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

 

 

Advertisements

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?

Going

IMG_4703.JPG

Dearest Friend,

You won’t believe it, because I am still trying to wrap my head around it, but here it is: I am going to East Asia this summer! My plan to go somewhere this summer began as a bud of an idea that has bloomed into a 7 week trip to East Asia where I will be volunteering at a bakery that serves as a half-way home for women who have been rescued from human trafficking.

Each day I grow in excitement. I am beginning to take note of all of the comforts I have here in America that I will not be able to take with me. Today it was driving around in my car, cruising to my favorite parts of the city. Yesterday it was painting and receiving advice from my roommate. Tomorrow it will be something new, something different, something I haven’t noticed before. Something good.

But the good isn’t limited to here. Good doesn’t end with a different country, with a different language, with different people. If anything, this is where the good and wonderful begins. Good starts by looking at new experiences with an open mind.

Surely the good isn’t always good and wonderful. And most certainly the new isn’t always the easiest. However, this is an opportunity where I will be able to be molded, shaped, and formed into who I am supposed to become and how I am supposed to love the people around me.

At the bakery, as I work with my hands, I will be reminded that I am being worked into a new creation. And that is good. Learning how to love in humility, putting the interests of others above my own, is always good. And I am so excited to go.

In order to receive the money I need to go on my trip, I will be creating small and simple water color paintings with a short hand-written, personal poem (like the ones above, although these are without the text). I will be painting these by donation so if you would like a painting + poem please indicate so and send me an email. OR, if you would just like to simply donate, please indicate that as well in the email.

Once I receive your email, I will send you the information on how to donate. You can email me at: hannahblaisdell@yahoo.com

With Love, Hannah

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 Progressive Painter

IMG_4234

Everyone leaves after the sunset, but
I don’t understand why they don’t just wait:
for it takes a second for colors to ripple
upwards and deep blues to spread

in hot pinks and strong oranges like a
mad painter dipping his brush
wildly into a pallet that was made to be
spread across the sky.

I wonder why those radiant faces
think that the show ends when the sun’s rays
turn to the other side of the Earth
and their bodies turn into silhouettes that slowly
disappear as night creeps in.

Don’t they know that at the end of our day,
it is the beginning of another and that our
sun setting isn’t light resting but preparing
itself for more work to be done?

To think that the painter’s job is never
done, smearing lights and dipping dabbing
dragging his thumb in blues, pinks,
and oranges – color after color – until his
thumb is as black as night.

And so why do we wait and leave
while he is still painting? Can’t we see
each halo of light is him erasing
and each layer of vivid hue is him
contemplating what to make next?

If we would only sit and wait, we would
see creation in its rawest form
as he works, and he paints, and he steps back,
admiring his portrait with a grin.

He makes a signature with the mark of a
slivered moon. He grabs a blank canvas.

The tired shadows leave and go to sleep.
It’s time for him to start again.

xx, Hannah

But Grace

It’s when your lungs are tired
that He shows you the heaviness of your sin,
as if you could bare to
stand the weight of a feather. 

There, when you are gasping for breath, He
hits you on the back with iniquity,
a word you thought you understood

until your strong legs are bent at the knee
taking a humble plunge into the dirt,
drawing sin in circles as your humility crawls
into a submission that writes every lie

you have told, every time you strengthened
your ego calling yourself Proud and Good and God;
here you are. Admitting it to yourself now. God.

That is who you thought you were.

Thinking that you could count the sand,
that even now, with your cheek pressed against each
and every granule, you are overwhelmed at the number
of grains lying across the width of your nail.

Thinking that you could never
yell hate at your brother and mother.

Thinking that you could stand tall and firm,
holding justice and righteousness in your palm
that makes a dying effort to propel
your feeble body forward, to lift your head just enough

to see past the infinite
sand — sin — you have been forced
to examine as if you are a microbiologist
with his eye pressed against the lens.

This is you. Every particle of your being is
made with hatred and fear and anger.
Now your naked eye perceives it, you don’t
need instruments to peel back each layer

to know that the trend of selfishness and pride
bleeds into the second and third.

This is you. You can’t even hold the weight
of a feather without it sending your lungs
into a corrupted convulsion that screams:

God, my God, I need Your help to breathe.
God, my God, I need You to live.
God, my God, forgive me of my iniquity, my filth, my sin.

But then, with those words, the weight begins to lessen.
Immediately death takes paces, lunges, leaps back.
He gives you enough energy to raise your chin,

to tilt it just enough to look at the stars,
resembling the grains of sand. And you are reminded,
so you say it again:
God, forgive me of my iniquity, my filth, my sin.

It’s a word you understand.

With more strength that He gives you,
you pull your knee to your chin and you press your feet
to the Earth so that you can see the wealth
and splendor of the millions of lights, your

head closer to the heavens than it was before.
From here the view is much different.
From here there is much more.

He gives you the power to stand and eyes to see
all the weight that you were carrying. Most importantly,
He gives you grace, so you lift hands high to the sky.

Your lungs open up and sing, you
praise the God that brought you eye level
with each and every grain of sin. You praise Him
because now you know what it is like to
truly, freely, and undeservingly live.

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.