A Pointless Story Involving Robins

You know the kinds of stories that don’t really have a point–they’re just stories to pass the time? Well, I tell a lot of those and this is one of them. So I’m telling you now, just like I tell people in real life: I won’t be offended if you just walk away while I’m still talking. If you have better things to do on this crazy internet thing, go right ahead. Just know that you’re welcome to stay and listen. This is just me, Jo, talking.

First off, an observation. Cafeterias are only good for eating with friends. Not so much eating alone. Because when eating with friends, you can talk (or listen, in my case), and contribute to the chaotic noise level. When you’re eating supper solo, you might get annoyed by the cacophony that is the cafeteria at peak meal times. It’s better to eat with the robins.

What you do is (and what I mean is, what I did tonight was) take your supper back behind your dorm and tiptoe out along the retaining wall that’s back there, and just watch the sun get lower and lower behind the pine trees. And there’ll be robins and euphony waiting for you.

So I just sat back there and thought about things and wondered about other things and had a content old time back there by myself. I crossed my legs applesauce-style and pretended I was a homeless prophet eating what I could on my road to the next town.

Friends, I’m kind of weird. I’m sorry if this is the first time you’re realizing this.

I watched the streetlamps come on across the street at Henderson, and suddenly, my home-town felt sweet and happy, and the George Bailey mood of frustration that had hung over me all the last week lifted, a little. See, it’s easy for me to think that I need to figure everything out about my future and my responsibilities and all that right now and if I’m not careful, everything comes together and my thoughts are something along the lines of, “Gee, Jo–if you mess this up, or do the wrong thing here, man, you are letting down everybody. The world depends on you doing the perfect thing. All the time.”

Ridiculous. But very me.

Does what I do matter? Yeah, I think so. I have people in my life who are watching to see what decisions I make, whether or not they are wise and humble or whether my actions are kind, not self-absorbed. Sure it matters what conclusions I come to, and how I act on my beliefs, and it matters what I’m concerning my thoughts with.

It’s just that I am not the main character in the story. I’m not, and neither is anyone else I know of. I play a part, and I hope to play it as well as I can, but the world, I don’t think, does not depend on me knowing exactly what to do next. That’s comforting to me, and at the same time a little humbling, because I sure act like this world revolves around the (mis)adventures of a girl named Jo.

So, anyway, I was sitting there, thinking things, and it was feeling not at all like mid-February, because there was a cool, calm breeze that kept rolling around the side of the building. It was my favorite time of day, the sort of twilight that seems to last so much longer than you’d expect. The sun keeps getting lower and lower, but it’s already gone behind the horizon so there’s not a large difference in lighting. The subtlety of lighting in the west grow yet more subtle, and the skeletons of trees are black against its glow.

That’s one thing I never noticed, is the effect of pine trees against the sunset. I used to think pine trees were hideous and only served to block the horizon and the sky. They always felt so confining. Well, come to find out they’re actually very pretty, especially at dusk against the sunset.

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That’s about it for this story, except to say that I discovered my flipflops, randomly. I happened to look down at the ground and there they were, just sitting there. Turns out I’d been missing them for months now, ever since some outdoor party we had here. I sort of hated to pick them up, conformed as they were to the dirt. I had to pry one of them loose from the grass that had grown up around it. So that was pretty neat.

Like I said at the beginning, there’s no real point to this story. It’s just a story. Sometimes, though, I appreciate stories that aren’t trying to get me to do anything in particular, and that aren’t convincing me I’m wrong or that I should change or do something all-important. There’s a place for those stories, and I often post stories like that on here, but just sometimes, it’s good to be content. I wish I knew how to be content in every situation, but I don’t. We keep learning.

If there’s something I would encourage you to try, it’s to eat outside sometime on a nice day. Eat with a friend, maybe, and tell stories that maybe seem pointless. Listen. Take a break from phones and having to feel on-call and in the loop 24/7. It’s nice to just be.

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Waldo Church Choir: The View from the Backseat

Here’s a fun write-up of my experiences of third grade. In third grade I was very concerned with being in the cool crowd. I generally look back on it as the worst year of my life, for that very reason. But this made me laugh, looking back on it:) I hope you enjoy it.

Even from the backseat of the worn out church van I could hear Brother Johnny Mason singing “The Old Rugged Cross” as he slowly but surely drove all ten of us home from choir practice. I could see everything from that backseat: Brother Johnny and his wife in the very front; their son Cody just behind, fidgeting awkwardly by himself. No one ever sat near Cody, except for that one time when my brother Tim, for reasons unfathomable to me, had calmly risen and made his way forward, plopping himself down in the most uncool seat in the whole van.  That was the same day that Brother Johnny, peering into the rear-view mirror, had asked whom he should let off next. “Last!” I had shouted, waving my hand enthusiastically. “Let me off last, please!” I hadn’t caught or understood Tim’s glare until after the hour-long tour of Waldo and its surrounding communities. We were late for church, he scolded me later, because of my silly desire to impress the popular fifth-grade girls.

Today, however, Tim was in his usual place toward the middle of the van, with Alex and Serena, friends of ours who, while nice, were by no means popular. Scanning the seat directly in front of me, I watched Hunter Aiken pick his nose and smear the contents on the grimy window. Hunter, I thought, was well-liked throughout the choir, even if he did have a tendency to brag about his father’s possessions. He started up again, shouting at the top of his lungs to his seatmate, Julia. I had begun mentally referring to Julia as the “roly-poly,” as she almost always wore a horizontally-striped shirt, which inevitably stretched snugly over her rotund stomach. She sat stolidly while Hunter, spewing saliva, told her about the eagle his daddy kept in their backyard, and the whale there, and the badger.

Bored, I glanced out the window and glimpsed a small animal scurrying out of the rusty trees toward the road. Whatever it was (possibly Hunter’s father’s badger, for all I knew) hesitated directly in the path of the lumbering van. In the rear-view mirror I saw Brother Johnny’s eyes twinkle as he revved the old van across the railroad tracks. Hunter stood up in place as Brother Johnny pushed the gas pedal to the floor. Hunter lurched; after a pause Brother Johnny looked up and asked quickly, “Did I get him?” Hunter practically crowed. “Oh, you got him, Brother Johnny! You sure got that varmint!” Hoots and hollers erupted, and the Waldo Church Choir collectively turned its head to immortalize the fresh road kill.

Suddenly, however, the chaos in the van became background static as a shrill squeal of terror pierced the stale air. It was Brittany Mayberry, hands-down the most popular girl in Waldo choir—probably in all of Waldo, Arkansas. She gathered my two other seatmates around the discolored cup-holder; I braced myself for the twin shrieks, then peeked hesitantly into the cup-holder. There I saw a dead, decaying fly and several chewed wads of gum. Feeling sick, I retreated to the other side of the bench, while Brittany and the girls giggled hysterically. Even in my disgust I felt satisfied at having made it to the backseat. I was one of them—and in just third grade, too!