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Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

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Students’ morning prayer, in Jalgaon.

At the end of many prayers in which I participate here, I hear and sing, or chant, “shanti, shanti, shanti.” “Peace, peace, peace.” May there be peace in this place, peace for those who hear the bells, peace for our community, peace for the world.

I am always reminded of the prayer of St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

How do I pray such a thing, in the midst of poverty, inequalities in education, and stories of female feticide, rapes, and murders of women?

How do I pray that, on a smaller scale, when I am still hurt, jaded, and cynical from my classroom teaching experiences? When I cannot say for certain that the schools in which I taught could ever be truly a “safe space”?

And yet, what kind of teacher—or human, or Christian—am I if I give up hope? Sr. Carla Mae once told me that the opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is despair.

For the last few months, I’ve been thinking about what happens when teachers “burn out.” I wrote a paper for my multi-religious contemplative capacities course entitled, “Ahimsa Practices for Tramautized/Tramautizing Teachers: How to Restore Peace-full Teaching.” In these three weeks, I’ve been listening carefully to the stories of teachers, and attending to what the schools here feel like. Do the teachers have warmth and regard for their students, or contempt and disdain? Are students energized and joyful, or reciting rote and fearful?

What meditative or restorative practices can heal teachers who work in circumstances where systematic injustices and dehumanizing bureaucracies discourage voice (read: vocation)?

We live in a world where peace feels frequently elusive, impossible, a nice quote to pin on an inspiration board before returning to sarcasm, individual competitiveness, black-and-white thinking, and practices that leave us feeling increasingly dead inside. Gandhi and the Reverend King are heroes, far removed from the kind of daily injustices we face. Unless our voices touch millions, we fear, it’s unlikely for us to see peace—or justice—in our lifetimes.

***

I had a long conversation with Prof. P. last week. Last year, I attended part of the funeral of his father. Twenty days before his father died unexpectedly, his teenaged nephew drowned. It was a hard summer for his family.

We sat together on a porch in Jalgaon, overlooking green hills and orchards. I told him that I had held his family in my prayers all year, and asked how they were.

Prof. P. mentioned how devout his sister-in-law is, how ordinary and good the lives of his families are, how the thousands drowned in sudden floods were at worship. And yet, he pointed out, thieves and looters live and thrive. We were talking about the problem of theodicy. Both of us used the phrase, “…in this life.” As in, “We just can’t understand the purpose of such loss, in this life.” Or, “…there are different kinds of karma, that we can’t understand, and it doesn’t make sense, the way things happen, in this life.”

I recited again a quote that is dear to me, from the Reverend King: “…the arc of justice is long, but it bends toward mercy.”

Jain cosmology, with its radically different sense of time, reminds me again and again that my mind is finite. The universe, and God, are infinite. Maybe I will be blessed with a few golden glimmers of Truth, of Possibility, where I understand, for one goosebumpy and numinous moment—the bending.

***

Remember how in A Wrinkle in Time, Charles Wallace thinks he faces evil alone—a quick path to despair.

Mrs. Whatsit shares with him a glimpse of our planet Earth, seen from afar. A dark, pulsing cloud covers most of it. It is like a tumor, a living, present thing. Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who reminds Charles Wallace and his friends that we are one of millions of those who work against the dark, who work knowing their tiny acts of light will not be overcome.

Charles Wallace is surprised; he didn’t realize this battle has been fought long before his particular pain. Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who offer reminders; L’Engle writes:

‘And we’re not alone, you know, children.’ came Mrs. Whatsit, the comforter.

‘All through the universe it’s been fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it’s a grand and exciting battle. I know it’s hard for you to understand about size, but there’s very little difference in the size of the tiniest microbe and the greatest galaxy. You think about that, and maybe it won’t seem strange to you that some of our very best fighters have come right from your own planet, and it’s a little planet, dears, out on the edge of a little galaxy. You can be proud that it’s done so well.’

‘Who have our fighters been?’ Calvin asked.

‘Oh, you must know them, dear,’ Mrs. Whatsit said.

Mrs. Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly. “And a light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”

‘Jesus!’ Charles Wallace said. ‘Why of course, Jesus!’

‘Of course!’ Mrs. Whatsit said. ‘Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.’

‘Leonardo da Vinci?’ Calvin suggested tentatively. ‘And Michelangelo?’

‘And Shakespeare,’ Charles Wallace called out, ‘and Bach! And Pasteur and Madame Curie and Einstein!’

Now Calvin’s voice rang with confidence. ‘And Schweitzer and Gandhi and Buddha and Beethoven and Rembrandt and St. Francis!’ (65-66).

The mundane, daily, and systematic examples of injustice work to make us think that our impulses toward community, toward collaboration, and toward life-affirming action are silly, wrong-headed, and bound to fail.

As children of God, we are made to be light-carriers. If we tend to our spiritual selves and work in communities that can help us identify and remember our calling, we are better equipped to work against despair.

***

Practicing mindfulness may seem a selfish, tiny act—how is cultivating gratitude going to help my students in their poverty and hunger? And yet, we find that over time, the cultivation of a new kind of flexibility in the mind prepares us to be prepared and willing.

From childhood—ourselves threatened and made afraid from nursery school—we have been raised up in a posture of fear and despair. We forget so quickly our true potential. Even understanding that the history upon which we build assumptions may be faulty can change the position of our posture.

In Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink writes, “Learning the history of nonviolence is another way of rehearsing it. Furthermore, our ability to act may depend every bit on our knowledge of nonviolent methods and spirituality as on our fortitude” (300).

If I had to teach again, in such a situation, and I pray I will, I will do the following to begin with. I would teach the history of nonviolence, including the history and voices of those in the American Civil Rights Struggle and for every nation represented by my students. For my own good, as for theirs. I would commit to never using sarcasm, ridicule, or threats with my students—and would be forthright with them why I make this choice, and why it is difficult. I would share this challenge with my teaching peers.

I know from experience that when I have been honest with my students—in joy and humor, and in tricky times, admitting when things are hard and “right answers” far and few between, the energy in the room is one of deep community and connection. I didn’t know that when I engage with young people from my centeredness as a child of God, I am tugging a bit at the veil of despair that conceals our true natures that will help, one day, to upend it forever.

***

I pray that I will always have hope, and a healthy, noisy, thriving hope that fills my blood with oxygen and keeps me sharp and eager to work. I pray that I can grow in practices that help me see light, help me recognize peace when I see it, and keep me mindful of that arc of justice, ever ending toward the light.

All will be well. We are made for more than competition, poverty, sarcasm, and hopelessness. We are made to be in relationship, to heal one another, broken shard to broken shard, small light to small light.

It’s a good thing to recite “Peace, peace, peace,” many times a day. To take time to sharpen my eyes in looking for it, to reminding myself to not abandon it. I do believe that all will be well, and all shall be well.

I’m not sure how peace will come about, and in what forms it will take, but I trust that arc of justice, bending long to justice. I can see it and feel it, and I will not despair.

***

Portions of this reflection got their start in a paper I wrote for class in 2011, called, “Lights for Us to See By: A Critical Review of Engaging the Powers.”

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Mary in splendor, in Hagia Sophia.

Mother Mary was all over this trip. Surprising that after having lived in places like the Bronx, where she is also frequently found—from shrine to garment to tattoo—that I would feel so close to her at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

When I was little, going to a missionary Baptist church out in the country, Mary didn’t come up very frequently, although I often got to play her in Christmas pageants. (Having blonde hair and blue eyes that matched her robes seemed prerequisite.) Even with nativity sets, I was always interested in the tiny baby, and in rearranging the stable crowd in various scenes. Mary wasn’t doing much in those little ceramic sets—kneeling, eyes cast down.

At one point in upper elementary school, I undertook to read the entire Bible, cover to cover. There’s not much Mary in there, either, actually. I loved the book of Esther, which read like a novel, and liked the idea of Eunice and Lois, early members of the church important enough to have names. Besides her magnificat, Mary doesn’t say anything. And Jesus himself is kind of rude to her in the wedding story, acting annoyed that she pressed him into service. And, to be honest, growing up trying to be a good girl, Mary just seemed meek and mild, the opposite kind of woman that a subscriber to Sassy magazine would aspire to be.

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Tradition says that after Jesus, as he was dying, charged his dear friend John with caring for Mary, John took her to Ephesus, where she lived out her days. This shrine is on the site of where her house is supposed to have been.

When I did my master’s in Byzantine hagiography, I finally started thinking about Mary in earnest. I saw images of her as God-bearer, as a near-warrior lady, holding the safety of humanity underneath her skirt, looking with intensity at Christ as she begs forgiveness on our behalf. My professor said, of her downcast eyes, “In these [Byzantine] images, she’s not looking down because she’s meek. She’s looking down because she is nobility, and they don’t look commoners in the eye.”

One of the things that’s so exhilarating about Istanbul is that beautiful images are grander than you can imagine, and jaw-dropping beauty is around every corner. I frequently found my eyes filling with tears. I would turn a corner, look up, and see an image of the theotokos, completely not expecting it, and stunned into staring.

Or I’d see something out of the corner of my eye, look up, and see Christ as king, splendid and solemn, staring at me from centuries ago—gold still shining in the dim cave light.

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Outside the Virgin Mary’s house in Ephesus, where pilgrims tie prayers on scraps of paper.

I couldn’t help by pray, and be awed (which is also a kind of prayer, I think), along the way.

CS Lewis defined the word “numinous” like this:

“Suppose you were told that there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told ‘There is a ghost in the next room,’ and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind.

It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is ‘uncanny’ rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous.

Now suppose that you were told simply ‘There is a mighty spirit in the room,’ and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking–described as awe, and the object which excites it is the Numinous.”

(When I looked up this story to get the details right for this post, I also found the following quote from Shakespeare that gets at “numinous,” “Under it my genius is rebuked.”)

So I would be walking around Istanbul, thinking about pistachios and how I used to always misspell “Constantinople,” (despite that master’s degree) and would suddenly find the hairs on my neck rising as I see another fresco, another mosaic, another image that stops my voice.

It’s hard to write about the numinous. When you have an experience—in a stand of sugar maple trees, at a child’s baptism, at the bed of a dying grandparent, in a chapel in Prague—that brings goosebumps, tears, a whoosh of energy in the gut and heart, and it feels like all of creation meaning…

It’s like the old writing class edict “show, don’t tell” falls apart. How can I show you? I can only tell you that I was greedy for images of holy and gold, and was blessed with more than I could handle.

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Votives lit by pilgrims at Mary’s house.

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Oh, October

I love October. My birthday month, cooler weather, and (at least in the Midwest), blue, blue skies. I have many memories of riding my bike and noticing those skies, and feeling they were particular to my month.

I keep thinking it’s the first week of October, because we’ve been so busy, but really, we’re nearly half-way through. I also keep thinking it’s the beginning of the school semester, but really, I’ve already turned in multiple assignments. I had a great visit with my mom and sister, and I have a new nephew. The world is full.

In the past two weeks, our school had an Ahimsa Day, in which I was in a play/dramatic sharing, and participated in a panel on forgiveness–I was representing the Christian perspective. (Tough to do, in one single-spaced page!) I published my brief remarks here.

Last weekend, I was the on-site events coordinator for a dialogue conference. Big ideas, great professors and leaders, me running around making sure catering, welcoming, materials…everything in order. Thank goodness for Matt, who takes some of my load with grace and aplomb. Dinner parties and a bridal shower thrown in for good measure.

I’m also finishing work on a project for the Jains, it looks like I’ll be going back to India this summer, and helping shepherd the Journal into more growth. AAR next month, plus Thanksgiving/Christmas with family.  We’re re-booting the community garden.

So many good things. I find myself in a lot of “spontaneous thankful” prayers– just walking around thanking God for everything I have. As fall comes on, though, I am thinking about Advent, and the need to be a little more intentional about my prayer life.

Other notes: I’ve started reading the Game of Thrones series. Not great, but pretty good. I started using an app on my iPhone that tracks how deeply you are asleep, and only starts the alarm when you’re coming up out of a deep sleep. You have to keep the phone on the bed near you. It’s working, and kind of cool to see my “sleep statistics” every morning–the graph of when I was in deep sleep, dreaming, and when I was not. I’ve been driving more, with the manual transmission; it’s okay. Serving as a Teaching Assistant is going well, as is my work in the Writing Center. We’ve had Remy for a year, and I can’t imagine our life without him.

We housesit for two friends and they came back from a mini-vacation with so many beach stones. While we caught up, I played with the stones, organizing them by color and shape. Pleasing.

Some amazing Chihuly glass I saw while visiting my sister. Oh, the color. Oh, the abundance.

Cool old bricks in “Bricktown,” in Oklahoma City. I love how each one is stamped with the maker’s name. Again, pleasing texture.

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My grandmother. Last month, I traveled from LA to Chicago to San Fran to St. Louis to Western Mass., culminating in Thanksgiving. Whirlwind! One of the highlights in St. Louis was meeting my cousin’s dear baby and going through a box of old photos of our family.

Here is our grandmother, whose parents came from Scandinavia, in Montana in the 1930s. I had never seen this photo and nearly gasped when we found it. She looks like my grandmother as I remember her, but she is so young, so pretty, so possible. This is before she met my grandfather, married young, and went to England with one child to bear another (my mother) before reaching the age of 20. Before coming back to the farm in Southern Illinois–her husband’s family land–and raising four children in a farmhouse with no hot water until 1977, the year I was born. She also raised, in part, me and my cousins. When I was in high school, she was frying chicken for a local restaurant and driving a school bus. She had gone to beauty school at some point; my mother still has some of her hair equipment.

Also, recently, I spent a day at the Getty with my best friend,

was treated to an amazing Korean meal by a classmate,

experimented with lotus root and other delicacies from the amazing Land of Plenty cookbook for…

an amazing Christmas dinner with my husband. Vintage Advent candle-holder from Etsy, napkins lovingly hand-made in Haiti, plates from a pottery shop in Shelbourne Falls, Mass., chargers from our wedding pattern china.

Today is the shortest day of the year. Doesn’t Daisy in The Great Gatsby say she’s always trying to notice the longest day of the year, and never can? What a sad thing, her youth, her longing for summer warmth and shine (and those shirts!), and always missing it all.

I don’t know what it says about me that I’m noticing the shortest day of the year, but I’m surrounded by Christmas lights, red wine, and plenty of carols and cards. Christmas lights don’t twinkle as well in the light, so I’m thinking that this is the best night of the year to shine.

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Photo by Vipal.
 
We spotted the ocean at the head of the trail
Where are we going? So far away.
Somebody told me, that this is the place.
Where everything’s better, and everything’s safe.
 
Half an hour later
We’d packed up our things
Said, we’d send letters
and all of those little things.
And they knew we were lying, but they smiled just the same,
Seemed they’d already forgotten we’d came. 
 
For most of the summers of my childhood and teenaged years, I went to summer camp. Even now, sometimes on a summer early evening, I recall exactly the schedule: Sunday afternoon, swim test. Sunday night, s’mores. I often dream of being there, hiking from the lakefront to the dining hall, doing dishes in the steamy kitchen [as a teenager, earning my free stay.]

Many of my happiest childhood memories took place at camp: I felt loved, I felt smart and good, I had a routine that I craved. On the night of my seventeenth birthday, I saw seventeen shooting stars. I sang and learned to swim and build fires and sleep in a quiet forest.

When I got older, and then became a counselor, the coolest people I met were other counselors. Sometimes they came from England, or New Zealand. Often they were college girls from the big college town, the cultural capital of my region of the state. They listened to R.E.M. (my own #1 band), to crazy bands I’d never heard of, wore cool tee-shirts and had traveled.

The summer of this song, by Toad the Wet Sprocket, I had my own car, and had this album, and was a counselor. I listened to the entire album– it’s one of those great albums where nearly every song is good, and they sound “right” in order. It was intense, golden-hued, nostalgic: just like my feeling of being at camp.

One Friday, after the kids were gone, and we counselors were packing up our tent (for the weekend break, and then to move into another campsite for the next week), a fellow counselor backed her car into the campsite, popped her hatchback, and put this tap on her tape player, car battery fueling the music for us to pack by.

We were silent as we packed, and at age 17, it seemed so darn appropriate. “Packing our things.” “Said we’d write letters.” “Forgotten we’d came.” The sun was setting, I imagined I could see or sense the lake through the trees, and I already felt sad and bittersweet about getting older. I’d be going away to college in the fall. My parents were getting a divorce, unbeknownst to me at that moment. Things were changing.

Honestly, for me, camp was a place where I always did feel better, and where I was always safe. Now, listening to the song, I can so easily conjure my platform tent, the green plates we used in the dining hall, the sweaty grit of having cooked over a campfire, the spookiness of the woods at night, the gorgeous glimmering of the lake in late afternoon.

I felt old that summer, strangely.  I had never kissed anyone, had not yet experienced depression, had never been on an airplane.

We don’t even have pictures,
Just memories to hold,
that grow sweeter each season,
as we slowly grow old.

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photo from Two Stout Monks’ on Flickr

I’ve been loving reading posts on this meme from Grammar Piano and Matt, so I decided I would jump on in.

My favorite song is “Half a World Away,” by REM.

“The storm it came up strong. It shook the trees, it blew away our fears.”

This line I love. I often sing it to myself, or think of it. I think of dark branches, in that weird gray-green sky before a storm we used to get in the Midwest, and the smell of ozone in the air. I didn’t know it was ozone smell as a child, just that crackling smell of possible, of taking cover.

It has been raining a lot this week in the Bronx. The rain has pounded and pummeled the blossoming trees outside our door. This morning, when I went outside, the large magnolia blossom petals were all over the sidewalk, shining white in the gray morning light. The covered over all the broken bottles and litter in our yard, covered over the litter on the sidewalk and in the gutter.

I’ve always been an anxious person. My parents report that when I was little, I would take things with such grave intensity that I would tremble, or hallucinate. I would wake up early, before anyone, and wander around the house and yard, eating cold hot dogs from the refrigerator. I would sing in my closet, and in the garage. I tied curtains to my arms and legs, and ran around the backyard, in the rain.

“This could be the saddest dusk
I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle
High alive
My mind is racing
As it always will
My hand is tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away here
My head sworn
To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
And hold it
Go it alone
Hold it along and hold, hold.”

Sometimes it feels like recognition, when I feel fluttery and powerful inside, and when the natural world is in accord. When I was in high school, living along a highway just out of town, I used to wake up in the middle of the night, and walk barefoot across the grass onto the hot highway surface. No cars coming in either direction. Smell of fields and fragrant bushes in my parents’ yard.  Once, I took out a glass tumbler and threw it on the highway, to hear the shatter and tinkle of glass.

“This lonely deep sit hollow
I’m half a world
Half the world away
My shoes are gone
My life spent
I had too much to drink
I didn’t think
And I didn’t think of you
I guess that’s all I needed
To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
And hold it
Blackbirds, backwards, forwards and fall and hold, hold.”

I was hospitalized for depression in the summer after my senior year.  Inside the hospital was long days. Wanting to nap, but not being allowed. Air conditioning and strange nights of sleep.  When I got out, I think my close friends were maybe unsure of what to do with me.  I have two great memories from that period, a brief time between getting out and when I went off to college.

“Oh, this lonely world is wasted
Pathetic eyes high alive
Blind to the tide that turns the sea
This storm it came up strong
It shook the trees
And blew away our fear
I couldn’t even hear.”

Three of my girlfriends came and picked me up at the house by the highway. I don’t know if I knew where we were going.  We drove out into the country, onto someone’s family land. A swimming hole, a small lake, completely surrounded by trees, and then farmland. It was so quiet. Late afternoon, just swimming.  I floated on my back, letting the water fill my ears until I couldn’t hear anything. Looking at the sky, seeing the dark ring of trees in every direction of my periphery.  Feeling thankful for friends that would bring me here without word or fanfare at all.

“This could be the saddest dusk
I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle
High alive
My mind is racing
As it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away and go .”

In that same week, my cousin Larry and I were out at the farm at the same time. We’d grown up there, like brother and sister, especially during summers. I guess we had some kind of conversation about what had happened with me, but I don’t remember it. We got on a four-wheeler, and Larry drove.  The boys were always more adventurous than me on the four-wheelers, but I didn’t complain when he jumped it over ditches, and drove us away from the farm and up onto our grandpa’s land, land between fields, dark with trees.

I don’t think I could find that land now, but I have such a vivid memory of driving onto it, looping around in the fields, through the trees, the four wheeler too noisy for conversation. Another summer evening, that weird kind of dark shade in trees before evening comes.

Even though the song describes going it alone, that’s not what I hear or feel when I am singing along to the song. Partially, this is because I sing harmony, because it talks of “holding,” and because the fears blown away are “our” fears. Even though the singer has sworn to (try?) to go it alone, it doesn’t seem to me like he has. At least, “Turn to a miracle/high alive,” always, always feels like a sudden surge of connection.

Also, I notice as I listen to it now, that although the lyrics read “hold it alone,” I have always heard and sung, “hold it along.” I guess I imagine holding something over time, keeping it, helping it along.

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Tonight, for dinner, I ate half of a watermelon.  At Fairway, it was marketed as a “personal watermelon.”

For the past seven nights, I have been waking up in a new way. Not in a panic, and not with lasting anxiety, but with an urgent feeling of, “Something is missing!”  Sometimes, what I think is missing is Matt. I sit up, I feel his head. I can’t tell it’s him. So I lean over and smell him.  I recognize his smell, so I am satisfied, and go back to sleep.

Or, I fear that I’ve lost my wedding rings.  I get up, I dart about, maybe turn on the light, until I can see them on my dresser top or vanity table.

Last Monday night, I can’t remember what I thought was missing, but I left the bedroom, turned on the living room light, and unpacked part of my luggage.

The morning after we got the watermelon, I woke up in a panic. Matt was already up, grinding coffee. I believe I said to him, “Someone took my watermelon! Where is it??”  Confused but reassuring, he picked up the watermelon (where I had left it on the counter) and held it out, saying, “It’s right here.”

I would rather have these nightly sensations of loss than full-blown panic attacks, but I am curious about why they’re happening now, and what they might mean.  I think that the phrase “personal watermelon” has something to do with my internal possessiveness of that particular fruit item.

I love watermelon. Until this week, I’ve never purchased it for myself. It always seems to heavy to carry home, to bulky for the fridge. Whenever it’s at a party or BBQ, though, I will eat as much as possible.  I try to be covert about it, getting only three slices, for example, for my plate, but then going back throughout the evening for more slices. It’s delicious!  I have loved it forever.

My Grandpa used to grow watermelons, among other veg and fruits, on his farm.  It’s nice to eat watermelon cold, but there’s something to be said for eating it warm, hot and ripe from the sun.  The heart is the best part– before adulthood, all watermelons had seeds, and the heart is always seedless.  Sun-warmed, cracked open, the heart is red, pulpy, seedless, and so sweet.

There were rumors that “Posey County boys crack open all the watermelon they want, and only eat the hearts.”   They grew watermelon there, and that idea of excess was so appealing to me as a child. I imagined marrying a Posey County boy and eating watermelon hearts to my content, luxuriously.

One of the local towns used to have a Sweet Corn and Watermelon Festival.  In addition to rides, and a parade, and probably a pageant (I personally was 1st Runner Up in my own hometown’s Little Miss Peanut Pageant, as well as competing in a neighboring town’s Little Miss Old King Coal pageant), the festival featured all of the sweet corn and watermelon you could eat, for free.

Various tents, put up by local politicians, and the city council, and the Rotary, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, unions… all of the small town organizations had tents.  Farmers brought in huge wagons of the produce, there was live music, and the tents had paper plates, forks, butter, salt, and napkins. You could eat, and eat, and eat. Hot and cold: buttery or sweet.

When I was little, food was a huge part of how I looked forward to things.  I spent many years in Sunday school, imagining heaven. In my elementary school mind, heaven looked like this: There were many long, endlessly long tables, covered with white table cloths and beautiful silver bowls.  Delicious mashed potatoes filled each bowl. This image of comfort [food] sustained me for many a prayer and long sermon.

Looking forward to the Sweet Corn and Watermelon Festival had a similar fantastical feeling–it seemed too good to be true, and I looked forward to the watermelon all year it seemed. Plates of it. Red and super sweet. I could imagine the water running down my chin, even onto my feet.  And in a festival–it’s very nomination provoking excess–one could have exactly as much watermelon as she wanted.

I’m not a wealthy woman. I have student loans, and work three jobs, and do my best to save and budget and be thrifty. When I have an entire watermelon to myself, though, I can saw without any hyperbole at all that I feel as wealthy as a princess, as luxuriating as an empress.  I saved half of the watermelon for breakfast; half of a watermelon is nearly all I can ask of the world tonight.

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