Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Feather Circles from Grad School

So, I decided instead of teasing from one of the multiple WIPS I have(sighs) that I would post a piece from a graduate school writing class. It's from the summer of 2007, and this class meant the world to me and my writing because after a long hiatus of not writing anything after my mother's death, my creative juices began flowing again. The class was twelve or thirteen other members of my English cohort, and we sat around in what was called a Feather Circle. When you had the "talking stick", you read your piece aloud in front of the class. It was a truly freeing experience. After you read your piece, everyone was expected to write thank-you notes citing particular things about the piece they liked. Whenever I got discouraged about my writing during the querying process, I would take out these thank-you notes and read them. They'd once again give me the encouragement I needed to go on.

Without further adieu, here's the first ever piece I wrote. We were to choose a symbol to represent us. I, of course, chose a Steel Magnolia...go figure!

Someone would think to call oneself a Steel Magnolia is a paradox. I suppose that at the crux of my being I am a paradox. I am a liberal and a conservative; I am a saint, and I am a sinner; I am at times made of unbuckling steel, and at others, I’m as genteel as a soft, southern Magnolia.

I am like the steel buildings that have risen from the ashes of the antebellum landscape of the south. I am ever changing. As the magnolia stretches its roots deep into the red Georgia clay, so are my roots inextricably bound to the culture of the south, of Georgia, and of Cherokee County.

I am a true child of the old south. I was reared on raucous family reunions with plates teeming with golden fried chicken, garden fresh corn, okra, and green beans, homemade pound cake, and sugary sweet tea out of a mason jar. I am from that Old Time Religion of fire and brimstone preaching, sweltering summer revivals, walking down into the watery grave of baptism and being reborn in the blood of the Lamb. I am from an oral tradition spun by the adults of my family around the dining room table on Sundays as well as from the cocooned safety of grandmother’s lap. All of this has been both the “miracle grow” and “the welding” of my soul.

It has taken a steely character, an unflinching faith, and a tremendous resolve to see me through the darkest times of my life. Cancer came with fiendish delight devouring my innocence with its ravenous appetite.

If someone is not made of steel then how is it possible for them watch as their father wastes away to resemble someone who has wandered out of a concentration camp? To watch a heartless and unfeeling disease degrade him from a fiercely independent man to a diapered and helpless shell of his former self. Seventeen years old, two weeks away from high school graduation and I sat before my father’s casket on a bleak, rainy Sunday. Taps, a 21 gun salute, and then a kneeling soldier presented me with a folded flag, “On behalf of a grateful nation..” Only one month after being diagnosed, Soft Tissue Sarcoma, an Agent Orange related cancer, cut my father's life short at fifty-one.

Five years later, Cancer came calling again. This time it was for my best friend, my rock of support, my hero: my mama. My mama, another Steel Magnolia, a history teacher, a loyal friend, and a faithful daughter of Christ, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, a spider-like brain tumor. Its tendrils had embedded deep into her brain robbing her of her memory, her ability to speak, and ultimately the hope of survival. Only a month after her diagnosis, she passed away peacefully in the home that she grew up in, surrounded by her family and friends. Her death shattered me into a thousand jagged pieces from which I’ll never be whole again.

To be orphaned at twenty-three would devastate anyone. Ordinarily, you would buckle under the pressure and snap. There have been many times when I felt myself dying from the inside. Death, despair, and disillusionment had broken me. I willed myself to succumb to the hardening winter that crushed my spirit. But then a spring time would enter my soul, and I would be rejuvenated with faith and a hardened determination to go on.

After each tragedy and each heartache, I am only stronger. I have seen that nothing can tear down the steely resolve of my character and no disease can truly kill my roots.


Laina said...

Girl! Just like it did the first time, that piece just gave me CHILLS! Your writing always grips me. Thanks for sharing your logo piece with us!

V.M.Pettingill said...

Wow. I feel like something so great should have some sort of amazing coherent response from me but I'm just soft of speechless and misty-eyed. Thank you so much for sharing this, I feel like I was let in to view a piece of your soul.

Heather Dougherty said...

*flails around for tissues* Oh my Krista - that is beautiful. *throws empty Puffs box on floor*

What wonderful insight into your life - and so poetic. *grabs roll of toilet paper* I'm sorry for all that you have had to endure - but happy to know you for who you are.

*dabs at eyes...blows nose*

Karla Nellenbach said...

this is just gorgeous! and, i'm a little teary here.

Becca said...

*passes the Kleenex*

Dude, this was one of the best pieces of writing I've ever read. I can tell your emotions were poured into this one.


Kaitlin Ward said...

This is really beautiful, Krista. I really felt it

Kirsten said...

Wow. I am so shivery right now -- you have an amazing ability to write raw emotion into the page. Thanks for sharing about yourself!

Marilyn Almodovar said...

Wow Krista, I have no words to show my admiration for this piece and for your strength. I thank you for posting this, and amazing and insightful piece full of raw emotions that have touched me deep down inside.


inkspatters said...

I teared up reading this. It's amazing. You're amazing.

Wow, what a beautiful and heartfelt piece.

Sage said...

This is just so. beautifully. written.

Debra Driza said...

So lovely and sad! ((((hugs)))) I love the imagery, even while I'm clutching my kleenex!

Glen Akin said...

This is the most beautiful piece of writing I have ever read. So touching, and I'm typing this now with tears in my eyes, you better believe that. What you've gone through, I can't begin to imagine. Your strength, your passion, your soul shines like a light from heaven and I see it through your writing. Thank you for this. Thank you.