Accepting Where I’m From

By: Will O’Brien, Social Media Intern 2015

I have spent the last three years of my life going new places, meeting new people, and trying new things, but I have always had a benchmark. The control in my life experiment is always my family and my hometown. However, simply saying “St. Louis” when people asked me where I am from never seemed sufficient. I felt it wasn’t the complete picture of my background that everyone thought it was and most people from the Northeast needed me to pull out a map to show them where exactly that “small southern town” was.

The effort to truly accept my hometown, which has been particularly difficult with the media coverage we have been getting over the course of the past year, has not been easy. However, this past week I made a breakthrough. My sister sent me an exercise from one of her classes for graduate school. It was an adult Mad-Libs of sorts to the form on George Ella Lyon’s Poem “Where I’m From.” My sister and I have not yet had the opportunity to sit down and compare notes, but taking 15 minutes out of my day to reflect and accept my roots was refreshing. I was also very intrigued when an article on Lyon’s passing mentioned a traditional religious upbringing. Both my liberal Protestant and Roman Catholic upbringings still have strong influences on my worldview that I am constantly sorting out and accepting for myself.

Below are Lyon’s original poem, a fill in the blank style template, and my personal variation on his theme. They have helped me find some acceptance of my roots, and I hope they help you do the same.

Where I’m From

By: George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Where I’m From

(template)

I am from _______ (specific ordinary item),

from _______ (product name) and _______.
I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).
I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item),

the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)
I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait),

from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).
I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).
From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).
I am from (representation of religion or lack of it). Further description.
I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).
From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).
I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

Where I’m From

By:Will O’Brien

I am from desserts,
from Jif and Smucker’s.
I am from the odd stair on the porch.
(White, new,
made by hand.)
I am from the dead grass
the Old Oak
whose ancient roots I remember
as if they still showed through the sidewalk.

I’m from meat and potatoes,
from Blue Stone and Trout Lodge.
I’m from the ‘stop smacking’
and the ‘use your lips,‘
from ‘don’t yell!’ and ‘bring it here!‘
I’m from Webster
with a St. Joe’s tinge

and trespasses, and sins, and debts.

I’m from Metuchen and Berea,
burnt chicken and black coffee.
From the thumb my uncle lost
at the factory,
the burn on my father’s hand.

In my basement was a Build-A-Bear box
spilling old pictures,
a mess of 90’s outfits
Each accompanying a story.
I am the pictures–
the stories —
the memories.

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A Prayer to Keep Us Rooted

Roots are our foundation, our past, and all the things we have buried. Here is a prayer for those special things that keep us rooted.

Dear Spirit of the Past, Present, and Future,

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Photo of “Submerged Motherlands” by Swoon

No matter what kind of past I have come from,

I know the spirit of universal love still surrounds me.

Some days I feel blessed with strong roots, strong support,

and some days I feel disconnected and disheartened.

Help me to add to my foundation only that which will make me stronger,

help me feel rooted to faith, love, and community.

I know that as I explore the spiritual mysteries of this world,

I am finding deeper connections to everyone.

Help me explore the present with grace and mindfulness,

help me find the wisdom and let go of the pain in my past,

help me breathe love into the future.

 

Amen

Deepest Part of Love

Today’s post is from Shaza Askar, Syrian women currently studying, living and loving in Europe. Today she shares with us a poem about the roots of her love. We are very honored to share this glimpse into the deepest parts of love.

Imagine

Imagine I kiss all the bits
you thought were not beautiful.
Imagine I rest my fingers on them
and move them not, so that
my warmth will join yours
and you forget there was ever air
between our skin.
Imagine I show you new images of you,
images you started avoiding in the mirror.
Imagine I say all they say is untrue
and fill your ears with honest words
in an ancient language.
Imagine I plant white daisies
in the places you frown at,
and they bloom as you smile.
Imagine I told you to look after them
and let them brighten the way
as you go through your life.
Imagine you forget for a fleeting moment
you were ever anything other
than beautiful!

(Dedicated only to you)

Sacando las Raíces

By: Jenni Taylor

“Mi pecado es grande,” Cynthia joked, dragging a six foot root behind her to throw into the fire. “My sin is big.”

I was in Iquitos, Peru. A church recently bought a small plot of jungle ground outside of the city to build a missionary school. We had begun by sleeping in tents on shaky platforms made of sticks, but now it was time to clear the land for small houses and a maloca, a circular hut for meetings.photo1 (1)

The property was called the virgin jungle. We were, in effect, destroying a small piece of it. Some of the Peruvians came from the city; many others came from deep within the jungle and had done this many times before.

The men used slashing and burning to clear a stretch of a hillside, down to a small creek that flowed with clear, fresh water. The last mission school had still water, and students had come down with malaria. Cynthia, the young woman who had pulled out the root, was a survivor.

As the men slashed and burned, the women came behind. Mama Noemi, the mother of us all, crouched like a baboon over the burnt earth with her machete. She had loose breasts, strong hands, and wrinkles deep around her eyes. She had come to the mission school with her husband after she said she had been healed of blindness. She spoke more jungle dialects than any linguist at Harvard ever could.

The rest of us girls, eight of us or so, came behind mama. We crouched as she did and used our hands to pull out the root systems that had fed the trees for hundreds of years. We would pull and tug and hack away, sometimes two or three girls working at one root system weaving across the top of this small mountain. That’s when the joking began. We must be pulling out our sins, hacking away in this jungle heat and sweat.

As we pulled the ground, the soil and ashes began to give way to the whitest, purest sand I had ever seen. The afternoon light was beginning to fade into stretches of purple and yellow. The women went down to the creek to bathe, allowing cool water to soothe tired muscles. Mama Noemi crouched again, this time beating her laundry against a rock and then slapping it rhythmically into the water. The cooking fire lit up the dusk and smoke curled into the sky.

That night, after dinner and in the dark, we gathered in a circle and sang. A girl used a tambourine from the city, and a boy beat out a rhythm echoing Mama Noemi’s laundry on his cajon, a handmade jungle drum. The stars above wrapped their gauzy light around the southern cross constellation and twisted their way through the dark, twinkling with the same echoing rhythm and bringing their own music to the cacophony. This wild place, this tiny patch of untamed ground was becoming a home, and each song was a root of their own spirituality sinking into the ground and declaring the land theirs. So they sang, wailing to the sky, their spirits as wild as the jungle surrounding them.

Submissions: Roots

Roots

Deep roots are not reached by the frost. -J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Another month has begun. This month we are interested in roots. The dirty ones, the deep ones, the roots of faith and the roots of doubt. We want to share all the wisdom we can muster about our roots.

What keeps you rooted in your faith? What have you buried? What lies below the surface of your life, of this world? Answer these questions in a post, photograph, or work of art and then submit them to Searching Sophia’s Pockets!

The topic of roots is as broad as it is deep. We are interested in it all. Roots grow deep. Roots connect us to where we have been in the past and nourish us for the future. Roots are the foundation, the family, the faith that keep us strong, or make us crumble. Roots are what we hide beneath the surface, what no one else can see, but they also influence everything we are.  We all have roots, our faith has roots, maybe even our creative impulses have roots.  Let’s explore them all together!