Where I’m From…

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A dear friend signed me up for an online writing course recently called Finding Your Writing Voice. Last night I tackled the first assignment – Where I’m From. The goal was to create lists of words that reminded me of my childhood and the places and people from that time and then turn it into a sort of poem. So I turned on some Lynyrd Skynyrd and sat down in the middle of my living room floor and dug into a box of old photographs for inspiration.

I thought I’d share the result here.

I am from sunshine and moonshine,
from cigarettes and whiskey and Rolling Stones.

I am from red dirt and rainy Wednesdays,
from a prickly pear and a yellow rose.

I am from Native drumbeats and Highland Pipes,
from Fleetwood Mac and Silent Night.

I am from Budweiser and Sun Tea,
from pineapple pie and steaks on the grill.

I am from warm sprinkler water on hot concrete,
from red winter coveralls and ballet slippered feet.

I am from Mozart on worn piano keys and
Desperado on old stereos, from sequined tutus and and skinned up knees.

I am from homemade dresses and side pony tails,
from spy novels and Southern Bells.

I am from rock n’ roll hippies and prayerful hard working hands,
from light lost in darkness and feet that still choose to stand.

I am from creative spirits and stubborn minds,
from iron wills and all the lies in between.

Chelsey Whitlow

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Coat Pocket Treasures

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Fall is my favorite season. Mostly because the air finally turns crisp and tinged with the coming cold and it becomes necessary to start breaking out my favorite kind of clothing….scarves and jackets. It’s always exciting digging out my jackets and coats in the Fall. I never know what I might find hidden away in their pockets, what remnants are left behind from colder weather adventures. Inevitably there are always tubes of chapstick, loose change, receipts and gum wrappers found. But on occasion, a real treasure is unearthed such as a lucky $20 bill or a scribble from a forgotten encounter.

This morning I pulled out a sweater I haven’t worn in a couple of years and found one such scribble scrawled out across a crumpled Starbucks napkin.

I fell for his mind
over accidental morning coffee.

It was the way he dissected
the flavor of my voice and
the direction of my thoughts.

“Merely the science of observation.” He explained.

I imagined depth behind his words.

I took back my admiration
over a walk with wild midnight whiskey.

It was the way he simplified
the myriad hues reflected in shadows and
dispelled the magic of the moon.

“Merely the intuition of the soul.” I countered.

And I knew he had nothing left for me to discover.

Chelsey Whitlow

Bumping into the Past

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I bumped into a childhood friend last night in the mystery section of my favorite bookstore; someone I haven’t seen in close to twenty years. I didn’t recognize him at first. Unfortunately, time had not been kind to him. When I asked how he recognized me, he answered without hesitation, “Your red hair of course.” Of course. It’s always the hair.

He continued, “Although, I wasn’t certain it was really you at first. You don’t look quite the same.” I sure hope I look different. High School was a long time ago. I must have given him a questioning look, because he went on to tell me it had nothing to do with twenty years of aging. He said my face, my eyes, and my hair, though a little darker and a littler redder, were just as he had remembered. It was the way I carried myself now that threw him. I seemed lighter somehow, he mused, free…more. I carried myself stronger than before.

He went on to say he remembered my mom being sick when we were growing up and how he always thought that was a lot to carry for a kid and how he knew it must have hurt more than I let on.

I was shocked. I mean, this guy and I grew up together, but we weren’t exactly good friends. How could he have possibly seen all of that when we were kids? And still remember? I didn’t even recall being on his radar back then, on anyone’s radar actually. I was a mess, just trying to survive the fallout of my life at home.

After chatting for a few minutes about what we’d been up to and about the series of spy novels we were both perusing, we parted ways. But before he turned the corner to meet up with his family, he called back. “You know, I knew you’d figure out eventually what others saw buried in you. Glad to see it on the surface now.”

Wow.

As I drove back to my apartment, this encounter left me reeling at bit. I missed so much over the years, trying so desperately to protect myself. A lot. I was totally clueless.

Sometimes we are so busy surviving, so busy just trying to get through to the next day, we can completely miss ourselves. We can miss seeing how much we’ve changed and grown as people.

We can miss our own transformation.

On occasion, bumping into the past is a good thing. It can be a revelation. Sometimes the past can open our eyes to see the storm we thought would eventually overtake us, in reality, was the fire that refined us. It was the beautiful pressure that burned away our darkness and became the light we didn’t realize we weren’t hiding anymore.

O, dark sorrow,
You rise in such
Destructive waves.

I thought to resist you,
In the beginning;
To fight back against
Your torrents.

O, dark sorrow,
You had another plan for me.

I thought then to surrender,
To become a part of you.

And never realized,
I found my light instead.

Chelsey Whitlow

Samson

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Journal Entry: November 1 – Their Birthday

I craved it,
Chased it relentlessly.

Strength. Invincibility. A dragon to slay and a battle won. A spark of something that would make us….More.

No weakness, only power over it like the heroes of old. Hercules. Achilles. David and Goliath. Samson.

For so long the answer eluded me. Until the day I met her. She changed everything.

We wanted a taste. We wanted to possess that spark. We became convinced, all of us, that it could be ours, that it would change everything…for the better.

In our arrogance, we failed to ask the most important question – What would happen when we found it?

The answer?

We lost everything that really mattered.

And the causalities I never anticipated have become the monsters she must slay.

Chelsey Whitlow

Liam

red scarf

I stare down at the crimson scarf crumpled in an unassuming heap in between me and the passenger seat.

It’s her favorite. She wouldn’t leave it behind on purpose. Especially not with me.

The longer I stare at it the more pissed off I get. I don’t need another piece of her lingering. I don’t need another reason to think about her. The smell of apple shampoo, mixed with something spicy like cinnamon and vanilla, clings to air inside the cabin of my truck as if she’s still sitting silently beside me. This smell is permanently burned in my memory; has been since the first day.

Now, the scarf…something tangible left behind…

I can see it draped protectively around her neck and shoulders, as she twists nervously at the fringe. It’s her armor.  It makes her feel safe.

And I want to be that scarf.  I’ve never wanted something so damn bad.

Get a grip, Morrison.

How the hell did you let her crawl under your skin so fast?

Grasping angrily at the red material, I reach over and start to shove it in the glove compartment. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

 

After several minutes I finally force myself out of the truck, slamming the door a little harder than necessary. I glare down at the tangle of crimson still clutched in my fist.

She’s going to change everything.

She already has…

 

Chelsey Whitlow

Charley

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I’ve always measured my breaths,
Watched my steps,
Kept my distance.

I’m better off in the shadows.

But the edge has always frightened,
beckoned,
taunted me;
Like somehow that’s where I really belong.

And then he dared to venture into the shadows…

And the edge slowly started to become all I ever wanted.

Chelsey Whitlow

Rainy Day Mix

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It’s 48 degrees outside and gloriously gray and rainy this morning. I’m sipping scrumptious hot chocolate (after my obligatory several cups of coffee of course). And it’s Friday. All of these facts make for quite a delicious morning. So, in honor of such deliciousness, I broke out my wonderfully moody Rainy Day Playlist(see below) that I save just for such an occasion.

It’s going to be a superb day.

Cheers!

rainy day mix

Maggie

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I’ve always felt different,
more somehow.
For as long as I can remember.

My sight has always been sharper,
always looked deeper.

I see their truth before they do.
Yet they only see what they want to see…
sunshine and status and future prom queen.

There’s one who has seen the reality all along;
both of us masters at slipping easily behind the disguise.

He thinks he’s beyond my notice.

But he’s never been clearer.

Chelsey Whitlow

Merrick

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He’s playing her song again.
The one he plays in the wee hours of the morning after I go to bed and he’s left alone with his thoughts. The one he plays when it rains….when he misses her.

Smokey vocals skip softly up the stairs; each scratch on her old record seasoning the haunting notes.
Always this song. My only memory of her.

We never talk about it, Dad and I. Though he never tries to hide it.
This is how we remember, how he tells her story…their story…my story. Always through music.
Notes floating on the night, when the world outside is silent and sleeping and the music has the freedom to mourn and reminisce.

I lie awake and listen. All my life, to my father’s midnight rain reverie.

Tonight is different. Tonight there is another “her” haunting the edges of these familiar notes; the smell of her apple shampoo still lingering.

Red. Another motherless child.

Chelsey Whitlow

Sophie

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To Him:

You asked me a question on that night so long ago; on the night you walked away.

The answer remains unchanged. It has always been my truth…

Will you bear it now?

Give me Shelter
Or
Give me a place beside you in the war,

But do not leave me idle.

For if idleness is all you leave me,
I will seek the first in the arms of another
And
Wage my own.

Chelsey Whitlow