Finding Myself (And Fireflies)

The sky is cloudy and dark. All around me is a flurry of activity and motion and I can’t help but feel like I’m falling behind. Maybe it’s the world we live in, always in transition. Maybe I’ll blame my mind, always five steps ahead of my feet. But as I look around at the students walking the campus lawn, at the workers setting up for a jazz festival scheduled to happen this afternoon, at kids and adults and random strangers who seem to have it all together, I can’t help but feel like something is missing. Like there’s something I should be doing. Like I have to run, just to catch up.

When I was a little girl I used to catch fireflies in jars. I’d snag them in-between my palms, always a mix of excited and terrified to feel their tiny wings flapping against my fingers. I’d take them and place them in a jar—one with holes at the top so they could breathe, one where I would admire them for a few moments, then set them free again. I loved watching these fireflies, the way they’d light up the interior of the jar, their golden yellow reflecting off the cool, clear glass.

Watching the world from behind a window screen, I feel like a firefly—not necessarily trapped in a permanent sense, but separated, somehow from the rest of the world.

It’s like my body, my existence has been bound by some external force, restricted by perhaps a desire to be contained and a fear to be freed into the wild unknown. As I watch people mill about, some with a calmness, some with a passion in every step, I wonder whether I’ll be the firefly that stops lighting and falls passively to the bottom of the jar, or if I’ll rise, break through the lid, and illuminate the sky.



Photo Credit: John Flannery

On Writing, And Losing Control

This week is backwards. I set out to write, and so I read, losing myself in the words of other people, transported to their little houses, to the bird cages where they admire eagles, to their bedrooms, where they fall asleep in silence next to someone they used to love. Writing is like this sometimes. Falling in love with your own voice because you begin to recognize it in others’ pages. Discovering the story you want to say somewhere between the second stanza and the third. Recognizing a word, a phrase that feels like cotton in your mouth, or maybe honey, and the sticky-sweet coating, both beautiful and suffocating in the back of your throat. And suddenly the story is there. It was there all along. Suddenly you aren’t writing; you’re understanding. You’re knowing the story you want to write. You’re knowing the words. You’re knowing the language that’s been stuck to the roof of your mouth, just waiting for a cool glass of water. Just waiting to be released.

I wish I could make sense of language sometimes. Why words are spelled so strangely, why sometimes we say one thing and mean another, why sometimes what we need to speak aloud tumbles out of us, and sometimes it slows, getting tangled on our tongue.

I set out to write, and yet I find myself thinking in circles, remembering faces of people or places I used to be. Wanting to write something—something grand, something that makes sense—and instead remembering the dream I had last night. The dream of a plane, spinning in the sky like a top. And there I was, in the middle of a grassy field, surrounded by stars and yet alone, watching this plane, thinking it was going all too fast and planes weren’t supposed to move like that. And then it turned, vertical, nose pointed downwards to the earth and fell. And somewhere off in the distance I could see it explode, see the flames, see the glass shoot up around the metal body like fireworks and I closed my eyes, waiting to feel the crash reverberate beneath my feet. But nothing. And I took off running in that direction, like we do in dreams. It made no sense but I felt this urgency. I felt those tears running down my face. I felt like this was real, this was happening, and if I could just get to that spot between the houses where the plane had landed and all those people—could I help them?

Writing is like that. It starts, not by writing, but by thinking. By forgetting. By re-remembering. By losing all sense of time and place and rules and putting your fingers to the keys or pen to the paper because you know there’s something there and you’re suddenly unafraid to find it.

Writing is reading. Writing is imagining. Writing is falling asleep to the rest of the world as the air conditioner hums in the background and bunnies nibble grass outside the patio window. And there you are, hearing the fan spin lightly in the family room, and yet not hearing it at all. Only hearing the words cycle through your head, making sense of the essay you read yesterday about a woman in a birdcage watching an eagle’s wings, the dishes in the sink, the boy who won’t answer your phone calls, the boy who always will, the dream of a plane crashing through the Midwest sky—and does this all mean something? Is it all spinning around you, reminding you that as much as you try you will never have control? As much as you try to write, the words will always write you?



Featured Image Credit: Alvaro Serrano

An Ode To Iowa Soil

Home. The word itself sounds comfortable, soft in your mouth. It’s a reminder of how you were raised, where you grew up, the person you were when you were young. It’s family and friends. It’s memories, both good and bad. It’s quiet and loud and familiar and where you have roots.

It’s the places you come to when you leave home, the new locations that become familiar in time, the relationships and connections and ways you change and grow somewhere you never expected.

I listen to the hum of crickets, watch the hazy flicker of fireflies in a distant cornfield. I feel the sticky hot summer air mixed with a breeze through the trees that line the pastures where cows stand and graze, not a care in the world. I breathe in Iowa—the dirt, the dust, the manure, the corn, the quiet.

And I remember how home is always, will always, be more than one place.

I Dreamt About Dying

I had a dream last night I was driving home on a slicked-over, wet-from-rain backroad with no hardly any streetlights. I was going 45mph, slower than the highway traffic, blinking my brights at cars in the opposite lanes because they were silhouettes in the darkness without their lights. It seemed strange to me that they were driving without any light, but dreams are funny like that—things not making sense but somehow you agree with them in your mind.

There was a man on a motorcycle in the left lane far ahead of me. He pulled his bike to the shoulder then jumped off and sprinted across the highway. I flashed my brights at him, barely seeing his wet leather jacket and helmet in my windshield before he raced off to the opposite shoulder.

I squinted ahead to see a line of cars in the distance, stopped still, rainwater fierce against their hoods. There were no brake lights on, only darkness, and I tried slamming my brakes, but nothing happened. Continue reading

I’m Trying To Figure Out Where ‘Home’ Is

I watch the sun set over the grey clouds on the horizon. From the airplane, it’s almost surreal—earth and sky one blur of color—grey, gold, pink, blue, a hint of yellow-brown. Lately, I’ve been on airplanes probably more than I should, traveling back and forth from the town I grew up in, the place my sister lives, the city I went to college, and where I live now.

Sometimes I feel like I’m always in motion, spreading myself between people and places I love. Trying, so desperately, to understand the connections I have between each location and my heart, between the person I am in each city, each town, and each relationship I’ve kept and left behind.

It’s been a year since I’ve left the Midwest—what has always been my home. It’s been a year since I gathered my life and loaded it into a uhaul truck, hitched my little car to the trailer, and watched the city where I grew up fade in the rearview mirror.

It’s been a year since I said my goodbyes, since I walked down the gravel paths in my college town, since I hugged one of my best friends, since I unpacked my entire existence in a town two thousand miles from what I used to call home.

Displacement.That’s what I call it: the feeling of not really knowing where you fit. When you’re tied to a place you’ve always known but suddenly feel more comfortable somewhere new. When you’re connected to more than one location, considering both of them where you belong.

It’s always strange when I board a plane, when I feel the mechanical body lift underneath my own, when I watch the houses and cars and boats and people suddenly become specks, when I get that giddy feeling of heading somewhere I used to belong.

Used to belong. Continue reading

I’m Trying To Find The Words To Speak In A Broken World

I feel…sad. Defeated. Frustrated. Empty.

I’m really not sure how I feel.

I walked out of church this morning, imagining that I’d push through those double doors and feel renewed. That all the indecision, the anxiety bubbling in my stomach would suddenly disappear. That I would have all the answers and the right words and the confidence to face the day. But I know church doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t provide on my terms. He isn’t just this magical being that makes everything perfect exactly how and when we want Him to.

I left church, and I felt a mix of emotions. There’s been so much I’ve wanted to write for so long, but I haven’t yet found the words.

I’m struggling.

I’m struggling to write about love and laughter and happiness and forgiveness when it seems those things are so trivial. I’m struggling to write about people I love and people I miss, when some people are crying, feeling so unheard.

I want to write about politics. I want to write about the Muslim ban. I want to write about feminism and Donald Trump and new policies and all the positive and negative thoughts I have swirling around my brain. But honestly, I’m not sure how. Continue reading

The Strength Of A Heart


A few months ago, someone messaged me on my Facebook page and asked me to write about the ‘the strength of a heart.’ confused, I asked them to elaborate. And then felt like a complete idiot for not knowing what they were talking about. The ‘strength of a heart’—that’s implied, isn’t it? The phrase is about our resilience, our continuance, how we continue on and heal after heartbreak, how we learn to love and re-love, in the wake of losing people and relationships that meant everything to us. Continue reading

I Wrote About A Boy


I wrote about a boy yesterday.

To be honest, maybe not just one boy. Maybe all the boys I’ve been hurting in the past year, the ones who wanted me to be something I just couldn’t. Not yet.

I wrote a piece about a boy whose heart I broke. Whose heart I knew I was going to break, but I was powerless to stop it. It all happened so fast–the feelings, the time, the way two people sort of mesh together, and even if you know from the start it’s doomed, you still want to try–you know, that feeling. Continue reading

Maybe If We Quiet Our Minds, Our Hearts Will Finally Listen


Image Credit: Alef Vinicius

Sometimes I wonder if we have the answers inside us, all along. Like we know, somewhere in the deepest parts of ourselves, where we should be headed, or who we should be with. Something like intuition or conscience, or maybe even God speaking through our cells.

Have you ever had a moment where you suddenly knew, beyond a doubt, what to do? Like some strange force pulled you, pushed you, gave you clarity?

It’s like seeing a random person on a walk through the park and realizing this has happened to you before—you crossing paths with this specific stranger—in a dream. Like deja-vu. Like something scary and wonderful and will make you seem like a crazy person if you try to explain it.

Sometimes I wonder where that little voice in our head comes from. Continue reading

When He Asks Me My Favorite Flower


He asks me my favorite flower, and I don’t hesitate. Sunflower. Bold. Bright. Brilliant. His eyebrows furrow, ‘Why not a rose?’ He implies their beauty, their danger, their poise. The way you can admire from a distance, but never get too close.

But I have never been a rose. Continue reading