Photo: #reverb10 Day 25

Today’s prompt: Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

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When I first read this prompt, I thought it said “a photo you have taken,” and I thought that was going to be a tough sift. I only took about 13,000 pictures this year. Good thing I looked again. Finding a photo of me was easy. There have been maybe four total taken this year. I try not to be in front of the camera if at all possible.

The picture shown above was taken by David Black. The setting is my family land on Black Creek. I chose the backdrop of an abandoned camper trailer for the shot because I wanted it to say something real about me. It says I’m kind of a redneck. That’s what I was going for.

I’m using this on a book cover for a poetry collection. Nothing is more artsy fartsy than poetry. It has no commercial value. It only has aesthetic and intellectual value. But as my friend says, “Put intellectual value in one hand, and a dollar in the other, and see which one buys you a Coke at the Quick Stop.”

So I guess what I want to say is this. To me poetry is essential to life. It is necessary to any kind of life we might call civilized. But at the same time, if you think too highly of yourself for writing it, you’ve probably lost all sense of reason.

Some of my family members thought this picture was hilarious and some thought it was embarrassing. I think they hoped I would class up the poetry a little bit more. But there’s no denying that’s where I come from. That’s who I am. There wouldn’t be any poetry in me to write if there hadn’t first been the woods for me to stomp around in.

My only real regret about this particular shot is that the trailer is a little too nice.

Christmas Column

This is my column that appeared in the Hattiesburg American earlier this week.

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I don’t know how my mother managed to make Christmas the special time it always was. We never had enough money when I was growing up, and my parents had six children to feed and clothe. We always all had several gifts each under the tree on Christmas morning, though, and they weren’t just socks and earmuffs. We had toys. We had things we wanted, things that reflected each child’s interests and personality.

My mother’s children tried going cynical on her as adults. The family grew so large that keeping up with gift-giving seemed an impossibility. We wanted to quit exchanging gifts with each other, but my mother kept right on. To this day, every child, every grandchild, and every great-grandchild has a gift under her tree. The year she was in the hospital with a broken hip and the house was gutted out thanks to Katrina, everyone had a gift under her tree. I know because one of the first things she did after the anesthesia wore off was to give me a list of what she still needed to buy. Some days I have trouble remembering everyone’s name, but she remembered who was getting what down to the last grandson-in-law.

This isn’t about stuff. It’s about making sure everyone knows she cares, that she wants to do something special for each and every one. It doesn’t matter how cynical the rest of us become, we can’t take that from her.

I hear lots of complaints about the commercialization of Christmas this time of year. It’s true that the hype is overwhelming, and we are all in danger of getting lost in the chaos. I don’t think the problem is the commercialization of Christmas itself, however. I think what we’ve done to Christmas is just a symptom of the overarching problem of excessive commercialization in our lives. If Christmas were still one of the few times of a year when we did get a treat for ourselves, we would still remember what’s so special about giving and receiving gifts.

It isn’t Christmas hype that has us so jaded. It’s year-round hyper-consumerism. Becoming grouches about Christmas doesn’t solve that problem.

I, for one, have a goal to enjoy Christmas but to reduce my spending year-round. Christmas isn’t about stuff, but stuff only detracts from Christmas when we forget what gifts represent – that someone cares about each and every one of us.

Everything's Okay: #reverb10 Day 24

Today’s prompt:  What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

I’ve fallen behind on the reverbs, mainly because I’ve had a lot going on.  If you haven’t seen what happened to my car this week yet, take a look.  I hit a $2600 deer.  It’s okay, though.  Everything is going to be okay.  The car is in the shop.  The insurance papers are filed.  The rental car is sitting in my driveway.  It’s okay.  I don’t suppose there was ever a question that it would all turn out okay.

This prompt reminds me of Patricia of Next Door who kept saying “It will all work out” when we were all stressed out over end-of-the-semester grading piles.  And it did.  It worked out. It’s Christmas, and the grading is behind us for another week or two.

I don’t know that I’ve discovered at any given point that everything was going to be okay, but I have had a stressful year, and there have been times when I needed to remind myself.  Perspective is everything.  I’ve been stressed out over teaching loads.  That’s not the same thing as being stressed out over being in a war zone or being homeless or working in a neonatal intensive care unit.  Only nerves are in danger in my world, not lives.

It’s Christmas eve, and that’s an awfully good time to remember how blessed we are.  I was supposed to be at a family dinner tonight, but I stayed home because I didn’t feel well.  That’s okay.  I’ll feel better in a day or two, and I’ll see my family then.  What matters is that I do have a home and a family and a solid support system for when things go wrong.

Not everyone does.  I think I’ll devote my reflections today to the plights of the less fortunate.  Even though I’m sick and my car is smashed up, I feel okay about myself.  I’d rather spend my time worrying about someone else.