Dirty Hands, Lakes, Kitchens, and Rest

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I’m not sure I’m one who should give a speech about resting. In fact, I’m just now learning what it means to rest. How to plant myself down in a chair and not move for at least five minutes, breathing in and out — coming back to the present moment. Everything around me seems to always be moving, jostling, my mind always thinking. I am my mother’s child, my family’s next generation to carry on the transitions; it makes sense. We are hard workers who always are on the move, always working towards the next goal, always in motion, always onward.

Always onward is a good thing. I’m proud of where I come from and how my family works hard for everything that they have. It’s a Midwestern ethic that you put your two cents in and get your hand dirty in order to stake a claim on the land and have your say in the matter. However, there comes a point where I’ve given all I have and giving any more seems like it would be less than giving anything at all. This is when I know it is time for me to rest. Or at least take a step back and breath, return my focus to the right places.

Resting has never come easy for me. It isn’t for my mom, either. Her hands and feet are constantly alive: moving, fixing, typing, scraping, working hard to be able to feel vital and well. It’s ingrained into her process. It’s the same for me. I always have to be performing some sort of task in order for me to feel like I have accomplished something during the day. That I wasn’t lazy and, therefore, I can be satisfied with my efforts; not being so hard on myself for not checking off every box on my to-do list.

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This week has had a slight change of pace, from my usual rise and grind effort, though. I’ve been staying in a house that is forty-five minutes from the high rises in the city, out in the middle of midwestern nowhere, on a lake that only a few people know the name of. My fingernail polish is chipping and I don’t mind. My eyes are becoming un-swollen and I can see. My writing, unfiltered and awful yet full of a colorful essence that can be worked with and molded into something sweet to taste yet fresh and new. My hair frizzy from the humidity yet I’m leaving it be because what is the point of taming it anyway?

If I stay in a constant routine too much, if I am costly at work, I become stale and uninteresting. My conversations and efforts lack while my eye shut down and I become a person no one wants to be around. Refilling the well is a necessity that I don’t seem to take seriously enough, yet this week I can see how much it truly helps out the person who is stuck in a big muddy rut. Within this past week, all of my tiredness and exultation is being undone for me. I’m learning what it means to rest.

Sitting in a screened sunroom at 7:00 a.m. with the sun rising over the tops of the trees and sparkling over the deep blue hues of the calmed water while listening to the bird sing their morning songs puts my restless soul in a state of comfort and stillness. My eye hurt slightly but the rising sun coats them with a welcome and lets them know that it’s ok to be tired sometimes.

Soft silken water ripples and folds as I row the canoe down the lake and into a cove where sun glints and filters through the trees. My arms burning slightly because of the weight I am pushing through the water but it’s all worth it. The cicadas hum, their voices carrying high and low across that vast space and absorb into my ears. While out in the middle of the lake, we got attacked by a giant horsefly. Swingin my paddle at it, I almost tip our canoe and haul us into the water. We tried to row away haphazardly only to spin out and go in circles while the horsefly laughed and bit us more. I’m sure any spectators were in for a good laugh watching us try to get away.

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Inside my brother plays Super Mario Brothers on my moms old Nintendo 64. The retro, boxy beat comes out of the speakers; my brother’s eyes focused and intent on the screen. He makes the little pixel plumber jump from question mark box to the top of a gumba’s head, squashing it while continuing forward and getting the mushroom that will make him grow twice his original size. Part of me wants quite to read my book but another part of me realizes that every human in this room is one with a life that is so precious. I let him play.

The outdated kitchen is messy but only in the loved and used way. Cheerios out on the kitchen counter and used coffee mugs clutter the bottom of the sink. I do the dishes after dinner, getting the greasy stains off the used dishes while the room is abuzz with conversation and clatter. My lips press into a smile as I put down the soggy sponge and step back from the situation and look around me, wet dripping bowl still in my hand. Everything is as disordered and unperfect as it seems yet there the night sky outside is hovering over us, covering us in a blanket that says all is ok. All is good. I go back to scrubbing.

I took a nap yesterday and for the first time in a long time I didn’t wake up wanting to go back to sleep.

As Henry David Thoreau puts it, “A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” I believe that wholeheartedly.

This is what it means to rest.

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Although I am still moving: muscles expanding and contracting while I row a canoe through the rippling water into places where the horseflies play; or paddling in a kayak in and out of the coves that are surrounded by the green leaves and filter sunshine. Although I’m still waking up early, it is to watch the sunrise. Although I am typing this, it is to write something on my own accord and not to fulfill a gap in a newspaper or assignment for a grade. Although I’m still picking up people’s plates and doing the dishes after dinner, it’s out of love instead of necessity. Although I am still in motion, it is with intended presents and not to check a list off or complete a set of tasks.

Resting is an art that I am still learning to grasp but as I sit here, drinking my lukewarm cup of coffee and exercising my figures in a way that is not so demanding, I realize that resting shouldn’t be a thing that is carried out as a check mark off on a list. It should be taken with eases in itself, it should be practiced, a process that in itself is work in the most glorious yet filling ways. It’s apart of this life. Instead of trying so hard, you just expand yourself out in the open and let it all be. Let the day of rest unfold in its present time as you find yourself in its present moment.

An Ode To July 

1. The Hoosier state’s livid heat wave. Sweat sticking to the soft forehead of kids playing on the playground. Ice cream on the front porch that melts faster than you can lick and lands on the concrete steps you’re sitting on. 

2. The tomatoes in my backyard are ripening. They are in that stage of a yellowish green which will soon give way to a sun-kissed red. My figures smell like their tangy juice after gliding my figures over their smooth surface. Waiting to pick them is like watching and waiting for the sun to rise on the summer solstice.

3. That time I left my sunroof open during a clear blue sunny day. I was inside the bank for 20 minutes when the heavens decided to let the floodgates open and pour down a warm wet rain that saturated my car’s interior. There was a rainbow peeking out from the clouds and it was sunny the rest of the day.

4.  Laying in a hammock between the shade of two trees is one of the most calming actions you can take in a claim to self-care and relaxation. I defiantly suggest bringing with you a good book and a bowl of ice cream.

5. The County Fair: culture hub of the Midwest. If you’re looking for what farmer do for summer fun, this is where you go. Booths that sell lemon shake-ups, elephant ears, and fried tenderloins scatter the grounds. If you walk over to the pig and cattle barn you’ll find young boys and girls chilling out by their animals or washing their pigs for the Friday night auction. I know the people over in the goat barn. 

6.  9:20 pm drives home through the suburban area of midwestern no-where. The July that I write this is the last July I’ll have in school. 

7. The year 2014, age 17, the year where I spent the entire month of July in the state of Florida. My family bought a house five minutes away from the gates of Disney and we spent our whole damn summer painting, scrapping, tiling and completing other vast renovations. All in over-heated, humid, sticky, swampy Florida. It’s a vacation rental now. My body acclimated to the climate so much that, when I came back to Indiana, wearing a jacket and socks in the 80-degree weather was a must.

8. Mosquito bites. Period.

9. We bought a kayak. It is one of those blow-up kinds that have the potential to easily pop but you don’t think about that while out in the middle of the water. Best investments of this summer. To test the 11’ kayak out, we took it over to my friend’s house and tried to use it within the constraints of their 17’x8’ pool. 

10. I listed the county fair but did I mention the fair’s Queen Contest? This year, 21 contestants lined up in the hot rusty indoor arena, to win the judges heart and become the next Miss Johnson county. People were walking around with t-shirts that supported one of the contestants which said: “Good Enough to Scoop Poop, Good Enough to be Your Queen”, with a little a clip-art photo of a pig wearing a tiara.

11. You can find me during this Queen Contest with a couple of my fair time acquaintances up in the bleacher “trash talking” (as my friend put it) about the dresses, the hair, and each girl’s queenly or not so queenly wave. We bet on who will win. None of us win.

12. The Zinnia seeds that I planted back in May are finally blooming. According to Wikipedia, these flowers are “a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. They are native to scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a center of diversity in Mexico.”

13.   Every 

14.      Day 

15.          Seems 

16.                 To 

17.                Drag 

18.                         On

19.                            Longer     

20.                                and Longer… 

21. My first kiss happened on a July 20th. It was a fabulous kiss. We were cutting strawberries in my kitchen and he leaned over an grabbed my cheeks with is wet, fruity fingers. He did that cute thing where he held a strawberry between his teeth and had me lean in and eat it, then kissed me more.

22. Mentioning strawberries, we had some in our garden when I was a kid, 2009 maybe? I ate them until my figures turn red and my stomach turned spoiled from all the natural sugar. I remember making jam out of them. My mom chopping them up and making a sort of jellied concoction to put into a ball jar and freeze so we’d have fresh preserves all summer.

23. That time my photo of old picture frames went viral on Tumblr happened on July 23, 2016. 1,444 notes. My one and only claim to social media fame.

24. Bored. So bored that you just lay on your bed and look up at the ceiling fan, trying to count how many times it circulates. Congratulations younger me, you hit your summer break’s bedrock boredom faze. It only goes up from here.

25. Actually being homeschooled, you don’t get a summer break. Not really. Learning world history from the adventurous outdoors of my backyard playground was never the best, but then again it was better than hitting bedrock boredom. At least I was learning something.

26.  Light filters through the crack between the umbrella and the house, between the wood planks on the table, between the curtain and the window, between my eyelids and the morning. 

27. This might have happened in August but I’ll list it here anyway. I rode an elephant once.  It was my biggest dare, my greatest achievement, the masked truth I’d use in two truths and a lie. It happened at our Indiana State fare. I’m proud to say I still have the sticker which pictured the said elephant I rode with the world printed in bold I RODE AN ELEPHANT which they gave me after I dismounted. I satisfyingly wore it the rest of the day. 

28. One summer my mom, brother, and I ventured out into the wild west into the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. On the last leg home, we tiredly sang “Back Home Again In Indiana” right as we crossed over the Wabash River. The moonlight glissaded on its surface and we were happy to be home. 

29 Basel leaves have this scent that penetrates the whole garden and invites you, and the beetles, in to eat their leaves. The beetles prefer them raw. I prefer them with cheese, tomato sauce, and homemade pizza dough.

30.  My birthday is in October, however, the year I was to turn 12 I wanted a warm summer birthday party so bad that we decided to celebrate my birth in July instead. I had an ice cream party where all my friends came. A three-layer ice cream cake from Cold Stone graced the table. It was frozen, so frozen that my dad had to get out the electric turkey knife to be able to cut through it. I cried. I’ve had all my birthday parties in October since then. 

31. July. Ironically yet sincerely my least favorite month of the year. 

What I Wanted To Say

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A few days ago,  I was in the car with my uncle and we were talking about what I’m going to be doing after graduation. 

As an English major, I get this question a lot: what are you going to do with your degree? And guess what. I don’t have a special, all perfect, all knowing answer to it. 

I ended up talking about my dreams about where I want to end up in my career, or at least one of the many places I want to end up in my career. And that is publishing and writing stories. 

When the topic of stories came up, he asked a really good question: what do people get out of reading stories? What do they learn? What is the benefit for them?

And right there at that moment, I got a little tongue-tied. Typical. (for me anyway).

As I stumbled through trying to explain why I wanted to write stories and what their impact is, I started asking myself, what really is the point of writing and storytelling. Why are stories important and how do they impact people? 

So here I am, doing what I do best: going back and writing what I wanted to say.

I think a person gains knowledge, purpose, and understanding when they read stories. 

Well written, well-crafted stories, have an edge to them. They stand out and make a difference. When a story is well written, it is centered around a fundamental truth that can only be learned by living. It’s not there to just entertain, it’s there to give the reader a new set of eyes to be able to view things differently; it’s there to teach the things that are true and right, it’s there to make an impact, to serve a purpose, to have meaning and justification. To change someone. 

Stories give you, as a person, a scope to pull from, an experience to live that you can’t always live yourself. As a singular human being, it’s hard to view things from all vantage points, but with a well-written story, you are able to see and feel and taste and touch and hear what it’s like to be in someone else shoes. And I think this is important, very important. 

In a world where there is a lot of polarization, the more we share each other’s stories and learn what one another is going through, the more we’re able to love one another and build a strong community, country, and world.

In a world where there is a lot of polarization, the more we share each other’s stories and learn what one another is going through, the more we’re able to love one another and build a strong community, country, and world.

Being a part of the community that writes and creates narrative gives my creative yearn meaning and purpose. In her book, Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle writes: “But unless we are creators, we are not fully alive.” If I don’t create, if I don’t write, I feel like I lose apart of myself and there is a void.  As a writer, I know this to be true. Creating stories is how I fill the void and the need to express, and the act of creating them for people to be connected and grow closer to the ever needed love, awareness, and acceptance gives me a reason to write them.

Madeline L’Engle also writes: “When we are writing or painting or composing, we are, during the time of creativity, freed from normal restrictions and opened to a wider world, where colours are brighter, sounds clearer, and people more wondrously complex than we normally realize.”

I find this true, and in a piece of writing that is well crafted — using it’s decisions and choices in craft wisely and purposefully — the writer is able to share that freedom to the wider world more with the reader themselves.

This is why I want to write stories and learn to write them well. And although it may not be like the engineering field, the medical field, or the business field (those are all respectable and important areas of world and I admire the people that go into them), but the writing field is what I want to go into — among the many other things I want to do — because it is there that I find my purpose, it is there that I am fully alive, and it is there that I can write a story that gives other’s purpose, truth, and life.