In the corner of eastern Tennessee, on the bordering edge of the Carolinas, there is a smoky, blue curl that rolls with twilight and it shouted Look! into my ears as it hovered the elevated mount the summer I was
Blunt, short, sunwashed tresses tousled, and voices of friendships whispered in the dark, smiling like warm. Chilly nighttime air ruptured to a tiny wave of goosebumps and I opened my eyes to listen.
Composing, constructing, erasing, and rebuilding….and words and language-art engineering; why does this thing always haunt me like a parasite, dwelling in me, demanding strain, hurdle, and to vault-ricochet toward it? This propulsion kisses my skin, and tongue, and whisper-stroke skimming in my ear, and squeeze-locks around my muscle heart, a voice that is antithesis calm against my rigid, ruffled agitation. Always since my childhood it says….keep writing it. Speak aloud about Love, about Faithful, about True. Speak aloud about the God who is there, who saves, who makes new.
pen, down-drop disgust,
walk away from it,
And no I don’t want to touch it and
bleed outside onto
pages anymore. I flick it across the room away and choke-swallow vomit and watch that pen skid on dusty, creaky hardwood floors and land alone, because I am forgetting how this story starts and how it ends and it feels good to suppress it so it doesn’t convulse and relapse and lay me out. With my own hands I reach up from pretty, painted pedicure to my heels through my legs to pelvis and into my gut and rip it out, ravaged with a jerk and bayonet hook, to be gone. Hot to the touch revolver in my hands, bang, bang, BANG, in roar-shouting burst succession. Reload, cock, and unload again. And I have blood on my hands, strewn over the pillow my head lays on to sleep.
A ghastly, first-degree sin.
In eastern Tennessee are moist, wet rocks that graduate upward like stairs, rising out of the tumbling whitewater and some of them circle around and up in a spiral to the trees. The sun bakes the rocky places dry until they fold out extended and jut over as a cliff hanging over the patch of calm, deep water before it turns turbulent. More rocks litter the deep, wide, mountain-river floor bed, water crashing and swimming over them, a flurry flight. Droplets hang in the air and sunlight bursts through and you can see it like a curtain hanging in the atmosphere, creating prisms of color over swimming bodies.
Wet hands on wet rock, palms slapping, gripping, and biceps flexing. Lifting torsos, feet joining, and leg muscles appearing until whole bodies emerge and water rolls and drips from them. They jump up flexing and scatter the rock staircase, gripping hands, ducking under pine. Soft needles stick to wet feet and they pat-pat pitter over the sunned cliff and soon hands lock together, clasped in tight and knuckles grip hard, and calves tighten and spring up in anticipation, feet run, and tips of toes push off the very last bit of rock. Push hard and out as far as possible, screaming ecstasy through white teeth and soft pink throats, and fly. Hands separate and loose to free. Arms open up and twirl mid-air and feel the breeze flash through wet lycra and the curtain mist droplets spraying darkened, summer skin. Spinning and looking back and friends smiling and calling and living and life, star stretched floating, this fly-falling joy and gravity fastening and locking down.
The water erupts and opens to encircle bodies again and again. There is a Truth. And my head submerges into crisp, cool depths and I feel for hands and kick hard up until my head explodes on the surface, hair wet against my shoulders and water dripping over eyelashes and lids and lips. There is another Truth. We usually look for hands to hold and security to find us when we are in the depths, but I’ve only ever found one Constant there securing me. That is when I stop to listen.
When I was ten sat in a wooden church pew and I prayed to God and told him I would do anything, anything, as long as He didn’t send me far away.
It is a call I’m trying to
avoid kill. Why am I the one who has to write it? Why am I the one who has to stare and observe it and touch it, walk it and burn within it and tell it and scribble it and click my keyboard fierce? All the good parts yes, but all the bad parts too? This love and hate, this war in myself, of writing and Truth.
I am almost 32 years old now and there is a man that knew my husband and I once; I fall into his wife’s arms first and then into his, smelling their shoulders as I sink into them. And he tells us…..those were good years. I force tears down and away as I nod my head because he sat in his office strewn with papers and soccer cleats and hockey sticks in 1997 and looked straight into my eyes and told me he was proud of me when I was sixteen. Half my lifetime ago. And he cried when my heart was broken-betrayed and he offered, “Tell me”. And those were good years. And sometimes we’ve been away so long, I forget that the people there
It is home, to be known. And so–
Click, sticky keyboard
Breathe in, and out, those word thoughts, bittersweet and lyrical.
Wisdom is a muscle that needs to be built. Calling is a thing that we seldom get right on the first try. Truth is the thing we must learn to accept over and over again.
It has been years since then, the start, but I am a girl turned woman needing to grow up who has tried to erase these parts of her memory I’m telling. I’ve tried to rewrite it by forgiveness and then by forgetness and change it to never happened and turn it back in time and eradicate it down to nothing. And all our flaws that push to the outside I bury deep inside to dissolve them, flux and fuse to disintegrate. But they explode back out of my small frame because I am not meant to hold them in captivity. They are the antithesis to Theos, and need to be told. Need to be redeemed and rescued. The bad parts are part of the story, too.
Tell daughters and sons to be patient, pure of heart, and stand guard because it took more than a decade to reconcile. The heart crushed diversely and several, but somehow still beating, these boys intrigued with girl hearts and these girls looking for something that doesn’t exist yet but carries them away anyway. And the parts where I plugged my ears to God and took to my own; those damning parts need to be told as well. Because there is no such thing as neutrality. Because “living in the moment” is often sinister code for apathy in my life.
I returned to that eastern curl merely a year later, blunt, sunwashed tresses grown out, my eyes clearer though sad, everything changed, and the mountains shouted hope to me, even though the old haunts seemed empty with pang and affliction. Oh how things change over months.
There is evil outside of us, yes, but it is there inside all of us. And we come to one another broken clay pieces trying to touch each other’s rough edges that cut deep on impact and we attempt to bandage them up and kiss them with our own brokenness to heal but it doesn’t work that simple. How do we rid ourselves of this evil? I am prodigal with an inheritance I’ve dashed to the rocks and burned and then laid in the manure with the pigs in my rags and crawling back to the homeland I’ve cried out, Abba.
When I was fifteen I begged God to let me be. It is a vivid memory: standing in a downpour of rain in the dark, my soaked shirt sticking to my chest, my back, and my abdomen as my knuckles slam into the tree: bleeding. Anger surfacing because I knew I could never get away. He would always keep me in the palm of His hand. I tried like a sledgehammer breaking through concrete to escape and I couldn’t. Unbreakable covenant of love that won’t let go.
True love, we are told, will never disappoint or make us cry or cling, or beat away. But it does; and it will. Don’t believe those lies that say a man will not make you cry, a woman won’t make you bleed. Don’t believe those lies that say God won’t make you die in mountain rivers, with rocks at the deep parts, and submerge into the cool pools, and that you won’t crush inside to surrender to Him. Don’t believe those lies that say love is easy, or that you won’t have to slay-fight deep down. Love is the cruelest death. It will hurt and burn and kill you. Obliterate in poisonous slaughter and asphyxiate. It will tear away the disease and the demons and hurts buried deep. It will hold you and peace-give you and intimacy surround you and never let you go and then push you to the surface to gulp in oxygen as your head breaks the surface. Life risen out of death-ash. Finally—the meaning, the interpretation, the purpose. Life.
It is an ouch-no pleading, a touch searing, petition Stop. Begging. Please, no more. Please.
I stopped fighting Him who loved me to death and He ripped out my terror fears. Dear God, please show me. His scarred hands that reached out to mine and I stretched for them in the plunging depths. Found.
I am pride-fool prodigal personified in real time on a mountain I didn’t create. Inheriting a kingdom I don’t know how to run. And the tragedy of it all was that the summer I was seventeen, I thought I knew everything. I asked for my inheritance and ran: God, let me go. I have my own life to invent.
Carry me. Carry me from lakes and rivers of the Great Peninsulas down away south into mountains, and valleys, and peaks, and summits, and forests, and rocky depths to up again. Down in hot, sweltering Dixie, to journey and come back again someday. The rise and fall, the ebb and flow, the ecstasy summit and the despair pit. Carry me back to home; pilgrim in lands that change me and turn me over and break me and burn me and turn me back toward. An immigrant that receives the gift of returning to the homeland. Prodigal gained wisdom to handhold the given inheritance, with humbled frame low.
It doesn’t happen the way that you think. It is harder, and grander, than that.