Eat, Pray, Love

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Yesterday, I received an interesting E mail from my good friend, Leah Atkinson. Leah has been a close friend since we first met during our freshman summer of work at Camp Mo-Val in Union, MO. We’ve remained close throughout the last decade; so much so that she was one of the ministers who performed our wedding last month.

Leah sent an excerpt from the book, “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a non-fiction work about a woman in her 30s who travels to certain parts of the world searching for her personal enlightenment. In the excerpt Leah sent, the writer is in Rome, speaking with a Roman about the city’s culture.

The Roman pontificates that every city(and every person, for that matter) can be summed up in one word. After looking around the park where they were chatting, the author asks the obvious question: what word sums up Rome? His answer? Sex. He claims that Rome breathes, eats and lives sex in it’s every form. She asks what word is Naples. The answer? Fight. New York? Achieve. As the excerpt ended, the writer was still travelling, still searching and still pondering the single word summation of the age old question: Who am I?

Leah’s brain was working overtime, so she picked out the cities and people she is closest to and assigned each a one word definition. She then encouraged me(as well as those who received the exercise) to do the same. So, I do:

Ferguson, Missouri: play. The city of my birth and the first decade of my life. When I think back on Kirk Drive, images come to mind of a peacock blue Ross dirt bike with a yellow seat and handle grips. Throw in dozens of Star Wars action figures, plastic Army men and a million Lego building blocks and there, right there, is the city of my primacy.

High Hill, MO: ground. Use this as a verb and a noun. Let’s start with the easy one, the noun. Ground. Earth. Dirt. A farming community, I’ll never forget the views of vast corn and soybean fields carpeting the rolling hills of Montgomery County. It put food in my stomach, helped put a roof over my head and was the very life’s blood of that place. Maybe even more important, though, is the verb of “ground.”
My world is grounded in High Hill. The members of the community, my church, my parents and grandparents, my teachers and coaches, you will never meet a more pragmatic, friendly andd grounded group of Americans. No matter where I live, my grounding will always, always be in that mid-American sensibility.

Denver: Practice. I lived in Denver for six months about a year after I lost my sight. Every minute of every day was spent perfecting the skills I’d need once I’d returned to “real life.” My most vivid image of Denver is walking down the street, white cane tapping all the way, using my ears to orientate myself while trying not to vomit from terror. What? Me? A 19 year old blind kid, out on his own in the streets of a city I’d never seen? Terror. And practice. And learning. And departure. Denver, I can’t say I never want to visit you again, but I don’t want to be that kid again.

Springfield: Adjust and reach. What else can be said for my college town? I adapted to my blindness, put it behind me and kept reaching for anything and everything I could achieve.

Camp Mo-Val: Bond. Campfires and roasted marshmallows are the glue that help seal friendships at Mo-Val. Those staffers, campers and counselors in that magical place, especially those back in ’96, bonded me back together, too. Thank you for that, y’all.

St. Louis: Development. As a 25 year old transplant to the city of my birth, I was not exactly a STL virgin. Yet, I was inexperienced at living life on my own. The previous five years of dorm and fraternity house living gave me the confidence to move forward, but moving to STL actually shoved me into gear. Two years into it, another major change, the retirement of Dasher, caused a move to another part of the city. When Kirkwood became my home, that’s when I really began to thrive. Independence, career boost and friends by the hundreds. Those will always be the biggest aspects of my development into the man I am today.

Orlando: Love. I moved here for it and now I’ve learned to love my little corner of The Sunshine State. More than anything, though, is that Marvelyne and my now-stepkids have filled a void in my life I didn’t even know existed. And maybe that’s not right, but it does make me wonder how I’ve ever lived before.

Marvelyne: Iron. Hands down, the strongest human being I have ever met. Think I’m tough? I ain’t got nothing on her.

Me: Messenger. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, what my life was intended for. If you’ve gained anything, even the most teeny weeny piece of growth from anything associated with yours truly, then you are helping me fulfill that role.

Carson: Partner. He’s snoozing by my feet at the moment, as he hs for the last five years. He’s been through a lot with me and, as a true partner should, he’s enjoyed every step along the way.

Family: Transfer. What? Transfer? Yeah. Until last year, my family had only been my folks, my sis, my grandparents, neices, cousins. Now, the roles have shifted a bit. That which I always thought of as “father” has become(gasp!) me! Granted, my Dad is still my Dad, but now that I’m one, too, it gives me a whole different view on the world. And as this development continues, God help me!

I hope you’ll listen to Leah’s idea and take an internal look into your own life. And share it with the people you love…you may be surprised at what emerges!

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