Love Well

Well, it has been a really long time since I last wrote here. Since April my words have found a home in other spaces. In East Asia, my words belonged in a black journal that I carried around everywhere or, when I wanted to share my experiences, on the small postcards that I gave to my friends. It was strange to not document my experiences. Before I left I could not imagine what it would be like for people to not know my thoughts or experiences.

When I returned to the States, I stopped writing in my little black journal. With a thesis to tackle, and essays to write, my words lived in my computer or scribbled down on a nearby napkin. My words also made there way into other people’s homes in the form of thank you notes, and, believe it or not, my words even sat on other people’s couches as they traveled through the air!

And so, out of all of the places my words could live, I am writing here because I think it is important that this blog is their home.

Because I live off-campus this semester, I frequent the bus. I know the many faces of the 656 bus drivers. While most of them are kind (although a few are a bit sassy), sometimes I am fortunate enough to hop on the bus with the sweetest bus driver. And this is why: at every stop, she smiles and tells people to have a wonderful day.

For anyone who rides the bus (or has ever taken a crowded, smelly bus) this is out of the norm. For the most part, people don’t look at one another. They don’t talk to one another. And they most certainly don’t encourage one another.

But she does. At every stop, on every day, she loves people well.

Today I found the courage to tell her thank you. Before my stop I slowly made my way to the front of the bus to encourage her. When I did, her reply was simple and genuine: “I love people.”

Her response was so simple and so profound. So easy and yet so hard to execute.

I wish I valued people more than feeling comfortable. I wish I loved without expecting anything in return. I wish I made my stupid, mundane tasks exciting and joy-filled because I looked less at the task in front of me and more at the people surrounding me.

At one of the stops today, after encouraging everyone who was leaving, she talked to a family that was sitting on the bus bench, waiting for another bus. When the father saw she was stopping (not knowing others would be getting off the bus), he gently put his hand up to inform her he would not be getting on. And when she started to speak to him, he did it again.

I am sure he did not expect to be treated with kindness and conversation. And why would she? She has her job to do. She has to transport people to and from places. She has a schedule to maintain.

To me, her job is so much more. She isn’t just a bus driver. She is a friend. An encourager. A person that turns bad days into good ones, or at least hopeless days into hopeful ones.

I wish we did that more. Will you join me in loving people well?

xx,
Hannah

 

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Ti Ricordi?

Italy has been on my mind. The other night, as I was trying to sleep, I thought about my relationship with my Italian host mom, Paola. Here are a few episodes about our relationship, my Italian experience, and a few lessons I learned.

1.
I’m reading “Sogno Romano” to Paola in the kitchen while she makes lunch. She stands at the stove. Water boils. The sun streams in. Her cigarette sighs smoke on the counter.

She turns her head gently to correct my mistakes. Her nods tell me she likes the story. I read and try to speak clearly, roll my rs, say a question with the right intonation. My tongue stumbles over words and I feel my cheeks turn red. The phrases would sound much more beautiful if she was reading them.

But she isn’t. And I am. Her nods push me to say another word. She makes lunch, I read her a story. Together, we show one another we care.

2.
It’s 11 o’clock. Paola comes in. In her hand is an espresso cup. The espresso I drink every morning because she insists. I’m confused because it is night now. But she’s insisting.

“Che cosa?”

Her response: “Mirto.”

With a grin she hands me it. I take the small cup and take a small sip. Like espresso it’s strong. And it’s good. It’s alcohol.

I tell her I like it. She tells me she would give me more, but I would fall asleep. I laugh because she’s serving me alcohol in my pajamas, while I do my homework, and I laugh because she is right.

Many nights I will fall asleep with the lights on and a book in my hand because my  feet have walked to places I have never been and my mind is constantly trying to comprehend conversations or formulate responses that I often solve too late.

I am already so tired. But I take a sip. It’s good. I’m experiencing and learning. I’m happy that she wants to share her Mirto with me.

3.
A week and a half. That’s how long it took me to show Paola that I care.

It isn’t because I didn’t appreciate her good cooking, her comforting hand on my shoulder, her singing with the TV. It’s because I didn’t know how to appreciate her.

But tonight I figured it out. All it took was: “Grazie per cena.” And then I saw it, a big, kind smile. And then I heard it: “Grazie per la tua compagnia.”

It’s a routine we will create every time we eat. She prepares the meal, I set the table, then, we eat together.

After I see her face light up I make sure to tell her every time. I fly the table cloth out of the window, like a banner, and our bread crumbs fall onto the street like rain. I fold the cloth, step beside her and place it in the drawer. Before I leave I say it. My voice is gentle and genuine. I say it from the heart; “Thank you for dinner.”

Smiling big, she thanks me for sitting and eating beside her. I tip toe to my room with a joyful heart. It’s my favourite thing to hear and my favourite part of our dinner.

————

xx, Hannah

 

 

Cut, Paste, Create

I have rediscovered my love for making cut and paste a form of poetry. My bed is covered in clippings of discarded ing’s and ed’s that did not make the literal cut. In my own artistic arrangement, words from Shakespeare’s King Lear Dover Thrift Edition become neighbors with last week’s “Sports” column and serious black fonts stand strong against a bridal magazine’s cursive pink heading.

One of my favorite things about words is that they sound different sandwiched between others. A big “I” seems a lot less significant with a bunch of “you”‘s (no matter how small). Combinations of words and phrases make unique sounds and meanings. Variety is abundant.

Another is that words never expire or run out of use. They can be taken from the basement, dusted and polished, and then made into something entirely new. They can be borrowed and adopted. They can be taken. And, as you can see, they can be cut and pasted.

Here is some of my cut and paste poetry. This Summer, I am traveling to East Asia to work at a humanitarian bakery that loves on those who have been brought out of human trafficking. In order to do so, I need to raise funds. To raise money, I am making cut and paste poetry (like the ones above) for donations.

If you would like to give (and receive a painting/poem!) email me at: hannahblaisdell@yahoo.com

xx, Hannah

P.S. Here’s a fun short poem I wrote. Enjoy.

I sever words from pages. I’ve done it all
my life, cutting out Shakespeare’s
King Lear and merging it
with the speech I heard last night.

Some call it plagiarism to take
what has already been written or said,
but I promise every thought is
original and every intention is as it should,

For who needs a Webster’s
dictionary when a good ol’ pair of
scissors and Elmer’s glue will
work just as good?

Sky Study

 

I recently heard this quote by C.S. Lewis before he became a Christian and it changed my perspective on the beauty and the inexplicable glory of nature. While driving back from Nashville, I hummed strong yeses that agreed with every tree lifting its hands in praise and every beam of sun that turned the greenest leaf gold. Such beauty does not, it cannot, exist without demanding some sort of acknowledgement. The skies pull my eyes upwards and when I look at the clouds straight in the eye, I cannot help but recognize that creation is also looking up towards a God that seeks that I humble myself and say beautiful, glorious, good, powerful, grand. Here is the quote:

“Precisely where does the beauty of a tree, for example, reside? Like every other physical object, a tree is made up of atoms, and atoms are identical and without color. So when you call a tree beautiful you are actually speaking of something other than the atoms of which it is made. A light from the vibrations in the distant sun produces a wave toward your eye. When it reaches the tissues of your eye another vibration is set up and moves along a nerve like a telegraph wire, carrying the sensation to your brain. One such sensation, we call greenness, another brownness, a third shapeliness. But there is no actual color either in the atoms of which the tree is composed or in all those vibrations.

How then does the beauty of the tree arise? Shape, size, color, touch, and the like are simply the names we call our sensations, and no amount of study of them can ever bring us to the notion of beauty in the tree. Beauty must therefore arise from some nonmaterial relation between the tree and myself.

I fancy that there is Something right outside time and place, which did not create matter, as the Christians say, but is matter’s great enemy: and that Beauty is the call of the spirit in that Something to the spirit in us.”

Again and again I have tried to capture every slice of sky with a camera that cannot produce the pixels that I cannot even fully see with the clearest, truest picture set before me. C.S. Lewis’ insight gives me a little more understanding as to why my child-like fascination has grown into a forever appreciation to a God who shows His magnificence in His creation to His creation.

Above are photos I have taken of the sky, of the sunset, of creation; I guess you could call it a study of sorts.

xx, Hannah

 

The Practice of Praise

When I was 3 I was taught the practice of giving thanks. It was the secret word that was sweetly whispered before being given a piece of candy, the rhythm of clanking forks and knives around the table at thanksgiving.

Giving thanks was pumpkin pies and full bellied sighs that possessed some kind of praise that was heard by a God who desired us to be civil and thoughtful, who desired us to eat green beans before dessert and to say a prayer before food met eager mouths.

Thanks was a to-do for getting; I ask myself now: what was I giving?

Too often have I indulged in an act of blessing before saying thanks, perceiving the moment before the good as one that is a waste of spoken words and phrases.

But two years ago I was taught the beauty of true praise. The kind of thanks that was good. The one that came before breaking the bread and clinking forks to make some kind of noise that sounded divine.

I learned that thanks can be said while standing, while sitting, while doing the dishes, while driving in my car. Thanks can be given all alone. It can be written, or exhaled in a “wow,” it can be felt in a hug, seen in a sincere smile.

You see, the problem is this: they often don’t teach you that the practice of praise is messy. Acknowledging thanks, is not ordered or organized, but sporadic, spontaneous, and starts small. Because even the smallest thanks can turn short words and phrases into a profound practice of praise.

And so here are a few of my small thanks from this month. I didn’t say them at the round table, but I wrote each one down. They are proof that even life’s mundane moments can be made holy.

1.Jamie lying beside me in my bed like a sister.
2. Conversations about Italy that make me re-experience the streets all over again.
11. Cave talks with story-teller friends.
12. Bare feet meeting sand.
18. Hot tea.
23. The golden hour before the sun goes down.
25. Reminders to be soft and meek (even though I want to respond opposite).
26. Pumpkin pancakes that make waking up early worth it, so worth it.
31. The thought that Madeleine does not know Timothy will propose to her today!
33. Talks with Ellen.
36. The instinct to tell people I love them.
38. Reading, writing, laying on the lawn.
40. Watching my classmates become confident in acting.
43. Prayer on my knees because Jesus is showing me what breaks His heart.
45. Caitlin’s grocery list quirks.
50. The marvelous gift of words, sentences, phrases …
58. Elizabeth who shares her “buttery coffee” with me.
61. Waking up to rainy mornings.
62. Old fashioned oatmeal with honey + banana + praline (and the patience it takes to wait).
66. Jamie crocheting a blanket on the couch, her face lit up by the glow of the Christmas tree.
78. Avocado toast because yum.
80. Late coffee nights with Shay.
81. The rustle of trees by something so strong and weightless as wind.
82. Improved ukulele talent shows with Shelby (and the way that she makes me fearless!).
91. Finding (free!) parking spaces just in time.
108. Puppy kisses.
111. Turkey trot runs with my Dad.

xx, Hannah

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Here and Now, Big and Small

IMG_2408

I’ve been looking up a lot lately. At the sky, at the trees and the way they glisten green as the sunlight shows them that being transparent is beautiful. Turning dark into soft, highlighting all the veins of the leaves that will soon meet the dust that they were made of. I’ve been running to rooftops and trying to gain their perspective; I’m teaching myself what it is like to be tall and strong, big and brave.

Yet even from the rooftops, from the fingertips of trees that spread like arms that embrace, I feel small. My hands feel small when I hold others’ and pray to a big God that I can’t quite comprehend. My symphony of breath and heart beats are a whisper when I consider all the alarm clocks ringing, birds singing, babies yawning, mothers crying, flowers swaying back and forth, back and forth.

Being big, looking up to the big, sometimes means being small. It means crouching and crumbling, falling back to be buried in the dirt, lying beneath the sky choked by the fallen leaves.

It means looking up.

Living means moving my head from my chest and climbing the mountains that remind me that even at the biggest view I will have the smallest perspective. With my small eyes that cannot see but a few miles, my arms that cannot even wrap around a tree or my ears that cannot even listen to my dearest friend because I am listening to myself, I want to learn how to hold the big that reminds me that I am small.

I want to share in suffering. Pray with fervor. Lie beneath the stars. Confess brokenness. Listen to my friends. Call my dad. Read journals, articles, novels.

Look at the trees. Forget, for once, about me.

xx, Hannah

Words

As I was waiting to get my coffee the guy standing next to me complimented my skirt. In return I said thank you and as I walked away, he did too. Our conversation turned into small talk and in a state of feeling entirely antisocial I immediately spotted a seat, set down my coffee, pulled out my computer, and got my headphones out. With no other free tables around I looked up after claiming my seat and there he was: “Can I pull up a chair and sit here?” he asked. “Of course,” I answered. But in sync with my seemingly inviting response I pulled my headphones over my ears and began to write. I was not in the mood to talk. I wanted to be left alone.

I pulled open a poem that I had started to write a few days earlier and as I tried to concentrate on syntax, on sound, on what I wanted to feel and what I wanted to say, I noticed the boy sitting next to me continually glancing at me. To make him realize I noticed he was looking at me, I turned my eyes and head towards him.

“What are you writing?” “A poem.”

This caught his attention. Explaining that I was writing a poem for the heck-of-it (why else would you write poetry?) he told me that he performed spoken poetry at Spiderhouse, a coffee shop nearby that puts on poetry slams every Tuesday night. From then on he had my interest. We talked about poetry, about books, about the sounds and juxtapositions of words; I even let him read what I was writing. My poem, coincidentally, was about words.

How ironic is it that all it took were words for my mood of apathy to become one of joy? Even though I was writing about words, I did (do) not fully understand the power that they possess.

To that end, here is a poem about Words, their power, and my inability to understand them fully or as they were intended:

In the beginning was the Word
and before the Word all was black.

Light didn’t roll off the tongue because there
was not a vessel to carry it
from the dark hole of our mouth
into the sea of words
that are the beacon of our thoughts and
our feelings; the ships riding the chaos
into the calm of sense and reason.

There were not groans or mumbles.
The waves did not smack because
they could not yet imitate the lips of
God in a holy thrash of “Let there
be light.”

But then there was.

And with the I am was the was: a sea that
is when it was not, a sound that was the
purest of silences that it was
not even silence at all, spoken by
the one who was before He said He is.

With three words phrases became
twisted and the ocean learned to
speak, slapping salty sentences
like palms after the job is done.

Though the job wasn’t done.

With a tide of words He continued
to speak and words learned to pile
into a mountain or to sink into a valley,
words learned how to be soft, they
learned to be tumultuous and heavy.

A crescendo of “goods” He sang,
and with the upward swoop of His
voice the birds he created. Sounds
made sounds. They chirped. They trilled.

To take care of the birds that composed
songs He created man: Adam and Eve.
But from the words He spoke, Adam and
Eve created a completely different tune to
the harmony of His sea.

Unlike the waves that learned to roar
and the birds that learned to whistle,
man spoke with “I, and me, and my” –
learning to speak for himself.

“Free,” Adam said. “Free!” echoed Eve.
“Me” they shouted together. “Me.” “Me.” “Me.”

Free was beautiful until it was not.
A soft, translucent wave becoming dirty
as man delved into its purity, running much
like the pollution that ran through man’s veins.

The world became black. Man dirtied
the Earth with his dust that he shed. No longer
was it “good.” Could the words “good”
even be uttered by human mouths again?

Yet something in man’s tongue
still created light like trying to light
a match. Watered down words and
phrases still possessed a rearing roar
when man said “God” instead of “me.”
Words became much more.

There was still the power of God
when man spoke like the current’s choral,
taking boats back to shore, swaying
towards the light —

The light.

In the beginning was the Word
and in the Word there was light.