Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Stretch.

The sky can be sliced, can be serrated. When we fly, clouds pull apart, the first heaven reconfigures, an unblemished celestial landscape forever alters with exhaust. It has become commonplace, flying. We view it not as an enchantment, but an inconvenience. We are not awed by the height we reach nor the speed with which we may exit one icy clime and find ourselves in the warm embrace of another. We forget that this is only possible — earbuds stuffed into auricles, pillows plumped under our heads — because someone stretched.

Someone enacted an idea with a reach that exceeded his grasp. With a pounding heart and a galloping mind, he sketched, he planned, he fashioned and tested and failed. He had help. He was lifted, both by those whose ideas dovetailed with his own and those who doubted his ability to ever reach higher than they could. He s t r e t c h e d, and in so doing, built something that serrates the sky.

I have gone whole days without stretching, gone full weeks, many years, a lifetime lifting toward spots much lower than those I could reach. I’ve been meek. Once my nana accused me of shrinking: you’re too young to be losing height and too old not to stand like you know you’re tall. Stretch.

Her mother was diminutive. She lived to be 95 and in her final years, when you entered any room where she stood, it felt hallowed. After decades of curling down, she felt close to heaven. My great-grandma trained as a teacher then married a factory man-turned-preacher and raised 10 children, quietly. Old photographs show her sitting, stoic and adolescent, amid her sassier sisters who would grow up to buy land, write poems, perform monologues, ride camels in Egypt.

I like to believe she was content. Perhaps family was her reach. Perhaps her laborious, love-glazed meals were all she needed to grasp. But it was only when her husband passed and left her with a decade alone that I saw her s t r e t c h. She ventured a joke, a smile, a risque repetition, and basked in the laughter that followed. She tested opinions on her tongue, rolled advice around her molars, conjured a voice more confident than I’d ever heard her use. By then, the bones in her back had calcified; her spine, not unlike a comma, separated her new and independent will from years of dependent clauses: if the children are well, if my husband allows, if the weather lets up, if the grandbabies need me. If I can.

Stretch.

My posture is not what it should be, nor is my opinion of myself. This, like my talents, desires, and eyes, is an inheritance. But so are long arms, a galloping mind, an appreciation of aircrafts and their ability to serrate the sky.

Stretch.

This year has been one of reaching, of fingertips pushing past practical possibility. I have stretched my perceptions. Stretched the confines of an INFJ personality. Stretched my patience till it was pulled thin and pliable as taffy. Stretched writing past entertainment, past preciousness, past secrecy till I reached activism. Stretched a dollar till it hollered, forgot its diminished value, and yielded to my will. Stretched beyond my agenda to help others reach an apex. This year has felt like a rack, like I was not so much the agent of my reach than a slave to it.

Stretching is rarely triumphal. It is born of discomfort, desperation. It is born of disgust and necessity. It comes from dangling: yours from the end of a rope and that of the thing you most desire, within sight but just above the air you can touch.

It aches, makes you painfully aware of the parts of yourself you neglect. Stretching intensifies your accountability: the stronger it makes you, the more you can carry.

I am carrying so much more than I ever believed I would.

S  t  r  e  t  c  h.

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Faith, Nonfiction

Leap.

By manipulating the shape of the body in freefall, a skydiver can generate turns, forward motion, backwards motion, and even lift.

A wounded deer leaps highest. — Emily Dickinson

On its surface, this day is no different than others. It adheres to the same 24 hours as all the rest. The sun rises and sets at hours consistent with those in the days surrounding it. It does not break from established weather patterns, does not undo the laws of gravity, does not defy velocity. It is but a day.

But I tell you of a truth: we are made for risk. We are made for the meticulous building of traditions and for the very sudden breaking from them. Listen, feel the hard gallop of blood through the veins to the heart through the veins. This is how were meant to move through this, the only life we’re given: quick, but with deliberation, forceful and regenerative.

We were meant for leaps, for freefalls–and just in case our fears make us forget, just in case the trappings of acquired finery cause a kind of amnesia, God occasionally grants us this: an extra revolution of earth ’round sun, a 366th opportunity to do what should be done daily.

Leap.

You will not perish. You will kiss lovers you would not have known, if not for the casting off of cynicism. You will break ground that, undoubtedly, would’ve been colonized later, by someone else who understood what it meant to manipulate a fall, a failure, in ways that become strengths. You will triumph where others see only defeat. You will tilt your head, close an eye, squint, make viewfinders of your fingers and gaze at the figure before you in the glass, gaze until she becomes someone to be revered, someone different than she was in years, in days, in moments before and who will be different still in the days to come. You will finish a thought, a deep, a pursuit once discarded–reconcile with a decision long past.

You will take your children–biological, imagined, mentored–and pull them close with the sound of your lowered voice. Say, you may feel fixed as stone, but you have the freedom of vapor. Say, I have heard that, in the air, we become zephyrs. But this can only be confirmed though the leap. Say, I love you. This should matter. This should be a propulsion. When you feel yourself sinking, spread your arms, let your heart unfurl like a bolt of raw silk, and trust that love’s current will carry you.

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