The summer after freshman year was when I started to write with any regularity. Mind you, a writer of any amount of discipline would laugh at what I here refer to as “regular”—outside of journaling I write once a week at most, even less frequently at college—but I stand by my word choice. I think that the increase in output can be chalked up to a serious increase of feelings. For people who try their hands at anything creative, feelings, like yogurt, can produce movement and… regularity.
Around this same time the way I pray changed. I began to pray that God would use me—a fairly open-ended prayer that always feels like a cop out until I remember the opening line of the Prayer of St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” Petitioning God with specific requests is something that I still do, but less frequently. Part of this is has been realizing that, in many times and places, I am unable to see clearly enough to find an outcome worth praying for. So, Thy will be done—in the world, in this city, in my life, and in my writing.
Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journal was recently published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It contains her prayers from January 1946 to September 1947, when she was twenty and twenty-one years old, attending writing workshops in Iowa City. Only a few pages in, the prayers are earnest, clunky, and occasionally luminescent. The passage quoted on the back is also from the prayer most frequently quoted in any of the recent writing I’ve seen pertaining to the slim volume. Continue reading
I have never lost a close friend or relative, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on the grief that is instilled into the hearts of those who have. However, there is a grief that is stirred in anyone who hears stories like those that have arisen from Newton, Connecticut, or Clackamas, Oregon, or Aurora, Colorado. This resonating grief is common to every person. With it come confusion, anger, and a longing for peace and healing.
Bear with me as I reflect and stumble through some thoughts.
It is Day Two of a three-day weekend. On Friday night a friend and I bussed down to lower Queen Anne to watch Leonard Cohen play at the Key Arena. It was a fitting prelude to what has become the most sedentary few days of this year. Between paragraphs of All the Pretty Horses, I’ve stayed up late watching Doctor Who, played Halo 4 with my 3rd Hill brothers, absconded to a 24-hour breakfast joint, and listened to Christmas albums with friends while sharing the parts of our lives that need a Christmas the most. The skies begin to dim by at least 4:30 pm, making more than half of the day night. Veni, Domine Jesu.
After my friend and I exited the bus at our stop, picked up some Americanos at Caffe Zingaro, and browsed a wonderful used bookstore, we walked a couple blocks to the arena. A cloud of white hair had descended in front of it and was slowly being sucked in. My friend took a final drag of her cigarette and puffed out the smoke before we entered the cloud.
It wasn’t just old people. There were middle-aged people, a few other college students, and we even saw one young family with two kids that had to be under ten. After picking out our tour t-shirts—mine with a sketch of a very haggard looking Leonard, hers with a beautiful bird perched on a branch—we found our seats in the upper ring. Out came the man with his old school backing band, Sharon Robinson, and the Webb sisters. The speakers weren’t blasting like most concerts I’ve attended, and the audience was fairly dead (we clapped in time for one song and most people only sang along in the chorus of Hallelujah, when the sound technician kindly aimed the stage lights at us for a queue.) Continue reading
The bedroom I left in late December of this past year was grey. In a reactionist swerve away from the key lime pie green of middle school, Dad and I covered the walls with an adult ashen grey—the shade of embers found in the heart of a fire that is just beginning to die. With my new wall-mounted bookshelves and IKEA furniture, it looked like the bedroom of someone who wants a PhD in something eventually. I really liked it, so the room stayed like that throughout high school.
But there was little color or light. The only window in the room faced away from the sun. It opened out underneath the deck. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer and listening to an art prof who said “Forms and colors can speak directly to human emotion. Does this red square speak to you? Any hands?” I began to see how color can speak to my spirit and alter the emotions I have about present life as well as memories of the past.
Going to school in Seattle, I became well aware of how color, or rather, the lack of color can compound my depression, something I have quietly dealt with since middle school. For me, depression is greyness: being void of emotion. And if there are emotions, they are sadness and self-loathing. They occasionally leave me numb. And there I was, standing on a hill in Seattle, surrounded by grey clouds. It could feel like the earth was reaching to dip me into those clouds and swirl me in them like a stick of lint-flavored cotton candy.
I bought my ticket to see Leonard Cohen in November! He will be playing at Key Arena in Seattle, and I have wanted to see him for… well… a solid year. I haven’t been a fan of his for a long time, but he became one of my favorites this past year and a half or so. He is old, wise, and a little on the creepy side… like an ideal grandfather!
The title of this post comes from the following song. Enjoy!