Monthly Archives: October 2010

Do Not Fear The Wind

Do you fear the force of the wind,
The slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them,
Be savage again.
Go hungry and cold like the wolf,
Go wade like the crane.
The palms of your hands will thicken,
The skin of your cheek will tan,
You’ll grow ragged and weary and swarthy,
But you’ll walk like a man!

-Hamlin Garland

I woke up with the wind this morning.

It’s scary to wake up at 7 a.m to the sound of a deathly roar outside your window. My window was open about three inches and I could feel a chill swirling up through my pulled blinds. I couldn’t believe the noise and pulled the blinds apart to see a tree on the hill to the art building leaning swaying side to side at fifty-five degree angles. It was as if all of the fury of hills that have been deprived of winter had just broken loose into breathy tantrum fits. I knew it could only get better.

Walking out of art history into the tunnel outside the music building, the wind was almost forceful enough to lean on. It’s that wind that rips all the leaves from the trees, one at a time, but does so with such intensity that air currents conflict, holding them in stillness in the air. They can’t blow forward but they can’t go back, and you think they’ll never move. Then, just as quickly as they were torn away, they are slammed into the pavement and wet grass. The leaves that are already lying broken along the sidewalk are pulled toward warm bodies and thrown back into the air like some sort of malicious confetti. They’re beautiful for a moment, and then they hurl themselves back towards you as you try to force your legs ahead of yourself. Everything is so full of movement, but the only thing really seeming to be alive is the one thing that is not – the wind. the leaves are all detached from their living hosts. The world is dead and swirling around you, the living.

There’s energy in the wind that both instills terror and races the heart with ecstatic joy. It’s the unbridled power that we take for granted – we love the caress of warm breezes of summer and the cool brush of autumn, but we curse the rushing, unhindered terror that can be heavy winds. It’s the same idea, the same potential as the soft breeze but magnified, intensified, uncomfortably strong. Below grey, muddy clouds on the horizon is a sliver of silver, glowing lines and waves that, rather than bring hope of the sun, bring a new fear, a haunting brightness that is broken by the silhouettes of swirling leaves. On a day like today it doesn’t belong there, nor is it wanted. The wind is so exhilarating and strong that you become entranced with it and don’t realize how cold you are until you go inside. Like the hovering leaves, the cold hits you in retrospect almost as if it hadn’t existed until you had the thought.

The funny thing about forces like wind or rain is that once it starts up, we will initially mention its presence. “Boy, sure is windy today” is an exchange at first, and then it just becomes a fact of the day. It becomes, in a sense, normal. We originally feared its presence and then relapsed into comfortable existence of the fact that it’s a windy day. We become worried and scared again when the wind ceases. We return to our initial state and we are frightened, things are changing. After so much exaggerated breeze, the stillness is too quiet, too perfectly frozen. We crave movement, some sign that nothing went wrong. In the same way that a suddenly calm sea after lethal waves appears like glass, stillness after a length of strong wind is a breath in the speech of time – all pauses, all waits, leaves refuse to move. Walking becomes nothing more than propulsion, no longer cutting into the wall of weight that it had been.

I love the wind. I love its rage and its kindness, its bipolar nature. It can carry a sparrow chick down from its nest or lift a petite apple blossom into its path. It can pull houses from their foundations and push rooted trees and walls down into the earth and across miles where they don’t belong. While it is not a living being, it displays and affects more life than other objects or forces in nature. Even when the elements seem to rebel and pull the earth apart at its foundation, they are all under the control of Our Creator. People respect the earth, but that’s not where we should get caught up. We must love our earth, care for it as we can and, most of all, do not fear the wind.
Helena's Wind

Knowing Everything About Nothing and Nothing About Everything

I don’t know you, but gosh, I do not like you. *Tsk tsk*, nope, not one bit. I’m never close enough to even see the color of your eyes, but you must smell. You also must be a creeper since I’ve been told by more than one person that you may or may not have happened to be shoved into the girl’s locker room once by bullies. It’s true, the bullies can’t push that hard. And I know my facts!

I’ve only ever seen you around campus, and I think I’ve heard some nasty stories about you, but since I’m a freethinking individual, I’m not taking these stories as truth.

No, no, I’m listening to them, digesting them and making them my own truth. It’s the difference between eating a store-bought apple pie or buying the pie and claiming I know exactly how it was made. I have no foundation for these opinions or these accusations, but by golly, MY VOICE SHALL BE HEARD! Heaven forbid my unjustified opinions go unsaid!

The thought process above was brought to you by the general populace and sponsored by many Houghton College students.

Are you feeling frustrated? Depressed? Have a professor who says perverted things in class or makes favorites? Not ever actually had this professor for a class? Not even sure what this professor looks like besides the fangs and purple teeth that your friend described to you? Then man, do you have a right to be upset! Fight the man, man!

Does that one kid who wears tweed jackets and hangs out with the notorious “Silly String Huffers” on campus make you feel uncomfortable? Do the unconfirmed rumors of this kid spying on people from behind their shower curtains give you the willies? Then you, opinionated individual who has spent no time in this guy’s vicinity, have every right to stop everyone from befriending the poor sap. Let your unjustified “truths” about this man be heard!

Are you a connoisseur of the finest Ramen noodles and Easy Mac? Do you spit on people who eat foods that tingle the taste buds with exotic and original zest and flavor? Do lunchtime discussions turn to your rants on how bad the cafeteria soup is? Have you, important witness to these disgraceful additions to mealtimes, ever even sampled the food or combinations that you so rampantly and vehemently rail against? Don’t let me stop you, the people have a right to know!!

I think you get my drift by now. This is a satirized preview of my Star opinion piece for next week. If you read this and became offended, I think you need to reassess. If you read this and found it humorous, you see these qualities in yourself or know people like this. Respond how you will, the real deal will be coming next week.

When One Won’t Back Down

I am a bitter person.

It’s a rough thing to admit up front, but it’s an important thing to understand about me. It’s also a dangerous thing to admit, as we tend to adopt our deepest secrets as part of our identity. I don’t want to define myself as bitter, nor do I want to be defined by others in this way. I’m not always bitter towards the same person, and bitterness doesn’t occupy my thoughts often. What I have realized about myself over the twenty years I’ve been alive is that I bury bitterness deep in my grooves, covering and disguising it with words of repentance and surrender. How many times have I “gotten over something” only to discover a few months later that the very thought of the circumstance makes me ill with anger?

I have developed the idea that I am a positive person at heart. I can find joy in the most mundane of everyday things – a warm banana muffin, a cup of Costa Rica medium roast, a book of Yeats or even a misty day. I can allow myself the luxury of being overjoyed at the slightest passing “hello” from a friend. When it comes to bitterness, however, I have very little joy of which to speak of.

Is it possible to be two people in the same body? To be cheerful and accepting in one hemisphere but then to be cold, judgmental and unforgiving in the other? Am I a hypocrite because I strive to defeat that darker half while still allowing in to show its face? It’s not that I lie to people about my nature – when I’m negative or unfairly harsh, I’ll admit it. The danger is when we think our bitterness or cruelty is excusable simply because we admit we have a problem. An alcoholic husband who beats his wife may admit he has a problem and he may even go to AA meetings, but that doesn’t make his actions right or excused in any way. It never should.

Dewey Lee spoke to Houghton College yesterday on the subject of reconciliation and confrontation. It just so happened someone was present on campus that day who I still harbored outstanding feelings of bitterness for having been wronged a few months before. I had apologized for my small part in the incident, but the person on the other end who had delivered an inconsiderate blow and caused me pain had not apologized for their part. They gone behind my back, blew me off and then turned the situation on me and denied any blame they held. I had decided to apologize for anything, known or unknown, that I had done to worsen the situation, and then distanced myself. I discovered yesterday that I was still bitter. It wasn’t that surprising of an epiphany.

One thing I also know about this particular person is that they rarely admit when they are wrong. They don’t apologize often and when they do, it’s only after they blame other people and attempt to glean as much sympathy as possible to distract from the wrong they have committed. This spawns mostly from emotional immaturity and poor role-models and experience. I became so angry that we were both sitting in this chapel service and of course, I was going to feel convicted to reconcile for something that wasn’t my fault. Then, God struck me pretty hard. Even though the initial rift was not my fault and I had been wronged, I was committing an even greater offense in my heart by harboring such bitterness. I was also reminded of the bitterness I held towards am ex-boyfriend from a very shallow and hurtful relationship. I had a right to be angry, but no one said I ever had a right to be bitter, and I don’t, especially after this long and especially after I was very resolved about ending the relationship when I did.

When it comes right down to it, people who don’t apologize or realize their wrongs are not going to change overnight. Nothing that you say or do or hold against them will make a difference because if they haven’t changed yet after so many similar instances, they most likely will not be changing any time soon. It’s not to say that they are incapable of changing, but that’s up to them. Reconciliation doesn’t have to mean peace and happiness between two parties – it means doing your part to bring closure and forgiveness to a situation in which you had a part. You can reconcile with people no longer in your life by reconciling in your heart. How many difficult instances would be avoided if we had just let things go in the first place? How much of our short lives do we spend at odds with one another? Reconciliation may not make everything better, but it will make things better in your own heart.

Take airplanes for example. In an emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. The stewardess tells you right from takeoff that if such an emergency were to occur, place a mask on your own face first before trying to help others. It’s the only time when a seemingly selfish act may be the most selfless and the biggest help. If we all try to help each other get our masks on, there is a chance we will all die. If one person takes a second to slide their mask over their face, they will have the air and protection they need to help the person next to them, starting a chain reactions throughout the plane. No one forces us to put on the masks and no one forces us to help the person next to us. If we don’t do something, however, we will not survive. Out of an instinct of self-preservation, we’ll put on our own mask, and hopefully out of a sense of immediacy and duty we’ll help those around us.

In life, we often let our oxygen dangle right in front of our faces – too stubborn to put it on to save ourselves and too self-centered to save the person beside us. How counter-productive and counter-intuitive is this? All we have to do is reach out and take what will keep us breathing. It only takes a little more energy to reach out for the oxygen for our neighbor. While reconciliation is much more complicated emotionally, we need to simplify it in these terms. I can get so caught up in details and definition that I forget the simple principles of such action. Sometimes self-preservation involves a little quid-pro-quo, and even though reconciliation shouldn’t necessarily be treated so lightly, if we are going to live happier lives with less stress and emotional burden, we might as well take a minute to evaluate those times when we haven’t really been the most forgiving or open. If we’re not in a safe state or if we are on the edge of danger, we need to make sure we’re secure before we can try to help other people. Otherwise, we will all fall. We will convince ourselves we’re fine when our air is being sucked right out of our lungs. We lie so well, especially to ourselves.

In the end, it comes down to two (proper) options: We can either forgive and reconcile or we can hold to these bitter remains that will bring us no joy and leave us burdened and cold. There should never be waiting to let the other person see their wrongdoing – that’s where grace and love must be essential in our lives. The other person may be the one in the wrong, but we must give them what they do not deserve – our forgiveness and love.

I tell you these things because I am a hypocrite and I am a liar. Please help me secure my mask.

For Those Who Wait…

The internet has become like that relative who you see really often, you love them, but you just don’t like being around them very much.

You see them at Christmas, birthdays, summer picnics… They knit you a sweater you don’t like (orange and olive-green zig-zag stripes) and in return, you send them all your stale Christmas cookies, insisting they were “the very best in the batch.” You keep in touch enough to remind them you love them, but you never let that distance close too far. Otherwise, next thing you know they’re knocking on your door in the middle of March for “no reason, they were just passing by.” They live thirty minutes away. You’re in a bathrobe with no excuse to leave the house. Darn it all.

I love using the internet. It has neat things on it. It keeps me connected with the people I love, it keep me informed as to the events and news of the world and helps me to reach out in cool ways that wouldn’t be quite as effective with pen and paper. People assume that they are gods on the internet because they have some followers – I just assume I’m mediocre with nothing to say and appreciate the people that keep up with me. (I love you, I do. Don’t forget that.)

Then, about three days ago, I was speaking with a dear man and gave him some advice regarding his life. In short, I told him if he doesn’t start building certain skills and taking on responsibility in his personal life, life in the workforce will be very difficult.
As I lay slumped in my Ikea lounger with my chin on my chest and my laptop perched lazily on my sweatpants-clad legs, I realized I was the biggest hypocrite I know. I may not want to see the internet as often as I do, but unless I start disciplining myself now and building the habit of writing in a scheduled manner on my blog, I might as well start packing up some provisions for my future career. It will have a very long hike.

So here I am, and I’m asking you, my dear (and few) readers to keep me accountable. I will be updating my blog on Tuesday and Thursdays with an occasional post on a random day of the week. It has been far too long since I’ve written and I am determined that I will accomplish this goal for both myself and for you.

I am a junior in college. I am no longer carefree and light-hearted about the distant future. All future seems right in my face, handing me vouchers for careers and household duties and financial responsibilities and trodding on my toes and insisting that these are limited time offers. If I don’t call for their resources NOW, I will miss out on everything that life is about. One of these future apparitions holds up a mirror and sneers: I’m grey, sagging and surrounded by a thousand screaming, drooling children. An empty folder labeled “Hopes, Dreams, Writing Samples” is laying open on a desktop piled high with overdue financial statements and flyers for offers I passed up when I was a foolish college girl. I face my future self and am suddenly filled with chilling terror, scanning the scene for any sign of hope, of relief, of a chance to go back and make things work. A child vomits in my lap while another starts chewing on a lamp cord.

It’s at this point I wake up and touch my face to make sure it doesn’t resemble sharpei. My desk is clean, my computer glows softly in the half-dark of my dorm room. It’s enough for me, this simple existence. I don’t know where the future is leading, but heaven knows I’m not going to keep letting days pass without accomplishing anything of note. I’m not looking to convert the masses or save the world – I just want to make a future, live life in a fuller manner and do the things that I love because I love them before I have to do them for someone else. I have the power to take my heart in my hands and mold it into a foundation for something even better than anything I’ve done up to this point.

This is my beginning. This is the New Year of my writing. Stay with me, for you all help me to be strong. I don’t mind writing for myself, but I want to write for you. What do you want to see from me?

Starting gun out, I’m crouched down and ready to push off. Let’s get going.