Tuesday, August 29, 2006
How Long Things Last
I once helped on a Humanity for Habitat build. If you read that sentence, you might imagine that I'm a charitable type person who spends a lot of time and energy helping those less fortunate. Wrong, bat breath, as my father used to say. The reason I was there on that fateful Saturday morning was that my friend Angela (a chapter director for said organization) rousted my comfortably sleeping self from her guest bedroom one Saturday morning when I was visiting. As I saw my time in the guest bedroom rapidly coming to a sad end, I dressed and got ready to go. Since I don't have any practical skills and couldn't so much as build a nest for Snoopy's little friend Woodstock, I would move rocks to help get the foundation clear. Mindless tedious work has never bothered me; in fact, I thrive on it which helps me a great deal as a writer. What did worry me was that the building site had dislodged a nest of rattlesnakes. I kept a wary eye peeled for those bad boys. Even though I was introduced as Angela's "best friend from Detroit" (a place Texans associate with crime and biting cold), I didn't fall into the Christian volunteer group. I spent my time with the community service volunteers (after all, I was in the same boat -- it wasn't as if I was there of my own free will).
As much as I had resisted the morning's work, I found I enjoyed it. I learned how to use a power saw (a very kind man taught me) and found a love for power tools, depsite the looks of fear in everyone's eyes. I heard stories that could have come out of those wretched Chicken Soup for the Soul books -- the worst was one about a suicidal nitwit who shot himself in the head, blinded himself and now went around telling people how he could see more blind with his heart than the ever did with his eyes. Yikes! But we left around lunch time, and I was thrilled to see part of the house built -- my work seldom gives me any kind of instant gratification. After all, I had worked with my hands, avoided snakes, and made some new friends who had just narrowly avoided prison (now there was a story of faith I could get behind!). I looked at the booklet for the maintenance of the new place -- How Long Things Last and wondered if I would ever need such information. Ang and I went to lunch and had beautiful jewel-like margaritas, and I felt like Jimmy Carter, Habitat's most famous volunteer. When I was a child, I'd watch Jimmy on our old television. The tint of the screen was green and Jimmy never appeared much more than a shadow, but I loved his comforting voice. He was a man who tried to do good, and he didn't have to shoot himself in the head to get to that point. There might be hope for me yet.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind." Andrea Dworkin
Drinking Movie Suggestion: The Deer Hunter
Benedictions and Maledictions
First published in Poetrylist:
Not knowing I was pregnant, I took
a drink before my friend’s funeral,
two in fact, without food, a medicine
for the soul. Sometimes I wish
I were drunk all the time, truth bubbling
to the surface and evaporating before you
can feel it, like the type of love that leaves
you giddy while it last. The church bled
flowers, and I didn’t bleed anything. I
can tell you this -- I have taken in too
many things that I shouldn’t and nothing
lasts long enough except the wounds
that keep reopening no matter how
careful I am which is not very ever.