Work that honors Thy work


Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. They stick to nothing deliberately, but let what will stick to them like burrs where they walk in the fields. No acquirement is on assignment, or even self-assignment. Knowledge of the second kind is much more available in the wild free ways of wit and art.  
Robert Frost, The Figure a Poem Makes

This is the fourth time I've sat down and summoned my inner scholar to write a paper, and it's the fourth time my fingers have written words that led me astray. It was somewhere between the second and third attempts, I think, that I realized resistance was futile.
I'm turning into a regular bookworm--not that I wasn't one before, but these days it's in-depth literary analysis all day every day. The works of Faulkner, specifically. I love it though. Strengthening the mind is one of the best things a person can do, I think.
And how grateful I am to have that incredible privilege to, in the words of Mr. Frost, be both an artist and a scholar, to spend my afternoons holed up in snug coffee shops with page after page of texts, to do work that brings me such joy.
It's a comfort, especially for the times when life scares the hell out of me. Which, if I'm being honest, is more often than not. Most of the time it's the good kind of scared: the kind that pushes and refines you. The pain and heartache ahead I'm not blind to; I can see them lying in wait today and tomorrow and on into the rest of my days. And somehow, doing the things that my soul loves, trusting on Grace to sustain me, and holding close boundless Hope, another day passes.
Naturally, Wendell Berry says it best: "Teach me work that honors Thy work..." One of my greatest wishes.

(also, for all the time I've been slacking on keeping up this blog, I've been posting on instagram @carlottacisternas xo)

Between Earth and Heaven


"I know for a while again
the health of self-forgetfulness,
looking out at the sky though
a notch in the valley-side,
the black woods wintry on
the hills, small clouds at sunset
passing across. And I know
that this is one of the thresholds
between Earth and Heaven,
from which even I may step
forth from myself and be free."

Wendell Berry
The older I get, the more I realize how I crave nature. The allure of a shiny bright city still remains, of course, yet I cannot ignore the quiet way solid packed earth and trickling streams and gentle rolling hills twist their way around my soul and ground me. A mountain man (woman) I am not, and, although it has crossed my mind once or twice, I don't think you'll ever have to worry about me disappearing to live in the forest. Still, the great outdoors always beckons...

New Year's in my family is one of the most low-key holidays and I like it that way very much. It has become a tradition to escape to a cabin and live off the grid for a few days. It's a beautiful, grounding way to send off the old year and ring in the new. This year was especially special, reunited safe with four out of my five siblings after a heck of a year. Have I ever mentioned how thankful I am for my weird and wonderful family? Competitiveness and all. See, this year we all split up into teams and competed very (very) fiercely in a breakfast competition. Shrouded in a thick layer of secrecy, each team was assigned a morning. No one was hampered by the limited cabin-provided utensils and each breakfast seemed to be more elaborate than the last, I swear: freshly baked bread and homemade potato pancakes and parfaits and hand-embellished menus. It was impressive. In the end, my sister Mariam and I won the competition by a mere four points and we gloated more than we probably should have. Like I said, we're a little competitive.

Between eating and reading and sleeping, we filled our time with cave exploring and long hikes in the misty rain. If I squinted hard enough I could pretend I was in the Pacific Northwest instead of southeastern Oklahoma. Wendell Berry was right, this is one of the thresholds between Earth and Heaven.

A small golden light


"I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.
"And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, 'It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.'
"And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, 'This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.'"
Iain Thomas, I Wrote This For You
The mystery of a golden light has remained with me for weeks. What if there were a light indicating the people I’ve met and places I’ve been that I will never see or return to again? A sobering thought. And yet—life without a golden light suits me just fine. I like being surprised, and returning to a place to which I thought I’d said goodbye, and discovering that what I thought were lasts weren’t lasts after all.

The United States of America and I are still reacquainting. I don’t want to forget what it felt (feels) like to see my home with eyes caught in between two worlds. There is a lot wrong with the land I live in, but there is a lot of wonder, too. Broken and wild as the country is, I am grateful to be American. Living in Kenya was harder than I let myself admit, but the good, refining kind of hard. Some days I swear my life overseas was a dream, and others I wake up startled to be in Oklahoma.

Life lately has been so full I can hardly write about it. I met a boy, for one. He is kind and gentle and we are embarking on a hard and slightly scary but happy journey. It simultaneously surprises and makes me giddy every time I think about it. I’m happy, I truly am. A year from now I have no idea where I’ll be and depending on when you ask me, I’m either terrified or absolutely thrilled. Mostly the latter. There was Christmas, and it was beautiful. I’m reading five books at once and laughing a lot and making time for people I love and cracking stupid jokes and drinking more coffee than is probably healthy (or necessary). Cleaning out the excess, cleaning out my soul. Relishing in a hug here, a hand held there. I think, how stupid I was to take it all for granted.

2014 cracked me open, broke and rebuilt me, refined me, rooted and grounded me. Again the golden light. Reading through journals from one, two, three years ago and I think I must be living some sort of wonderfully impossible dream.



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