beginnings.

Days like today, I feel like I’m rummaging through my glove compartment looking for the manual.
Ideally, it would be called,

You Are Here Now. This Is What You Do:

But it’s not.

Well, shit.
All I can find is a VW manual, a screwdriver and a bag of sunflower seeds.
This is hardly enough to make it through.

I find myself scratching my head a lot, throwing in a couple of well-deserved sighs and owning up the fact that I am wandering around in the scary and exciting and confusing part of this transition.

I must admit that today I’ve had the weepies.

Not that I ever gave into this weird urge to let it all out, but more so would have lost it at the drop of a dime. And maybe I saw a video of a new mom kissing her baby and it almost happened. I blame it on the equinox, I tells ya.

This is my season of new beginnings.

It’s always been that for me. Not because I am divorced and moving on and living in a newly imagined life, but Fall has always brought me deeper into myself. I recognize the life in its metamorphosis. The fact that all things change in season. Not only do they change in this season, but they begin to also transform inward. It’s as though the things around us submit to the changing of times. There is no struggle, only the transfer of water and light and energy from the fruit, to their roots. There is a digging in.

Deep in, closer to where the Earth is warm. Them branches will see the worst of it, but deep down, there is that strong and fierce network of anchors. Quiet, but life giving. Holding fast, through the winds and cold of our new time here.

The weather, though. The taste of nutmeg and warming spices on my tongue. Seeing beautiful apples and pears replace the cherries and strawberries and tomatoes of summertime. This is the season of cinnamon and caramel and bourbon.

Brown. Yellow. And orange.

The brisk evenings that make my heart flutter.
(and I feel I am in good company.)

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In the midst of this great force, I still on occasion find myself in the mess of that glove compartment. Skimming pages. Checking indexes saying, “It has to be here somewhere! Surely there is an answer and it will be clear and it will solve my problem.”

I think maybe it got the best of me today. I felt thankful but sad and felt a break in my heart. Not so much pain, but release. There is a sadness in moving on. Ultimately, I am filled to the brim with the goodness and lightness it brings. But every now and then, it sideswipes and I’m left a bit teary eyed knowing that I’m moving on and on and on.

None of this stuff ever stops, really.

Sort of like this world knows what it’s doing as it spins and tilts.

‘Here, now. It’s time for you to settle into yourself a little more. Watch how this sun sets early and how the cold forces some things to draw inside. Notice yourself in these changes.’

I think that maybe I hear that from Her.

whisper-like,

when the branches move,

barely touching,

noticing each others movement,

sacred energy, and that sweet, sweet spirit

moving inside of me.

fear of spiders

at my feet, I saw you working.

hind legs, whichever ones,

busy.

pulling sticky silk to form

the kinds of things you were built to make.

 

I jerk my leg, only momentarily.

In all fairness, you are a spider.

But in the moment, I recognize your place.

Really, you have no intention of bothering me.

So today, I have no intention of bothering you.

 

I watch you work so hard. And so fast.

I become aware of my place. My power.

My ability to wash it all away, knowing good and well,

you will just start over, because it’s in your nature.

 

To spin and and release your web

when their is a thrust of force

or mighty wind.

Yet here you decide to work.

 

To be fair, there are these fruit flies.

I feel a little insulted.

Like maybe you’re telling me something

I don’t already know.

 

To not leave out my apple peels on a warm day,

or sweet milky tea before I sprint out the door.

I know, I know.

But life just gets to be so busy.

 

Especially so for a spider of your size,

maybe a little bigger than a green pea.

Yet smaller than a dime.

Your design is nothing short of flawless.

 

Spider web 1

 

We are all here for balance.

I recognize that if I take more than I need,

especially in my space,

I am taking more than I require.

 

The life of a spider seems to be one of constants:

movement, spinning, letting go, small moments of excitement

and repeat.

Much like mine.

 

Today though, it is our space.

You spin yours.

And I, mine.

moving. spinning. letting go.

 

indulging in the small moments that give us both life.

belly feelin’

I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment, and how my brain connects to certain things.

Partly, because I’m reading this book of meditations and it’s wrecking me. It’s rich. Hard to swallow at times. I can only take it in small pieces, but those pieces are just substantial.

A lot of it revolves around our happiness.

What is real happiness?

What does attachment have to do with happiness?

Well, it seems…everything.

I’ve been struggling with a lot of things. I have an idea of what it may be, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to figure it out. I’m swerving in and out of it constantly, like traffic cones to a sixteen year old trying to get their license.

I believe that happiness is indescribable. It is relative from one person to another. But I don’t think we’ll ever be able to agree, only to affirm and live in those moments when we get them. Like little gifts, ya know?

Going back to the book, the part I struggle with so deeply is the attachment to people. Things, I can understand. We will never ever be truly happy with all of our pretty things. We know this to be true.

But what about people? Your partner or parents or siblings? Yes, we love them deeply. In moments, they can make us happy and feel loved.

And then what about yourself? What if they were to leave you?

There is a lot in that. Anger. Sadness. Regret. Abandonment.

Lord knows I’ve felt more of that this past year than I ever have.

We make it, though. Time chips away at the stone we build around our hearts. I’m sure it could go the other way, but I’ve found it quite the opposite. I think that says a lot.

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Time has made me softer. Time has allowed me to fit into my bones. It’s allowed me to listen to people and most importantly, to connect. I think growing up as a kid is super duper hard. We’re rarely taught how to hold loosely nor do I think we even had the tools to understand any of this.

I think affirming other people is hard work. Putting them at peace to explore one another’s depths. That can be hard. We can really turn things onto ourselves easily. It’s easy to make life about me. Hell, I do it all the time. Blogging is about me. It’s also about me in the bigger scope of things, too.

So how do I not make people my reason to be happy?

The writer talks about deprogramming the things we learned as kids. That maybe, if we deprogram our brains to not think of people as things to make us happy.

I know. That’s kind of icky.

I’m probably a little more gung-ho about this because a person I relied on for my happiness and contentment decided on a different path. There are also some sad feelings of being a kid of a divorce, too. You always have a right to feel sad about sad things. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.

But also, I think of myself as a human being all of my own doing. I recognize my heart and that it is good. I strive to do good things. I don’t always do good things, but my mind works for it. Sometimes it is able to reach my heart and I have an abundance of clarity for a short time.

I think attachment to people and things is a difficult thing to process. I’m not saying I have it figured out. But I can say, that I’ve made it through this process by loving myself and believing that I am worthy of love. I’ve made it through because time has shown me that people will enter in and out of your life and they will make you happy sometimes. Also, what would it be like to take away their power that makes you rely on them for your own happiness? Is it even about that?

I suppose I want to separate this from the idea that we are a beloved community. I believe we need people to get through life. I want that to be clear. Sometimes we need to have babies and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are nomads and in certain seasons, settle for a time.

In all of this, though, I want to contemplate on how I feel most alive, and I realize it always stems from my belly. The place where I process my world. I can only be responsible for myself. For my own happiness. Lucky for us, we have people that help us get there. They gives us tools, and sometimes obstacles to use those tools.

What I want to say, and what my belly believes to be true, is that my connection to being content with the present, and who I am, stems directly from my understanding that other people and things are not responsible for my happiness. Only I am. I think that the work I’ve been doing over these recent years has allowed me to see that when you can best love and take care of yourself, you are able to give up the idea of needing to be understood all the time. I think feeling safe in that takes a while, but it’s where I feel most like me.

‘What then is happiness? Very few people know and no one can tell you, because happiness cannot be described. Can you describe light to people who have been sitting in darkness all their lives? Can you describe reality to someone in a dream? Understand your darkness and it will vanish; then you will know what light is. Understand your nightmare for what it is and it will stop; then you will wake up to reality. Understand your false beliefs and they will drop; then you will know the taste of happiness. ‘ -Anthony de Mello

dry grove.

Dry Grove is a lot of things to a lot of people.

In reality, it is a cabin with a lake on a quiet piece of land northwest of our capital city.

For me, it was an invitation.

November of last year, I had been pulled into a text conversation full of buds I went to high school with. We grew up together, and there’s just something about this group of guys that works really well. We all came from the same place and watched each other change shapes and laugh when our voices would crack.

After sharing the news that I had separated, they pulled me in. Granted, it was initially for Saints game conversation, but it always went further. As it goes.

When I went home for Christmas, I was talked into staying a few extra days so that I could come to the cabin and fish and eat and partake in some of the finer things in life. Such as Coors light, homemade apply brandy, and deer back strap, among other simple luxuries.

My first time at Dry Grove pulled me out of the trenches.

I had just found out that my ex had already moved on and I was certain all of it was meant to turn out this way. We sat around the fire, threw up some proverbial middle fingers, and laughed till we fell off stomps and fell asleep in the warmth of cabin heaters and porch lights.

Waking up, I smelled of campfire smoke. I was warm and found myself the only one awake.

I walked out to the dock and sat in the cool morning. Seeing ripples and anxious fish and steam created this intensely welcomed feeling in my heart. Like I was going to be okay.

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This past weekend, we all met up again.

I guess the thing is, we all bring some weight to Dry Grove. We sit in it when the time is right, and we also grill pizzas and fry fish. We make trails and fend off spiders.

We laugh until we fall over.

But the fish were not biting.

The fire struggled to keep.

And our beloved Saints lost to the Browns.

To me, those were peripheral.

I have taken on the role as cook, when I can. So I try to help keep bellies full and nudge myself into place where I feel most comfortable.

It is amazing to have this.

This is my thought, as I sit among my friends going through so many things. So many transitions and loss and the weight of a world full of questions and wonder.

I sit in it and I soak it all up.

I soak up the fire that turned dead wood into glowing coals, and stood transfixed on the burning pine needles pulsing like a heart.

Going on a ride through the woods, I felt the first cool air since I’ve moved back home. I also made friends with a fuzzy caterpillar that decided to fall on my sleeve.

I feel certain that we will leave, and the worries of our days will trickle back in…but for those moments, when you feel okay and safe, they can pull you out of the darkness.

Where there is fire.

And breath.

And warmth.

rise and fall.

More than anything, I feel like we are tiny oceans.

With them full moons, bellies breakin’ water,

delivering new life under that perfect, magic light.

 

some people actin’ a fool.

“Every time there’s a full moon…” they say.

I notice it.

I notice the rise and fall.

Scattered pieces,

like jetsam and flotsam.

some of it belonging to bigger things,

others are a just a by-product of what they used to be.

 

I look out and see,

glasses spilt.

people, a little wobbly.

Like tiny hurricanes,

and grumpy neighbors who want more space.

 

You see, our bodies are mostly made of water.

mostly.

And like the tides, the water in our bodies

moves us.

To big places. And into cracks,

and little rivers, constructed via plastic shovel and pail.

Sometimes we rise over rock walls

and flood the marshes.

Sometimes we change things.

 

I don’t know about you,

but there’s something in that big moon.

Just far enough away.

Dimpled.

Our satellite.

Our sweet Sister Moon.

Pushing. Pulling.

Dream-like.

 

I look up when I see Her,

thankful for how she pulls me into a dance,

where I’m clumsy and awkward,

or quiet and centered.

And I realize I am not the only one

who’s able to fall in love again.

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again and again.

There are some major forces at play here.

Each week feels like a micro-course in learning one’s self. I suppose we all are, but since I am concentrated to my own head, and not a person who I live with or am married to, I get all of me.

Some days I can be too much. That’s no surprise. I wander around in different stories and I wake myself up to dreams where I am unfamiliar with my own room.

I get up.

“I’m in the wrong place!”

I sit back down. I rub my face with my hands and somehow, fall back into an unconscious sleep.

Weekend nights are the hardest. I feel like it’s a sin to be alone on a weekend night. I feel like there are people riding with their windows down discovering their whole beings, screaming, “I am alive!” while I’m at home, straining chicken stock and watching The Desolation of Smaug for the 12th time.

It’s okay.

To be honest, I’m wondering if I should cook anymore for a living. And I can’t explain it to you, this shift that is taking place in my heart. I can’t say it’s flight or fight. I’ve never enjoyed anything else more than I have cooking and feeding people. I know I should listen to that. People always respond with, “Well, what else would you do?”

Sometimes, I take that as an insult. It feels like I wouldn’t do well at anything else. But I know what they mean. They know I belong in a kitchen.

I know I belong in a kitchen.

That is hard to swallow.

I’m sort of young still, and already, I heavily desire a place to call my own. I am certainly in a season of having to catch myself on fire, because I am not following another person into the flames. I am having to be my own sense of hard work and passion.

Sometimes, that’s hard to live in.

I tell people all the time about my Saturn Return. They look at me like I’m a goofball. It’s true, I am. But I tell them that I can’t explain the pull in my head and heart. This constant feeling that my life could take many directions and that I’d enjoy them all. Fast and hard. Slow and soft. Most of my days are a combination of both.

Perks of working in a kitchen, I suppose. That, and bacon.

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The love of self is the best way I am able to love others. If I am worried with myself, I can’t give much space to you. I think often of the kind of person I was when I lived in this city before I was married. How I always carried around a cause. How I was the social justice guy. How selfless I seemed.

And then I got married and devoted myself to just one person. I also learned that I was a pretty decent cook. This became my life. These things became meaningful. I got to serve people, not just one day every week, but five and sometimes even seven days a week. So I’ve mourned a lot of the person I used to be, and how I sense that sometimes, other people do the same.

And I recognize myself as I walk and drive down the same streets. A different person. A person who is always seeking to understand.

The end of most of my days involves a mop and hot water. Swinging back and forth over dirty and greasy floors, only to be dirty again and again and again. And cleaned again and again and again.

While that’s daunting to some, I love the sense of completion.

I guess it always comes back to that, for me. The kitchen and its ebb and flow. Its own world full of frustrations and grace and spirit. Every day I live in it.

And every day,

I’m thankful for it.

 

Oh, and new mop head day?

Well, I love new mop head day.

doin’ alright.

It’s hour thirteen that I’ve been on my feet in a stuffy kitchen.

So far, I’ve eaten two eggs. A little bit of spinach with some tomatoes and cucumbers, and a bite of really sweet bread pudding from the “leftover pile”.

I’ve washed dishes more than I have cooked, and I begin to lose myself as my glasses fog with steam from the barely scalding water. I have a cup of hot, black Community coffee sitting on the ledge to my left, and I pause every few minutes for a hot sip. I’m tired and need a little jolt.

I lose myself for a while, as I rake off uneaten bits and unclog the drain. Hunched over a three-compartment sink, sweat beading off my balding head. My back, on the occasion of lifting a stack of plates, pings a nerve and I squint my left eye.

Scrubbing-a-stainless-steel-sink-with-baking-soda-6

I’ve found myself in some weird places recently. Mostly in my head, and of course, intertwined with some heart things. I’ve been asking myself some terribly hard questions.

“Is this place working out for me?”

“Shit man, what was that all about?”

If I’m honest with myself, I’m still having trouble fitting into place. I want to cook food for people. I want a place that I can live my passions, and up comes some article about how you’re never going to work your dream job. Whatever. Anyways.

I’ve been finding myself a little quiet and distant, because a person tells me they think what I write is too sad and heavy. That’s fair. But you tell me that, I’m going to find ways to not to write like that, and I need to. You see?

I need to be angry at the times when I am angry. I also need to be sad and people need to see it. Well, I need to see it. Because I cannot allow myself to dwell in a place where I do not feel authentic.

I am okay.

I am doing all of this now, so twenty years from now I can say I felt everything, and worked through as much as I could. I know you want me to at least seem happy.

I can tell you, this is the best I’ve felt all year. I may not be jumping up and down and screaming, but I am feeling good.
(what is happy, anyways?)

What I mean, is that I write what I write here because it is true to me. Sure I’m a little different in the kitchen, or sitting in a pew. I will make jokes about sausage and also sing a gospel song. Because my life is a wonderful, deep, and challenging thing.

Ya know, those dishes can be therapeutic.

And my couch feels like heaven right now.

I just ate two leftover Labor Day hot dogs on a fluffy white bun with mayonnaise and mustard and ketchup.

Oh. And a cookie.

And you know what?

I’m doin’ alright.

medicine.

The South can be a spiritual and emotional place by nature.

It wraps you up in the language of grace and the blessing of hearts.

And I’ve gone through many seasons of both.

Sometimes people talk about God as though we’re all believers in the Divine, yet there is so much that I’ve seen and felt. I listen, regardless. If it’s important to you, it’s important to me. I can though, move in and out of it as I need to. As much as that doesn’t seem to make sense, I get tangled up with you and your words. I get lost in your story and I want to know how.

I dwell in a community of people who believe in a lot of different things.

I feel their love shine on me the same.

They’re all working on those things. Figuring out how to raise their kids.
They are tired, but looking for meaning in the day to day.

We sit and eat as a way of oneness, as a way of sharing.

Equals, we are, sitting at the great big table.

Still, I find myself lost in it all.

I’ve found a great comfort in not knowing. That is the space that I dwell in.

I see your hearts, living with intention and moving in the ways you need to move. I remember it. I remember it for my own life. I feel how you love, and I still feel what it was like to move in certain ways.

We all kind of lose a bit here and there.

Most of us wish it was our weight. These damn bellies…a physical reminder that we’re all a little soft. I like to remind people that I’m built for comfort, not speed.

I suppose, as I remind myself to submit to a place while I am there, this is what I see.

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There are times that the future freaks me out. I start thinking myself into someone, someone who doesn’t even exist yet. No wonder it’s so overwhelming to dwell in future things. It’s not who you are just yet.

We’re all slowly becoming.

I like that.

That’s a little like medicine, to me.

We have to give ourselves time. I heard someone once say that life is short, but that it’s also long. We have a lot of time to miss our mark and get back up.

I’m always talking about giving yourself time and space. To sit in your own presence and to dwell in it. Sometimes, I do this when I’m surrounded by piles of dirty dishes and smelly cooks. I’ve learned to do the humble work because there is some beauty in its simplicity.

I’ve seen a container be full and emptied and cleaned so many times.

I recognize myself in the same light.

A container, a vessel for something kind of holy and delicate.

I’ve lost it, and gained it back time and time again.

I will continue to do so,

and I will notice myself slowly becoming.

Because that’s a little like medicine to me.

 

life overflowing.

I can feel these last tugs at my heart.

Like the last kicks of an animal,
or being just too tired to hang on.

I’d like to say that whatever it is I’m falling into, is good.

I never see a pit of despair or some endless road on a hot day.

It’s been a week, for me, though.
Sitting in the Social Security office working on getting my name changed back and having to sit over divorce papers yet again and to explain my situation.

“Oh, so you just want ‘Casper’ then, right?”

A few taps on the backspace button and that was it.

“Hmph…” I mumbled, as I do when I listen to people talk about hard things.

“You should be getting your new card within two weeks.”

And all of a sudden, things were back how they used to be. (On paper.)

I remembered our tireless conversations in cars. How hard it was to think through all of this. It really did make sense to take your last name too. I was proud of that. A lot of people were weird about it, the state itself, but it was challenging. It was a little hard to die to one’s self. Not that I mean that in a depressing way, but in the way we should all be giving and taking.

Thanks for your grace in that, too.

I’ve given up on having my shit together. Granted, in the kitchen, it’s a little different. It’s my job to have my shit together.

But when I’m sitting across from you, I’d like to think that I’m all yours. I also hope that you allow me to rest and say no from time to time. The balance of yes and no is hard. I’ve been saying yes a lot, because it gets me out of a lot of hard and lonely nights. But the nights that I say no, I find a way to keep moving.

Perhaps a text to a friend saying, “Sheesh. What do you do when you’re mad?”

Because that’s really important. That’s when other people shed a little of their grace on you, for free. Luckily it’s free to give — and is more valuable than anything in the world. At least it is to me.

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Yeah, I feel a lot of things in a day.
And also it’s been a really challenging week. It probably has for you, too.

You’ve felt too rushed. You said yes when you really wanted to say no.

Your heart is broken.

You ate your cheeseburger too fast.

Or maybe, you took a few steps out of your own hell because that’s how it works.

Just a few steps. Messy ones. Loud and clunky.

I lay my head back and examine my space.
I hear cicadas outside singing in rhythm to this hot day.

My own heart is making its rounds. Seeing people it misses and building itself up for a new day. It’s important for me to make this space for myself. I suppose it is sort of a luxury.

But then again, I have a lot of little luxuries in the form of hot tea and a place that I get to lay down my arms.

It always comes back to me being thankful. It takes time to get there, but you will find always, little pockets of helpers and lovers and healers. Let em’ fill you up.

Because today, my cup is overflowing.

 

little flowers.

I try to pay attention when this crazy life slows down just enough.

Tiny themes. Parables. Accents to the usual ebb and flow of a day.

Today, as I was looking around my room, I came across one of those tiny themes.

flowers.

Which, for me, is sort of odd. I’ve really been into flowers lately. I realize that isn’t the most masculine or insane thing of me to say, but at this point, I don’t really care too much about that. Being a sucker for aesthetic, especially in the dining room, I’ve grown to love those floral notes and little bursts of pigment and how they make a room (and me) feel more alive.

This week, I received a portrait of a magnolia. My state’s flower and tree, believe it or not. I love magnolias. My favorite tree in the world has its roots dug in the front yard of my Me-Maw and Paw-Paw’s house — the giant magnolia that we used to climb as kids. Lately though, the magnolia has become a symbol to me in another way. Healing. I look to it as a place that I came home to slow down and feel okay for a while. To me, the magnolia is my home place. It puts me at peace, and I’m always looking for peace in small and big ways.

Being a sucker for making dishes pretty, I bought a packet of nasturtium seeds to plant. Nasturtiums are these lovely and colorful little flowers that are in fact, edible. I know that might weird people out, but I think they’re just dandy. I think we should be eating more of them, to be honest. I know it’s a little dorky to put flowers on food, but for the sake of my craft, I’m just gonna go with it.

Nasturtium paper

At work, I’ve made a new friend. Her dad grows flowers, plants and herbs and sells them at the local farmer’s market. I told her I didn’t have enough hands for them this past Thursday, so she brought some flowers to me in the midst of a leaning stack of dirty dishes in a stuffy kitchen. It completely made my day. I see them sitting on my nightstand, looking very alive and unique, greeting me in the morning time. I could make this a habit.

Most people who know me, know of my deep love of St. Francis. Albeit a very popular saint, I consider him mine. I once had a shaman tell me that he saw St. Francis near me one day. I can’t say that I fully believed the dude, but it gave me chill bumps. I learned a lot about St. Francis when I lived in India for a short time. I have these tattoos on my wrists that help me remember how inter-connected our world is. I have Francis to thank for that. Well, and a scruffy tattoo artist who worked out of a pawn shop in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Little Flowers were stories released after the death of St. Francis. I suppose it all brings me to feel a bit more holy in a tumultuous time. Faith to me feels a bit like swimming in a choppy ocean. A lot of ups and downs and treading, but ultimately surrounded by it all.

I like that we have little stories of faith, little reminders of miracles, and a way that we remember the tiny things that live among us. As I watched the birds land on my new feeder, they would dig their beaks into the mound of seeds and shower them on the ground for all the other little birds.

I can say that I’ve been on both ends of that, and recognize its importance. In some seasons, you are the one casting seeds, in the other you are sowing, and perhaps at the end, you get to see the fruit of your labor and give thanks with your fellow Beloved.

I am writing today because of so many people, and their daily works and thoughts and efforts.

And I am thankful,

always thankful,

for the small things, with great amounts of love.