the same as mine.

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Some things fade.
They feel like my dreams, like each corner I turn is unfamiliar.

“I know this place.” I say to myself.
But sometimes, time is a lead pencil with a cheap eraser.

Places leave us, as we leave them. My heart bursts from all its creases, and at times, it still finds a way to save itself from ruin. If you’re still here, your heart is the same way — the same as mine.

I sat at a table and saw your ghosts. How you used to drink your coffee. I saw where I buried my pain and where I discovered my greatest joy. Yes it was in between walls but it was also in those creases of my heart.

It was where I discovered the truths of humanity shared — that people are the truest way to presentness.

That is rich. Like dark chocolate and butter and heavy cream — drizzled and smoothed over something that is already just too much.

I was heart sick for so much. To connect. To discover again. But mostly, to be back home where it is becoming more and more evident that my world exists in a tiny corner, of a tiny city in a state no one understands.

I find whatever all of this is, to be the sum of its parts. Maybe this is the beautiful stuff I will think about when I’m dying — when I’m wondering how life moved so quickly and how I became so stiff and filled with old memory.

What a story, I already claim. To have loved greatly and given so much of my heart — to know what it is like to watch it shatter and gather it, along with all the other broken things. I get to sit around with these people and watch them eat things I cook.

I get to watch them grow older with their person and I get to see their babies get peanut butter stuck in their hair or blow kisses to me as I say goodbye.

Your heart is the same as mine. Blubbering and wonderful. Our heavily flawed muscle.

You may not remember where the streets go, or what they turn into.
But I can tell you that it’s not forever lost.

And you are forever, a ghost, a place at my table

— a love with the heart that is the same as mine.

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roma

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I wrote in my notebook, “Maybe not all roads lead to Rome anymore” in an attempt to trigger some deeper meaning. Instead I started to think about all the reasons I was heading to Rome and had no idea what to say.

I know I didn’t want to write about it like a travel blog. Yes, the food was amazing. Yes, Rome was absolutely stunning and romantic and clean and welcoming. The people were so friendly and dealt with our lack of understanding at how their world works. Though walking around a place like Rome, you get the idea that when you’re a traveler there, you are walking on a different set of streets.

Here, you don’t just stumble upon the Coliseum. Or the Pantheon. The idea of “New World” enters your mind constantly. Italy is old, and carved up with war and empires. There is a sense, when walking around, that this place has learned to roll with what it’s given.

It is a state of mind. One that we just don’t have here in the states. I found myself at times, missing the hustle of my job. The “always wanting more” person conflicted with the “take only what you need” person.

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We also traveled south to Sicily and never stopped drinking wine.

Dinner parties going well into 3 and 4am.

I remember waking up to use the bathroom at 5am and hearing the loud thump of the speakers next door as a wedding party was still happening and all I could do was smile.

If you’re hungry, go to Italy. Somehow, some way. Meet together the holy and sacred and sacrament.

I thought about the blood of Christ and the broken body.

I thought about war and sex — the reverence and abundance of thanks seen in all of the streets known and unknown.

I am shaken, truly.

I’m trying to put together a lot of pieces and what that means for me here. Wishing again for the moment, a simple plate of food, cooked for me as though whoever put in the work, was doing so to capture my heart forever.

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.

beliefs.

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Everything is just, happening.

I feel like the days zoom by and I am the roadside jetsam and flotsam, getting picked up in the current of a passing 18-wheeler.

Up and down, left and right.
I’m thinking it’s a pace I’m going to have to get used to.

I am in a comparing season of my life. I suppose we all are, at many times in our lives. Meaning, I’m comparing myself with other things. Like cooking. I’m thinking I could do better and that I am better, or I’m thinking I’ll never be that good.

I’m comparing myself to my friends who are uncles, and I’m thinking I’m not a great uncle because I’m always late on giving gifts.

I feel a bit on edge at times. Dodgy and picky and stubborn.
I feel apologetic.

For my generation. For me, really. My inability to not check my phone every five to ten minutes. My fear to choose in a world of choices. My need to feel authentic but to not stick out.

I feel sad for our recent losses. I think there is a gaping wound there. It hit us again. We are knee jerking and moving forward quickly and it’s just a lot. I’m okay with everything, but really, it’s not about me or what I think is right.

I used to really want my beliefs. I wanted my certainties. They made me feel important and unique. Edgy.

That’s what I want to come back to, each day. How much this world is not about me.

I am in a luxurious, though sometimes lonely, season in life where I have so many freedoms. It is addictive. It is so fun. I’m not sure how healthy it is to have it all, but I’m close to feeling content with where I am at.

That is okay. I am still removing the ideals of being a gypsy of some sort. Some of that still resonates within me. The idea that the world is meant to be traveled and understood by me.

But I am not so much that guy anymore.

I am the guy conflicted and pulled by gravity.

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The guy who is scared that the Bible is not quite making its way back into my world like I thought it would, being back in the South. That is not to say that I think it is stupid or unintellectual. It is just not a framework that I live my life through anymore, and haven’t for quite some time. I think that is scary, sometimes. I wish I had faith like my friends and family.

Deep down, where the waters are still, I find it there. A small glow, but a glow indeed. My peace. My ability to show grace and absorb pain.

But nearing the surface — that is where the waters are tumultuous. Pulled in by the moon and sent crashing into rocks as though it is in my nature to break and form back together.

So while I do my comparing and floating and crashing, I am still drawn to whatever it is that gives me peace every day. At least for a moment, and then I go on surviving and bumping into people and colliding with their thoughts and their own wars.

Luckily grace exists outside of the Bible. As does love and mercy and forgiveness. All of which I learned from Jesus, but I also learned from my momma, and Mother Teresa, and my chef.

Today, I will be carrying everyone with me.

a southern year (in review)

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I drive on Highway 49 when I go to visit my family outside of Jackson, Mississippi.

It’s a highway I’ve known my entire life.
There’s the boiled peanut man.
Well, there are a lot of boiled peanut men.
There are also a lot of sweet potato men.

Antique shops. Roadside flea markets. Mom and pop diners.

It occurred to me, while driving this stretch of road yesterday, that it’s been a year since I’ve moved back to Mississippi. I’m very nostalgic about dates like this. Not only has this year gone by fast, it’s also been a whirlwind.

I still don’t feel like I’ve caught up just yet.

I’m also still struggling with my sense of place.
It’s been a hard season for me.

I was lucky to have a few months off when I moved back.
My mom, nonchalantly placing $20 bills in my shoes before she left for the morning.

I struggled finding work in Jackson, so I moved back to Hattiesburg.
Still, I find myself a little wobbly, and a little out of sorts.
So many people I know have found their niche. Their people. Their lovers. Their pets. Their homes.

I’m having a hard time figuring out what it is I want. What a luxury.

I sense that I am so close to learning something about me and my life. I have doors open for me, and a lot of doors I feel I’m left knocking.

Not religious enough.
Not healthy enough.
Not social enough.
Not southern enough.

It is a needy feeling, sometimes in my belly. Some days, I connect deeply, and others, I still feel so homesick for that thing I used to have.

I’m really trying hard.

I’m working a lot, and I’m carrying a lot of weight.

I’m carrying my past, present and future. All of which, looks a lot like me trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

With that being said, I have felt so lucky to have all of this back.

What I lost, was tremendous.

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But coming back home, I gained something else.

My wild and precious community.

Who feed me.
Text me.
Employ me.
Pray for me.
Pull me in tightly.
And let me, by some miracle, into their lives.

It has been a wild, wacky year.
I broke a bone.
My roof caved in.
I started to build a home.
I forgot I knew how to sweat appropriately.
My dad got married.
My second nephew turned one and I got to feed him hotdogs.
I met a cat raccoon.
I got a bigger bed.
I planted flowers with my niece and nephew.
I started a tiny business and am excited and terrified.

Whew.

A few deep breaths, and I resonate with these words I have tattooed on my arm.

these things take time.
and I look in the mirror, with some weepy eyes, and proclaim:

yes!

surely,
they do. 

letter to Mississippi

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I often have a hard time finding the words.

You see, so much of my earlier life was spent trying to lose a southern accent and fly away as soon as I had the right reasons. And I did, on several occasions.

One being the time I lived with my dad in Georgia when I was a little too young to understand what was happening. It was a very hard time for me. I learned a lot. I learned about the power of making my own decisions and owning up to that power.

I moved back to Mississippi after a year of living in Georgia.

Then there was a summer in Chicago where I became friends with a homeless man who gave me the “Fred Hampton Image Award” which was named after him for being a ‘positive image to the community’. I have it framed next to my degree from Southern Miss, which I only use in conversation with people. In reality I was struggling with all my worlds again, all the while eating a bunch of Chipotle and reading a ton of Donald Miller books. It’s what we did.

There are the four months in India where I learned how tiny I was, and how terrible I was at eating Bengali food, and learning the language. I regret not appreciating how important it was to travel and to explore at that moment. I’d never seen such poverty. I’d never walked into a red-light district with the sole purpose to play cards and eat spicy snacks on top of brothels. I learned about heavens and hells. And I saw the eyes of a man choosing the girl he would have sex with. I’d never see the world the same way again.

My quietness was a hindrance in some of these ways. I was not outgoing enough to want to learn a language, I don’t think. I was not good at it. I wish I would’ve worked harder. I wish I would have eaten more street food. I came back to Mississippi after that, as well.

I also met a girl from Oregon who I ended up being married to for a little while.

I moved to Portland for that, as well. Learning and growing and all those others words I’ve used here a billion times. And when that stopped working, I moved back to Mississippi.

MagnoliaCopy

I recognize I’ve never been great at being a traditional southerner. I was never taught to hunt. I don’t have a background of traditional southern food ways. I love New Orleans, but in small bursts. I love the food, well, that has always been true.

Again I find myself reconciling with a place like Mississippi. A dumping pot for so many people’s ideas and misconceptions. When people ask me how it is in Mississippi, I can’t find the right words.
It is my home right now. A home that I’ve missed for a long time.

A familiar voice in my life came up saying, “It’s not going to happen for you in Mississippi..”

As a young cook, looking to grow and hone my skills, it doesn’t present me with the most options.

But that’s okay.

Because I’ve found myself really needing this place. In the way that home always feels. As much as I loved my most recent visit to Oregon, I was so giddy to get back to my old tiny apartment, among my cookbooks and familiar smells. I wanted to sit on my back steps and listen to the acorns fall from the trees.

Yesterday, as I was hobbling in on my booted foot, a man riding his bike loaded down with grocery bags yelled, “Hey! I’m sorry about your foot! – – – I know that hurts man, I hope you get better!” and kept on his way.

I shouted THANKS! As I walked into my room, I sat on my bed got a little teary. (As I do.)

I felt some really big love. Not just via random bike guy, but all around. And though I might not make much sense to my family and many of my friends, I am so glad to be home again, and I’m so glad I get to be close to those constants in my life. Yes, there are bigger places out there.

But right now,
I’m just happy to be here.

dolce far niente

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When I was in India, there was this book that I saw so many Western travelers reading. I suppose, given the nature of said book, India was a great place to eat, pray, and love.

I read Miss Gilbert’s book. Well, at least half of it. I get distracted easily.

I also watched the movie, and recently watched it again.
I’m a sucker for a writer’s story. And specifically, one who was coming off a messy divorce.

I find myself in a lot of those bits and pieces. I also see myself on both sides of the story.

There was the anger. His anger, in particular, when telling her that she didn’t give him a chance to change.
There was her prayer to God on the cold bathroom floor.

My belly started to hurt.
Especially at his anger.
“I made vows! I wanted this! You quit! You quit! You quit!”
All over my body, I felt that confusion, and brokenness.
You always remember how that broken heart feels. It sits on your chest like a lead vest.

The other part of me gets why she wanted out. A lot.
Enough to where she didn’t care what she lost. She just wanted out. She wanted…needed something different.
And with all my heart, I do see it.

A big part of me wanted what she got to do. Travel, get fat in Italy, pray to God in an Ashram, and well, find some love.

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I get ahead of myself, quite often. I get an idea stuck in my head and at times, I am a stubborn fool. I have my ways, and I’d like for everything to follow in those lines, one after the other. “Yes, you go there, and then this and that. Perfect. Thank you.”

And then there’s reality, where maybe 10-15% of the time, you get what you ask for. Even then, it’s never as polished as it is in your head.

But then I started to reflect on this time. I’ve been given such a luxury, to plant myself firmly and to rest and eat and rekindle. Your heart is a muscle, and when it goes through a lot, you gotta give that thing some time to straighten out. Let it rest while you catch up on TV or books or that trip you’ve been wanting to make to the coast.

Give yourself an abundant amount of grace.

Give yourself time.

loads of time.

Build a house out of lincoln logs and go fishing for an afternoon.

Things won’t always get put back together. You will break it, and it will never fit back just right.
I think this is a hard truth. Those things you used to put yourself into, are no longer able to hold you.

I like the idea of the permeable membrane. I’d like to say I am just that. I dissolve into people, and when I do, I will give you everything. And when it’s over, I am wandering about until I can dissolve into another, or another thing. There’s a lot of good in that. I suppose I’d like to work on some balance, for the in between times.

Things are just starting to feel okay.

Okay that I’m alone. Okay that I’ll be living by myself. Okay that my narrative has changed.

There are chapters ahead I hope I pay attention to. Because really, they’re all important. The good ones and the bad.

So while I run the risk of processing Eat, Pray, Love in the same way thousands of others have, I must say that our stories take turns. God becomes the love inside of you. Food becomes romance.
And love,
hmmph.

love is always there,
calling you back to where you belong.

 

 

the roads to home

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Reconciliation is the mending of bone and flesh and soul.

It is peace and understanding; Lord knows I am in great need of both.

I took a drive South over the weekend. Made dinner for some dear friends, and missed a wedding I was supposed to attend. That was a night where I felt I kept making the wrong turns. Both physically and with a heavy dose of life comparison. Luckily, I still have an Oregon tag on my car, in defense of my directionless brain.

I do, however, know how to go South.

That was my life, and it certainly is again.

God, there’s some beauty here. Even on those messy, warm nights I am filled up with the sounds of cicadas and frogs and perhaps the sounds of Kenny Chesney from a big truck.

I walked past a couple kissing in the parking lot of a Thai restaurant. This was after I listened to them singing “Afternoon Delight”, barely able to keep pitch, or their balance. I smiled big.

In my head, I am constantly mending my lives. In big chunks I smoosh them together. I lived here once, went away, and now I live here again. I am a bit different, and that’s okay.
I drive across the state line into Louisiana. The other place I spent a lot of life in, chasing cousins around furniture and finding easter eggs under the great Magnolia.

I pull over for supplies at Rouses. Mostly hot sauce. A shrink wrapped muffuletta and a bag of Zapps potato chips. That dill kind that rip up my tongue so good. I think about how my taste buds have changed over the years. Not enough apparently, that I buy some really dry eclairs for my mom. They looked good in the case, I thought.

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I drive to a place where me and my dad used to pull blue crabs from Lake Pontchartrain. All the spots are taken, so I pull over and walk to a wall and get to breathe in a bit more of my history. I think about the places I’ve lived, and what it took for me to get there. I kick around an old beer can someone had left and filled full of cigarette butts.

I make my way back North, before the storm. The same roads that brought me places when I was a kid. I go in and out of thoughts like I’m reading a book, distracted.

Next thing ya know, I’ve been driving an hour, then two.

I spot the gas station where I filled up before I left Mississippi five years ago.

I think about my life during those years, and I smoosh it all together. The roads to home are all over, I have figured out.

Intersecting, opposing, parallel.

and I cruise through them mile signs,

one memory at a time.

new life.

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From Oregon to Georgia.
Pacific ocean to the Atlantic, crossing over the mighty Mississippi.
Steelhead salmon to them channel Catfish.

Whew.

A lot.

It feels a bit odd to be moving around so much. I realize the luxury in getting to do so. I have also been blown away by the hospitality — the people wanting me to move into their cities — don’t they know how much of a goober I am? I should really warn those people.

There has been a theme, throughout this little ride.

Daffodils blooming. Escaping the snow by a day or two. Green pastures and conversation of change.
New babies. New love.

Rebirth.

New life.

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That is what I see. In the midst of the mud and murk, I emerge like that catfish, mouth agape, feeling the sunshine beam upon my whiskery face.

I realize, that what I am seeing as I pass through states, and after I leave one place for another, are pockets of new life. All of the time, they are being remade. Whether that is a baby or a marriage or a job. I see it all bursting through the ground like them daffodils after the long, cold dark of winter.

I see Justin planting his garden behind his Tennessee home, while watching L jump on the trampoline yelling, “Okay, watch this!” And I can see both of L’s parents, smiling and admiring all of the little things they have growing. More so, L’s parents inspire me to keep moving and loving. (And that when a kid needs to dance, you just gotta let him dance…)

Abbye and Jeff playing hide and seek with their neighbor’s kids, and embracing their city and neighborhood as though they have already decided on something big. I love seeing people go all in on a place.

I see my cousin behind the bar, smiling, sharing with us something he has extreme passion for — and the relationships he’s made. I’m proud of him, but not in the way people say when someone has just started to get their stuff together. I’ve always been proud of him. I’ve missed his friendship, and I’m excited to be closer to my family.

To SJ, my sister asking hard questions and seeing beauty and wonder in all the small things.

So now, I sit at my dad’s desk, writing with the sun at my back.

I think about the Beloved community. How good everyone has been to me this past month. Giving me their beds, paying for my drinks and my food. They’ve showed me their cities and have allowed me to meet their own little communities. Usually I am exhausted by all the hustle and bustle, but I have been so lucky to meet and share a table with so many this month. It further reinforces all those big things I keep in my heart.

Because given the opportunity, I would give these people whatever they needed, whenever. The gratitude of taking in a weary traveler has always been something close to my heart.
So, I sit back and imagine what’s next.

And I feel okay. I feel loved.

I see life, and I see it moving on.

From one place to another, life being made new.

reincarnation-like.

Yeah, I think it’s gonna be okay.

 

the horizon.

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I saw my horizon.

Eight months ago, I sat slumped over in a bed, imagining what it might look like.
I knew it was important, that horizon. That moment I would be driving into it, with the sun slowing setting behind the curve of the earth.

Driving into some of the quietest parts of Colorado, I sat and stared into it. I remembered being so lost and down. How stuffy it was in that room, where everything happened. Where I imagined this part of my life changing in ways I’d never imagined.

If I was able to fall asleep, I would think about this horizon. My symbol of change. My symbol of moving.

The hills, waning and waxing like the moon.

I kept my eyes on the horizon.

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I thought deep about my pain. Those hard goodbyes where all I wanted to say was this: Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me.

So much pain in goodbyes.

But I kept my eyes on that horizon.

I passed some buffalo, quiet but strong as they stomped through the tall grass. They didn’t mind me pulling over to watch for a while. It was kind of lonely out there. I’m sure a couple of weary travelers marveling at their grace and enormity was okay.

I started feeling stronger. More at rest. Less weary, more so ready to get goin’ – that’s what I would say. “Ah, gotta keep goin’ gotta keep movin’.”

And so we drove. A busted tire on the side of a white mountain. All of my belongings hanging on Monarch Pass — I reevaluated their worth. My stand mixer sitting alongside some cookbooks and an old writer’s box that I hold very dear to me.

We kept moving.

I realized the horizon never ends.

Which is why, in the depth of my sadness, it was all I could see. Something to move towards. Something that would take me to another place.

And now, I find myself resting on a bed, deep in the belly of Mississippi. Tired. Sad. Excited. Relaxed. Ready.

Ready for what might happen next…

ready to steady the wheel on that horizon.