St. Peter’s District

There’s a story behind all of this.

When they dig you up out of a closed coffin behind the garden, and they open it and you breathe air, you realize with them that you are alive, and it surprises you much more than it seems to surprise them. Down by the lake, the fish are jumping in rainfall, and so you are covered with mud that slipped through the slatted cracks of the coffin roof, and your chopped off hair is matted with dead leaves.

They look at you guardedly, as though remembering stories about creatures that come from coffins. But somehow they don’t look scared. You’re as confused as they are. The gaudy peonies are blossoming on either side of your head, and when their heads are turned you walk away, down the muddy unpaved road. Your feet leave sucking bare footprints, but they still seem to think you’ve just disappeared when they turn and find you gone. You find yourself signing the cross with them and wonder where you are.

There’s a story behind all of this.

The church is easy to find, from the tall, sky-brushing steeple, and the frequently ringing bells. You aren’t dressed for church, but you still go inside, damp feet leaving traces of your going on hard thick marble. The Father is in the confessional, the candle burning outside to show he is there, and the tabernacle illuminated by a soft red glow. The rain sounds on the tin roof with music reminiscent of chant, tap, tap, tap. You look up at the impersonal, virginal face of a saint, probably the saint of this church, unrecognizable.

The candles flicker around you. You realize that if the priest came out just now, you’d look like you were going to steal the holy relics or the hosts or something, and while you have more confidence in the kindliness of priests than other strangers, there is something strange about the church that makes you hasten away. You look back over your shoulder, and realize it is this: the church is facing the wrong direction.

There’s a story behind all of this.

You walk down the lane, trying to get your bearings, find understanding of this strange, untiring body, and dangling, endless legs. You realize now, more and more, that all of this is off. The wood of the trees is silver, and the leaves are blue. The flowers are vibrant green.

You wonder, vaguely, if you are dreaming. A cottage door swings open, and a bright, warm, motherly face smiles at you. “Why, you’ve hatched! I hadn’t thought it would happen this soon, or I’d’ve come for you, lassie!”

You’ve no idea if this strange, round face resembles your own. You just know that this sentence is strange. There’s something wrong about this.

You don’t even really argue when you are hastened inside. There are books inside, and chairs, and several people, all grownups, sitting round the fire reading. You realize that the wrong thing is this: there are no children in this town.

There’s a story behind all of this.

They wash you and give you clothes and you can’t stop noticing that something is so wrong about all of this. One of the ladies, pale and thin, whispers in your ear, “we’re all rotting, you know,” and you can’t help shuddering at the picture.

The priest stops by to baptize you, as though it’s never been done before, and then there’s some sort of ceremony where they raise their hands to the dark sky and say, “we thank you for your dead,” and there is something wrong.

It is morning when you realize that the light never changes down here. There is no sun.

You aren’t even surprised when, alone in front of the bathroom mirror, you find the bullet hole under your shirt, veined round in green and purple blotches and red marking, and find the ripped skin of your neck that you cannot really feel.

You look in the mirror and wonder if there is a way out of here.

There’s a story behind all of this.

A very bad picture: I apologize. However, my first blockout poem, written over one of my other poems. I hope everyone is staying safe and happy and well. I’m praying for you!

the road

sing me awake

they sing me to sleep at night

and i dream the dreams they tell me

and i wonder if i’d dream them if you did

i listen to your voice when i wake up

and when i’m still asleep

and i wonder what you’re really telling me

sing me awake when there’s a sea in my eyes

when i’m crying the sky with rain

sing me awake when the starlight dies

when night sky fades to dawn

i wonder who i’d be, if you were gone

sing me awake i’ve forgotten to dream

i didn’t listen to the voices around me

and now my dreams are water filled with dust

oh goodnight oh goodnight

sing to me at twilight

and i’ll hear your voice as though you were right here

oh sing to me

stellar dreamless mystery

tell me who i’m supposed to be

and maybe it will even sound true

coming from you

sing me awake

there’s a storm in my mind

and i want to leave this continent behind and fly

until the sea is below me

in me

drifting currents

whirlpool soundless, lightning and no thunder

no thunder at all

sing me awake

one more time and we’ll dance the night away

sing me awake, a dream we can share

and i’ll say goodbye to you

sing me me awake

I remember myself then

Is it I who spoke emotion

Of sincerity and death

As though angels, watchful, waitful, waited for

Mortal hearts to love too fondly

Or was it that misunderstanding

I waited for myself to damage

What I loved?

The injury we do our loves

Needs no chronicling of heaven

Needs no vengeance, for it hurts us most of all

When we love, a shade too dearly

Heaven does not forbidding look

For heaven is too fond a parent

To ignore

How deeply we can damage

Our own hearts by our own love

But perhaps, if I am right

This value more.

For it is not in human love that we seek starlight

It is not in mortal wishes we desire space

We are God’s most truly when we love the moonlight

For in it we feel his cold embrace.

We cannot look at space as it were loving

We cannot look at stars as they were gods

Instead, we dream of something else completely

When we love the stars too fondly in our hearts.

So curse not the love that makes you feel compassion

Worry not that love is love that brings you pain

For the stars that return no love of ours

Explode with light, as they are stars

And grow back into human hearts again.


So I was reading through something I must have written four years ago (ish) and posted here. It’s a poem I called I have loved too deeply, and I would not write it today. It doesn’t seem to consider some of the things I consider fundamental in writing today (like having a cohesive feeling or thesis, honestly) and something about it doesn’t ring true to me anymore. SO this is what I wrote in response to myself then.

The Philosopher Spoke

They asked me, once, to tell them my philosophy:

To tell them all my long short life had learned

But written out my words had lost their wisdom

And I knew of their delinquency and burned.

And I thought, perhaps, of using words of sages

And revising them, to tell the tale they ought

But revision is not teaching but is learning

Or is speaking of the things you have been taught.

They wished to know my wisdom, not my brother’s;

But my brother seems far wiser now than me.

I can tell you only what I have learned from others

For it was others who made what I could be.

It was others whose affection shaped my body,

It was others, whose attention shaped my mind;

Perhaps I did something with my thought and my reflection

But was others who me to that inclined.

There were many who no evidence of teaching

Showed their handprint pressed upon my soul

But whose patience and correction are still reaching

Keep alight Prometheus’ fire which I stole.

Still others scarce know ought of all my learning

Their lessons were not pleasant nor were kind

From them I learned the value of gentility

Of a deep, unfailing love and peace of mind.

And more I learned from because for them I failed

I learned my anger, my futility, how cruel

Could be my self, when self was let be selfish

I learned what wisdom had I, the fool.

So my philosophy might be briefly summarized

But the learning of it takes all time and space

You, as you are, are not sufficient

You require others and require grace.

Therefore realize your weakness and your brothers

And watch for him as you would your own

Be as good as you can be, but not alone.

Take the others that are beside you and walk with them

And show them all you know and all you learned

And perhaps, by the end of the time that you have with them

Their help and their friendship repaid and earned.

A Fairy Tale Ending

I do not think they will take me now.

The doors are closing, and the gates are shut.

They peer out the windows, their black eyes glittering with confusion

And jealousy

And loss

And mourning

And there is no forgiveness in them.

I do not remember the grass having felt like this on my feet.

I do not remember water tasting this clean.

And I do not think I will taste or feel much longer.

You are exactly the same size you were then

And you look at me

And look

And look

And you do not see me in my eyes

You shrug, and turn and run back into the garden

Calling over your shoulder offers of a cup of tea if I would like it

That your mother will give me food if I am hungry

And for a second, it burns so deeply

That I feel betrayed

But you have not betrayed me.

You do not even know I am gone

Yet.

That will come tomorrow

And all the tomorrows afterwards, because I am not

Anymore.

I lean down and kiss you, once, on the forehead

Thank you (because that one habit, I never broke)

And then I walk again

Because this time, this quest

I actually know where I am going.

There is a magician at the top

Of a great blue tower

Which is only entered

By the great eyed oak tree

That my father—who once was my father—

Will chop down tomorrow.

I could never have climbed this tree before.

The branches are too high, the trunk too wide.

I drop my bag, for I won’t need it any longer.

I climb, climb, climb,

The prince to Rapunzel’s tower

The knight to free the maiden

The child to escape the dark through the lighted windows

He’s just a child:

This does not surprise me.

I set his message before him, cut my hand,

And bleed in a cup.

He stops me before I climb out again.

“Did you ever find what you were looking for?”

I look out the window

This young, young body so weary

So overwrought with age

That sometimes I feel as if, if I close my eyes

I will just dissolve like mist in the air

Less than dust, less than floating sand

Just like water disappearing in hot sunlight.

“No,” I say, “I didn’t.”

He looks up at me, and I know somehow he is even older than I am.

“Are you Merlin?” I ask him, for this feels fairy tale enough.

“Go and find what you sought,” he says,“then sleep.”

And suddenly, like a door in my heart has been opened,

I hear the burst of music I waited for all days

Every day

And I’m running, somehow, on even grass

Not in a tower at all

And they’re calling to me—to me!

On the shore they are singing, the fallen star girls

And they fling themselves around me dancing

And the mermaids crying out at sea

Sing

One last symphony

And my eyes close

And I am finally gone.

So then

This is Peace.

Centenial Celebration

Oh Jubilate and Celebrate and Animate and Laud!

We’ve reached 100 subscribers! (103 but that’s odd).

Oh thanks, appreciation, and excitement be your own!

It’s all your fault that I’m still working myself to the bone!

Oh for three years so well wasted that I haven’t written one

Single post that I originally intended to have done!

Oh for such immense weirdness that I think I might delete

Some posts of mine before I face-reveal my city or my street!

Oh for such dramatic lines as ‘feel free

to sob your eyes out’ openly with complements from me!

Oh for such frequent leaving-takings and delays and hiatus

It seems that anyone who subscribes to me must constantly awaitus!

Oh let us pass the drinks around, with the author’s complements;

And since they’re metaphorical they cost me no two cents.

So if you still are reading what I’m writing three years long:

My complements and thanks to you conveyed by way of song!


If you’re wondering what I mean by that throw-away line about deleting some posts, I don’t think I’ve put anything indecent or bad on the internet, but sixteen year old me put some weirdness out there that is not entirely fit for public consumption if that weirdness could be linked to me as a staid, sensible teacher that totally has not ranted about books (and occasionally Catholicism but I’m not embarrassed about that) to the exclusion of all else on the internet. So.

Also if this poem sounds like I resent the lot of you, I do not. I was being sarcastic. Y’all are lovely, and I’m so, so grateful to every one of you for all your support and readership. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

January/February Stuff

Since I neglected to do a summary of January for all of you, I thought I’d mash it in with February. New section this time: School stuff, since that’s most of what I’ve been doing and what has utterly consumed my life (sorry that I haven’t posted! I’ve been creatively blocked because of school constraints!) along with the regular stuff: books, music, movies, life etc.

So. On to the good stuff:

Books:

I’ve had a couple super sporadic reading streaks. So bear with me:

Are you listening? by Tillie Walden.

I liked this one, although it was really dark in some parts. Some parts I was just like, oh boy this is way more than pg-13, why is this being labeled young adult? It was still really impactful and thought provoking, the artstyle (it’s a graphic novel, sorry I didn’t mention that before) was messy and lovely, and the magical aspects were incredible. I’m not surprised that this book has high praise. However, some warnings: lots of swearing. Description of assault (neither graphic nor gratuitous, but not for kids, guys). Some moral stuff I don’t agree with. Other than that, a nice book. The theme of needing to reach out towards others was especially important to me.

Giant Days by John Allison

Another graphic novel, or graphic novel series, rather. Crazy English College student room mate girls, their various misadventures with classes, love lives, and successfully adulting, and lots and lots of sleep deprivation and sarcasm. Again, with the morality theme, don’t always agree with the stuff in here. Definitely another that I’d rate at or a little above pg-13. However, Esther, Susan and Daisy are hilarious and it’s so relaxing to just sit down with a slightly mindless comic book and just laugh at insane college students doing worse at surviving college than I am.

The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

A hilarious middle grade about two kids, Max-Ernest and Cass, who stumble upon a magician’s diary and have to hide it from the forces of evil. You could get killed in nasty ways if you read this book, apparently. Is it worth it? You decide. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. The kids are realistic and cute, and I enjoyed their friendship and the sort of sheer innocence of the book. As I get older, I appreciate stories for younger children more simply because they’re so idealistic that they’re very refreshing. I don’t have to worry about them being dark or morally gray all the time. Sometimes that element is brought into it, but it’s still usually treated with a much sweeter and gentler perspective, along with a much purer hearted one.

Cast in Wisdom by Michelle Sagara

Part of her endless Chronicles of Elantra series. All jokes aside, this series is one of my favorites. Just the world, the characters, the banter, are so relaxing. An enormous cast of characters, a vibrant fantasy world, actual character development (!) (!) (!), strong moral compasses that are fairly accurate (*gasp* a legend in our time), a surprisingly clear sighted but still very young heroine, and a battle against the forces of pigheadedness. Or evil. Depends upon the day. Some swearing in some books. Usually the author just writes ‘character’s name swore in Leontine/Aerian/Barrani/Dragon’. Books involving one specific character that actually swears in Elantran (our country’s native tongue, everyone!) actually write out the swear words. And boy is that character filthy-mouthed. But the others are devoid of swear words, really interesting, great characters, fascinating writing and world building, and good, good relationships.

Wildfire by Carrie Mac

meh.

I mean you could read it, but why would you.

meh.

(Not a very nice review but I honestly didn’t care for the book much. I’m looking for happy-making stuff since I’m stressed cause of classes, not meh stuff).

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.

Like a bleh book but not a terribly bleh book? Like I would refuse to recommend this to anyone as excellent literature but it was fun to read and clean and the characters weren’t actually unwithstandably terrible and the plot wasn’t horribly sickening. Kind of juvenile. I feel like I’m being super mean with these reviews but I’m also trying to be honest? And it’s late and I’m tired? So just basically, read it if you want, if you don’t want to, also cool.

Movies:

Avengers Infinity War and Endgame

Not really spoilers but kind of maybe so if you’re worried skip it.

Uh excuse me Thanos your plan just doesn’t work because population grows

so cutting it in half doesn’t actually fix anything cause it goes back to normal in like 100 years

so….

how often do you plan on doing this?

(That’s it, that’s my review.)

Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist

TV show I started watching with Dad. At this point I’ve only seen the pilot, but it was both hilarious and surprisingly deep in parts. Really enjoyable and pretty neat on the whole! Can’t go in depth just yet because I’ve only seen the barest amount, but that’s just how things are.

and uh… not much else

Music:

LOTS OF AUDIOMACHINE. Just listen to this. It’s magic.

Good for doing homework or writing to!

Some 50s and 60s rock. Some Raign because that woman’s voice is to die for. Some Birdie.

That’s about it. I’ve been mostly listening while doing school so don’t sue me.

School:

Spring Semester started in January. This semester I’m taking Econ, Lesson Planning, and Adolescent Development (basically child psychology).

My professor for Lesson Planning is an amazing, formidable woman, and I want to be her when I grow up. I do sincerely mean that.

Some interesting assignments from that class have included a group project in which we talked about Deaf Education and accommodating for deaf students in the classroom. For another, I went to an exhibit on Native American’s perception of health and wrote a paper about it, as a cultural exploration. I’ve written one lesson plan and have another due this week. Also for this one I’m in schools interacting with child humans. (Yeah that word order doesn’t make sense. Fight me.)

Econ my group teaching project is due this week, so wish me luck. I got an 88 on my first test (might actually be the highest grade in the class).

Adolescent Development we’re still working on theories, but we’re getting into case studies (where we talk about how these theories relate to actual human beings).

I had my advising appointment earlier this month, so that’s out of the way. Still emailing my adviser over different questions that I thought of subsequently, but still. All’s going pretty well.

Life:

As mentioned, school. I’ve made a couple new college friends through my classes, and gotten to do fun stuff with them. I went to a play called Blood at the Root which is a really interesting discussion of racism but lots of swearing. Sometimes I want to ask my fellow college students if they have vocabulary beyond swearwords for expressing their emotions. Not that I’m criticizing swearing, but it’s usually unnecessary. And we’re going to be teachers. We’re not supposed to swear.

I’ve been swimming at the gym at college on class days and running or walking on other days. For work right now, I’m babysitting, but I’ll be applying for a variety of summer jobs, so pray for me!

Also I’ve not had a lot of quality writing apart from notes and papers that I’ve produced, so unless you want to read my homework, I’m afraid I’ll still require patience for future blogging.

Oh, and my car got totaled in January. A rear-ending Jeep crunched it while it was parked. The Jeep drove away. I was babysitting at the time. Your girl had to make 7 different phone calls while taking care of small children. It was probably the worst babysitting experience I’ve ever had. But I got a new car that our insurance paid for without bumping up our rates, so that was amazing.

Lent started, so cheers to everyone who’s working on themselves this Lent.

Also I want to write about being a tree again.

Red Knight

hi i’d like to formally apologize for writing 10 million different story beginnings that may never have an ending or middle and there’s the tea but also there’s this


I’m terrified, and they all know I am.

            That’s the worst of it. Ethira stalks forward in his stall, his dark, long, sinuous body held off the cobbles in a way that no captive dragon I’ve ever seen before walks. His eyes are bloody red, the nictitating membranes half-lidded over them pale gold. His eyes have no pupils.

            My heart is thudding against my chest, my eyes filling with tears of terror, my entire body quivering with barely contained tension, and it is the most infuriating thing I’ve ever felt. It is this, or nothing. They’ve nowhere to put me, naught to do with me, but this, this they thought I might do. And now they see me afraid, and they know I can’t.

            I would do anything for my sword, which is why I left it at the door. If I need my sword, I might as well not even be trying anyway.

            “Easy, there.” It takes a moment for me to register than the high, trembling, contained voice, is mine. “Easy.” Once I’ve started, apparently, I can’t stop. “Do you know your dam ate my father?”

            Worst beginning to a conversation ever. His body tenses, his eyes malevolent. And I realize that he’s starving.

            “She was wild, not like your sire. He caught her when he was flying freely, you know. They used to let the dragons hunt. But they never have for you, have they? You must be hungry.”

            He shows me his teeth. They’re long, and sharp. They’ve not been cleaned recently. He’s been so poorly cared for that it makes me angry, the clear, cold sort of anger that’s like water closing over your head, so far away you’ll never get to the surface before your lungs give out.

            “I think she was why they stopped letting the dragons hunt alone.”

            He’s barely four feet away. He could snap my body in pieces. The men around us have weapons and harnessing at the ready. He’s so big. He’s so big. He’s enormous. Ethira fills my whole vision.

            He reaches out sharp, cruel claws, and daintily slides one down my leg. A thin, fine cut appears on my thigh, shallow so that it stings intensely rather than hurting. He’s toying with me, cat with mouse.

            “Ethira,” I say, and his attention snaps to me, suddenly aware. His clear inner eyelids flip open. The pure red of his eyes is focused completely on me. “Ethira,” I say, more softly, moving beside his head. His attention follows me. His claw begins to lower.  I move until I am inside the reach of his claws, his mouth, outside of help. They could kill him if he attacks, but I’d be dead before they had one drop of blood from him. “Ethira.” My voice is breath. He still hears me. “You’re mine.”

            He grabs me. His claws wrap around me, sickeningly tight, and he’s trying to take off. “DON’T HURT HIM!” I yell.

            Ethira lets out an animal cry as a blade slices into him. My dagger is flying through the air, thunking beside the boot of the man who cut him. “Don’t touch him,” I say, and the men move back.

            “Ethira,” I keen, my voice low, soft. He’s screaming still, but I reach out to his neck and touch it. He trembles beneath my touch. “Ethira, Ethira, Ethira. Sh.” He stills, still almost rattling with tension. “Look.” I lean down and touch my thigh, bring up my hand, slightly sticky with my blood. “You cut me, too.” His eyes are on me again. He’s so hungry, and he can smell my blood and his. “You can have my blood if you like. You must be so hungry. But I could give you something better. I could give you a hunt.” His body begins to release tension. “Ethira,” I say, my voice again just barely there, “You’re mine.” I say it like a magician says an incantation. He relaxes, and settles again. I wash his wound, and stuff it with herbs while he grouches. Before I go, I put my hand above his nostril, and he breathes me in, and that is the first time I hear his voice inside my head.

            -On the contrary, little human: you are mine.

            A shudder passes through my whole body, and I feel queasy and sick and like I’m dreaming. But I straighten my spine, look into his eyes, and say, “Ethira,” just aloud, a slight rebuke. He bares his neck a little, a tiny submission.

            Just like that, I know that this is going to be how it is.

            The men around must’ve known it too, only earlier, because nearly all are gone, their worry for my life apparently evaporated. The Captain of the Guard is staring at me as I walk from the stable. “Don’t give him anything but water tonight. Tomorrow, he’ll hunt.”

            “He can’t hunt.”

            “He can’t hunt alone.” The tremor in my voice from earlier is gone. “But he’ll hunt with me tomorrow. Ask the Duke, if it’s a problem.”

            The Captain looks me over. “Red, he’s going to eat you in a month.”

            I turn and smile at him, humorlessly. “Then be assured he’ll eat the whole castle afterwards, because by then, I’ll be what’s stopping him, not a chain.”

             The Captain shudders. “Go on home, then. Your quarters in the stable’ll be ready by morning.”

            “Thank you,” I say, and turn back on my heel and march from the castle. My legs are trembling beneath me, the left still sicky with blood. But Ethira is mine, and not even the Duke can take him from me, now.

            Mother is still gone when I am home at last, and somehow, I’m so relieved I can hardly breathe. Ash is, though, his face pale with pain as he rests on the couch, watching Emi cook supper. Emi looks at me once. “Oh, you poor child!” She grabs a rag, shoves me into a chair, and begins cleaning me up. My pants are already ruined, so I don’t protest when she cuts them off to get a better look at my thigh, even though I only have one other pair that’ll hold up to stable work. My dresses certainly won’t work.

            “Cut my hair before mother gets home,” I say.

            Ash and Emi both stare at me. “Cut it off. It’s in my way, and I’m working with Ethira now.”

            “What?” Ash stands bolt upright.

            “It’s my life, Ash. Emi, please. She isn’t going to be happy, but if it’s already done she can’t stop it.”

            “Can’t stop what?”

            When mother sees the blood on my leg, she pales. “He actually let you do it.”

            A reckless, proud grin covers my mouth for a minute, the way it did when I was a child, climbing trees too tall for safe climbing, leading strangers through the wetlands east of the village, swimming in the river when the current was strongest in summer. “I did it, too. I’m Ethira’s hand, now. And I’m cutting my hair.”

            Whatever my mother sees in my face halts her. She walks over to where Emi is scrubbing away the blood, takes the cloth from her and finishes what Emi has started. “If that’s what you think is best,” she says, in the quiet way that never actually tells me what she thinks. She reaches up, as if she read the thought in my mind, and touches my cheek without looking at me. “I’m glad you’re safe, Crow.”

            My lips pull in another smile, one that’s sadder.

            “I’ll make you some new britches.” She turns the torn fabric from the cut leg of my pants in her hand. “If you let him cut your clothes again without a good reason, I’ll strangle you both.”

A Day at the Library

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and Mom is still baking brunch.

It will have to wait, because we’re going to the library just now. Soph has been asking if it is time to go for an hour, and Rick is just getting his lunch on a plate to take with him in the car. Dad and I have doctored our coffee, and sit patiently in the Living Room, while everyone gets ready for the drive.

I bring my computer to do homework in the car. Soph brings coloring pages–My Little Pony, of course, with Rainbow Dash and Princess Celestia and I don’t know who on them–in her big pink backpack, which is rather larger than she is. The drive is longer than the drive to our usual library. The interstate spreads out like a ribbon over cloth, wandering slightly in the tapestry of the land, and the trees stand in groups to talk together, and there are no vast steep hills, but slopes of fields, bare with winter, stubbled with old plants.

The sky is pure today, and the clouds are white. The soil is softer this week, the air smelling faintly and appetizingly of spring, while the birds and squirrels are unusually chatty.

My exam study guide is almost full, and so I just look through the information again, though I already know most of it, and look for the occasional unknown answer. Then I close my computer and enjoy the drive. Dad sits in the driver’s seat, sunglasses perched over his nose.

In the city at last, I stare at familiar layouts of a downtown; concrete and glass, skyscrapers and people, the rhythmic thump of the heartbeat in this vein of the state. I am not tired.

Soph and I walk from the car, and she yells the steps as she marches them: “Left, Right, Left, Right!” She complains that it is cold. I point out to her how far behind us Rick and Dad are. We keep going. The back door of the library is locked, so we go around the outside, at Dad’s direction. He is the only one whose been here before.

We go up the stairs, and I shed my backpack and step up to the exhibit. It’s smaller than I thought it would be: a few tablets sparsely arranged on low pillars beside the wall, a pair of headphones dangling forlornly from each. The thick sails of paper that make up the readable bits of the exhibit are equally sparse: only five contain information that’s really relevant to the assignment I’ve come to do. I sip my coffee, and start reading.

Native American Indians view health and healing as a community process, healers as instruments of the creator, personal health as one’s own responsibility, health as holistic, requiring well-being of one’s soul as well as one’s body.

The information on the sails is soon exhausted, and I turn to the tablet, watching movies and interviews. Behind me, Soph gets bored and begins laps up and down the staircase, and Rick wanders off to read. I start Soph a movie on another tablet, drink more coffee, and think.

There are so many thoughts in my head, and I isolate them carefully and write them down as I am watching.

This is the point of the exercise, to examine my thinking, to be pushed into a better understanding of culture. I have never been so aware of myself and my own voice before. It is startling, and not entirely comfortable, but hardly bad.

This version of my voice, focused within on understanding others better, is a kinder version than the one I usually hear inside. It is more generous towards myself. I am aware of the flaws in my own thinking, as I think, “is this scientifically verifiable?” because that is not a criterion for all of my own beliefs, but by acknowledging that makes it somehow a less damaging power. The other parts of my head are fairly quiet, too. I worry how the assignment will turn out once or twice, but lean my hands forward and close my eyes, tuning out the thought in favor of what I can change at the moment.

All too soon, I have seen enough.

All too soon, I am aware again of Soph’s impatience, and I turn to Dad and tell him I’m ready. A thousand and one restroom breaks and gathering of other people and checking my assignment so I can begin writing it on the car ride home later, we are wandering out again into the sharp chill wind, the winter sunlight.

A ride home again, this time the words spilling from my fingers like breath from my lungs, an exhalation of the inhalation this experience has been. My eyes are tired with thought. The land passes by, as though I am still and it is moving, and we thread back into one of the arteries of my world, if home is the heart. The interstate takes us home. I love riding in a car. It is almost a religious experience, sometimes, if I am honest. There is something spiritual about the detachment from the outside world that occurs, the space between starting and arriving that is the journey, the quiet that my head becomes when there is peace.

And when I am home, there are more assignments, more appointments to worry about, a thousand things to do this week, and only time for five hundred.

But yet I’m better for this Sunday afternoon, this library visit, the ubiquitous family, the road sliding away beneath my feet.

Perhaps you ought to know it, too, what I am learning:

Where I am going requires me to be where I am, because otherwise there would be no journey.