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Travel | Henderson City Cemetery

29 Sep

Over the summer, I visited my parents in East Texas, where they have chosen to retire, a choice about which they never tire of complaining. While there, my father had to run an errand in Henderson, Texas, a small town about 30 minutes south of theirs, and I decided to go along for the ride.

In Dallas, a trip anywhere usually means driving over countless freeways and merging in and out of traffic, except, of course, when caught in traffic, where one might sit for more than an hour. Thank god for NPR.

A trip through East Texas, however, has a completely different meaning, as the route is a two-lane highway that curves through farm land and is bordered on both sides by forests of pine trees. The pine trees in East Texas never cease to thrill me, and I often feel as though they knowingly mock the city with their tall slender beauty, growing gracefully toward the sky.

“Take that, City Girl. Your high-rise buildings have nothing on us.”

And it’s true.

After my father finished his errand in Henderson, I asked him to drive me through town, hoping to glimpse a view of a small-town square and snap a few photos. The square was exactly as I’d envisioned, but it was a cemetery near the middle of town that caught my eye.

Like the pine trees in the surrounding forests, the grave stones, too, rose toward the heavens–beautiful marble statues directing those over whom they kept watch.

As my father waited patiently in his air conditioned car, I walked beneath a hot summer sun, dusting off graves to see the dates. Many stones revealed dates back to the early 1800s, and I tried to envision these early settlers of a small, East Texan town, wondering if any might be my own ancestors–my presence proof that their lives continue beyond the grave.

The grave I found most striking was a statue of Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, marking the grave of Judge William Wright Morris, for whom Morris County is named. Some of the smaller grave stones, however, had crumbled or fallen, perhaps a result of age or the boredom of young kids in a small town.

The Henderson City Cemetery, however, was well worth the brief half-hour I spent walking through 100-degree heat. New Orleans may boast one of the most striking cemeteries in the nation, but like the pine trees leading into town, this tiny cemetery, tucked so quietly away, is strikingly beautiful in a most subtle and graceful way.

On Yoga | Back to the Mat

18 May

Some time ago, I came across a parable of sorts, wherein a man in prison receives a prayer rug from a friend, though what he actually sought was a way out. After days of repeating the Salaat, or daily prayers, he notices a pattern in the weave of the rug at the point where his head touches the ground. Upon meditating on the pattern, he discovers it is actually a diagram of the lock of his cell. Through his prayer and meditation, he is able to escape his prison.

I’ve always liked this metaphor and the idea that through prayer or meditation of some sort, regardless of one’s beliefs, one might find the truth one seeks or, sometimes, truth unsought.

I was reminded of this story during my yoga practice today. After an exhausting semester, I finally made my way back to the yoga mat, heavy with the weight of work, teaching, and grading, a daily grind that, though important to me, often removes me from a sense of my self.  Initially, it was difficult to let go of the running thoughts I’ve had over the past three weeks.

Did I grade fairly and unbiased? Did I meet the needs of my students? Did I submit grades correctly?

As I moved through the asanas, or postures, however, such thoughts gradually receded as my focus was narrowed only to movement and breath. The inner ‘to-do list’ was, for that moment, silenced.  Through the vinyasa, or flow of each connected movement, the weight of work and worry was lifted. With my forehead against the mat or my arms spread wide in warrior stance, like the man in the story,  I was able to see, without even searching, that which is truly important.

On Teaching | National Teacher’s Day

6 May

A holiday not celebrated enough is National Teacher’s Day. I actually teach but had no idea such a day existed until I drove through my local fast-food establishment and received a coupon that looked something like this:


In full anticipation, I wore my Sunday’s best to class, fully prepared for a few apples on my desk. No acknowledgment was made, however, and class continued as usual. Because Chick-fil-A seemed to be the the only means of appreciation, I drove through after class for my free 3-piece chicken meal. They didn’t even ask me for identification, which was completely disappointing. Either I look like a teacher or anyone could have gotten a free meal. I think I prefer the latter.

As I sat at home, enjoying a glass of wine and free Chick-fil-A, I started thinking about all the teachers I’ve had, among whom Mr. Haynes, my Honors English teacher stands out. He gave me a voice as a sophomore, encouraged me to write as a junior, and wrote my college letter-of-recommendation as a senior. When writing that letter, he asked what I wanted to major in.

“English Lit, of course,” was my reply and another classmate agreed. “Is there anything else worth studying?”

Mr. Haynes sighed. “All our best ending up as English teachers.”

“Oh, no.” I retorted. “I’m going to law school after undergrad.”

Mr. Haynes looked relieved. Little does he know, however, that here I sit, enjoying my Chick-fil-a on National Teacher’s Day, quite relived myself, that I’m not a lawyer and didn’t have to pose as a teacher to eat for free.

Musings | Autumn Prelude

3 Sep

Hurricane winds herded coastal clouds across the sky today like buffalo across the plains; all sorts of billowing shapes slowly and arrogantly traversed through Dallas with nonchalance, and their presence against the blue, purple, and pink skies, along with the wind whisking across my body and through my hair, and the light rain shower around noon, made this the most perfect prelude into Fall.
The striking fellow pictured here was among my favorites; robust and swollen, looming, brooding, he is surely Gustav himself, or at least he feigns to be. His secret is kept safe in Dallas, however, a city of great pretenders.
Sitting on my balcony at dark, I can still see smaller clouds moving calmly across the night sky, watching the rushing traffic below with smug amusement. It seems that the wind, too, has conspired with the sky to scorn the city, as the sound of it rushing through the trees easily outplays the sounds of rushing highways below.
Days and evenings such as this are surely what Wordsworth and Baudelaire are made of, and it seems shameful to sleep knowing that upon waking the scorching sun of Texas will have returned to cruelly postpone our Autumn, but still, what a beautiful, beautiful day.

Happenstance

22 Mar

If I hadn’t once played soccer with a group of Czechs in Europe, I wouldn’t have met The Painter, whose mother adviced me to attend U of D for grad school where I taught in a program wherein I met Katerina.

I woudn’t have attended her bar-b-que, where I met George Glass, who taught me the additional steps of an Arabic dance which I wouldn’t have known had I not gone to Al Amir last summer with Eva, whom I wouldn’t have known had she not married the American she met in Kazakhstan whom she wouldn’t have met if he hadn’t divorced his first wife.

Therefore, I wouldn’t have spent fabulous hours at the hookah lounge last night, left my keys in George’s friend’s car, stayed up so very late as a result, wouldn’t have decided to stay home tonight due to my resulting fatigue, and would therefore not be sitting on my couch presently composing this post.

Thus, my present moment can be traced back to a soccer game and an American man’s divorce. It’s quite a chain of events leading to a rather monotonous present (sitting on my couch isn’t the most exciting of events), but a striking look at how each decision we make not only affects our present moment but also the present moment of others whom we might not even know.

Such questions as to whether our existence is coincidence, destiny, or a matter of choice are pondered in the most charming film short “The Danish Poet,” which I had the pleasure of viewing tonight. (Coincidence? I think not . . .) It’s short, sweet, and definitely worth fifteen minutes of your life. (And who knows – it might lead to a present moment wherein you are sitting on your couch writing a blog.)

Youtube posts the short film in two parts; following is part one, and part two can be found on youtube:

le Chateau Oh No . . .

19 Feb

Tired of the one hour commute to work every morning, I recently realized that a move to Dallas might be long overdue, and spent an entire Saturday morning with Bing driving around various Uptown neighborhoods. I called various apartment houses and left countless messages; perhaps the housing slump has also caused landlord lethargy, because very few returned my call.

So hopeful I felt, then, when Todd of Le Chateau rang me and quoted an unbelievable rate. Because I had driven by so many properties, I couldn’t accurately remember his, but it was only a short distance from the office, so I thought it worthy of a look during my lunch break.

I pulled up to a building circa 1950, which might have been labeled charming had the lawn not been drier than El Paso; I assured myself, however, that this was due to the winter chill, and anxiously walked up the sidewalk into the office.

Oh, how I wanted to turn around at that very moment! The office was circa 1970; not a charming era for office furniture – a giant brown metal desk, three maroon metal filing cabinets, and three green pleather chairs. Todd greeted me from behind the desk where he was enjoying a Marlboro Red over a faux gold-plated ashtray filled to the brim with approximately three decades of cigarettes.

Hello darling. You must be Anika. I’m soooo glad you’re here.”
Todd was definately gay, but in his polyester brown pants and stained white undershirt he was definately not fabulous.
“Let me give you the grand tour,” he said with the accompanying arm gestures of a conductor finishing Mozart’s Requiem Mass.

Polite I was, and obliged Todd in his delusional debut as Robin Leach.
“Isn’t this stairwell just fabulous,” he mused as we creaked up faded red-carpeted stairs and hallways permeating with the scent of mildew.

“It’s Apartment W – for wonderful!” he continued as he opened up an apartment the size of a closet in Paris.

And there it was – approximately 450 square feet of never-vacuumed dark brown carpet, accompanying dark brown cabinets, walls of peeling paint with exposed outlets, and the single window overlooking the even more decrepit laundry center. PETA wouldn’t have allowed an animal to live in such dire conditions, though the previous owner was obviously an animal lover, the evidence clearly left behind.

“Oh, Chuck had 7 bunnies living in here. Ha. He was such a funny bunny himself,” Todd bragged.
“Oh.” I said.
Soooo. . . what do you think?”
I suppose he could tell I didn’t think much, because on the spot he approved me, offered me a month of free rent, and waved the deposit.

“I’ll have to think about it . . .” I began when I was interrupted from the tenant in Apt. R – Stan, who was wearing an very old postal uniform; but he was too young to be retired, and the uniform was too old to be worn by present postmen. Clearly, he liked to hang out in postal uniforms.

“That’s Stan. Now, he rents a cabana, and he’s been in it for three years.”
“What’s a cabana,” I queried.
“Oh, it’s just a fabulous little room. But there’s no kitchen.”
“Well . . . how does Stan cook?”
“Oh, he has a hot plate. It’s swell. We can look at the cabana if you like.”

A hot plate! For three years Stan has hung out in postal uniforms cooking dinners on a hot plate!

“No, well, I don’t think I’m interested in the cabana.”

I wasn’t interested in any room in le Chateau – at best it reminds me of a place where an opium addict in a Poe story might reside. So naturally, I lied. I took the application, said I’d think about it, and walked very quickly to my car, never again to darken the shadows of le Chateau.

Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I aimed to write a Valentine’s post incorporating Sufism, the Troubadours, and St. Valentine (completely disregarding Freud in honor of Love), but being that I’m at work and we have a major deadline, the following video will have to suffice. I’m not positive it’s Valentine-esque, but it definitely has the “Awwww” factor. . .