A newsletter, if you will.

So I write stuff, see. Of late it has been my best hope for these last dark months. It is a simple practice.

But I’m having a thought here, Barbossa. (Brain completes thoughts with quotes.) There was this crazy dream I had a few weeks ago, and it involves a yacht, and a dark figure inspired by The Angel’s Game (didn’t love, honestly) crossed with Tom Waits, or more specifically Tom Waits in this movie, and a long chain weaving through a city.

I know there is something serious about this guy. It was a cold-sweat-sudden-waking kind of dream, and once there’s enough distance where I can see what he means clearly, this writing of him will go somewhere.

He’s there, he’s there, he’s there.

 

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Here’s Where You Should Live Based On Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type

Thought Catalog

Sue ClarkSue Clark

ISFJ – Zurich, Switzerland

If there’s anything an ISFJ likes it’s a clean, well-ordered environment where everyone gets along nicely and everything works the way it should. In the pristine city of Zurich, ISFJs will find themselves perfectly at home. Reserved but polite, the citizens of Switzerland don’t like to raise much of a fuss unless they have to. They go about their days, get business done as they should and then retire to their well-maintained homes with their close-knit families. Ever-neutral Switzerland is the ideal spot for the peace-seeking ISFJ. No fuss, no muss, no hefty disagreements.

ENTP – Hong Kong

Hong Kong offers a diverse fusion of the Eastern and Western worlds, with enough food, entertainment, languages, religions, diversity and opportunity to keep the ENTP intellectually stimulated until the end of time. This type loves exploring new avenues of thought and new methods of experiencing life…

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Haiti // Aftermath as a Test of Endurance

12 January 2010: A 7.0 earthquake knocks Haiti near Port-au-Prince, claiming over 200,000 lives and injuring more than 300,000. Relief pours in from the United States, Peru, Argentina, Brazil. Haiti is on all radars, in the news, in prayers, in songs.

16 January 2015: We land in the Les Cayes airport on a humid afternoon, taxiing the Cessna to the side of the runway, and cross the tarmac to exit through a large orange room, the sun bouncing off tiled floors, fans poised above the windows but completely still, lifeless, staring. There is no passport check, no baggage claim. We walk around the porch and see a few kids watching us between the chain-link fence. They wave and yell, “Blan, blan!” (“White, white!”) This greeting is standard, and it’s true. We’re the local spectacle.

But as we zigzag through traffic, the life on the street is what captivates. Schoolgirls in uniform laugh together on the walk home. Older women balancing jugs of water and baskets of clothes on their heads turn to look, straight-faced, expressionless. We pass carts of mangos, giant glistening tour buses, legions of motorbikes. Chris comments on the rebars poking out of many cement houses, and Conwell explains how a house might take 30 years to build, as they buy materials and build onto what they have.

Our group from Fairmont, MN, is not here for relief, per se. We’re here to spend a few days at the orphanages near Torbeck, and although we’ve brought supplies for the kids and game things (piñatas, balloons, candy), there is very little notion of what these days will hold.

Friday night is Movie Night for the girls, so we pile into every nook of the two pickup trucks and head to the Consolation Center. As we watch Up in French, each of us has about 2.6 girls on our laps, with even more sitting next to us, telling us their names, patiently helping us to get each one right, even though we forget half of them the next minute.

Even from the beginning, I start to realize how much ground there is to cover, how small a week really is in the scheme of things, how small I am.

Haiti is still living in the aftermath, not just of the 2010 earthquake, but a whole history of collapse, suspension, self-collection. Most solutions are temporary, and deadly. Ken tells us of a man near Port-au-Prince whose livelihood was to sell rice. Once aid and food flooded in, people would not buy rice from him when they could get it for free. So his work was gone.

10339681_10153605924063712_796609778838654145_nIt’s an all-too-common story, one that I find easy to brush off sitting at the apartment dining room table after the trip. But in Torbeck, we aren’t just exchanging stories after dinner, we’re cringing as two or more girls weave our hair into intricate braids, we’re making toys out of caps and plastic bags and sticks up in the hills, we’re stomping in puddles as rain drips off the thatched roof and creeps to cover the pavilion floor, we’re bruising our feet on the rocks as the kids run over the beach, fearless. At any given moment, we are greeted with the hugs and outstretched arms from the kiddos we eventually come to expect.

We spent a good deal of time consciously using body language to explain something (cue Ursula: “Don’t underestimate the importance of . . . BODY LANGUAGE!”). Some of the older girls spoke English, and I speak some French (and tried to learn some Creole phrases, with interesting results), but both sides had to go beyond what could be said to what was meant. This past week was a lesson for me in how much love can be shown without saying a word.

Casandra walked with me through fallow fields to the babies’ and widows’ center, not letting go of my hand. We sang the same tunes together in Creole and English. Adonaika showed me the best way to eat mangos and then laughed when strings got stuck in my teeth. Her sister Tica was almost always found sitting on laps or hugging someone tight. Baby danced the Habañera with me, giggling when I’d dip her or spin her around. More than anything, I am thankful for those smiles and giggles and hugs. None of that needs an explanation.

I could talk about the piles of rubbish in the back alleys, the sugar cane cud in street corners, the rocks underfoot at every turn. But what I think about mostly is that unquestioning love, and how precious that is.

And I will write more about what we saw and the centers we visited. But at the risk of melodrama, I’m living in the aftermath of the trip, so to speak. It’s funny how many things remain undone as we pulled out last Friday – there are building projects just beginning at the school, we never found my dad’s two boys at the Center, and even spending time with the “moms” of the orphanage did not give us the opportunity to hear their stories. There’s more, there’s always more.

summertime film file

These are not new films, necessarily—just ones I’ve found compelling in chinks of time from these three months. I share them with you in case somehow, you too have missed out on them. In no particular order:

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One Day—The movement through time in this movie is merciless and yet graceful in its disjuncture. It speeds the life of these two characters by through skipping to one day, July 15, every year, on which they’ve agreed to meet or contact each other. We see, we feel the wasting of time, the slowing of youthful brilliance, the heartbreak of disappointment, the decisions that cannot be revoked. A film that, once it was over, left me grateful for the second chances I have in my own life…

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The Fall—First of all, I can’t believe more people have not raved about this film since its release in 2006. Shot in more than 26 countries in over 4 years, it weaves together a child’s imagination and a crippled man’s heartbreak to tell a story that is so emotionally truthful and devastatingly beautiful—and yet wildly fun and funny at points. This has probably taken over the top spot for my favourite movie, ever. On all levels, it speaks for itself.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty—I watched this on the plane back from Europe choir tour, and it made me want to turn around and begin a trip all over again. Wanderlust is a pretty popular term these days, but what struck me about this film is that someone as externally unremarkable as Walter Mitty has such a vivid dream life below the surface. He’s got untapped visions that are not ambitions, and through a series of yes, unlikely events, he is [and through him, we are] given the chance to realise the adventures he has always craved, proving the heart that his true friends always recognised.

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Saving Mr. Banks—Another post-Europe plane watch. This one, however, had me bawling. I won’t give away any spoilers, but as stubborn Miss P.  L. Travers confronts the sentimental superficiality of Walt Disney’s adaptation of her beloved Mary Poppins, she unearths a deeper connection to her own bitter past and the very real, very dear characters of her family. In many ways, Saving Mr. Banks echoes the spirit of Miss Potterboth Peter Rabbit and Mary Poppins were, after all, my childhood!—and Emma Thompson is, of course, marvelous.

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Les Choristes—French independent films for the win! Think Mr. Holland’s Opus meets Charles Dickens. This is one of few films where the wit, the sarcasm, and the depth of personality break through in the inflection, assisted rather than hindered by the subtitles. Though a mid-20th-century boarding school of rowdy school boys was little better than a furnace for artistic impulses, the arrival of Monsieur Clement Mathieu must prove the power of imagination, kindness, and music to transcend stuffy rules and adolescent vulgarity.

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Easy Virtue—I didn’t universally love this film. It doesn’t lend itself to that; it’s a bit like Miley Cyrus decided to drop into Downton Abbey. When young John Whittaker brings home his wife, American race car driver Larita, her brash glamor jars with the quiet propriety so carefully guarded on the Whittaker family estate. And yet the whole family has not yet realised that in the aftermath of WWI, not all change can be dismissed with a slight dig over a cup of tea. Of course, it’s hard for me not to side with the family in resenting the American’s intrusion, but the 1920s opened the door for a whole new manner of life, fully rejecting the departed era of peaceful ideals and celebrating a morality similarly departed. Despite this, the movie has moments of mischief and elegance and an even better soundtrack, largely sung by the cast itself. Again, although the ending does surprise, it’s not everything you want. But, hey, in the name of the Jazz Age…

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The Giver—Confession. I have not yet read the book. Which I intend to remedy. However, what this film has to offer, distinguishing it from the myriad variations on the dystopian theme, is its statement on pain. The goal of the new order has been to erase all evils and sources of pain, even at the cost of love or depth of any emotion. But as Jonas begins to Receive memories of the past, he begins to dream in colour—and to fight for the fullness of life, for joy and love, despite the cost of unfiltered knowledge.

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Responses welcome!

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[Photo cred: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/images/uploads/EmmaThompson.jpg, http://intrigue.ie/books-every-woman-read-one-day/, http://www.nadjaseale.com/2013/03/the-fall.html, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2013/12/the_secret_life_of_walter_mitty_reviewed_ben_stiller_s_2013_movie_adaptation.html, http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1957153536/tt0435651?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_16, http://www.aceshowbiz.com/images/still/easy_virtue14.jpg, http://cdn-premiere.ladmedia.fr/var/premiere/storage/images/racine/bandes-annonces/video/les-choristes/12230019-1-fre-FR/Les-Choristes_reference.jpg,

not particularly patriotic

It’s news to few that I get shamelessly pumped about the World Cup! I was especially anticipating further glory to add to La Roja’s past four years (I tend to cheer for proven champions, not underdogs, #sorrynotsorry). Obviously, that quickly crumbled with their tragic performance. But as some sentimental dude scribbled, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds” {maybe “pride” could also be substituted}.

Anyways, after four years since living in Spain, I do still claim ties to that country, ties that sometimes crop up unexpectedly—in poetry, for instance. It’s often easier to side with other countries when you get bored or dismissive of the current one. So with some revisions from the first draft last fall, a shrug and a dash of satire.

Before I could drive
I was parachuting 
into deserted allegiance
and dying platitudes
over the plateaus at siesta.
And now I will write
in quixotic red and gold
from sun pools and poppy fields.

This is your Fathers’ land of amber
grain and last gleamings
and I like
tempting fate,
watching consumers guzzle comfort
when the Bill of Rights rifles us
to vanity.
Glibly, we convert to copper quarters,
gutted with sensationalism.
Here, have a peppermint and sit down,
virulent nation that you are.
How nice for you
that you can see it all when you never
clean your glasses.

unpatriotic blogpost

A Penny in the Sea

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

~ C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, dedication to Lucy Barfield

Recording my life seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me when I was given my first journal at age six. What, you might ask, would a six-year-old write about? Well, gymnastics class, and what I ate for lunch, and the birth of my cousin Michael, and even the occasional melodramatic complaint about how everyone hated me and how I should just run away. I included lengthy descriptions of post office field trips, lists of Christmas gifts, my feelings about a certain boy at Bible Study Fellowship. I even compiled detailed information in the back about my friends and family, based on quite a bit of sleuthing (I was under the impression that my thoughtful Nana, based on her occupational tendencies when visiting our house, “really likes doing dishes”!).

I loved that journal: its pink hearts spiraling across the pages, the cheap lock and key that gave me a sneaky sense of secrecy, and the deliberately shaped letters, forming words that somehow incarnated my six-year-old feelings and dreams. Words were magic to me, and the chance to escape from the daily tasks of crafting sidewalk chalk masterpieces and defeating pirate kidnappers with my sisters into literary endeavors was an adventure in itself.

At the time of writing, I’m starting a very new phase. I just graduated from college with a degree in Music Ministry in May, and after an incredible two weeks touring Europe with my choir, I’m starting to realize what “post-graduation” means. For the first time, my summer will consist of working and living from my apartment in the Cities instead of with my family in rural Minnesota. There is a wide, sparkling blank ahead of me, although the immediate future is slightly focused. I know very little, but I have found a different sort of magic, even a sense of home, in wonder and curiosity about the world. The best writing reflects the real world to us through fresh lenses. As an inchoate writer, I am not searching for sentimentality and nostalgic romanticism of the past, but for a renewed sense of purpose, rooted in what is real and true.

So this is the prologue, the opening credits, the casting of a penny into the sea with dreams that, like the tales I loved so well, great trees of silver and gold will shoot out from it. As I record and wonder and muse, feel free to respond with your own thoughts, stories, questions, anything really! Dialogue is a wonderful thing. Surprise me.

Side note: I hope to post at least once a week during the summer months, and having written that down will, ideally, bring some accountable momentum amidst selling plasma and rehearsing for Tarzan. Cheers!