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I wrote the bulk of my term paper this semester in eight hours. Eight hours well spent. A Friday evening where most of the campus was gone. I turned on the Narnia soundtracks, made some tea, dug out all the books I knew I would need and a few I didn’t, and sat down with my computer to put my thoughts about beauty onto paper. I googled, I quoted, I took a last-minute trip to the campus library to track down a copy of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I let the keys click as my thoughts formed sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. My word choice made me laugh. Sometimes Augustine’s thoughts made me “ah-HA!”

Spending eight relaxing hours with a paper that is supposed to be your best work of the semester is something that doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, it reminds you that beauty is worth the cost.

Originally posted on my personal blog.

I woke up this morning and wanted to go for a walk. So I put on sweats and tennis shoes and walked out of my dorm. Imagine my surprise and joy when I saw the world had received rain during the night. Usually I’m greeted by scents of car exhaust, trash, and oil. This time I was greeted by the smell of a world washed clean. It’s the simple things that make life better.

I don’t talk a lot, especially when I’m around people I don’t know very well. I tend to keep my thoughts to myself unless I am obligated to speak or around my closest friends.

But, those moments come when you are sitting at dinner with one of your favorite people, and she tells you exactly what you need to hear. Then you can pour out your heart to her because she is pouring out her heart to you.

And you simply smile, give her a hug, and thank God for beautiful things like talking with friends.

She sat in my desk chair looking downtrodden. She had only a few more minutes to pay the down payment on her tuition before the school would drop her classes. She had no money and no means of getting the needed amount. She kept assuring us that God knew what He was doing.

She got up and went back to her room. A few minutes later she returned to our room in tears.

“Someone anonymously donated the exact amount I needed for the down payment,” she said.

I screamed.

This post was orginially written on July 24, 2011 while I was working at Camp Kern, a boy scout camp on Huntington Lake. 

I stand around the camp fire with my arms around my coworkers as we form a circle, singing about how we just want to linger around this fire a little bit longer. The flames dance in the fire pit and every once in a while, little gold embers fly up towards heaven. The fire radiates heat, bringing us all closer together to be a part of the warmth. I’m not sure if the warmth comes more from the fire or the bond of friendship. Regardless, I can’t pull my eyes away from the fire. There is a beauty in the fire. The flames can be dangerous, yet tonight they are comforting. It is an ancient beauty. People have been gathering around fires since the beginning of mankind. And as I stand in a circle with my coworkers I feel the weight of humanity. All of our joys, sorrows, laughter, and pain. We are a community, gathered around dancing flames because as humans we can’t bear to be apart.

This post was originally written on July 30, 2011 while I was working at Camp Kern, a boy scout camp on Huntington Lake.

“Color guard: attention!” yells Sam. He stands in front of the amphitheater-like ‘Fire Bowl’ where we hold our opening and closing campfires for the boy scouts who attend camp at Camp Kern. Four men march onto the make-shift stage holding a torn American flag.

“Color guard: present the colors!” Although I am used to seeing the colors presented every morning and reverently folded every evening, it gives me chills when the tattered flag is presented with two of the four men kneeling, flag in hand, out of respect.

Bilek comes forward and recites a poem about all the American flag has gone through in its history: war, hate, love, peace, riots, anger, bloodshed, slander. Yet it still waves. It is still a symbol of freedom. We sing the national anthem, remembering all the flag has gone through.

“Color guard: retire the colors!” yells Sam. The four men slowly lower the flag over the camp fire. The heat pulls the flag upward as it attempts to fly one last time, but it is instead lowered into the flames. The fire begins to burn brighter, lighting up the solemn faces of the color guard, scouts, and staff who salute it as taps is played in the background.

“O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave? O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Originally written on June 29.

I went outside to take out my trash. The sun had just set, but the sky wasn’t dark yet. The western sky was still light with the rays of the sun peeking around. The sky over my head was slowly becoming a deeper blue.

The gloaming.

The breeze played with my skirt, and I felt the prickles of freshly-cut grass under my bare feet as I stood in my front yard, looking west. Another day was done. But the gloaming, that fleeting time of light just before the world is covered in darkness, was a promise that another is yet to come.

Originally published on my personal blog on June 18.

My Saturday morning found me working on my parents’ ranch. It was hot. I was tired and covered in dust and sweat. Then the wind swept through. It wasn’t just any wind. It was the country wind. Warm, dry, country wind that travels more swiftly than the city breezes because it doesn’t have buildings to hinder it. Wind that smells like datura plants, freshly cut dry grass, dust, and cow manure. Wind that is recognizable by its sound. Country wind is the only wind (besides heavy, stormy winds) that has a sound. When you’re in the country, you aren’t surrounded by traffic, cell phones (no reception), sirens, or car alarms so you can hear one of the most beautiful sounds in the world: the sound of wind in knee-high grass. So delicate, yet so strong. So whispery, yet so distinct.

I walk forward to the front of the cafeteria-temporarily-turned-awards-auditorium along with the other six finalists. I stand with them, waiting for the announcer to tell us (and everyone watching) how we did in our speech event: extemporaneous speaking. My heart is pounding, and I hope for anything but last place. The announcer starts at seventh place and works his way to first. When he starts announcing the second place winner and I’m still standing, I panic, thinking maybe he had called for, “Thematic Interpretation,” not “Extemporaneous Speaking.”

“And, in first place,” he says, “from Bakersfield Christian High School–“

His pronunciation of my name is completely wrong. But for once it doesn’t matter to me. I shake his hand as I hear my team screaming in excitement.

It’s all a memory. I smile as it vividly runs through my mind, and my smile is just as big tonight as it was that night.

How does God do that?

The other day, I flipped through the mail that had accumulated on my parents’ kitchen table: bills, ads, catalogs, a package for my dad…and a letter addressed to “The Lovely Siobhan O’Rourke.”

I tore open the envelope and read the enclosed card. There, written in black ink were Rebecca’s thoughts for me to read. Thoughts about summer, family, school, and life. Questions. Sketches of hearts. With her personality and excitement evident in her handwriting that is just as distinct as her voice.

Written just for me.

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