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"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

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Two Happy Children In A Garden

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.

Welcome Back

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.