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Archive for August, 2008

Mendacity

Careful, what you say and what you mean. It is easy to confuse the two while blue eyes mock and twinkle in the hot summer sun. Those eyes have no name, for their character is timeless: arrogant, charming, manipulative, elusive. He knows he fascinates, and the fabric of his life depends on this ability. He knows how to stroke egos and shoulders just enough to make one hungry, make one crazy for more. But his goal is obvious: to make everyone fall in love with him. Sure, his motives are transparent, his methods cliche, and his flirtations shockingly indiscriminant, yet CHARM emanates from his ass steadily as steam from a high school prom. 

Every intelligent girl knows this man. He lingers in all circles of life, and the anger one experiences at his approach is often directed less at him for his deplorable selfishness than at oneself for one’s deplorable lack of self-control. Attention is lovely. And though one may know such a man’s motives, his strategy, and his history, no girl can deny charm, or the extent to which she enjoys flattery.

It is this weakness which makes intelligent girls see red: red like menses, lipstick, nail polish, rare steak and cherry pie. Our weakness is their luxury because they know that, at the end of the day, they shall be forgiven every offense solely for their roguish smiles, exaggerated manners and mocking eyes. And they are quite right. Terribly right.

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Joy

If you had told me, a year ago, of the nature of joy, I wouldn’t have believed it. Much less that I could hold such beauty in my possession. But then, it isn’t something I possess, it is something I am privileged to experience, and it would mean nothing without those frightened Freshman milling around the quad, or my fellow “Orientation Leaders” cheering me on as I climb thirty-five feet in the air. Whatever Joy is, celebrated to bad techno while ruining one’s shoes in the Carolina clay, or feeling the stress drain from one’s muscles while sitting in a half-empty church, it is something intoxicating. C.S. Lewis speaks of Joy as a longing, and I certainly know of what he means. I have felt it many times. But this is something new, something I felt hints of at my high-school Spring Formals, or while gazing over the mountain peaks with Lauren. This is the reality of myself, and the knowledge that I can participate in the self-discovery of those around me. 

I tell the Freshman that they make this school their own: without students a school is a shell, waiting to be claimed and transformed into a living organism. No two years are the same because there are always people leaving, people coming, but always there are the monks. Solidarity. Our drama of hormone-infested confusion takes on meaning in light of the black-clad figures wandering the campus. We are not the end-all-and-be-all. Our lives are brief, and they point toward something so much greater than the hope of a six-figure income. This is much easier to remember with the tolling of vespers and palsied wisdom of Father Arthur. 

No, this is joy. This is freedom. I defy Sartre and say that life owns an intolerable weight: the weight of cause and effect. And such life gives intolerable joy stemming from participation in a cause which promises Heavenly effect.

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Home

Early mornings in the mountains are cold, even in August. So I took Mom’s advice and pulled on my pink fleece, a hand-me-down from Chanelle, and appreciated the crisp bite against my bare legs as we walked out the door.

Mornings are lovely, and as a strictly non-morning-person, I don’t see too many. But I savored this one: the trees in the yard seemed that much more moist, prickly, and dark, spicy like chocolate, and I don’t know how long it will be before I see them again. The gravel crunched appropriately on the driveway, and the the primary school’s loud-speaker familiarly blared out the announcements for the day. That too, will be gone.

Even in the bakery for breakfast after we finished our walk, Mom pointed out where the cream and coffee stirrers resided next to the window. I found it odd that she felt the need to explain these details when I have eaten at Well-Bread for years. 

Weaverville is saying good-bye, finally after a year of living with one foot at the Abbey and one foot here at home. Home. Where I grew up. 

I can’t wait to make my bed tomorrow in O’Connell. I shall unfold my quilt, tape up my “Shit” poster, arrange my mugs on the bookshelf, and probably feel ridiculously homesick. But homesick for where?

There is an owl hooting somewhere through my open window, and he makes me feel lonely. I remember the Great Horned Owl that would come and sit on the pine tree by the barn. But then the barn burned one night, and he never came back. It has been a long time since I heard an owl.

Instead, I take morning walks with my mother, and picnic on the parkway, and wonder when it happened that she feels less like my mother and more like a very close, very old friend. The kind of mentor one hopes to find when joining a new church.

During dinner Mom and Dad talk about work, Mom’s nursing certification, the house, and I realize that their marriage no longer has much to do with me. They have done their job. And while they shall always want me to come visit, always be there to listen, to cheer me on, to give advice, they have their own life. A new honeymoon, as it were, the rediscovery of life beyond children and eighteen years of homeschooling.

The trailer is packed. I have one outfit left to wear tomorrow. My precious books are layered into apple boxes, and my journals are hidden away so securely that I can’t remember where I put them. Sylvia is quiet tonight, and Teddy knows that he shall be left on my bed. Waiting for when I come home.

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Her name is Sylvia, eleven years old, with brown hair, green eyes, and a pert nose set above a rather too-wide mouth. She simply appeared in my head one day, three years ago, and I haven’t succeeded in dislodging her since. She is very determined though, and very spoiled, being a princess, so I suppose it is only natural that she remains. The odd part is how very un-princess-like she is. A confirmed pragmatist at age eleven, Sylvia sneers at fairy tales while taking an enormous interest in dogs, archery, and her little sail-boat. The Queen, her mother, is quite beside herself. For while a son would be handy for the preservation of the royal line, the Queen comforted herself, despite Sylvia’s gender, with thoughts of adorable dresses, tea-parties in the nursery, and later jewels, dances, chocolate, gossip, and all those superfluous delights which are the privilege of womenkind. 

But the Queen’s attempts to promote needlework and dolls in the nursery are to no avail. And the bemused King, though he thoroughly enjoys Sylvia’s presence in the stables and kennels, wonders if it is not futile to indulge her in such activities. After all, what use is perfect marksmanship in the planning of State Dinners? In fact, only her parent’s extreme dotage prevents them from entirely squashing Sylvia’s unusual interests.

But she is her own person, her own set of prejudices, virtues, and surprising insights. 

On her eleventh birthday, when she received her little sail-boat, she met her first mermaid in the archipelago.  She had heard of the mermaids, of course, but supposed they must be something else of her mother’s invention (sadly, she thinks her mother rather silly) and staunchly refused to believe in their existence. The resulting exchange, when she finally met Adrienne, was rather dreadful. You see, no child, especially not a spoiled princess, willing admits to her misconceptions. 

Sylvia can be very evasive, so I am still coaxing out the account of that rather awkward adventure. But she keeps letting pieces of it slip accidentally, so I should have the entire story shortly. 

So now that I have that out, perhaps she will shut-up and let me go to bed so I can be at work tomorrow at eight am…..

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I find myself betrayed by words. They always worked when I was young and too innocent to know of drugs or alcohol as an escape from reality. But just as the next-morning’s hang-over renders an evening of oblivion quite costly, so does the ensuing thump of existence when I turn the last page of a book or write the last word in a journal. 

C.S. Lewis would answer that I am searching for perfection, that this discontent in a basically happy situation proves that the human heart was created for something which this life cannot satisfy. Camus would say that I am simply avoiding life’s ultimate absurdity. Machievelli asserts that life sucks: get over it and get the money while there is still time. Aristotle claims that words directed toward reason must eventually yield ultimate happiness insofar as reason is the goal of human nature. 

I guess that I have to agree with Lewis. And that is why I am still Christian. Dissatisfaction seems to be an inherent aspect of human nature, so maybe I should get used to it. The books can only take me so far away, the pointe shoes can only distract me for so long, and the reality and weight of existence shall always wait for me at the end. 

So I can wish someone lovely things and spin dreams of virtue and happiness for another’s potential life, but the visions won’t change the actuality. In the end, words mean little. Maybe even nothing. They are the reflection, rather than the embodiment of an ideal, and reflections are easily broken.

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The Eclair Effect

Again, I am still alive. But barely. Between the county club, wedding showers, out-of-town guests and new babies (my cousin’s brand-new daughter!) there hasn’t been much time even to reflect, let alone write, about life. It has melted into a blur of tea sandwiches and old ladies comparing the best stores for glass-wear, while I stay up till three in the morning with Megan learning things about myself and my sister which I have never thought of before.

The chocolate ran thick this week, the sleep ran thin, and here I am on an empty couch wondering why there shall be one girl in my room tonight, instead of three, piled wherever they can find room to lay down.

I miss them. And I knew that I would. I didn’t want to leave this afternoon, to willingly  abandon the warmth of home, and good-byes, and plain, after-company dinners for the stress and heat of the country club. I want the security of myself, to remember who I am when not playing hostess and trying to impress my sister’s in-laws. There is a richness to parties and busyness which is quite similar to that of an eclair: go slowly, two days at least, and drink lots of water. Maybe spread out over a month all this week would have been pleasantly manageable, but sadly we lacked that luxury.

Hmmm. Next time I should tell Kathryn to have a three engagement instead of only two…. 

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