Driving the Dark Roads

Dark_RoadsThe other day I got an email from a high-school boyfriend, which drove me headlong into remembrance of a time in my life I’ve tried to forget.

My husband is the only person I know who enjoyed high school, so I don’t harbor any delusions that my unhappiness made me unique among teenagers. In fact, my misery found plenty of company. My mother died at the beginning of my freshman year, and while my dad reeled, I got mixed up with the other kids whose parents or grandparents weren’t really watching.

After reading his message, I sat for a long while and tried to remember the year this boy, now a man with his own family, came into my life, the year I turned fifteen. What surfaced most clearly was a dark road. I’d just gotten my license, and we were always driving. Gas was less than a dollar a gallon, and though I usually couldn’t afford dinner, I could scrape together enough coins to get a few more miles.

So I canvassed the town, looking for some diversion. I didn’t have anywhere to be—no club meetings, no soccer practice, no piano lessons, and I couldn’t bear being at home. I’d scoop the change from my dad’s dresser, and if there was any left over after putting a couple of gallons in the tank, I’d splurge on single cigarettes from the quitter’s cup at the Shell station. [Read more...]

Let Me Die Like This

redWhen I die, Lord, let me go in a plane crash, spiraling down, earthward, earthward, apportioned enough time to pray but not nearly enough to forget what we’re all prone to forget: that the end comes, it rushes up to greet us, every one in flight.

What I’d pray in my downfall is: forgive, sweet Christ, forgive, and this: let me see. Let me see myself in your mirror so I may know, before the end, if I am known.

They say it’s easier to conjure faith in desperation, but I suspect the opposite is true, that all we hold in our trembling hands, when the earth charges up to embrace us for the last time, is what’s really there, what we really believe, what we really love, be it God or ourselves or our children or our comforts, or likely some combination of these, with salvation turning perhaps not on a choice so much as on the algorithm, on our hammered-out parameters of love. [Read more...]

When It Comes to Love, We’re Beginners

MV5BMjAyNDcxNTk3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjk4MDU2NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_By Jeffrey Overstreet

During a lecture last March [2011], I spoke fondly of a friend whom I had recently lost to cancer. Halfway through the anecdote, I suddenly recognized his wife, the mother of his two young children, in the audience, listening in rapt attention. She was far from home, a surprise visitor. I almost choked. And I suddenly began weighing my words with much greater care. Had I represented her husband well?

Loss makes artists out of all of us. We become storytellers, portrait painters, recreating the departed.

During grief’s early days, we break heavy silences to recall the scenes we want to remember. For strangers, we’ll sketch an outline, fill in some details. We simplify, generalize, organize.

We consider questions that will never be answered, dreams never realized. And we might carefully acknowledge their rougher edges, the ways they tested our patience—but we’ll wince if anyone blurts out words of criticism or judgment.

It’s a challenge, to keep someone’s memory alive with honesty and honor. It’s a responsibility, a delicate art. [Read more...]

Art on Fire: The Life and Work of Melissa Weinman, Part 2

By Richard Cole
ROSEFIRE IweinmanContinued from yesterday

When Weinman completed her fellowship in Europe, she came back to the U.S., where she began a new life that included marriage, the birth of two daughters, and a new chapter in her pilgrim faith.

“I think I’m a Christian, but I don’t know how to do it.” This was how she approached an Episcopal priest in her neighborhood, looking for spiritual direction. Although he was on the point of retirement, he agreed to meet with her once a week, and for the next year, they discussed Christian teachings and the Bible.

During this period, she created “Study for Christ,” a charcoal and conté crayon drawing of a young, muscular man with close-cropped hair. “I drew Jesus as kind of a tough guy, but that was alright, because that’s what I needed in this very uncertain world.”

The drawing marked a turning point in both her art and faith. “By drawing Jesus, I came into relationship with Jesus,” she says, acknowledging that, in many ways, she was no longer the artist who had painted the suffering saints.

“It’s weird to look back at the person I was then, how angry and resentful. I used those images to gain attention but also to illustrate their suffering. The paintings were dark, and I thought that a painting could redeem suffering, and that was noble. But now I began to shed that person.” [Read more...]

His Murderer and His Keeper

326044514_cedf60b870_mSome days I can’t remember: Am I Abel or Cain?

Blackberry soda in the afternoon sun. I talk with a friend who recounts her anger and, before she meets with those who aroused it, it’s softening. Blue heart of flame, her eyes purify the avenue, its commerce, its air. I am alive. I must be Cain.

Once, I was a shepherd. Now I am reduced to this: a symbol. My brother discovered his black heart when he heard me in the field, singing, offering the best of my flock. God loves my poetry. In response, my brother stoned me. Because back then no one knew when the soul leaves the body, he pummeled me beyond necessity. Even to this hour he continues, pelting me with rubble, rockets—whatever’s at hand. An innocent man, dead. I must be Abel. [Read more...]


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