Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Dandelion Seed

A dandelion seed floated over my notebook. Over my Pilot G-2 07 ink pen that stains my hand blue. Over the plastic spoon in my Chobani cup. It was like an exotic fairy with a white peacock headdress. It asked me to follow it. I stood on the brick wall and leaned forward on my tip-toes, but I couldn't fly and I wasn't light enough to be carried in the breeze.

I watched it.

My first thought was to make a wish, but I feared I would overwrite a wish it perhaps already carried. I thought about what that wish may be. Maybe a wish for love. For a message from God. Time. "I forgive you." A call from a daughter or son. A job. A puppy. A Barbie Color-Change Mermaid doll. A college acceptance letter. A text. A hundred more wishes.

Maybe it was a message that I'm okay. That everything will be okay. A reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Maybe it was a sign to move on. Forget about what could have been or might have been. Enjoy summer.

Maybe it was just a dandelion seed, detached by the breeze. And maybe I shouldn't analyze so much.

I watched until it disappeared from sight, off to catch a ride on a shooting star.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

This is the front of the T-shirt I got when I arrived at the Reynold's Writer's Workshop at Denison University in Granville, OH. I was dropped off this morning. For the next week, I will be immersed in one of the things I love most: writing.

I got my binder and my schedule and all the pens and stickers. I got the key to my room and I hugged goodbye and my mom closed the door and that was it. An empty dorm room with emerald and cantaloupe braided carpet; two wooden desks with cork boards and an overhead lamp; tape residue on the walls, textured from multiple repaintings; stripped navy blue mattresses atop rickety springs; white linens and a blanket; a 100% polyester ProTech Pillow, covered with breathable fabric covering.

I unpacked my suitcase and arranged my comfort food on the shelf above my desk: dried apricots, almonds and fat, unsweetened coconut flakes, two Clif bars (dark cherry almond and apricot), and two packages of Honey Nut Cheerios that I took from the hotel's continental breakfast this morning. I've learned that I need to have comfort food with me when I travel...otherwise I have a minor panic attack. Like this morning when I mildly freaked out because they didn't have the yogurt I liked...yeah, so I'm working on that with myself...

I made my bed and tried to tuck in the corners...sorry Grandma...

I arranged my favorite pillow and my childhood comforter Puff (although it has lost so many feathers by now it's more of a sheet than a comforter)...

Yes...I'm sixteen years old and still bring my Puff with me when I travel. I've given up on carrying my childhood stuffed animals Teddy and Mocha with me when I travel, although they sit propped against a pillow on my bed at home to greet me when I come back.

With everything finally settled, I jumped on the bed and listened to the sighs of the springs. I leaned my head against a former nail hole, now smoothed over with putty. I was alone. No one else from the camp had arrived yet and my mom and stepdad were on their way to the airport to fly home. It was one of those empowering moments, like when I drove by myself for the first time and I rolled the windows down and blared 102.5 on the radio. Or when I watched the sunrise over Mt. Washington. These past few months, I've gained so much independence. I'm doing the things I love and starting to figure out the person I want to be. 

So, what is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? I plan to make the most of it. I plan to use my life to better others. I plan to take life as it comes and let it run wild, while always keeping a watchful eye. As I write this week, nobody knows me. And that's exciting. Because I can write whatever I want without worrying about offending someone. I can be graphic. I can be specific. I can be honest. This week, I will let my writing run wild. 

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tall Like the Mountain

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
The trees become shorter, but I grow taller. The pack digs into my back, my shoulders, my hips. I crawl on hands and knees, wedge the toe of my boot into a crevice. Stay low to the ground, pray I don't slip. We cross a rushing river streaming down from a waterfall. 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
One person crosses, extends a hand, and waits for the next person to go. We continue like this, extending a hand for each other. Cloud vapor melts on my face like cotton candy, rain drips down my forehead and plasters my stray hairs to my skin. The last quarter mile drags on forever.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
Finally we spot a chimney over the head of a tall rock––only 100 steps away from a warm hut and food. We are half right. The hut has food but no heat, so we eat to stay warm. Fresh salad with goat cheese and cranberries, chili and rice and green beans with cheese and sour cream and cashews. Warm pumpkin pie for dessert. Homemade bread to munch on. I fill up but still all I can think about is breakfast the next morning. 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.
As an end-of-the-year celebration, my school does something called "Endersession," (it's a made-up word) in which every student selects an activity for the week. I chose hiking in the White Mountains. We set out Tuesday and stayed at a hut near the summit of Mt. Washington. Tuesday, I felt so invincible. We planned to summit Mt. Washington Wednesday, and hike along the presidential range and stay at another hut. Alas, the mountain reminded us who was the almighty. It trapped us in the hut Wednesday, forcing us to spend another night at our first hut, where we exhausted every card and improv game imaginable.

Photo courtesy of Corey Bova.
The next morning we rose to greet the first sunlight we had seen in nearly 24 hours. We rose at 4:20am, slipped on our boots and rain jackets, and trudged off into the morning mist. We raced against the sunrise (5:04am) and made it in a record fifteen minutes. We crouched behind a giant rock and watched as the sun's rays melted away the gray-blue of a foggy night, and then as it finally peaked its baby's bonnet over Mt. Washington. 

I was so happy to be there without my parents. Here I was, hundreds of miles away, taking life into my own hands and experiencing the world for myself. No cell phone or Facebook calling for my attention. No temptation to see who texted me back or who liked my status. Just me and no one else's opinion of me or expectations of me. 

I know I will find many more mountains to climb in life. Some mountains I will climb solo; some mountains I will climb with others; and some mountains I will carry someone on my back. 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Morris.

As I stood at the bottom of Mt. Washington on Thursday afternoon, I was humbled as I looked at the Cog Railway travelling the vertical distance of the mountain we had just climbed. I remembered when we had stood up there only hours previous, and I felt so tall and regal. Here I was, no longer tall like the mountain or with the mountain, but at the base, reminded of the mountain's majesty. I only have to close my eyes, though, and I will again be standing on its summit, feeling tall and capable of anything. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Wise Bear Once Told Me

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard," a wise bear once told me. It's funny how the childhood cartoons are often the ones with the most meaningful quotes. Winnie the Pooh was a smart bear whose wise words stick to the heart like sweet honey.

Today was my high school's third graduating class. 31 members. They are officially the smallest graduating class that will ever graduate from our high school. As our Executive Director said today, though, that is exactly what made their impact on our school all the more powerful.

It was bittersweet, seeing the seniors in their caps and gowns. The selfish side of me wanted them to stay, but I knew and I know they are destined for greater things. I am amazed by how much they have grown just in the last year. Seeing them onstage, receiving their diplomas...they all had this fire in their eyes. They are so ready for the real world, even if they don't believe they are.

As I heard the graduation speeches, I got to thinking about my own future. If I had graduated today, what would I have said in my speech? What would teachers say about me? I am halfway done with high school. Many of the teachers referenced the growth they saw in the junior and senior years of the graduates. I can't help but wonder if the person standing on that stage two years from now will be different from the one who sat in the audience today and held back her tears as her friends received their diplomas. And if so, who will that person be? It's strange to think of myself changing, yet I know I inevitably will. I just can't imagine how or when that will happen.

But for now, I just have to focus on "now." The best things in life often come when we're just living in the moment, not lingering on the past or dwelling on the future. Because, as Winnie the Pooh said,
"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why we call it the present." So many seniors talked about how fast high school flew by. I'm already halfway done. Two years from now, I want to be able to look back and say I made the most of it.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Berry Tart Lemonade

Sophomore year...check. Driver's test...check. Summer, here I come!

It's amazing how you don't realize how stressful something is until it's over. As I finished my final homework assignment of the year Thursday night, I felt my body breathe a sigh of relief. But the real relief didn't come until 6:08 this morning, as I pulled out of the RMV...as a newly licensed driver. Hopefully my nights will no longer be filled with overturned vehicles and failure stamps (I actually don't even think they use those on road tests).

I took a leisurely lunch today. I had leftovers from last night's dinner––an avocado BLT flatbread with sweet potato fries. I even took the time to heat up my sandwich and fries in the oven, which is much more satisfactory than the microwave. The fries were certainly less soggy than they would've been if I microwaved them.

But the 77ºF weather and the sun made me crave something more: lemonade. But not the powdered lemonade or even the frozen lemonade; I wanted real, homemade lemonade.

Alas, I only had one and a half lemons and no lemon squeezer. I squeezed the lemons with my hands and got enough juice for one very tart sip. It was time to open the freezer, open the fridge, open all the cupboard doors, and see what I could find.

In the end, I was able to make one tall glass of something I call Berry Tart Lemonade. See the recipe below!

Berry Tart Lemonade (Makes 1 Serving)

1 1/2 lemons, squeezed
1 kiwi, peeled
1/2 cup - 1 cup of frozen berries
Lemon water (or regular water)

Microwave the frozen berries in a bowl for 90 seconds. This extracts the juices. Blend with the squeezed lemons and peeled kiwi. The lemonade will be very tart. To water it down, gradually add water. (I happened to have a pitcher of lemon water in the fridge, but plain water will do fine.) Add honey for a sweetener. Pour in a glass with ice cubes and taste summer with every sip.

I decorated the glass with a strawberry from our garden. I tried to show its better side in the earlier pictures.
I don't know if you can see it, but a lot of the pulp and seeds floated to the top, leaving the bottom a bit more tart. The separation reminded me of the science experiment with vinegar and oil.

The last thing to do before I ate was set the table. I wiped the glass table on the porch clean of pollen, set a placemat, and set the table for one. I even set out a cloth napkin. Sunscreen applied and sunglasses on, I pulled in my chair and closed my eyes as I savored the taste of summer right around the corner. 

Happy (almost) summer, everyone!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Lone Stale Sugar Cone

Ice cream in the freezer...purple cow. My favorite. Black raspberry frozen yogurt with white and milk chocolate chips. A whole gallon of it. I take off the lid. The ice cream lay smooth like our front yard when it's covered in snow snow before my brother and I run through it.

But what to put it in? I look in the cupboard to see if there are any sugar cones. I love the experience of eating ice cream on a sugar cone. It's so much more enjoyable than ice cream in a bowl. Just as I start to think I'm out of luck, I spot it: the purple and white Stop & Shop box. Standing on tiptoes, I grab the box and bring it back to the counter. One lone sugar cone from last summer. Stale.

Sugar cones are best stale, though. Otherwise they crack and the melted ice cream leaks out the bottom like a funnel. Some things in life are best when they're left to sit awhile. Like Oreos. Stale Oreos are better than regular Oreos. Dip them in peanut butter like the Parent Trap and let them float in a glass of milk like a raft. Some things are best burnt. Like sweet potato fries. Or veggies on the grill. Or a marshmallow. Most fruits are best ripe.

I scoop the ice cream and balance it as I go back upstairs in my room to enjoy it in peace. I hold my ice cream cone at arm's length, and hey, my purple nails look fantastic holding that cone with the purple ice cream. It drips down my hands and I lick the sides and my hands are sticky sweet.