I could literally feel God's healing the past two weeks or so. It was nothing short of magical, for lack of a better theological term. I always wondered what the healing would feel like, and then I knew, but how to put into words? It was like morning sunlight flooding my cells, muscles, and so on. Oh shoot, I can't describe it quite yet. When dealing with the miraculous, it takes some pondering to put it poetically. Let's just say I felt more like myself than I have in two years. But the question is, was it more like my old self, or more like my new self? Suffering changes a soul, you know.
Anyway, I felt fantastic. So I decided it was high time I get out of the house and back into my city. I scheduled a haircut with "my girl," Charli, because my hair was looong and shaggy. I've taken showers in the evening lately, fallen asleep with damp hair, and awakened to find wavy/curly hair in the mirror. I thought, Is my hair trying to tell me something? Or God? My hair had thinned some during these health adventures, so I thought perhaps it was growing back curlier. Whatever it was, I asked Charli how I could easily train my locks into a wavy 'do with very little of the hair dryer, please.
She explained a very straightforward process involving air-drying, mousse, and finger-scrunching, and cut a few layers around my face - nothing major. But when all was said and done, I did not like the end result. It wasn't the uniform waviness I had conjured. My hair resembled a frizzy poodle more than anything else. However, one slip-up from Charli is not earth-shattering. She has taken very good care of me all these years, and she came up with my amazing wedding updo, so I'm gonna let the bad perm effect slide. It wasn't so much that she did anything wrong; it was more of a miscommunication, probably on my end. The good in the mishap is that it got me to thinking about creativity with mousse, more to my liking. I found a photo and instructions in the latest Real Simple to go by and everything. I've got all this natural wave, so why not use it?
Now. Back to my outing . . . I pulled back my poodle hair, and to my surprise, I liked how the curls smoothed to a loose uniformity. Phew. With that settled, I headed to Empire Cafe for lunch. I had a gorgeous custom omelette - bacon, red & green bell peppers, spinach, red onion, and tomatoes - and a bottomless cup of their amazing house blend. I even dunked one of the complimentary cookies in my cup and took a tiny bite. I'm all about subtle rebellion.
I people-watched and laughed at the risqué paintings of voluptuous women. A lady (not a painting) knitted with the most beautiful blue yarn. A guy talked his girlfriend's ear off about college. Two kids enjoyed chocolate cake with their Mom. During my second cup of coffee, I watched sparrows and grackles flit about the outdoor patio near an oblivious ponytailed guy reading The Houston Press. Lo and behold, the antique store across the street yelled out, Hey, Jenni! Come on over. And so I did.
At least 50 chairs hung from the ceiling and I seriously considered hanging miniature chairs from our ceiling at home. I admired wooden filing cabinets, stained glass, boxes with painted flowers, plush armchairs, end tables, retro kitchen stools, and several other beauties.
In my opinion, most everything was overpriced, but it sure was fun to look around. At this point, the heat was not helping my poodle 'do at all, but I didn't care. I hopped back in my car and turned a quick left to drive past my old studio apartment. I wistfully recalled the old wooden floors and how sunlight filtered through the Indian tapestry I hung over the one big window in the main room. I loved that little place. Well, until the fruit fly infestation in the bathroom, flying roaches, the possum in the walls, and my upstairs neighbor who walked around as if she wore anvils for shoes.
Nostalgia noted, I headed towards the Menil, which I'm happy to say was open this time. As I pushed the massive glass door open, my whole being breathed a sigh of relief. The Menil is truly a sanctuary for me.
I viewed two current exhibits: Drawings On Site: Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen and Body in Fragments. Then I meandered back to my favorite little room of Byzantine icons and scribbled notes in my journal. I noticed that black UniBall ink was leaking from my pen onto my hand. Is it a sign of a true writer that I kept writing anyway? In the spirit of my latest Curator article with Rebecca Tirrell Talbot, I'll share my notes with you:
"This is a sanctuary within one of my sanctuaries. Cicadas sing outside. Colors: gold, sienna, cream, salmon, black, aqua?, turquoise?, maroon, mustard yellow, pink, coral, teal, bluish gray, dark brown. People talking and whispering in the room behind me. Sitting here, the walls circling me with icons - saints - is like I'm part of an art installation of the 'great cloud of witnesses.' But it's better than that, isn't it? I live out this reality. This beauty just reminds me of those around me that I cannot see. They cheer me on. Today is a day of possibility. Will I learn to tame curly hair? We shall see.
Good food, beautiful food, coffee, sneaky bites, chairs hanging from the ceiling, wooden boxes, glass doorknobs, sweat, revisiting my former home, sparrows, grackles, a lady knitting blue yarn - all of it reminds me that my time of sickness and being closed in and secluded is drawing to a close. I love this life. I love to live, I love to see - even in humidity. I will serve the Lord all my days. I love people, and my afterward introversion. I even love the ink on my hand. I overheard another visitor just say about this room, 'Christian?' Yes.
Angels, St. Basil, Athanasius, St. George and the Dragon, and so on - thank y'all.
Unkempt? I am kept."
So you see? Notes are a nonsensical mess at times, but they are fodder for future creative epiphanies, I'm telling you.
I walked across the street to the amazing Menil bookstore. A piece by Robert Gober in Body in Fragments both disturbed and captivated me. It was basically long, hairy beeswax legs weaving in and out of the drainpipe of a porcelain sink, the ends of the legs capped by white children's sandals on creepy feet. I'd look at it, repulsed, then walk back, intrigued. The fact that it held my interest for so long made me pick up a book of a Gober exhibit, The Meat Wagon. On an introductory page was a trash can with a sign taped to it that said, "Jesus is who he says he is." If that's not Jesus speaking to the artistic masses, then I don't know what is.
My budget was tight that day, so I only purchased a Rothko postcard to add to my collection, and a tiny sock monkey 2010 calendar. Better yet, each page of the calendar is a bookmark.
[not the iPhone. Click to see larger, and probably some dust.]
Next up was a bittersweet visit to Bookstop. Some powers that be are stupidly closing this beautiful space, formerly a 1930's Art Deco movie theater. And 'twas my very first bookstore + coffee shop experience. I'd grab a book or two to see if I needed them, order coffee, and sit, read, and drink from the second floor balcony. They had the best magazine/journal selection ever. Now, there are several empty bookshelves and the café is closed. I'm in literal mourning, folks, but I'm glad I got to say goodbye.
I scooted over to the Kiehl's store to buy the best eye makeup remover, and sampled coriander perfume for the second time now. I've decided that is soon to become my signature scent. It'll smell lovely with vanilla chai lotion.
Dying of thirst, I kept going down Westheimer to a huge circular Starbucks on the corner of Post Oak. Iced passion fruit tea is my new favorite. I people-watched again, sipped my tea for a few minutes, then got back in the car. Joni Mitchell's Blue album crooned through the speakers, another momento from my past. I used to sing "All I Want" over and over and over thinking about this or that guy, but it turns out, I was singing to Johnny all along:
"All I really, really want our love to do
is to bring out the best in me and in you, too
All I really, really want our love to do
is to bring out the best in me and in you
I want to talk to you, I want to shampoo you
I want to renew you again and again
Applause, applause - life is our cause
When I think of your kisses
my mind see-saws" *
Of course, that song isn't totally lovey-dovey, but the angst that I sang along to has now been quieted by my husband.
I drove near my old workplace, an independent music company. For a change of scenery, I stopped by the Whole Foods near my family's old Church - Second Baptist - for apples and black cherry Zevia, my other new favorite beverage. Johnny and I also met at SBC when he played drums at the Logos service. Memories swirled about like a gentle tornado. But as I drove down Voss St. lush with trees, I left the past behind for now. I entered I-10 to see a beautiful sunset - a stratum of blue, pink, lavender, and gold. There's no place like home, and artful, exploratory days like these refuel me to be a better wife.
Besides, God is urging me to get out more often. We booked September plane tickets to Nashville - to see my friend, Kierstin, her family, and a few other old & new friends. Oh, and to cross off #20. I can hardly wait.
Of course, the past 2-3 days have not been so picturesque. Yeast toxins are once again a tenacious, annoying lot. But I'm doing my best to ignore these symptoms and do as Hebrews advises, " . . . lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author** and finisher of our faith . . . Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed."
There is a season for nostalgia and mourning ill health, but as of this week, I'm all about looking forward - to Tennessee, to my favorite season, Autumn, and to flipping those little sock monkey calendar pages next year. I just have a hunch that 2010 is "mine & Johnny's year," for so many good things to come.
My friend Brett prayed a few verses over me last week and they stuck:
"I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
My great army, which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you.
And My people shall never again be put to shame."
He has dealt wondrously with me in sickness, and He will do the same in health. I eat in bounty now, and I will eat in bounty then. There are times when you know that God speaks promises into your soul, and this is one of those times for me. It's nice to have friends who agree, too. When Brett finished praying, she reiterated, "He will restore to you the years that the locust have eaten, Jenni. What's dead will blossom."
This weekend I baked two of my grandfather's buttermilk pies - one to take to friends who served us grass-fed beef steaks in their home, and one for a Church luncheon yesterday. It's a simple, beautiful recipe. As I crimped the uncooked crust onto the edge of the pie pan, melted organic butter, and mixed together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and a little King Arthur flour, I felt my body hum in agreement with something I know for sure I am created to do. I love to bake. That pie is in my very DNA, and I am here to say, it will be returned to me. In the meantime, I've learned the art of sacrificial baking, creativity of which I was selfishly, not previously aware. As I stirred the melted butter, I thought of how happy our friends would be, and how wistful I would be. But then the bittersweet joy of sacrifice surged in my heart. Such offerings are bittersweet, aren't they?
For me (for now), I bake my unique cookies and truly enjoy them. But there's no way I loved my grandfather as much as I did, and love that pie as much as I do, without being reunited to both. I will see Papaw one fine day, and just as sure as he's singing at the foot of Jesus' throne, I will eat buttermilk pie here on earth, with a cup of dark roast coffee. And all the sweet-toothed people say, AMEN.
* - I used to think Mitchell was singing, "my mind sees songs." That's still poetic, though.
** - As a writer, I've always loved this verse describing Jesus as an author. Well, He is.