When Your Words Disappear

“Vulnerable” by Kate Hinson

I write. Or I should say, I used to write, and I loved figuring out what I thought and felt through the process of typing out words. Then life got messy. The words got stuck behind the blinking cursor and the tears.

In the middle of the messiness, a friend recommended Wayne Brezinka’s Brezinka for Beginners Mixed Media Workshop. Wayne lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Back then, I lived 7 hours away in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. But I drove to the weekend painting class, not quite sure what to expect.

I was nervous and felt like I was going to fail the test. There were no tests, but I still felt that way due to the perfectionist in me.

Wayne Brezinka is a gentle, brilliant man who varies his classes, from technique exercises to collage history to talks on fear. Wayne creates collages made of cardboard, fabric, vintage newspapers, and various found objects that often have tie-ins to his subject matter. His subjects range from birds to landscapes to famous individuals to trucks to … you get the picture. He can do anything.

But I got stuck on the first exercise.

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Snakebit

He sat in the stifling room wondering why his wife had assumed it would never get hot in Maine. He watched the breeze suck the sheers to the screen and puff them back out as if the house itself was laboring to breathe. “Let’s buy a summer house in Maine,” she’d said. “We won’t need any air conditioning there.”

He huffed and interrupted the silence, which he immediately regretted because it woke her.    

She opened her eyes and looked at him. “Oh, hi. You’re still here.”

“Where else would I be?” He said drawing in a puff on his cigarette, and leaning further back into the recliner.

“We could hire a nurse you know.”

“Nah. If I need to go out I’ll take you with. Besides, there’s nothing I’d rather do than watch you sleep.”

“How sentimental. I’m sure you mean that,” she said rolling her eyes. “Look. There’s a book, a photo album, on the table. Do you see it?”

“Of course I see it, woman. Do you want it or something?”

“Yes, I do. Of course I do.”

“Then say what you mean.”

She rolled her eyes again. “That book is you and me.”

“What the hell are you talking about? You don’t make sense!” he said.

After fifty-two years together he hoped there’d be some sentiment he’d feel other than Lord, leave me be, but it had been too long since all the parts had worked on their farm. Plus, she didn’t seem to like having him around anymore. Nothing he ever did was good enough. You think me wipin’ her ass would be more appreciated, he thought as he stubbed out the Marlboro, appreciating the sudden breeze.

“I’d make sense if you’d listen,” she repeated when he made eye contact again.

Hating to admit he’d lost the thread of the conversation, he inspected a new cigarette. “I doubt that,”  he said, flicking his Bic and inhaling before he spoke again. “Now what did you say you wanted?”

“Hand me that book you old goat!” she bleated.

“Which book, you old nag? There’s twenty books on the table.”

“Ughhhh!” she sighed. A long frustrated sigh that let him know he was on her last nerve. Good, he thought. Because usually she followed such a sigh with, “just leave me alone you old goat” and he’d say “fine, nag,” and the rest of the day would pass without him having to actually smother her with the pillow.

But something in her eyes wouldn’t let him alone.

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Burwell Gardens

 

On the west corner of Burwell Avenue and McMillan Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, sat a vacant lot. To the north, Sharp’s Ridge rose in a sudden spine of hardwoods and undergrowth, brokering the notions of neighborhood loyalty between Oakwood-Lincoln Park and Inskip. A block away, running southeast, Central Avenue hummed with a calico array of colorful shops and businesses where North Knoxville’s varied yet distinct cadre of denizens spent it days. Yet for all this, the one lot stayed vacant. It once appeared to have been bushwhacked with some regularity, either by the city or by neighbors who had tired of the mosquitoes, but nobody bought it until the city acquired it and put it up for auction.

It was then that Colton and Tiffany Kirby, Benjamin and Molly Conaway, and John Human bought it and started Burwell Gardens. The idea was to kill two birds with one stone—pardoning the expression—and address both the issue of vacant lots (historically a potential attraction for crime, drug use, or a massive kudzu incursion) and the problem of fresh food shortages in the area. As of now, Burwell Gardens is officially part of the non-profit Cultivate Wholeness and is in the midst of raising funds for things like water lines and gardening materials.

Colton was kind enough to sit down and tell us a bit about the nature of what the Burwell folks are doing, the larger implications of community-oriented urban gardening, and the needs of the neighborhood.

FH: What’s the process your team underwent to get the land and work with the City of Knoxville?

Colton Kirby: We bought the property on auction, it was surplus real estate owned by the city. Acquiring it was pretty straightforward. We got a later start with it than what we wanted since we were at the mercy of the city regarding the closing date. However, once we closed, it was fairly smooth sailing. Since it is privately owned property, we can basically do whatever we want on there and since there are several laws in place that encourage gardening and small-scale urban farming, we’ve not hit any major snags yet.

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Laundry Liturgy

I often dream about laundry. This seems odd to me, though it should not. In the pie chart of my life, the laundry slice could easily feed four or five. Last night, dream-me stood in the laundry room before a washer filled to the top with colorful, clean children’s shoes. I remarked to no one about how brand new the shoes looked, how well they had washed. This morning, real-me picked up my daughter’s mud-covered tennis shoes and threw them in the washer. They’d been sitting on the stairs for a week, at least.

My life is plain these days, and my dreams are uninteresting and plain. I spend my time washing, cleaning floors. Gathering the things we need to clothe and feed the family. Wishing I had better coffee and a little more freedom. Days like this, in Georgia, I might have taken a walk but May here in Santa Rosa isn’t agreeable for walking, and this holiday weekend, the pools, beaches, and roads are crowded with visitors.

Tired this morning, I sit, hot on the porch—hot coffee even so—swatting at mosquitos in silence. My head rings with words from somewhere.

“Are you looking for an exciting life? Stop it. Go the other way. Go through. Go in.”

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Indiana Jones and the Baptized Imagination

A fifth grade birthday party: I was a few months past ten years old, crammed into a school cafeteria with a dozen other pre-adolescent boys, toting sleeping bags and snacks, ready for anything. Everything about that night likely would have drifted into the ash heap of memory, but for one major reason: Indiana Jones.

Someone popped in the videotape, the fluorescent lights flicked off, and I was transported deep into the South American jungle. There he was, Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., fedora and five o’clock shadow, plucking the golden idol from its place atop the stone pillar in the bowels of the earth and running for his life from the giant boulder. Then came the natives, the Nazis, the bullwhip, the one-liners, and the face-melting. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I left that party changed. The world was wilder and bigger than I had known.

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Album Review: Joy Ike, Bigger Than Your Box

Joy Ike’s new record is going to take you places; your only job is to enjoy the ride. Ike’s fourth full-length studio production, Bigger Than Your Box bears surprise and yearning in its arms. The songs address you by looking you straight in the eye. The experience is like sitting at a welcoming table, talking to that person who both intimidates and encourages you at once. Yes, you listen to the album, but lyrically, spiritually, it feels like the album is listening to you. If you’re ready for it, it’ll flip your world in the best way.

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