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?

Waves

We created oceans with waves,
and I know that doesn’t make sense, for sounds to come
before vibrations and light before the rising sun,
but everything was seismic to us.

When I think of the first time I saw
you I can’t see past the sand particles sitting
on your right cheek. Each grain
held onto the curvature

of your face and before I knew it I was
buried knee deep, flipping and flapping
my arms like a child awkwardly astounded
that you were made up of atoms

and particles that were smaller and of more
abundance than God’s poetic dirt
stuck to your sunscreen skin.

I felt big when I was with you.
Not domineering or powerful, not overbear-
ing or oppressive – just important.

Yet if anything I should have felt small.
Your ocean heart constantly
brought in a tide that forced me to swallow
my salty pride and listen to a sea of

whispers that could only be heard
when I stopped picking up seashells and
pressing them to my ear. There
were other things I needed to hear, something

different than a back-and-forth
reflection of waves inside of my head.

And so little by little, wave on wave, you taught
me how to use my hands. With shovels and shells we built
castles out of worn down rock, making the
defeated strong and sturdy again.

I felt taller when I was with you,
and I know I said smaller, however this
statement is just as true because tides
eventually knock down tyrants’

castles and the strong waves knocked me down
too. But every fall into the sea
left me with more seaweed between my toes,

salt dried to my skin, and another chance
for my legs to walk to shore
and stand again.

To think that I thought the oceans
carried the blue waves and then pushed
them, telling them where to go;
what to do; who to be.

I now know it takes the small
to make the big:

One wave
can make a sea.

xx, 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