Friday, February 29, 2008

Dipped In God

We used to have a magnet of a fat, purple monster on our fridge when I was growing up. It said, “You are what you eat.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

During a workshop in class a few weeks ago, we were discussing a piece that one woman had submitted. It had all these moments and elements of pure beauty sparkling throughout, and then, unblended chunks of straight academia. This woman, this writer, is one smart cookie. She’s doing her PhD in English and she knows her shit, but when I asked her about why she was tossing in all this extraneous academic stuff when I was already picking up on the theory she was throwing down in the beautiful narrative, she said that it was because she was scared to let it go - that she’s spent so many years on her education and the justification of it, that it’s hard to just trust it and let it live itself out in her story.

India loves words. She has come up to me occasion and said things like, “Momma, listen to this word, ‘Stupendous!’” And I’ll say, “That’s great. Do you know what it means?” and she’ll say, “No, but just listen to it. Stupendous!” We read a lot of poetry together. Next to her Bible, which she loves to read more than anything (and which I do NOT push on her), she loves poetry. There’s a poem by Ted Hughes that we’ve probably read twenty times in the last two weeks. She loves words, the sound of words, the feel of words, the drama of words, but she is not interested in learning to write words. She’s four and a half and still not terribly solid on the sound and shape of some letters. She’s been able to write an “I” for her name for a year, but that’s it. But I don’t want to be one of those moms. I want her to love learning, to go at her own speed, to discover what she wants to discover when she’s ready, so I don’t push it. Sometimes, she’ll ask to practice her letters, so we do. Sometimes, I offer to teach her and she doesn’t want me to, so we don’t.

Last night, we were sitting at the table discussing writing, and she said she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, and I said that she’ll have to go to school for a long time for that. We started talking about learning to write, specifically, how to print her name and she told me that she could do it. And she did. She spelled her name with her tiny index finger on the wooden table.

“Holy smokes, India,” I said, “You can write your name!”

We got a purple marker and some paper and sure enough, that kid of mine could write her name. She was as surprised as I was. She had never done it before and had no idea it was sitting in her brain, growing while she slept.

What I am thinking about and what I love realizing is that we are what we eat, and that that is a trustworthy truth. My life, at the moment, is overflowing with goodness. I’ve got goodness pouring out of my ears and eyes and mouth so much some days that that I feel like that kid in American Beauty, stunned by the glory of a floating plastic bag. But all of this comes at the end of four years of holding on by my toenails, of seeing little hope and the most terrifying of futures, and of grasping on to God for dear life, not because I am good, but because there was only nothing else to hold on to. I ate God up. And ate and ate and ate. I was afraid and doubted and cried and swore, but I ate and ate. And like India and her writing, and my classmate and her theory, God took hold and grew in the cracks. And eventually, and after some heartache, God made her way through and coloured me a grace shaded hue while I slept. And no one is more surprised than me.


And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.

D.H. Lawrence



Before Sleeping

17 comments:

Aaron Stewart said...

Lately he's been teaching me the beauty of what you wrapped up your post with. We usually try to plan and worry about the future and the price we pay is missing the present. I know it's cliche but cliches are true for a reason.

You and I can never know what tomorrow holds but what I do have is this sixty seconds, 60 minutes and maybe 24 hours more. With that in mind life becomes beautiful and I don't have to worry as much about the future because I realize it's not within my control to change it. :)

Mike S said...

Amazing how having faith in something beyond ourselves usually leads us to a better destination than that which we ourselves could have imagined:)

Cherie said...

Precious India. Precious God. Precious life...

Cherie said...

P.S. I'm not a writer, but a reader, yes, and I read your essay awhile ago. It's by my side of the bed where I've picked it up several times to reread. It takes me away to a different place than I've been. The writing doesn't get in the way of the story but gives it wings and daggers, mystery and tears. I love it, Angela. You have a gift.

But you know that...

Thanks for sharing.

Cecily said...

Angela, God is incredible hey... I love that she has brought you to a good place. I love that we all might come to that good place if we eat enough. And live in God enough. Beautiful.

(I'm not really a brat, I just don't remember downloading the CD to my computer. I suppose I must have. Also I have speed read your essay, which does not do it justice at all. I will read it in depth shortly!)

Sandy's Notes said...

I think I'll keep coming back to this post. Perhaps it will remind me how to eat.

This was a great post!

the hamster said...

india,

as a word lover, you really lucked out. your mama is brimming over with good words. she's a literary volcano. a one woman flock of truth and life. she's chock plum full of words, like a coffee shop book store combo on legs. so you two are real dang good for each other.

and while we're on the topic of words, here's a few i really like:
- parenthetically
- schweet cake
- onomatopoeia
- beautimous
- rodentially hamsterian
- turtle

so here's to you, india, and your fine writin' skills. and here's to the goodness of God in the land of the living.

Myles said...

to tag onto hamster's list:

voracious
vociferous
mneumonic

and to be sure:

gratitude.

the hamster said...

after all this chatting about india's love of words, myles addition to the list, and with deeply considered post-commenting thought to the entirely whole matter, i seriously think i may totally have a ridiculously unhealthy attraction to adverbs. as a matter of unavoidably unfortunate fact, i tirelessly spend exponentially more time than absolutely necessary firmly and finally eliminating a multitudinous plethora of gratuitously redundant modifiers from verbosely written rough drafts. i need to work on that.

Angela said...

hamster and myles,
india's been sick with a high fever for two days now, and she's a very sad little lady. i read her your lists of words and she giggled. she especially liked schweet cake and gratitude, "like attitude" she said. my little poet.

Cherie said...

Precious little India's gone and caught that nasty bug. So sorry.

Please tell her we hope she recuperates rapidly.

"Get well ya little sweetie!!"

Myles said...

dear india, in america, we sometimes eat chicken noodle soup when we're sick. it's magic.

India said...

hamster, mamster, berries, hairries, fairies, airies, drairies, india sophia stewart, stupendous, olivia, friends, snowflakes falling on my nose, fruit in a bowl, stupendous: these are my favourite words.

myles,
chick, pick, ick, lick, tick, trick, flower, power, tower, hour, power, nower.

chicken noodle soup isn't magic. magicians are.

Angela said...

cherie,
i passed on your sweet wishes!
thanks.

Mike S said...

Hope She's better now.

the hamster said...

india:

-periwinkle
-sodie pop
-illuminating
-doh!
-dude
-beverage
-happiness abounds
-snackable food items
-what's the kosher dill here?
-back the truck up

keep 'em coming, little lady the hamster likes the list.

Deanna said...

So the PhD woman isn't finished digesting her education, I guess. Absorbing, osmosizing. I hope she gets there.

India and you. Words and God. I like these.