Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Moveable Feast & Eating Europe

The sangria in Spain is slightly sweet and almost fizzy. The night air in Tarragona is warm and stale without being humid and pink clouds streak the sky long into the evening. Narrow cobblestone streets  weave throughout the open plazas, outdoor cafes, and down to the ocean. Everything is relaxed. Ebbing and flowing with happy chatter and clanking glasses and children playing tag. Nighttime in Spain is a dinner party run late. Wine-warmed cheeks and cigars and laughter without echoes.

The terra cotta roofs in Florence stretch the skyline, interrupted only by church spires and bulbing domes. Hanging flower boxes and drying laundry on every balcony and the sweet smell of roasting garlic. Modern life written on the pages of history. Italy is a silent parade too ornate and drawn on for music. The water by the Cinque Terra is so densely sapphire, the ocean looks like a melted gem washing against the stacked pastel houses. The panfrito is pillowy and filled with melted mozzarella and I ate it knowing it would never be this good again.

Paris hums like New Year's Eve. Taxis, tourists, buses, motorcycles, boats, shuffling feet and clicking cameras. Open patio cafes on every corner. Decadent art and architecture in reckless excess. Souvenirs from the world's greatest. Here. Bubbly white wine on the balcony and "La Vie En Rose." I danced alone above the city completely and singularly in love. I understand Hemingway. It will always be Paris.

Traveling alone is terrifying and redefining and wholly necessary. I wanted this experience to say that I conquered the world and had growled in the darkness of the unknown but the reality was more like whimpering in a shadow. The truth is that I failed. Many times. I failed to plan, to communicate, to navigate, and yet somehow it all worked out. I had to rely on people and it made me more open and humble and grateful. I owe my entire trip to the Irish guy who helped me find my train, and to the Italian couple who shared their walnuts with me on the plane, and even to the little Dutch girl on the bus who played Eye Spy with me. It turns out, the darkness of the unknown is filled with other people who also sometimes need help getting home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

An Open Letter to Mitch Albom

Dear Mitch,

Book signings really are the worst place to meet your favorite author. Last night I stood in the conveyor belt line with sweaty palms, noting all of the other fidgety females re-balancing their stacks of books while trying to slide out their cell phones. The line was moving so fast.

Do I have time for a picture?
Can he sign both books?
What do I say to him?

The pressure made me lightheaded with excitement and a sense of existential crescendo.

This is it.

I walked up and said something vague and unmemorable, then scooped up my books and walked away. The problem with book signings, or any brief interaction with an artist for that matter, is that there is always so much more to say than “I love you!” or “Thanks!” Because the truth is, art deserves art in response.

If I had had more time, more confidence, more eloquence, I would have told you how much your writing has impacted my life and the way I see the world. I would have told you that the copy you were signing wasn’t even mine because I have given away countless of my own copies throughout the years. I would have told you how every time I am in a used book store, I scan for your books and set them out intentionally for the next person to find and enjoy.

I hugged my mom tighter after reading For One More Day, I volunteered at church after reading Have A Little Faith, and I will forever see the interconnectedness of life after reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Each book has left a unique imprint on my heart, slightly changing its shape and rhythm and the way it loves. That is art.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, “I love you!” and “Thanks!”

                                                                                                    -  Natalie

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Christopher Henley

Sometimes I feel like I stole you. In those moments with the windows down, laughter echoing off the sunroof, lights flash in the rear view mirror and I never want to get caught. Beyonce all the way up, bass shaking my bones. A starlit quest for midnight cupcakes and grilled cheese. It’s these moments, the between point A and point B, that made us. We talk and talk, piecing together the chaos. The world fell apart and we danced in its ashes.

I’ll miss your smile lines, tea in the kitchen, and walking in unannounced. I’ll miss the undeserved compliments, the mix CD’s, and the Friday nights that melted into Saturday mornings. I’ll keep it all in the locket around my neck. I’ll steal you forever.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Snapshots Part I


Red flannel jumper and a crisp white-collared shirt underneath that always grated the back of my neck. Headband and little shoes that skipped across the four square courts at recess. Lutherans crossed their shoulders when they prayed and I copied quick. We always had pizza on Fridays after chapel. I won the relay race and hung the shiny blue ribbon in my room. I wrote a story about “Ruby the Robot” and my teacher with the short gray hair and stout waddle said it was too long. Carl was a boy scout and whistled when I walked by. It made my cheeks hot. Lyna fell off the monkey bars and bright red covered her mouth and left a puddle in the dirt. She got to go home. I sang a solo covered in gold painted stars and my Daddy cried. The older boy on the black top called me fat during a game of volleyball. He hit someplace new. Tear-filled eyes told the lady with the whistle around her neck who patted my head and kept talking. I knew I would never forget it.

Preslie 3/7/15

Chlorine-pruned fingers intertwined
looking up counting colors in the sky
Green eyes that change with her mood
Lilac breeze
Head tilts back in laugh’s ecstasy
She loves cats and the color purple
Can’t wait to be nine
Oliver and Company makes her cry
“Who wouldn’t want a little kitten in a box?”
Denim dresses above her knees
Needed new shoes today
Stop time
Before she dries up and stops seeing cotton candy in the sky
I love watching moods change
the green in her eyes

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Melissa

Her Dad wore a red Millennium Falcon shirt and her blue jeweled lanyard around his neck. Her Mom sat across from him with hollow eyes.

“There’s too much noise in my head,” she said.

It’s hard to watch parents grieve. It’s harder when you knew their only daughter and thought that maybe someday, she’d be a part of your family.

Melissa died on Friday morning holding my brother’s hand. 

Everything happened all at once and in agonizing slow motion. An early morning phone call, a race to the hospital, a candle-light vigil, and cardboard boxes in the living room of things she bought with us. 

She spent the summer here - eating pizza, going to the beach, playing card games, and watching Star Wars. She just fit.

One evening, we ventured to the beach at sunset to take group pictures. I stopped the photoshoot to run over to her. I grabbed her cheeks and yelled, “Can we all just take a minute to look at how beautiful Melissa is right now?” She smiled shyly and I turned around as my brother gave her a quick kiss. 

I will always remember her, just standing there, glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Melissa Kennon was striking and smart, gentle and adventurous. She had curly blonde hair, a dimpled smile, and she always wore high-waisted jean shorts. She collected vinyl records and wanted to study neuropsychology. She had a dog named Oliver and she loved her sorority sisters. 

Today, we met with her parents for coffee and made plans for Thanksgiving. It’s bittersweet to gain another family without the one member who brought you together. 

My Dad hugged me in the parking and cried into my ear, “You are my Melissa.”