our make or break words

There is a small insect flying around my room, and it’s about to drive me insane. It hasn’t done anything to me. It’s not biting me or trying to get in my ears or entangling itself in my hair. But it is distracting and aggravating and it needs to find a new home.

(I know I could just kill it, but dead bugs gross me out more than live ones annoy me, so…here we are with me starting off my blog post with a gripe about bugs.)

In all reality, I don’t know what I’m writing about. I have started this blog post no less than half a dozen times just in the last twenty minutes, but I’m getting nowhere.

Believe it or not, I drafted this post on black paper in white text in a font that I never use. It’s an odd method for trying to overcome this block, but hopefully it worked and you’re actually reading a blog post right now. If it does work, then all the oddity is worth it.

Some people probably would have the sense to just stop trying to force something to be written that clearly does not want to be written, but I have very little common sense and so here I am, plugging way at trying to unpack my summer.

I’ve been back in Texas for…almost two weeks now? Yeah.

It feels much longer than that, but not in the “OH MY WORD, LIFE IS AWFUL AND SLOW AND ENOUGH ALREADY” kind of way. More in the sense that this feels natural, it feels normal, it feels established.

Not like it should feel to have lived in a room for less than two weeks after spending fifteen weeks in a different time zone.

Already Mackinac feels pretty remote, which just adds to the weird time-displacement thing that I’ve got going on.

Has it really only been two weeks since I clocked out for the last time? Like, two weeks ago right now I was sitting on my carriage, about to give my last tour of the summer. I was talking to my mom as she stood on the side of the street that I’d travelled many times a day for the last 100 days.

And somehow those 100 days weren’t long enough for me to feel as though I’m out of place now that I’m back in Abilene.

The whole muddle of it is doing a top-notch job of messing with my head.

I know I didn’t really blog much about the last half of my summer. Much of it was a lot like the first half of the summer: joy and growth mingling with exhaustion and heartache.

The highlights were, as is so often the case in life, sweet people and the heartfelt kindnesses they spoke over me.

Like, one day an older gentleman handed me my tip with some joke that I found genuinely funny, so I laughed aloud because the sun was bright and the grass was green and I was alive, and he met my eyes and said, “That giggle: I like it. Do that often.” And then he smiled and was gone.

Just quiet kindnesses like that.

So many blessings were spoken over me, and luck at school wished, and meaningful clasps of my hand to convey that I was a human and I was real.

I wasn’t just some driver to them.

I was a human.

That’s the real takeaway here: let’s just treat each other like the people we are. None of us are faceless. None of us are nameless. We have backstories and hurts and fears and loves.

Duh.

So let’s act like it.

On the flipside, the definite lowlight of my summer was when my favorite horse died and I spent two days giving tours around a lump in my throat, fighting with varying levels of success to keep the tears from flooding my eyes and washing down my cheeks.

The worst day, the first day of knowing that I’d never get to drive my sweet boy again, I pulled up to drop off a load of tourists, gushing at the crew to ‘have a fabulous day’ and ‘thank you for taking my tour’ and the thousand other things that I usually meant but meant a little less that day, and one of the guys who was helping unload my carriage remarked, “Wow, you’re in a good mood today.”

Thinking he was serious, I cooed back with my smile firmly in place, “Oh, it’s all an act. Today sucks.”

And he quietly replied, “I know. Your eyes tell it.”

Which was exactly the right thing to say. It was the exact nod to my humanity that kept me from losing my mind.

So if you’re reading this, Daniel, thanks.

…I think that might be what I have to say.

What I had to say.

However you want to put that.

Huh.

It took all those words just to come up with a few simple points:

  1. Time still feels weird and irrelevant.
  2. My summer was neither all bad, nor all good.
  3. Our words can make or break humanity.

– Melissa

let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer. [psalm 19:14]

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a tumble of thoughts

I wanted to write something intelligent tonight. I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned lately or some of the anecdotes that my life seems to provide in abundance.

But it seems that I am just too tired.

My fingers clitter-clatter over the keys and I make up onomatopoeia and nothing really profound appears in the aftermath.

I am still living on an island.

I am still keeping track of how many more days must pass until I no longer have to wake up to a 5:30am alarm six days a week. (47 more days.)

I am still in love with horses and the sound of waves and the way the world smells just after it rains.

I am still vibrantly alive, more so than I ever dreamed was possible in the madness of the last few semesters of school.

It is funny, how coming to Mackinac where everything is slower has quickened my thirst for life.

Because everything is slower here.

The fastest you can go on the island is 50mph when you’re biking down the three steepest hills, and that’s against the law and so you have to risk a $100 ticket. The fastest you can legally go on the island is 25mph on your bike, and I don’t have a bike so for me it’s walking or horse-drawn carriage.

Horses don’t go too fast, especially around here.

So everything is slower on the island.

Time doesn’t move slower here, but it does seem to kind of get lost. Like, I intellectually know that it is July 10th and my summer is half gone. But it doesn’t feel like July to me. Heck, it doesn’t even feel like I exist in the same dimension as time belongs in.

Most days I have no idea what the date is or what day of the week it is, or even what time it is—short of hungry vs. not-so-hungry moments.

Life is blurry and drowsy and sometimes it’s disjointed around the edges. Life is horse kisses and horse manure and telling jokes about horse pee because it makes the tourists laugh and when they laugh they sometimes tip me. Life is good songs and songs that I’m sick of and hearing all my music so often that I despair and want to hurl my headphones across the lake.

Here on the island you can’t ever be more than four miles from anywhere else on the island.

I had a child ask on my tour the other day where my horse’s arms were. My roommate had someone ask her how much the island weighed and how many trees there are on the island.

You can never get more than four miles away from the questions here, from the entitlement of the rich and the young and the millennials, from the bikers who haven’t sat on a bike in years and years and years.

Life is compressed. It’s slow. It’s early mornings and it’s long days and it never sleeps.

And sometimes, life is worth it.

Sometimes life has Oscar.

Oscar is old.

He knows things. He’s seen things.

(Maybe numerically I’m older, but you know wisdom when you see it.)

Sometimes, in the morning, when I’m trying too hard to stay pleasant because the barn is chaos and my patience is thinnest when I’m tired, Oscar nuzzles my face and gazes at me with eyes so steady and deep and pure that I think maybe I’ve just caught a glimpse of what heaven might be like.

And then sometimes Oscar goes out in the corral and rolls in the mud until he’s no longer a white horse and I have to transform him back from the brown horse that he’s become, and then I think that there’s no heaven in Oscar at all.

There is pain in the world, and degradation, and inequality, and death. And it’s here, even on Mackinac, where life is so abundant and vibrant.

Life wends its way past death with the clatter of hooves and the cushion of obliviousness and the cheery smile of a tour guide.

I’m tired.

I miss church.

I miss friends and family so deeply that I can’t sleep without them walking through my dreams, but it’s wonderful because I wake with the echo of their hugs.

This summer has already been both fantastic and tragic, both giddy and despairing.

Over the next 47 days—days made edgeless by sleeplessness and routine—why should I expect any less tempestuous a ride?

When everything is disjointed, I am so glad to be held by the God who is the I Am.

– Melissa

Kumbaya by Rend Collective