flowing deep, but I also let them come and go. I had no expectations of myself, only to feel and release. Only to breathe and recognize and be still for a few moments.

I’m not gonna sit here and believe that things happen for a reason. That pain makes us stronger, because it also makes us weaker. For that, I feel angry. I feel angry that there aren’t answers and that I can’t get my shit together as quickly as I thought I could. I’m sad at how people are taken away from us in painful ways. I’m sad that people leave and don’t give us instructions on how to work after they’re gone.

And then, life gives.

and gives and gives.

New breaths.

New skin.

I start to think that we are reborn a lot in our lifetimes. When things fall into our worlds that send us on an entirely different trajectory. There is always room for a new direction. And there is grace that fills the cracks.

Today, even though I still don’t have answers, I have the knowledge that I can still weave through life like thread, creating and mending.

I carry your weight.

And yours too.

Because I know deep down, you carry mine, from time to time.

That’s all I need to know, really.

 

 

 

a letter to July

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You and I need to have some words.

And believe me, I think you’re a terrific month. You are the essence of summertime. I think of red popsicles and swimming pools and thick green grass. I think about heat and afternoon thunderstorms and staying up late and waking up even later.

I remember sitting on the Hawthorne bridge a year ago, watching the fireworks on July 4th. I remember hugging you, and started to sense that things were changing inside of the frame that was sitting next to me. It was a couple of weeks after that you told me you didn’t want to be married anymore.

So, I bring all that here, as I do from time to time.
I hit these weird milestones with all of this, like some sort of pill in my belly releasing every so often.

I don’t mean to. Trust me. I’d love to be writing about food more or exploring some other part of life. I wish I could write a step by step piece on breaking down a chicken and making coq au vin. Maybe one day I will get there.

Today though, I am processing a love, a love lost and a certain time when things started shaking into pieces.

I’ve found writing to be one of my most important ways of remembering, and filing things away. Not like some cabinet, where you keep receipts and old forms. It’s more like something I can see. I pick them up and look at them from time to time. I think locking them away with everything else does more harm than good to me at this point. But it’s important for me to put places with people and remember how I felt. I will lose some of those things over the years, but I think it’s important to give them their light, from time to time.

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July, you were a month that sent my world crashing into itself.
There were days I felt so alive.
Days that I wanted to let go of it all, including my own life.

I didn’t want to deal with any of it, which was unlike me at the time.

I realize, this isn’t your fault, as a month and general point in our calendar year. But I am living in your days, once again and as a person who remembers, I carry your weight. July looks a lot different in my new reality. Well, sort of new reality. I still have wood floors, and it’s warm outside. I am 2,400 miles in a different direction. South.

Very South.

Summer in the ‘very South’ is different than a Portland summer; shocking, I know! It’s not that I forgot about how hot Mississippi summers are, I’ve just been indulging in the cooler side of things for the past five years. The heat seems oppressing at times. Steamy. Bright. Relentless. It’s summer in the South.

The weather is just an indicator of my change of place. That’s all.

I realize there are lots of other people going through changes, too.
I come now to recognize the importance of time.

My friend Jen in Portland would reach out to me from time to time to gift me with little nuggets of wisdom from her own past. I think I felt a little responsible in ways for bringing some old things back into the light, but without the wisdom from other people, I would have been drifting further away from myself, I think.

“As much as you don’t want to hear this right now, time will heal.”

Because to be honest, I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted someone to tell me it was a dream, and not the reality I was struggling to grasp.

But she was right.
Time is also that thing in my belly. Sometimes it feels like waves washing over a sharp rock, and over time, dulling its edge. I always like to refer to time and geology as a metaphor for how it smooths out the sharp bits.

I must also submit to love. The amount of love and time gave way to great amounts of healing. Though I was by myself through a lot of those terrible nights, I had a lot of love on my side. And she did too.

So, July.

Hmph.
I didn’t watch fireworks. I was too tired, and fell asleep watching the Walking Dead. There was no one to kiss, or sit close to.

But I slowly dissolved into myself.
Like salt into water.

Realizing certain seasons are meant to bring us in and draw us out.

Like the tide,
washing over the edges,
turning what was once sharp, to smooth;

and leaving behind something entirely different.

It’s amazing what a little time can do.