Life has been a whirlwind. Like a big gust of autumn leaves dancing through the air and blocking your field of vision. I am learning afresh how to teach. Learning how to handle bigger classes, to answer questions about homework in emails. Learning how to turn over a class in five minutes for the next one (sometimes I fail.)
But when a friend messaged on Wednesday and said a get-together would work out, I jumped at it. We were several months starved for a soul-chat. So, after classes, I left the pile of homework, turned on the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack, and started along what is one of my favorite drives through city and country to a piece of land that holds a piece of my heart along with it.
Beauty and the Beast hits the spot lately. "Evermore" is a wonderful kind of thing, and "Something There" is positively the sweetest song to sing along with at the end of a work week when an evening of pleasure lies before you.
We sat at the dining room table, fluffy gray kitty purring on my lap, cups of water resting on the tiled surface, and a stack of beautiful magazines before us. There was much to catch up on--deep conversations interspersed with hugs. The kind of frequent hugs that are like little recharges of friendship. The longer it's been, the more you need.
We drank tea out of Star Wars mugs. Talked about church and how a friend brought us together. Ate mozzarella sticks and laughed. She handed me The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, and I tucked it into my laptop bag. We both feasted on the beauty that is the photography and writing of Bella Grace--a magazine full of soul-nourishing beauty, inspiring words, and places to journal in. I debated between saving for a Minky blanket and saving for a Bella Grace subscription. I think it will have to be both.
At the end of the night, she handed me her phone, and I tucked earbuds in to listen to the Piano Guys' newest song. And then we cuddled up in the corners of the sofa, and I held an armful of cat, and we talked about Doctor Who in the dim light of late evening.
I left at half-past eleven. The corn stalks in the field were tall and brown, but I didn't run over them, nor did I end up in a ditch and have to wake her parents. The van and I found our way home in the dark, Beauty and the Beast still playing. Parking lots were empty, and the stores were closed. After midnight is one of the best times to return when you've had a lovely evening. Everything is quiet, and in your heart there lies a contented warmth that lingers as you walk up the home driveway. The contentedness lingered as I pulled out The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in the final moments before bed. While sometimes DiCamillo's strange old ladies creep me out, I loved Edward and teared up by the end. This is a beautiful story of a hard-hearted rabbit learning to love through painful partings from a wide variety of precious characters.
Kate DiCamillo turned into a weekend theme when her latest book came in at the library. I started Louisiana's Way Home on Sunday. I read ahead (throw tomatoes if you wish) and cried at what I read. Because the terrible sadness and trueness and wonderfulness of what she wrote captures life in its full-blooded essence. The beautiful, wonderful variety of people in the world. The questions. The little things that matter--candy bars out of a vending machine and someone giving up their chocolate sundae so you can have another one. Louisiana is a book that can help a child (or perhaps an adult) process the pain of "sundering" and remind them that there are people still to love you.
Monday evening I saw another friend who had walked through a hard day with me. We recharged with more hugs. We looked at pictures and talked about weddings and laughed in the darkness of the van as the parking lot emptied. When I came home, I broke out the pair of winter pajama pants with foxes on it and read more Louisiana. I finished it today under the fluffy gray comforter that graced my bed after my birthday. And while I was almost too tired to feel, I had read and I had cried already, and that was good.
These are the moments that last forever. When you have a grainy picture of fox socks and remember the feel of a precious cat face tucked into your chest. When your friend at Bible study adds a little note in a future dream folder on your phone. When you are hugged and loved. These are the little moments of beauty you taste and see and write about. In an article about writing, Kate DiCamillo says, "That's what writing is all about. Seeing. It is the sacred duty of the writer to pay attention, to see the world."
I am better for each friend who has given me a piece of the world to see. Thank you, friends all, for these beautiful moments, words, books, you give me. Thank you for being patient and kind as I learn to balance new things. Thank you for loving me--and for making my world a rich and wonderful place. For introducing me to so many new and beautiful things with your presence. You are a blessing.
Perhaps the best way to end a post like this, from a full heart, is with the grace of amen.