You hold on to the pencil from your 6th grade teacher, the one she gave to everyone as a memento of your year in homeroom 6A where she hung curtains on the bookshelves to make the cinderblock room look more homey. “I DID A GREAT JOB IN MISS SCHLOSSER’S CLASS” it reads in gold letters on one thin panel of this wooden implement painted red. Because she loved you all so much, because she told you all how she prayed for each of you three minutes a piece one night, you all sort of believed it. You did a great job. Why would she have given you all this pencil if it had not been so? She lost her mother that year. You broke the obelisk on her desk that year. She prayed for you and hung curtains and gave you a pencil. You hold on to the pencil and decide not to sharpen it right away because it’s a bit of a novelty item and there are plenty of other pedestrian pencils and erasable pens to jot down your rising 7th grade thoughts about sleepovers and boys whose voices jump whole octaves overnight. The eraser you use; it’s a decent eraser and you make a lot of mistakes over the next few years, trusting too much in the correctness and permanence of the story you are writing. You pack the pencil from your 6th grade teacher into a wad of other writing instruments, rubberbanded and ported from dorm to apartment to condo to house, and every so often you consider how long that pencil has held up. Like so few other things that shine with their original glory, the message is unmarred and unmistakable. It is only once you become a teacher that you understand the point of view of that message in gold letters. The pencil is not, as it appears to an egoistic middle schooler, a brag flag to wave. No one cares whether one did a great or superlatively poor job in sixth grade, it turns out. Pencils, after all, are chosen by the user. Pencils are the tool of the essay writer, the math test-taker, the form filler-outer. The pencil does not guide you; you guide the pencil. More and more and more and more, the pencil obeys. As you file bills or rifle through a drawer of receipts, you look up to see a streak of red peaking from the back of your desk, and occasionally it touches you but sometimes it floods you–that you were loved enough and affirmed in gold letters once upon a time. You did a great job. In a room where books were hemmed in by curtains. By a teacher whose name you will not forget.
I live in a shoddily-constructed rental home and I’m worse than ashamed about it. I’m irritated with the ground wasps that multiply in August that sting my husband whilst he’s trying to cut the grass. I’m annoyed, generally, with the lack of well-configured space and the moody windows that usually don’t stay open and the ugly countertops that are forever being stained in my kitchen. I’m full-blown ticked that I’m nearly old enough to run for U.S. President but am so broke as to need to rent property from a colleague.
I’m malcontent and it’s not okay and author Amber Haines seems to understand me.
Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home is something of a masterpiece.
Truth: this is the best book I have read about spiritual conviction and the spiritual landscape in North America.
Truth: I am so jealous of Haines’ eloquence for writing about said conviction and landscape.
How can I be both jealous and in awe of a writer at the same time?
I just am. I cannot recommend this book enough. I’ve marked it up something fierce with my pen of conviction and I’ve already got it slated to lend to my girl Brandy who also teaches me things about spiritual convictions and landscapes and who reminds me not to be cranky about my rental home because I am a rich woman indeed and good things come to those who wait and hope in the Lord.
Here’s the trailer:
Please go read this book if you have ever:
– felt a bit too wild for your environment
– wondered why you have an ache for something more at the end of each day
– known anxiety, depression or some combination thereof and wondered why you couldn’t pray it away
– desired community but were afraid you had nothing to offer
– felt despondent about church or the capital “C” church and didn’t know what to do about it
The other day you doubled back
as you were piling into the car
to go to school with a shark-patterned
You heard the tap tap tap
of me waiting by the window
and you bee-lined as on an
Mutely you blew kisses and threw hugs
and the motion of your throwing hugs
mimicked a flight attendant
directing passengers to the exit rows
And isn’t that just how I feel
as my heart goes soaring above clouds
on this sweet ride of knowing you at five
I am abruptly ushered to the exit row
Because this sweetness of you
doubling back to bid adieu
to your mama before school
is not a round-trip ticket
I’m still going to enjoy my window seat.