- "I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Every day he comes in to report his findings. Some days he sees it, some days he doesn’t. Some mornings it illuminates the world better than all of the artificial lights in the universe combined, and some mornings it only peeks through the translucent haze of what lies between us, and everything. Sometimes it as a large as all of existence, and sometimes it is only a sliver of its former self. I know each feeling all too well. I know of the great waxing and waning of a life.
This morning it smiles at me beneath the great hollow space where the rest of it once glowed, its outline still lingering within the darkness. I think about the way I fill in that blank, and the way he doesn’t. I think about the way he enters the room brimming with excitement and joy after seeing “a moon” instead of “the moon,” as though each morning it is something different, something new. I think about the way I have learned to see this tiny splinter of silver in the grand blackness as being unfulfilled, incomplete, staring more intensely at the space where it is not than at what actually is. And I think about the way he has yet to notice that dark space, the way that minuscule slice of light is everything, the way life was once as simple as what there was to be seen.
I have Starry Night hanging on the wall at the foot of my bed. I often consider whether Vincent planned it that way, whether he could already see each stroke before he had even picked up a brush, whether he stared at that blank canvas and saw the entire universe. I consider each curve of light, and the way the simplicity of blues and yellows became as complex as the cosmos themselves. I consider the invitation they extend, to crawl up between the softness of their twisting lines, to snuggle into the delicate sweep of the golden moon.
And then I consider the town below, and how each lit house pales in comparison to all that burns above. I think of the people who live there, who are asleep, who are going about their daily life as though that was all there was, and all there would ever be. I think about how the vast majority of us don’t stare out into the distance, don’t spend our days atop a hillside creating beauty, don’t look at a blank canvas and see it alight with possibility. And I wonder, what are we waiting for?
Because we used to know how to do such a thing. We used to be able to draw a scribble on a white piece of paper and give it a name, a story, an entire lifetime. We used to believe that Harold’s purple crayon was the same magical Crayola we gripped so tightly between our fingers. Even if you can’t recall such power now, believe me, you knew it once. And like tiny Gods we stood above our creations and rejoiced in the prospect of showing our parents, our teachers, our friends, of sharing our gift with the people we loved most. We knew what it meant to believe.
The way Van Gogh trusted that the lines of his brush strokes would echo exactly those of the sky. The way Aidan points to every yellow circle and says “moon” with such authority that it becomes impossible to doubt its validity. The way Harold colored himself a moon, then an adventure, then an entire world, where once there was nothing. Nothing.
The way making life was as simple as creating it for yourself.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Of course I love that they are beautiful. I love the sweetness of their smiles, the innocence of their faces, their tiny hands, their soft hair, their happy, shining eyes. Of course I love that almost everything they say is ridiculous and adorable and true. Of course I love them simply because they are children who deserve love, as all children do, but it is more than that. So much more.
It is their honesty, their purity, their openness. The world offers itself up to them with cupped hands and they seize its gifts without hesitation, without fear. They gobble it down. They fill their tiny souls with it, collecting its stories and images and ideas within a growing narrative that they will one day look back upon and call life. They devour knowledge insatiably. They drink each day down to its secret.
They have not yet learned what it means to be “proper.” They have not yet forgotten the simple joys of running barefoot, of rolling around in the softness of the earth, of dancing to no music simply because it feels good. Nor have they been taught that they should be in control of their emotions. When they are happy, they laugh, and when they are sad, they cry. Every feeling is felt as honestly and deeply as the last, if even for a moment. And when that moment is gone, it’s gone. When the feeling is over, it’s over. Nothing from the past interferes with the future. They have no need for the word “bittersweet,” just as Eskimos have no need for the word “war.” They are alive, as humans ought to be alive.
I love them for that. I love that no laugh is forced out of pity or obligation. I love that they are willing to laugh at everything and anything, as though existence itself was funny. I love that they know just how funny it is. And it is not because their world is small, but because the world is bigger and grander than it will ever seem again. It’s that the park across the street is as new and enchanting as the wild jungles of Africa. It’s that they’re right. It is, and I love them for reminding me.
I think of the picture she gave me of her and her brother standing in a garden as children, their small, glad faces staring back at me in black and white. They did not know then that he would die far too young, or that her life would be as difficult as it grew to be. They did not know of the wars they’d see in their lifetime, or of their own personal wars they’d fight within themselves. They did not know of death, of the ones they would see, of even the concept itself. Time had not yet begun to play its terrible role in their lives. They were simply what the caption she’d written had said, “two happy children playing in a garden.”
I think then of the card I found a few years ago sorting through old family photos. I had sent it to my parents while away at summer camp in my childhood. The front was a painting of an elderly couple sitting together in a garden. Inside I wrote that this was how I pictured them, my mother and father, their future.
Perhaps I simply liked the idea from that old photograph, of two happy people playing in a garden. Perhaps I really believed it would be them. Because of course, I had no way of knowing then that they were unhappy. I had no way of knowing they would get divorced. I had no way of knowing that I would spend my life trying to find and define and believe in love. I had only this image of unbridled happiness. I had only this dream that children dream, that joy is as simple as two people in a garden.
There are photos of me and my brother that I’ve held next to that original picture my grandmother sent me. They are essentially the same. They are the same photographs being taken of siblings in gardens all over the world in every moment of every day. And I’ve watched, over the years, the progression of the pictures we’ve taken together. I’ve looked closely at the changes; the slight strain of our mouths as we smile and pose, the unfocused distant gaze of our eyes, the way even in a still photograph, you can see our minds are racing about a million other things, a million miles away.
Our pictures will never be what they were as children. Nor will our laughs, our ideas, our hearts. Life shows in each of our faces, and we learn, too late, that our innocence meant everything.
It was funny to open my email and find I had a new comment posted from the wonderful Sky, as I’d been thinking about returning to this all week. Without going into too much explanation for my absence, or making promises I may never keep, I’ll just say that for now, I’m going to do my best to return to this and write as often as I can. I do miss it terribly. Welcome back into my life, sweet blog. I’ll try not to dismiss you so easily again.
Monday, July 30, 2007
It’s not as though I had stopped writing. I’ve filled more than a few journals since my last entry here. I’ve written letters and emails, some that I’ve sent, some that I had no intention of sending from the start. Still, when I opened this page of my blog this morning, when I finally returned to this abandoned space, I found I had been missing it in ways that hadn’t even occurred to me.
I’ve moved since April, into an apartment almost painstakingly perfect for me. Within it’s abandoned rooms I arranged myself, not necessarily with material things, but with the roles I envisioned myself playing. In this kitchen I would learn to cook, on this patio I would become the perfect hostess, in this living room I would soak up every book I could, in this office I would be a writer. And so a new me was created here, not from a slate fresh and clean, not from a past life, abandoned, but from every thought I had already come across in my life, from the foundation I had already built.
At school, our enrollment for the summer has been low and so I’ve had the pleasant opportunity to take the occasional day off here and there. Today is one of those days. I awoke, went for a walk, came home to make coffee and have since been sitting on my new red couch reading The Lovely Bones all morning. A day full of nothing, yes, but also somehow one filled with everything. Time can be so funny that way.
I hadn’t taken all but ten steps from my building this morning when I came across a roll of cash in the street. I imagine it had fallen from an early morning runner’s pocket, and that they would have no idea to come back to look for it there. Had it been more than nine dollars, I would have left it there just incase they did know, but instead I picked it up.
I walked and walked down my typically busy street, abandoned now in the early light of dawn, and turned off onto a small road I’d never taken before. A few feet down, I was greeted by a garden next to the sidewalk that seemingly belonged to no one in particular. Yet I knew someone must tend to it, must love it so whole-heartedly that they come there often to carefully and meticulously nurture each delicate petal. I bent down and buried my face into a large pink flower whose name I did not know. I smiled, reached into my pocket and pulled out a dollar. I can't explain why. I placed it at the bottom of its stem.
A while later, I passed an elderly gentleman walking his even more elderly looking dog. Slowly they paced down the path together, two old souls who had seen it all. “Good morning!” He bellowed, more loudly than I had expected. I enthusiastically returned his greeting, unused to walking around a neighborhood and being spoken to like an old friend. We stopped and chatted for a while about the beautiful weather. When he left me, I pulled another dollar from my pocket and placed it in the crack between the squares of sidewalk.
I continued along, and then, there it was. The house. The house I would paint if someone asked me where I’d want to spend the rest of my days. The house I would paint even if someone didn’t ask. The house I would paint if I were a painter. I lifted another dollar and placed it under the first stone of the pathway leading to the front door.
I placed the other six in a similar fashion, one beside the anthill with its small workers marching up and down it. One in the hollowed space inside the giant oak tree just outside the entrance to the park where my little students spend so many happy afternoons. One near the ten year old riding his bike who had greeted me with a sorrowful “hiiii,” as though being ten years old was in and of itself the most excruciating pain in the world. One for the birds nest fallen from its tree, and one for the single roller skate, inexplicably left beside the road.
And then one more, hidden just for me, stuck away in some abandoned little nook in the world -- a secret I prize as a child would, a secret I keep within me, in a place I had assumed was abandoned long ago. But I have found it. I have filled it with these tiny treasures.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I stepped out of the front door into the still of morning. The moon greeted me with half a face, half a smile, as if to say, enjoy the bittersweet days while they last. She lay dead on the road before me.
Her wing shielded her head, and I wanted to believe that it was her final act on this earth, the way a human closes its eyes or a superhero covers itself with its cape. I wanted to believe that she had not fought or suffered, that she had simply wrapped herself into death, slowly, calmly.
I don’t know how she died, whether she had dropped from the sky or been hit by a car in passing, but she lay there, still and quiet as the dawn itself. I wished I had time to bury her, but instead I could only move her to the side where she wouldn’t be hit again, where she could remain in the same serene state I found her.
Her feathers trailed the street as I walked the few blocks to my car. Their grey softness danced quietly through the blackened street against the blackened sky. I thought of petals thrown by flower girls. I thought of orange leaves in fall. I thought of the way old movie stars glide through ballrooms with such precision and ease. I thought of how beautiful her ordinary feathers seemed after she was gone.
And I thought of what my feathery trail would look like after I was gone. If I were to add up all of the wasted time in my life – if I were to believe that there was such a thing as wasted time, that is – would it follow me? Was this her trail of feathers never used? A relationship never explored? A place never visited? A writing talent never developed to its full potential? Each feather that floated past me seemed to ignite some longing within me that I had yet to admit to myself.
And then the feathers stopped. And so did I. Dead in my tracks. I looked back up at the half moon watching me. I looked at the blackness beside where her other half would be. I decided each were beautiful, the space already glowing with silver divinity and the space left empty, the space burning with the potential of fullness. The feathers not yet used were as beautiful as those who still clung to her fallen wing.
Perhaps I am no different. Perhaps the space not yet filled will be the most beautiful of all. Perhaps being whole is not about being complete, but about being happy enough to leave room for possibility. The blank canvas of my life that is to come is just as full as the colorful tapestry of my life that I have already created. It just needs to be put in the right lighting.
Even if that lighting is the simple darkness of morning, where a dead bird glows with the passionate wildness of fire. Where a half moon looks down, and knowingly smiles her bittersweet half smile.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Sometimes I consider leaving everything. Sometimes I consider living in an isolated cabin in the woods for a year and do nothing but write. Sometimes I consider that happiness in its purest form: To live in the quiet, to wake each morning and walk out into a world where everything is just as it should be, just as nature intended; To have only my journals to speak to, and of course the birds, and trees, and grass; To create with all of the passion and determination that could flow from each of us were it not for the distractions of the everyday. Happiness, in its purest form.
I think of her washing her clothes in a basin on the street. I think of the three walls, the thatched roof, the blanket she calls her bed. I think of the way her home reminds me of the kind of dioramas I used to make in the fourth grade, one side cut off of the shoebox to see the life inside. I smile at the thought of the poster of Rocky hanging on her wall. I do not doubt the sorrow of her life, nor do I doubt the happiness of it. How she must love that poster, that shelter, those clothes she washes with such tenderness in the muck of public water.
What material thing could I possibly love with such fervor? How could my tongue possibly understand the richness of food without gratitude for it? What secrets does she know that I will never comprehend?
My first thought was that I wanted to save this woman from her life. I wanted to pick her up in my arms and hold her, tell her that everything would be okay, and mean it. I wanted to give her everything I had, from the money in my bank account to the shoes on my feet. I wanted to take her to the field of sunflowers I once walked through in France, to show her such priceless gold existed. But she probably already knew of such beauty. And while my first thought was that I wanted to save this woman from her life, my second thought was who would save me from mine?
Who would teach me to walk through fields of flowers, to navigate by the stars, to make my mind so clear that each pound of my feet upon the earth became a tiny miracle unto itself?
Slowly I am learning to listen to the rivers as they lap against the shore, to watch the sun rise each morning with all of the amazement and gratitude it deserves, to feel the depth of each color that emerges with the coming spring. Slowly I am teaching myself to save my own life. Perhaps it takes a lifetime to reach even the tip of understanding, but fortunately, a lifetime is exactly what I have.
I envy flowers for the way they rise and bloom in a moment of fiery exquisiteness before falling back to the earth, for ours is a much more difficult journey. We rise and fall again and again, each time with a better understanding of the cycle, with the knowledge that we will have time to try again. And I think because of that knowledge, I often dull the blossom with the subtle inklings that darkness will soon occur once more. I’ll have another chance at greatness, but meanwhile, I’m passing it by. Flowers don’t have such regret.
And so I left her there on the street, washing herself clean. I left her there, beautiful flower, soaking her roots in life. Happiness, in its purest form.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
I ask myself this question a hundred times a day. I do not know what is to come. I do not know where I’ll be a year from now, ten years from now, where I’ll be standing when I take my final breath. It consumes me. It haunts me. It thrills me to think of the endlessness of what could be.
So often I long to be settled into a life. I watch the families that come through my school and long for that kind of stability, that kind of ability to define oneself as a parent, a spouse, a professional. I long for that kind of understanding, because as of right now, I’m just a young, dumb kid with her entire life in front of her. Every decision seems life-altering. Every choice seems to change my future. Every idea I have could be the answer to which path I am supposed to take. It’s sometimes too much, to have such fundamental power over my own existence.
And sometimes, I adore it. In the past few days I’ve gotten a new job offer, a plea to return to school, and an invitation to move to Prague. What’s next? I could go anywhere and do anything and be anyone I choose. There’s something really poignantly grand about that idea.
And still, I do not know what is to come. Perhaps it’s something I have not yet even considered, some new and exciting adventure that hadn’t crossed my mind. The possibilities are infinite.
What I do know, what I have decided for my life, is that I would rather spend my time here doing what I love than waste it preparing for things that may never come. I get stuck in this contradiction. I want to see the world, but want to save enough money to be able to settle one day. I want to own a house, but want to move from place to place, exploring new surroundings and people and ways of life. I want to love people so deeply that to be away from them for a moment means missing them, but I also want to be free enough to leave my world behind.
And to make any one choice means a loss of the other. To live for the moment means to be unprepared for the future. To live for the future means to be unappreciative of the present, and I am now struggling somewhere in between.
What’s next? Well, I’m not sure. All I can really do is be grateful for what has been and what will be. And I am. I’m grateful for all of the adventures I’ve been through and all that are to follow. I am grateful for the choices I’ve made and the choices I am continuing to make and that I have the choice at all. I am grateful that I am alive and living my life.
And I am grateful for the certainty that when I draw that final breath, whenever it may be, wherever I may be, that it will be one of gratitude, of fulfillment, of understanding. I will close my eyes and wonder, what’s next?
Friday, March 02, 2007
I know that they both read this. In truth, it’s why I hardly ever write about them as a pair. One I admire more than anyone in this world, the other I’ve never gotten close to. I use those differences as a scale for the people I encounter in my life. The world boils down to two categories; people like my mother and people like my father. People I love more than anything and people I’ll never connect with. There is no middle ground.
When my parents got divorced, I took sides. It could be argued that there were no sides to take. It was, as divorces go, a fairly amicable one. Both seemed to be in equal amounts of pain. Both had tried their hardest to make things work. Both had reached their breaking points. Both understood that it was now time.
Still, my heart was with my mother. She was and is and always has been my best friend. So instead of blaming my parents, blaming divorce, I blamed my father. I blamed him for hurting my mother. I blamed him for hurting me. I blamed him for my confusion about love and life and family and who I am. I blamed him for everything.
And while I am only just now beginning to move past that, the point is, I am beginning. Maybe forgiveness is too strong a word, but certainly I have come to accept that there are things and people in this world that I cannot change. My anger and bitterness towards someone hurts only me, changes only me, into something I cannot forgive myself for. I’m tired of being angry.
On the way home from work a few weeks ago, I began thinking of nicknames. I can’t tell you why, but that’s where my thoughts led me. I thought of the way my mother always called my father “za,” and was suddenly overwhelming saddened by the fact that no one would ever call him that again. “Za” was a part of his life that was now over. It was a part of all of our lives that was now over. She will never speak it again, and he will never hear it.
That was the first time, almost two and a half years later, that I was truly heartbroken that my parents had gotten divorced. It was the first time, almost two and a half years later, that I thought about their divorce without thinking about me, about how it effected my life. They were two people who had struggled to make a love, a life, a family work, and they were two people who finally had to admit that they couldn’t. My parents broke up, and somehow that seemed so much more difficult to say than the word divorce ever had.
I do not know what love is and it is because of my parents. That sounds like blame, but I assure you, it’s not. I don’t know if my parents knew what love was. I don’t know if they know it now. I don’t know if anyone ever really knows it until they know it, and even then, everything can change.
But it is what I think of most when I think of them as a pair. I think of the way I thought I understood something, and the way it instantly disappeared. I think of the way I may never be able to love fully because of it. I think of the way I may be destined to repeat the same mistakes.
And it breaks my heart, because what I want, more than anything, is to believe in love. I want to be able to enter it without fear, without doubt, without the knowledge that so often, things don’t work out the way you’d planned. I want to stop being angry. I want to forgive love for leaving my family. I want to forgive my parents for letting it.
I am sorry that it’s taking so long.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I’ve had a dreadful day. There. I said it. I can hopefully move on. To go into too much detail would involve a long list of inevitably boring complaints, so let’s just narrow it down to this: The person who keeps me sane at work wasn’t there, many things were yelled, curses muttered under my breath, tears shed, and to end the work day, on my way home another car hit me, knocked off my mirror, and kept driving. Happy Wednesday to you too.
I hate writing things like this, but my only other option at the moment is screaming and this somehow seemed a more productive outlet. There. I said it. I can hopefully move on.
It wasn’t until just now that I thought back to this morning. The funny thing about waking up so early is that by the end of the day, everything that happened in those first few hours is remembered in pieces, like a dream, like a memory I have of childhood – so distant, so scattered. It is just now that I remember his face.
He was carrying five large boxes piled in his arms. I stopped to hold the door for him as he made his way into WaWa. He caught it with his foot. “No, you go ahead, sweetheart,” he told me. I thanked him greatly. He told me to have a great day. Such simple kindness. It makes all the difference.
A few moments ago, one of my best friends called to ask me about my day. I vented, she listened. I cried, she told me she loved me. Such simple kindness. It makes all the difference.
It’s nice to know that in a day, a week, a year, a lifetime of sadness, there is still hope for something better. There are still glimmers of beauty and light and genuine goodness. There are still people with the best of intentions and still moments of happiness that can take your breath away. There is always the possibility of gladness.
I don’t have much else to say. I guess I just wanted to write something, anything, in the hopes of erasing the course of this day. Tomorrow will be better. It has to be. In the meantime, keep in mind that the little things really do add up. Spread kindness. It makes all the difference.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned between two warm and silent bodies, measuring the passing moments by their heavy breaths of sleep. In and out, they sighed in rhythm. Trapped in that bed, in that room, in my own insomnia, I leapt up and walked out to stare at the moon. The world had never seemed so still.
And so I ran. Just to know that I was still capable of movement. Just to know that life was still continuing on. I ran down the rocky hill, through the street of shops with doors all locked and barred, across the path twisting and turning around the mountain. Two miles down the road I reached the cliff.
My favorite cliff, where I had sat on our first day and filled the entirety of a journal, where I had first lost track of the constraints of time, where I had dazzled in the brilliance of the vastness of the world. I stopped. I caught my breath.
Below lay a grand nothingness, a valley too deep to be lit by the light of the moon, no matter how large and illuminated it seemed. I stared up. I stared below. I have no idea how much time passed before I stood up again to leave. I know only how it felt to stand there, to be lost in both a moment and eternity, to know nothing and everything all at once.
Again last night, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned for hours. I tried to ease my mind into a comfortable resting place. Minutes turned into hours and I wrestled insomnia to no avail. What was it my body and mind were trying to tell me?
We spoke for a long time, like we used to. I knew I missed it, but would never have guessed how much. Funny how that lesson is learned again and again. How you can miss something or someone, but never realize the true depths of it until they return. I was – am – so grateful for that conversation.
When we said our goodnights, I thought about that night running down the mountain. I thought about the pure calmness of everything in the world but me. I thought about the way I chased that serenity for so long, only to find it in the unlikeliest of places, only to find it in the immense nothingness of darkness.
I closed my eyes and pictured each curve I followed along the winding road, how smoothly I had moved along with it, how clear my mind had been made. I thought about our conversation, and all that had proceeded, and how smoothly I had moved along with each bend in topic.
Perhaps it seems an odd comparison. I don’t care. The point is, speaking to you feels the way it felt to run that night. The world is still, but I am moving. Something clear and calm and wonderful is being created within me. I am understanding both the nothing and the everything. I am standing at the edge of a cliff, staring out into a universe saturated with answers.
I am running, running, running. And it is you who spurs me on.
Monday, February 26, 2007
We have this constant struggle, you and I. You give me a compliment; I don’t know how to receive it. I deny all goodness within myself. I feel undeserving. I take your kindness and turn it into something ugly, some deep form of self-doubt I had yet to discover existed in me. I allow myself to feel worse than when we began.
On the way home this afternoon, I began to wonder why. Why can I not see what you see? Why can I not take your compliment, say thank you, and move on? Why can I trust your judgment about everything in this world except for what you think of me?
But perhaps that’s the problem. Perhaps it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that if I were to name the people I admire most in my life, you would be in the top five, easy. What’s that old Groucho Marx quote? “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel. I find it so difficult to respect someone who has respect for me.
Why? Well, I have yet to reach the truth in that. It seems the entirety of my life is devoted to finding that answer. And it is a struggle – a painful, self-loathing, sometimes seemingly hopeless struggle. But I am trying. I promise, I am trying.
We all seem to have that one thing that we believe is keeping us from happiness. It may change throughout the years, but we convince ourselves that there is always something in our way, one goal that needs to be reached before we can dismiss our sadness wholly. This is mine.
Maybe it appears a simple task, to just say thank you, to just say you’re right, to just take a compliment and be done with it, but you need to understand that it’s not that simple for me. For me, doing all of those things is everything. For me, being able to believe you care for me means caring for myself, and I just haven’t learned how to do that yet. For me, learning to love myself is the greatest and toughest lesson I will ever learn.
I’ve spent so much time trying to trace the course of my life, hoping that finding the source of my self-doubt would help me move past it, but maybe that’s not as important as I’ve thought it to be for so long now. Perhaps it’s time to merely accept what I need to do for myself and embrace it, do it, make the choice to love who I am. Why shouldn’t it be so simple?
I think somewhere along the line I mistook confidence for arrogance, and I haven’t been the same since. My life is not made better by my humility. I am not made better by belittling myself. I am simply made smaller, less than who I am, and less than who I could be. So much of life is having faith in oneself, and I fear I’m missing my chance to be extraordinary because I’ve convinced myself that I’m incapable of it.
And it’s funny to say such a thing, to think such a thing, because if any one of my loved ones said that to me, I would call them crazy. Because each and every one of them is extraordinary. Each and every one is capable of anything and everything they could ever want out of life. And I would tell them that, not to be kind, but to be honest.
And I know that is what you are trying to do for me. And I love you for it. And I am trying to get to the place where I can say thank you. I promise, I am trying.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Yesterday I turned 22. This past year went by so quickly; it hardly feels as though I’ve aged at all. It seems that no matter how many people warn you that time moves faster and faster as life goes on, no matter how mentally prepared you are to accept that, you will never understand it until you understand it. And I know each year will bring the same realization, over and over, until time seems to signify nothing at all.
I generally make a few resolutions on New Years, but it’s never until my birthday that I really decide to change my life. The arbitrary markings of a new year are meaningless. When school begins in September, it is a new year. When January 1st comes around, it is a new year. When I am one year older, it is a new year, but really, every day is the first day of the rest of my life.
I was thinking about that this morning as I walked the eleven blocks to the train station, breathing in the city as it began to rise. I thought about it waiting on the platform for the train to arrive, watching the anxious mannerisms and daily routines of the people around me. How long it had been since I had simply sat and watched the world go by.
Sometimes I become so consumed with the mundane details of my day-to-day existence, that I begin to forget that my world is not THE world. There is so much more beyond me. There is so much more that I have yet to experience, and learn, and understand. There is so much more that I want out of life.
I think that we as human beings fall into a definition of our lives so quickly that before we know it, we have closed ourselves off to other possibilities. So often I stop and wonder, how did I get here? So often tracing the course of my life proves difficult. So often I have sat and considered the lives of strangers, whether this is how they had envisioned their lives, whether they are happy, whether we are all destined to settle for ordinary in a world of such extraordinary opportunity. How sad to consider the sum of dreams never fulfilled.
Because it’s so easy to get caught up, in the here, in the now, in the checklists of things to accomplish before the day is through. And yes, I suppose that we can only really take life one day at a time, but it seems a shame somehow to be so focused on what’s right in front of me. It seems a shame to forget the vastness of life, of this world, of possibility. I forget that time is still moving forward whether I acknowledge it or not. Even taking life one day at a time doesn’t stop them from adding up quickly.
And then there are mornings like this one, when each stranger seems to carry some unique light that I had yet to consider, when suddenly I appear to have all the time in the world to sit, and wonder, and be stricken with awe. I spend so much time trying to get things done, to accomplish things, that I rush through the moments of quiet contemplation that are such a necessity of happiness. I am so consumed with what needs to be done, that I neglect to revel in what has been done, in what I have accomplished, in the exquisite beauty that is this world and each life within it.
And so it was there, on that platform, on the morning after my 22nd birthday, that I decided to love my life. And so it is here that I celebrate the first day of a new year.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
A young boy in orange overalls hits his spoon against the metal park bench. Bang. Bang. Bang. The rhythm has been set.
The melody chimes in, sung by what feels like every bird to ever exist, although it is most likely just a few in the tree above. They sing separately, but harmoniously, as though each had been given its place in the score, practiced for hours, days, weeks, to ensure they got it right. They sing separately, but as one. The melody continues on.
A ladybug scurries across the open pages of my journal. Too slow to be running, but too quick to be walking, I decide she must be dancing. Dance on, little wonder, I tell her in my head. She seems to understand as she reaches the edge of the page and turns back around.
A great roar of percussion from the repair being done in one of the apartments above.
A startled group of butterflies rises from the flowers. A masterpiece in and of themselves, the flowers sway for an instant, their soft and vibrant petals of reds and pinks and yellows lightly skim against one another. For an instant, all division of color blurs into one shade of perfection.
And then the world is soft. The butterflies hover in the still air, heavy with the sweetness of scent, the fullness of life breathing in and out. They float. They glide. They move with all of the subtle intent of silence. The boy has stopped his banging. The birds have quieted their melody. The world is still.
A car passes and the song begins again. Rising. Falling. Vivacissimo. Pianissimo. Back and forth, up and down, I move with the orchestra of the universe.
I think about the song of my life, how it rises and falls, how it began with a single cry and how it is still being written one verse at a time.
In silence this morning, I watched the moon. I thought of the stars, each a note on the page, reaching to the lowest and highest octaves of understanding. The moon itself, a whole note, whose roundness I climbed into for the comforting duration of four beats. One, two, three, four. Then it was time to move on.
The wind pushed through the arriving dawn. A new movement began, quietly at first, but growing louder, passionately pushing through the stillness of morning. The day began. I began with it.
And perhaps even now, in my solitude, the vibrations are resonating more deeply, more profoundly than the simple ears of humans can detect. Perhaps even now, the hum of my computer is only the shallow surface of the music being created in my presence. Perhaps even now, these words I am writing are merely a metaphor for the notes of the grand symphony that is my life.
I hit the keys of my keyboard. Bang. Bang. Bang. The rhythm has been set.
Monday, January 15, 2007
I do not know much. In fact, all of my knowledge could probably be packed away into one average sized box, light enough for just one average person of average strength to carry. And I would let them carry it away if needed. I would let them take from me every fact I knew for certain, every detail I knew as truth, every explanation I had ever formed. Because none of it is why I continue.
What I like in this life, in this world, in this universe is the unexplainable. I like the way everything moves in cycles. I like the way my eyes open each morning and close each night. I like the way death replaces life, which replaces death, and I like the way life replaces death, which replaces life. I like that I don’t know if we are each given one life, or many. I like that I understand life and death equally, which is barely at all. I like the idea of infinity, but I also like the idea that our time here is precious and not to be taken for granted.
I like how you can lose an entire day to a book, and have really lost nothing at all. I like that each morning is a new beginning and that every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.
I like that everything is connected and that we are still inherently alone. I like that we are never really alone. I like that in every moment we are thinking of someone and in every moment someone is thinking of us. I like that joy in sorrow are one in the same.
I like love. I like the love between lovers, and between friends, and between family. I like the way your laugh sounds intertwined with mine, which has nothing to do with love, except everything.
I like laughter. I like how every laugh of every person is unique and the way our laughter changes each time it bursts from our lips. I like the feeling right before it erupts, and the way it makes your stomach ache, and the sense of calm it brings immediately following. I like the foolishness and severity of love, which has nothing to do with laughter, except everything.
I like not knowing, and choosing not to know, why the earth offers it’s softness up to us with cupped hands. I like the way a flock of birds could easily be one bird, how each knows exactly which way to glide along the breeze. I like the way they surge from their sitting place all at once, like a bottle of champagne being opened, like laughter. I like the way they float, like clouds, like people in love.
I like the way the trees change colors, the oceans move in and out along the shore, the sky becomes illuminated with color, all of which has scientific explanation, but all of which I choose to see as free will.
I like art, but I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why I am drawn to certain colors or shapes or images. I can’t tell you why certain songs make me sad or happy or set my soul ablaze with emotion. I can’t tell you why some lines of poetry make me cry, or why I hug certain novels when I close their final page. Someone probably could, but I’m sure I’d rather not hear it.
Because what I like most in this life, this world, this universe are the things that transcend language. Or at least, my knowledge of language. Perhaps there is a word I have yet to discover that encompasses all that I do not know, but I’m sure I’d rather not know it. What I know is that I like not knowing, which has nothing to do with who I am, except everything.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
It’s finally starting to get cold. Winter got caught up in things and was late to it’s own party. Casually it slipped in, hoping to be forgiven. Better late than never, it sighs.
Since I’ve last written, the triumphs and tribulations of life have been condensed into a concrete reminder of uncertainty. With each passing day, the extremes of joy and sorrow have presented themselves, gently nudging at the soul the knowledge that life continues to move forward. Anticipation, disappointment, birth, death. Still, it continues onward. Still, time ceases to stop.
The day after my last post, I received a promotion and raise at work. It was nice to feel appreciated, to feel valued, to feel needed in the place that I’ve devoted all my time to these past few months. It was nice to feel assured that I was doing something right for once, that this is where I belong. It was nice to feel secure in my actions.
But with a sense of security also came insecurity. We had a meeting with my coworkers to explain the situation, how I was now in charge, how I was responsible for the room. That meeting was the first time I hadn’t felt like a leader there, the first time I felt as though I had to be careful about the way I worded things so as not to upset anyone. It was the first time I felt unsure of my ideas and opinions. Suddenly, I was the enemy.
Of course, it’s working out, but now that the classroom has officially become my classroom, I take upon myself all of the success and failures that arise within those walls. I take each mistake as my own. I see each needed improvement as my responsibility. I have lost that divide between myself and my job, and now each good or bad day reflects on my soul.
That Saturday was one of my best friend’s birthdays and we went out to celebrate. We had a reunion of sorts and it was wonderful to see everyone, to catch up, to erase the moments that had passed since we had last seen one another. Still, I was exhausted, and felt that what could have been a wonderful night was overshadowed by the fact that I was the only one without a winter break, the only one who had to wake up before dawn every morning that week and would have to again the following week. I questioned my ability to have unbridled fun anymore, that all-consuming lose-yourself-in-the-moment kind of fun. The kind of fun that we should be having in our early twenties. Maybe I tried to grow up too quickly.
On Tuesday, I went out with a group of my favorite coworkers. We gossiped over dinner and drinks, talking and laughing until the early hours of the morning. We didn’t even seem to mind that by the time we got home, we had only a few hours to sleep before waking to see one another again. It was a lovely feeling. It turned work into something more, something real, something about community and friendship. It brought us closer together. It solidified our place at work. It gave us a sense of belonging.
On Thursday, January 4th, my nephew was born. Little Leo Zelnick entered this world at 12:54 pm at 6 pounds, 10 ounces with a full head of dark curly hair. “He already looks like a hippy,” my sister-in-law exclaimed, as is his destiny given the family he comes from. My excitement is inexplicable. I have two nieces and a nephew already, but living in another state, I rarely see them. My relationship with this nephew will be different. It will be real and substantial. It will be what should be. It will be love.
But as if to remind us that life is not all joyful, not indestructible, not without it’s end, the universe accompanied birth with death and took from this earth my aunt, who died yesterday from her battle with cancer. On this rainy day, the city mourns the loss of our football team last night and I mourn the loss of my father’s sister. It was kind of the world to give us this gloomy day to grieve. I am grateful for the time.
Still, time moves forward. Aunt Naomi closed her eyes to finish the last thought of her lifetime. Little Leo opened his eyes to discover the lifetime that awaits him. I linger somewhere in between, reveling in joy and sorrow, and the winter that has finally graced us with her presence.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
She said that it was appropriate that it should rain on New Years Eve. It was cleansing, a washing away of all that had preceded, a fresh beginning to all that was to come. My enthusiastic agreement excited her. She hugged me. I don’t know who she was or whether I’ll ever see her again, but it seemed the perfect way to begin a new year.
It was still raining when I walked to my car the next morning. Drops of water clung to the branches of each naked tree like crystals. The world was soft, quiet, inviting, as though it had broken open to a center of comfort. I reveled in it for a moment before making my way down the long driveway. I laughed a little to myself, and although it was only for a brief moment, that feeling resounded in me like a tentative promise of eternal joy. I could be happy like this forever, I thought.
I left for work this morning at 6, making my way down the deserted main street, smiling at its profound emptiness. The winter lights hung across the street, filled the tiny trees along the side, twinkled in the vast darkness of the world just before the sun rises. The moon shined ahead. It was a huge moon, not quite full, but grand enough to make the universe feel closer and more connected than anyone who saw it could ever imagine. It was the way a fabulous artist would paint night. It was simple and complex. It was perfection.
On my way out of Starbucks, I passed three people making their way into the day. Each one said hello. Each one smiled that smile of understanding. Each one knew the beauty of life at these early hours before the sun. We were connected in that way, in every way, if only for an instant.
I thought of all the kindred spirits I know and all I have yet to meet. I thought of those I will never meet, those who share my thoughts and feelings and desires, but whose paths will never cross with mine. I wonder if they think of me too.
Aren’t we all, always thinking, always wondering, always imagining those versions of ourselves living different lives in different places. Sometimes my soul is heavy with the lives I am not living. Other times, not. Sometimes I am happy to be exactly me, exactly here. Those are the moments I call life.
What will this year bring? Who’s to say. My life has continued to change and evolve so rapidly, that often words cannot come quickly enough to keep track. I have yet to determine whether that will always be the case or whether it’s simply what happens in your early twenties when you have no direction, when anything is possible. Does that feeling last? Does anyone ever actually settle into a life?
On Thursday I’m meeting with three of my best friends to discuss finding a house together. What a lovely new beginning that would be, a home of our own, a family I can really see as family. Just the thought of it thrills me to no end.
But of course, even that won’t be final. We’ll live there a year, maybe longer, but then it will be time for a new home, a new adventure, a new chapter in our lives. Life continues forward. We move into the new year with hope, with joy, with the knowledge that at some point, the rain will come again and we will be reborn.