There’s this weird feeling I get sometimes. Like someone has hit a tuning fork — but the tuning fork is my body. And it rings and vibrates. Like a silver spoon hitting chilled stainless. Like ice hitting back molars. Like wintergreen hitting veins. And the one hitting the tuning fork is the universe. Is God, if you will.
I feel awake and alive and almost raw.
So I go to my computer and I dive into the current of serendipity’s stream. And I pay really careful attention.
Words swirl around me, boomerang back at me like white water rapids. They carry me, roll me, drive me forward. The universe is in charge, and I am on a wild ride. Where I’m going is out of my hands – but I know I’m on the right track.
So I swim. Hard. And fast. To stay inside that current. Not sink beneath it.
Because the universe has given me a gift — it has given me a path and a process. But it has expectations. It has demands. And those demands are rigorous. They are… well… demanding.
This current will take me to my goal, but only with a whole lot of work.
So work, I do. At first I’m cold and rusty, and my mind misfires. A lot. But I remind myself I’m trained for this. I can do this hard thing. I am prepared. And so I just keep kicking, doing my best to stay afloat and follow directions as the words swirl around me, bump up against me.
Inside the current, my mind warms, loosens — perhaps even unravels a bit – allowing flexibility and vision and a bit of slack to reel in the difficult bits, the hard bits. Of life. Particularly, my life. My past.
Because the hard and difficult bits require a whole lot of slack — lest I get too wound up, too tense, and then break the line and lose the way, the truth, and the life. My way. My truth. My life.
Barbara Kingsolver once stated that “memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.” And I totally get it — especially when the memory itself is incredibly complicated, when the truth you are recording — the twisted religion of your formative years — was itself a relative to truth, but not its twin. Maybe not even the same family… or neighborhood. But definitely the same region. My truth fits within the region — the southern region, that is.
The South — where truths become memories, loosely maintained, that become yarns, wildly spun, that become tales, twisty and gnarled. Where truths become monstrosities.
Here in the land of Faulkner and Flannery, we drill holes in mama’s coffin (and right on through to her face) so she can breathe in the hereafter. We have kinky morticians and corrupt bible salesmen and Presbyterian ax vigilantes. We have deaf mutes and hunchbacks and dwarves – oh my! All so we can safely unearth the darkened roots of our deep-seated insecurities.
Here in the South, we love a little batter on our vegetables and a little gothic on our histories. Sure, maybe raw is better for you – but they taste so much better in a solid bath of debauchery and a heavy dusting of sin. (Minimalist, we are not!)
It’s as much about embellishment as it is about fact here. We hide our tender bits inside hyperbole and the grotesque. The crazier the tale, the deeper the truth.
For me, swimming serendipity’s stream may begin with the exquisite chill of a spoon hitting stainless, but it never fails to dump me where stainless will always fall victim to stain: childhood and the fears and tears that form its fecund swamplands.
The water there is brackish and foul with trash and monsters. Monsters ready to be raised from the near-dead. Demons with watermelon rinds for smiles. Disciples with oily words and cardboard hearts.
I land there each and every time. And after I catch my breath and adjust to the temperature change, I dredge the swamp.
And as the silt and sludge swirls, I bring in my haul — words writhing and thick with hard muscle, slippery sinew, scaly gill. They emerge slowly, but in netfuls, tangled and twisted. Words glinting with a thousand splendid refractions, bending and contorting in the light. Piercing.
I capture them all by capturing my past. Finding the way and the truth from my life.
My biggest and most-tangled of truths thus far — a Pentecostal pastor’s circumcised daughter — flesh faulted and excised amid great ceremony and pain. She emerges from the darkness demanding her reckoning. She flips silver on my screen.
She is forged from the cold steel of serendipity’s stream, humming with the frequency of the tuning fork. The chill of wintergreen hangs in the air… along with the sweetness and rot of the swamp.
I gut her and clean her. I batter-dip her in admonition and intuition and the blood of the Lamb. I sear her on tongues of flame. I lay her on a slaw of shredded scripture. And I serve her up to the world.
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In the beginning was the word.
And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us — howling to be heard. To be seen. To be known.
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