Monday, August 30, 2010

"Take a trip with a friend."

Where missing teeth is a sign of a wisdom just as wrinkles on a Western man's brow, the deepest voids of the south have always been my favorite places to visit. While I may not live too far from this weekend's destination, my town is still vain enough to look down on overalls and tractors owned by shirtless men--despite our own share of such stereotypical commodities. "I am so excited," my friend, Elizabeth, said, quite earnestly. I always enjoy our little trips, and this would be my first time seeing her hometown. The trip was not very long, but the ride there had a few interesting sights, including, but not limited to: swamp, trees, cows, trees, vacant shacks, trees, Ford trucks older than the towns, trees, swamp, horses, trees and more trees. The towns stretched no more than ten miles and had nothing more than a gas station or two and a few trailer homes hidden in the woods. The people would sit on the side of the road or on stoops situated for snooping and wave politely at passing cars. In my town, any man who dared try would find himself diagnosed with one of the worst cases of carpal tunnel in medical history.

Pushed into the center of an oddly organized tree farm, Elizabeth's house was quaint and full of wonderful things. After eating dinner at a small Chinese restaurant in the busy part of town--my craving for sweet and sour chicken finally at a draw with subsidence--I comfortably sunk into the couch waiting for me in her living room and watched hours of idle television. While the television set flashed pictures and illuminated the space with a blue light, I smoothed out the wrinkles in my fortune cookie's wrapper. It was the only one of four with a rose stamped on the thin plastic. I jumped at the chance to take it, and when I opened it, it read, "Take a trip with a friend." It was as if Confuscius, or whoever the "Master Kong" of Wong's Palace Restaurant might actually be, really knew of our plans for the weekend. At any rate, the two coincidences within this fortune gave me the feeling this cookie should be savored and the fortune saved--along with its rosy wrapper, too, of course.

Typically, I am not on the receiving end of introductions and new sights, but I shook hands and hugged some of the nicest people living on the palm-filled edges of Georgia. Wherever we drove, I could not stop myself from gazing out the window--everything felt so new and refreshing. With its beautiful swamps and close-knit community, Waycross was a nice change from the usual. I am not sure I could ever become completely accustomed to all of the smells and devilish turns of its roads, but Waycross is a home. I would not turn down the chance to visit it again.

For more of the pictures above, and others from the rest of my weekend, click here. And for Elizabeth's blog entry on the trip, click here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In Memory Of

Saturday, everyone's faces were pale and their clothes black, trying to look as nice as one could on a grim day for someone now being mourned. I, myself, have only been to a few funerals, never a memorial service. Now, however, my indirect connection to the deceased did not make the event, of sorts, any easier to attend or understand. Some family came alongside several friends of similar ages to the honored, all with hair of ash, white, blue, bark, blonde and occasionally just bald. I wondered if it got any easier, at that age, to lose someone, knowing they lived a long life. I have lost friends of similar age to myself, and it always seemed cruel and unusual, but never easy. The woman staring back at me from the picture cleverly placed in front of the sanctuary looked sweet yet stern--honest, decent and genuine. She is a woman who touched many hearts in her many years on Earth. The service was fairly short and despite the sadness, everyone was cheerful, following the example of the woman who loves them in life and in death.

It was a day of remembering: remembering why she was loved, how she loved, how she lived--remembering her life. But memorials do not just remind us of what was, they also remind us of what could be. Inside each memorial there is hope for a better future, motivation to take after the one who set such a high bar for those left behind. They leave with us their wise words and unforgettable actions. I may not always reach the standards left by this grandmother, mother and friend now resting in peace, however, I have people in my life still who keep me inspired. They believe I can do anything even when I believe much less. They are the ones I find it hardest to embrace on my final days before I leave. They are the ones I always remember when I am gone.

Today, the only pale face was mine. Sitting in the church I have come to know as my home away from home, I knew it would be the last time I saw everyone before I went off to school, again. I felt drained of any happiness as some of the closest to me got closer throughout the morning. My laughs were more akin to hollow chuckles--as if I was choking on the air around me. But I was desperate to retain any happiness I had, even if all prevail was lost by the end of my pastor's sermon. Feeling dead, it was as if I was on the outside looking in to my own memorial service. Not a lot was being said, but there was love. And where there is love, there is purpose. So I left today, feeling a bit grim, but knowing it was for the better. When I return, those smiling faces looking upon me today will be there again to warm me when the world has chilled me to the bone; frozen by life's realities, thrust onto a campus with which I am comfortable, but never home.

Bidding everyone a farewell was hard, but necessary. I have a job to do, so to speak. I want to make something of myself and acquire more skills to help me improve my art in any way I can. I want to make my loved ones proud and I want to have something to say when I get back. (This long summer left me with only so many words in the end.) Like death, life is never easy but it is what we do with our time here that gives it worth not just for ourselves, for those we touch. So in four days I will be on my way again, trying to make something of myself, or at least live a little longer under the delusion I am doing something worthwhile.