Friday, March 21, 2014

To the Mormon Missionaries Who Interrupted My Walk on This Bright Spring Day

To the Mormon Missionaries Who Interrupted My Walk on This Bright Spring Day

Even more irritating than the intonations of your voice
As each sentence furled upward like burning paper

Even more uncomfortable than your unwanted attention,
Or the distance apart you stood

Even more troubling than the feeling of manipulation
Hanging between us like a heavy chandelier

Was the way I filed you into categories and stuck you in a box,
Left on some dusty shelf in a forgotten corner of my mind.


Dear world,
I have a confession: I like the idea of writing for an audience, but I have commitment issues. Clearly. My idea for Copper & Vine was to consistently post deep and life-changing blogs that inspire conversation. However, I discovered that while I have plenty of thoughts floating around in my head, they feel a little cheapened or boring when I try to put them down on paper. Plus, everyone and their mother is already doing that. Plus, I don't want to keep a religious blog for the sake of keeping a religious blog. One should write when one has something to say.

That being said, when you do have something worth writing, sometimes it just has to be written a certain way. I'm pretty sure the typical blog is not my style. So that's why we're going to try this again from the perspective of poetry.

Welcome to the New and Improved Copper & Vine, Poetry Style 

Ok, that's enough of an introduction. On the next post I'll show you a poem I wrote yesterday in response to an encounter that made me think hard about how I relate to others. Maybe you'll identify with it. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

On Nostalgia

It was great to be a kid. The carefree days of summer drawn into dusk and starry nights, the hilarity of mundane things, the seemingly unlimited time with best friends, the preoccupation with romping through the woods, following dusty roads, wading in creek pools or ponds. The romance of life, the hours spent in daydream, imaginations lost in books. Of course, childhood was not perfect or painless, but when I think back on those years, this is what I think of. It was a happy time.

Being rather past-oriented, I thought it normal that a certain amount of nostalgia for days gone by would color my memory. But sometimes a weird sadness would accompany these recollections, and so the past became both sweet and painful to the touch. The thought that something had been lost forever. The thought that I would never be able to match the friendships of childhood, or the safety of my childhood home.

It wasn't until the past few years, the beginning of my adulthood, that Holy Spirit was able to explain to me the problem of nostalgia that I held onto all my life. While nostalgia is normal for the human heart, and often indicates happy memories, the presence of it is not an accurate measurement for your value of the past. Neither is your ability to remember. Just because a man develops memory loss later in old age, it does not mean he did not have a rich and wonderful life, that what he experienced wasn't real.

As part of the process of giving up the nostalgia and sadness of the past, I first had to agree that holding onto it did not actually make life more beautiful or romantic. It just made my heart hurt. It also subtracted from my zeal for the present, and stunted my excitement for the future. It was a prison of loss, and it was costing me. In a practical sense, there have been times when it is necessary for me to avoid certain songs that provoke nostalgia, or to say no to feelings of sadness that accompany certain memories.

Since moving to Greensboro for university five years ago, I would have to say that I have simultaneously enjoyed living here and missed my "real" home, that is, my place of childhood. Every dorm room, apartment, and house I have occupied in that time has special memories for me, but I have never come close to the feeling of home that existed before. While I am certainly comfortable in this city, it still feels new, like it hasn't gotten into my heart yet. In my mind, my husband and I will eventually have a home, which will be characterized by woods, quiet, good friends, memories created over years, and children. But who knows when or where that will be, which keeps me waiting and unrooted where I am at present.

Over Thanksgiving, we went to my parents'. I love going, although I only do a few times a year, because it reminds me of where I come from and the people who claim a place in my heart. The friendships I cannot match. One night, Jimmy asked me why I like coming home. I told him it helps me remember who I am, and makes me feel safe. It wasn't until we were back in Greensboro, in the great new rental house we got in September, that I realized our brief conversation had unsettled him. I had to listen in order to understand why. "You had a great childhood, and I'm thankful," he said. "But this is your home, too." He said that I should not have to necessarily return to my childhood home in order to remember who I am, to love where I am, who I'm with, or to believe that the future will be even more precious than the past. Jimmy's words helped me see that I should not hold onto the loss of home until I can one day fill it with another place that meets my standards for what home should be. After all, those standards look awfully like the place of my youth, and perhaps that is unfair.

So today I am giving myself permission to love where I am, both the physical location as well as this season of early post-childhood. This does not mean that my favorite theme in literature will no longer be childhood, or that I will flush my happy memories in order to avoid nostalgia, or that I will stop writing poems about the past, or that I will devalue my oldest friendships, or that I will not sometimes miss those days. It does mean that I will not spend my present trying to recreate my first home, or restraining the growth of my roots in this city, or treating my husband as second best. This is a great time of change and development. I want it to be every bit as precious as I believe it can be.