Wednesday, December 30, 2009

my friend, my friend

A quality about myself that I was forced to face is that my happiness is almost completely contingent on the people that I care about. It seems that every person that I am close to gradually gains ownership of part of me. If they leave, they take that part away with them. I don't mean this to be a sanctimonious, triumph-of-the-human-spirit sentiment. I hate when people I care about leave my life. I wish I could just keep adding more and more people and soon my happiness would be entirely leased out to other people like real estate.

I know what losing people is like. It's hell, I've been there. I have lost someone that meant so much that when they left they took such a large part of me that for a while I felt I could not properly function with such a gaping void. I was consumed by regret and sadness and the prospect of starting to rebuild was daunting. It was hard to believe that a pain so vivid had not left a tangible open wound. A swift descent into nothingness would have been much easier than coping with the healing of it. The thing with having a void is that in order to be happy, you have to find a way to fill it.

Initially I tried to fill it with things that were numbing. These things were both unhealthy and fleeting. They allowed me, however, to present such a convincing facade of happiness that most people fell for it. My grades didn't go down, they went up. I didn't gain weight, I lost it dramatically. I really feared letting people get close to me because then they were bound to see through the deception. And I had nothing left to give anyone. I had turned into a human game of Jenga, and the next brick to be pulled out would mean my undoing. This fear led me to push away the person who could see through the act, because I felt if I got attached and they left I wouldn't be able to recover. There was one piece of tangible evidence of my despair, and when it was discovered I was placed in therapy.
via oleada
In therapy I felt like an insect under a microscope. I did not want to be questioned or bothered. I was holding everything together as far as everyone else was concerned, regardless of how I was doing it. That should be enough. I couldn't do anymore. I did not want to break down and admit that I was unhappy and that I was beginning to see the upkeep of the facade, which had become my life, as a pointless struggle.

Rebuilding didn't happen over night, or in a month. Or a year. It took time and I couldn't expedite the process. It felt kind of like wanting it to be dawn really badly but not being able to force time to pass. It did pass, though, and eventually the emptiness began to fill itself with people and experiences. I stopped pretending to be happy when I wasn't, and, contrary to what I had presumed, the people around me seemed more appreciative of honesty than my distant ambivalence. Slowly I began to feel the sincere happiness that I had once had, if only momentarily at first. It did gradually get stronger, and more frequent, even though I didn't feel like exactly the same person.

We may not be as happy as you always dreamed we would be, but for the first time let's just allow ourselves to be whatever it is we are and that will be better. OK? I think that will be better. -Garden State

If you're like me, you won't be exactly the same you once were when you do fill the void, because a large part of you will feel alien. It will heal, though, and you'll just be different than you were. You can fill the void with something that you want to be part of yourself. You can be better because of what you have lost. You can force yourself to be stronger and to never take a person, or an event, or a moment for granted.
there are some souls on this earth that just seem to shine a little brighter. it's not because they've been left to burn in peace and quiet. i think it's because they've been stirred- and poked, and prodded. the fire grows and glows because of the beautiful struggle they're in. the flame get's a little hotter, the heart a little stronger, and the soul so very, very bright. you shine. -jodi hills

If you've lost someone that meant a lot to you, you already know how it feels. It is sometimes tempting to become an island so that you can eradicate the fear of this happening again (which it probably will). However, I can say without hesitation that the time I isolated myself from those around me was a time of much more profound sadness than when I admitted my despair and did not try to conceal it.

I think that life is too short to remove yourself from the impact that living has on you. Not just people, but also the sheer power of experiences to affect you and question things that you once believed. Question them, and don't resist your mind being changed. It is like the moon, which once was frequently being bombarded by asteroids, comets, and meteorites. The impacts of the debris left craters that caused the moon to have a constantly changing face. I think my friend Kristina put it best.

Amazement. When was the last time something truly amazed you? A moment when a person, place, word, thought, anything captivated you with such unabashed fury that it left scars on your existence.

One of my newest goals is to make this question obsolete. I do not want my amazement to fall victim to a quantified system of measurement. It will not occur in moments, rather as a continuous stream.
I want to view life itself with amazement. I want everything to leave a scar.

When this life is over, I want to be a glamorous patchwork of fibrous tissue. The constant stream of amazement always replacing what was once there.
Embrace the scars that formed this past year. They mean life amazed you.

What I've learned about life I can sum up in three words:
IT GOES ON. -Robert Frost

Monday, December 28, 2009

why i write

I write to become lucid enough to explain what I'm thinking. It gets the ideas out of my head, so they aren't bouncing around and ricocheting against the walls of my mind, making noise so loud I can't sleep or pause long enough to reflect on what they might mean. My mind is open now, so all these things can go rushing out to a place less confined and the pressure in my head can neutralize and equal that of the outside. They have been twisted from swirling patterns and colors in my head into the strange shapes of letters on a page. Now they're tangible, and instead of manipulating me, I can manipulate them. Change them into exactly what I want. It's kind of like taking pieces of glass out of a wound. The shards can remain as jagged and piercing as they were and inhabit somewhere else. Or, they can be weathered by the elements of the world and turned into seaglass, or placed in a mosaic, or pawned off in a market in New Orleans as having some kind of magical property. They can become anything, really, once you remove them from yourself. They can take on their own life and give you back the clarity to conceive new ones. I think it's important to let go of them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion

I have recently started reading 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath. I read a quote by Plath the other day that I really liked: "I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket."

I looked up Plath and remembered why her name sounded so familiar- she wrote a book that I have meant to read since I was in high school but never got around to. I started reading other quotes by her and couldn't believe the things she'd said- things that I have felt but have never been able to truly articulate. One quote stood out to me above all the others. It reminded me of a feeling that I had in high school, after having made friends from a low-income town, consumed by anxiety and sadness and unable to sleep. I found the description in a box of my old papers in my basement. I have edited it because I don't feel comfortable sharing everything on it. I remember the feeling that I had while writing it with a painful clarity. It is difficult to put what could nearly be a diary-entry into the hands of other people, but I don't think thoughts really take on significance unless they are shared.

I don't know why I just started sobbing. Something just hit me that I can't even explain, but I could try. I am only 17 years old. I am already 17 years old. I think the world has been around for billions of years, but I don't really know. I really don't know anything except what I've seen. And what have I seen?
Not much. I live outside of Chicago, in a beautiful western suburb. Last night I had people over from a small town [not in the Chicagoland area]. There is absolutely nothing for the youth to do there but smoke pot and listen to music. The parents often smoke too, and having a bong sitting on the living room table is not unusual. I felt so different when I walked into that house, like I was in the movie Garden State. The people there were so much nicer to me than I feel like I deserved. They were so real. I don't know if that's the best way to describe it, but that's the only word I can think of. They didn't need a lot. I couldn't believe that I was less than an hour away from my house because I felt like I was in a different world. I can't even explain. I feel so ungrateful. Life isn't fair. I don't understand why some of the most real and deserving people receive the least. While I know people that are applying to $55,000 per semester schools, they are not able to get their high school diploma from the most rundown hick towns that I have ever seen. It is not fair. The sheer injustice of this all is hitting me like a ton of bricks. I could not believe how completely welcoming they were to me.

I don't even understand what the point is of trying to see everything that life has to offer because it seems like the more I see the more I realize that I will never understand anything. The feeling is driving me crazy. I feel like I have this ridiculous mind that I want to know everything.
I don't think I could handle knowing everything. I began sobbing after seeing a town less than 50 miles away from me. How could I go to Africa and see people dying on the street? How could I deal with the fact that I have always lived completely comfortably and still complained, while some people have almost nothing and would still give you the shirt off their back?

Why is life like this? I don't understand why the people with the most are often times the people who seem to deserve it the least. Is karma real? I don't know. There has to be some kind of justice in a world that is the craziest thing that I could ever imagine.

I feel like I am a grain of sand in an infinite desert. I can't stand to feel like this; I feel like I am losing my mind. I can't believe that when I am working in the city and then I realize that probably approximately 10,000 people have walked by me that day. And that's it, they walked in and out of my life in that instant. It is 99.99% sure that I will never see of hear from them again.
How come I lead a parallel life to 99.99% of the people in the world? I can't stand it.

I want to meet everyone I want to see everything I want to experience all there is I want to understand everything there is to understand.

But how will I? How will I answer all the questions of the world? I can't. The thought of the immensity of everything makes me unable to sleep. Everything I have experienced, all my memories, all of my thoughts, all of my dreams, all my thoughts, everything that has ever crossed my in my mind alone. One mind. I can't even comprehend...everyone who has lived, is living, and is to live has that. The amount of love, emotion, hatred, dreams, fears, thoughts, ideas in the universe is the most frightening thing I could ever imagine. And what if our entire universe is a speck of dust in another infinite universe? What if a speck of dust in our universe is a universe unto itself? The potential microcosm, and macrocosm, are terrifying. There is so much in life. I don't mean my life specifically, I just mean life.

Time, a thing that I think we made up, seems to be the most limiting concept I could ever imagine. There is not enough time to see all the things I need to see. I will die before I have even scratched the surface of what there is in life.

How come I can not stop thinking about one person, one person who has essentially removed himself from my life, who did not care enough or was not able to stay in my life, when there are billions of people in this world? I feel like I have traveled millions of miles since I met him, but he remains the standard against which I judge all others. Why? How could I meet hundreds of people in a day and hold true to the fact that I don't think that any of them could ever mean half as much to me as he did? How could I have seen Spain, Canada, England, Ireland, Wales, Indiana, Michigan, California, Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Iowa, and probably thousands of places in between, and still firmly believe that the only place that I will find love is less than 15 minutes from my house?

I have had completely amazing and crazy experiences in one of the biggest cities in the world and done things that I didn't imagine could happen in my life, but the ones that mean most to me are the ones that I know are gone forever. How come my father died tragically early, before I could show him what I could do with my life? How come he became one of the biggest inspirations in my life after he was gone? How come no one appreciates anything until they don't have it anymore?

How come everything ends up so different for people when I really think that everyone has amazingly similar desires and beliefs in life?
Love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah. To me, though, love is the only reason to continue living. I can't even think about this anymore. I feel like I'm about to start crying again but for a completely different reason. I don't know anything. I don't understand life. I don't know what to do. I wish someone could tell me why I was here. I wish something could show me how to live my life. I wish I understood why things are the way that they are. I wish I wasn't so afraid of the immensity of things. I wish I knew what I could do to make my existence mean something. I wrote this prayer. I just read it and it made me feel a little better.

Dear God, please bestow your mercy upon our imperfect nature. We want to die young but live forever. Please help all those callous to the beauty in life because of the suffering they have endured- all those who can not see the swirling color, light and hope that is always here. For those who long for freedom, but feel trapped. And please help us to realize that even when it feels like all of our uphill struggles leave us headed downhill, that You will always be there to help us back up to the highest peak where we can see the beauty of Your creation stretching infinitely in every direction. Thank You, God, for laughter and music, for the warm sound of an acoustic guitar, the dewy smell of a garden all wet with rain. For the soft brilliance of the stars on a cold November night, the awe-inspiring ocean that stretches as far as the eye can see. For the open road and dense forest, beckoning adventure. For summer thunderstorms, and for the sight of a close friend when we are lonely and tired.

What I stumbled through for nearly two pages was articulated by Sylvia Plath in several lines:

I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.
6am, louisiana

"Life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences, but rather, it's a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite sublime plan." -Unknown

Saturday, December 26, 2009

nation of heat

they say I come with less
than I should rightfully posses
i say, 'the more i buy the more i'm bought'

i've come from down the road
and my footsteps never slowed
before we met, i knew we'd meet

you’ve come to know me stubborn as a butcher
and you’ve come to know me thankless as a guest
but will you recognize my face when God's awful grace
strips me of my jacket and my vest
and reveals all the

if I rest, if i think inward, i go mad

kerouac, dylan, einstein, thoreau, plath, gaiman

by our own spirits are we defied?
i like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. this is the night, what it does to you. i had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. -jack kerouac

i wake in the morning,
fold my hands and pray for rain.
i got a head full of ideas
that are drivin me insane

the most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the mystical. it is the source of all true art and science. he to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. this insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, also has given rise to religion. -einstein

is there no way out of the mind?

everyone has a secret world inside them. all the people in the whole world. i mean everybody. no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside; inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. not just one world. hundreds of them. thousands, maybe. -neil gaiman, sandman

remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all i've taken for granted.

I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between.
for me, it is enough to wonder at the secrets.
If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. i'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life.

Friday, December 25, 2009

kaali, estonia

it is from the atoms present on this planet that living systems assembled themselves and evolved. each atom in our own bodies had its origin in the enormous explosion 10 to 20 billion years ago. you and I are flesh and blood, but we are also stardust. -Helena Curtis
This past semester I took an astronomy class. This was to fulfill my final math and science requirements for being a journalism major- Quantitative Reasoning 2 and Life Science 2. The title 'Astronomy 121- The Solar System' seemed fairly unintimidating, with the potential to even be interesting. I was completely wrong on both of these assumptions. It was comprised mainly of math equations for distances, angles, and ages as well as chemical breakdowns of different parts of the universe. Needless to say, I did not excel.

One day in class, toward the end of the semester, we were talking about meteorite craters. I did not have very much background on the topic since the chapter in the book about the difference between meteors, meteorites and meteroids had not particularly interested me. Despite my usual trend of zoning out and thinking about the record company that I would rush over to as soon as class was dismissed, this topic caught my attention. My professor displayed a picture of a meteorite crater on the overhead projector. The impact had left a very deep circular indent that had filled with water and eventually become overgrown with plants and foliage. The picture fascinated me- I couldn't stop thinking about the actual sequence of the meteorite crashing into the earth and shattering through the earth's crust. And then the indent filling with rainwater and becoming its own microcosm of wildlife. Replaying this sequence in my mind, rewinding and fast-forwarding, occupied my mind for the rest of the class.

In 6th grade, we had a substitute teacher for an extended period of time when our original teacher had surgery. The substitute was the mother of one of my classmates, and was laid-back and progressive in her approach to teaching us. I was very interested in creative writing at the time and enjoyed the assignments she gave us. One time, though, she gave us what I thought to be a very remedial and juvenile project. I rolled my eyes openly, and she noticed. She then asked me what I thought a better assignment would be. If this proposition was meant to insinuate that I should be more respectful and not question her methods, this was not how I took it. I suggested that she let us write a short story of our own without creativity-stifling guidelines. For some reason, she said that this was actually an agreeable idea, and told the class to follow suit.

I wrote my short story about my best friend and I, under the aliases 'Deirdre' and 'Kay.' In this story (the first of several installments) we escaped our orphanage in London only to be transported by freefall to a magical forest. In the forest was a circular pond, sparkling blue and endowed with magical powers of its own, as well as the ability to determine whether the forest would be consumed by evil or by good. The story was called 'Deirdre and Kay and the Pool of Magic.' If I could find this story now, it would really help to add rhyme and reason to the subsequent installments of Deirdre and Kay's adventures.
My astronomy class that day brought me back to my adventures with Kay. Obviously, the free fall that led us to pool of magic had been caused by the impact of the meteorite hitting the earth. The vibrations sent through the crust of the earth after the meteorite had hit had catapulted us from London to Kaali, Estonia where the crater was. The sight of the impact had immediately filled with the magical water that emerged from the outer mantle of the earth. The water then permeated the land around the impact and allowed the magical forest to develop. I can't believe that didn't come to me until that class. I wonder when the background to 'Deirdre and Kay Meet the Snow Queen' will hit me. Maybe in a zoology class, because they commandeered a river to her castle using a lion to help pull their raft.

dark water & stars

palahniuk and dali

a savage journey to the heart of the american dream

the unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. because it's only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. stone crumbles. wood rots. people, well, they die. but things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.

the lower you fall, the higher you'll fly.

what I want is to be needed. what I need is to be indispensable to somebody. who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. somebody addicted to me. a mutual addiction.

maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.

you buy furniture. you tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. then the right set of dishes. then the perfect bed. the drapes. the rug. then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
i want out of the labels. i don't want my whole life crammed into a single word. a story. i want to find something else, unknowable, some place to be that's not on the map. a real adventure. a sphinx. a mystery. a blank. unknown. undefined.
our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.

people are all over the world telling their one dramatic story and how their life has turned into getting over this one event. now their lives are more about the past than their future.
the best way is not to fight it, just go. don't be trying all the time to fix things. what you run from only stays with you longer. when you fight something, you only make it stronger.
when you understand that what you're telling is just a story. it isn't happening anymore. when you realize the story you're telling is just words, when you can just crumble it up and throw your past in the trashcan, then we'll figure out who you're going to be.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

global night commute

This is an article that I wrote for my high school newspaper about an overnight rally that we went to in Grant Park to advocate for America to become proactive in ending the war in northern Uganda. When I wrote this article in 2006, the organization was just becoming renowned and developing. It is now comprised of hundreds of thousands of volunteers. I was reminded by this article when a friend of the family mentioned today that he had recently gone on a medical mission trip to Uganda. When he said that I paused and wondered why that sounded so strange to me. I then remembered that the only real knowledge that I had of Uganda was that there had been a prominent rebel force, the LRA, that had attempted to overthrow the Ugandan government. This reminded me of an article that I wrote several years ago for my high school paper. I was stunned by the fact that while a little less than five years ago I was writing about how Uganda was being torn apart by civil war and child abduction, I now knew someone who was able to travel there on a medical mission trip. I hope that my writing style has improved since high school, but this is the article. It was initially longer, but it was edited for the amount of space available in the paper. I still remember that night as being especially powerful and one that I will not forget. I can remember walking in the pouring rain, through the construction taking place along the main part of Michigan Avenue as vividly as if it happened yesterday.

I, like many others, was both touched and disturbed by the Invisible Children documentary that was presented in March. I was deeply bothered by the fact that while I was completely consumed by worry about things like schoolwork and applying to colleges, children in Uganda were worried about surviving on a nightly basis. This seemed inherently unjust, and I was frustrated at what appeared to be my hopelessness in the situation. The war was going on in northern Uganda, and I was in a western suburb of Chicago.

However, the creators of the film left us with a chance to help- by participating in the Global Night Commute. The Global Night Commute took place on April 29 in over 130 cities across the country. Thousands gathered to mimic the commute that Ugandan children make every night to promote awareness, take a stand, and to put an end to child abduction rampant in the civil war in Uganda. The rally was to promote a proactive approach by the American government to help to eradicate the need for night commuting by the children of Uganda, and ultimately the war in Uganda itself. I was one of the two Nazareth students that participated in the event, and found it to be not only a rally for an amazing cause, but also a defining point in my life.

When Amber O'Leary and I arrived in Chicago via train on April 29, we were expecting a calm, if slightly uncomfortable night in Grant Park. We figured that we would hang out with the other Nazareth kids that were sure to be there, and pass the night talking and resting. The night did not turn out exactly as we planned.

We arrived in Grant Park on a very cold, rainy evening. I was surprised to see that there were already hundreds of people there; I did not have any idea of how much this cause meant to some people. Just as we were entering the park, we got into a conversation with two women from Wisconsin who had taken a two-hour train ride to be there. They explained to us that they had heard about Invisible Children months ago and had decided that the distance to Chicago for the Commute meant nothing in light of what the Ugandan children go through every night.

Amber and I checked in at a table and then began walking around the park. We saw hundreds of people; mainly older teenagers and college students, milling around and unrolling tarps and sleeping bags. Everybody was extremely friendly, but Amber and I initially felt rather isolated- we could not think of how start a conversation with anyone. However, after about an hour, any feelings of isolation or awkwardness were dissipated.

At about 9 o'clock in a biting wind and steady drizzle, everyone in Grant Park gathered to take a picture and to listen to Jacob, a child from Uganda who had come to speak at the event. Jacob was very soft-spoken and was extremely gracious. It was touching to hear him express his thanks for our spending a night to try to draw attention to the war in Uganda that affected him and all those around him. After listening to his speech everyone felt more comfortable.

Amber and I met a DePaul photography student from Boston, Johnny, who got into a deep discussion with us about politics. A few minutes later, another college student, Kevin, joined our conversation as it shifted to religion. Amber and I did not agree with most of the points Kevin made; he was a strict literalist interpreter of the Bible and seemed eager to convince us to be the same. However, it seemed as if he enjoyed debating and being challenged by us; we talked for quite a while as the weather grew steadily colder and our clothes grew wetter.

At about 2am we once again assembled to have a mass prayer. Initially, almost everyone at the Commute held hands in a giant circle and began to sing religious songs. After a few minutes, however, the circle broke into about 20 circles of groups of four or five people who held hands in tight circles and spoke honestly and deeply. Some groups were praying, revealing more about themselves than I expected.

There were many things said in those groups of relative strangers. It seemed almost a comfort that we would probably never see each other again, so really we had no reason to hide anything. After the prayers I went with two of my new friends to Dunkin Donuts to get hot cocoa to bring back to the park. We returned to Grant Park feeling a little bit different; like we had just realized that we were not as different as we thought we were.

We were completely drenched and exhausted as we made the eight block hike back. Somehow, in that time we told each other some very deep secrets, things that I would hesitate to tell anyone I have a close friendship with. It reminded me of The Breakfast Club as we were all completely different, but were somehow becoming united through the experience we were having together.

All the people we met that night were very different from ourselves, but we were all united in the fact that we were there to make a difference. The desire for change in a country thousands of miles away from us formed an initial bond that was strengthened as the night twisted on through deep conversations and new friends.

When the time came to gather for a final picture, almost no one had slept. We had all been too caught up in the unexpected events that had happened that night to worry about such things as sleep or food.

When Amber and I arrived at Union Station we were completely drenched, exhausted, and hungry, but those feelings were overshadowed by our pride in doing for one night what some children have done every night of their lives. We sat by other Global Night Commuters in the train station; we had never met them, but it did not matter. Everyone there that night had established a connection solely because of being in the same place for the same reason.

As we silently boarded the train home, we knew that we would never again experience something quite like what had happened that night. We were just two of some 70,000 people who participated in the Commute, but we really felt like what we had done had made an impact. We had put ourselves into someone else's shoes for 12 hours, and after leaving we felt a little bit different ourselves.

The war in Uganda is far from over. For ways that you can help, go to

The next year, some of my friends from high school and I went to the second Invisible Children rally. This one was to promote awareness of the displacement camps in Uganda that more and more families were being forced onto beause of the devastation of the war. It took place in the parking lot of McCormick Place. I did not write an article about this, but I remember it nearly as accurately as the one the year before. The part I remember most vividly was watching the sun come up over Lake Michigan with one of my friends, and the conversation that we had there. I made a friend that currently lives in DC, who I still keep in contact with today.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

rainer maria rilke

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903; in Letters to a Young Poet

Monday, December 7, 2009

a tender history in rust

discussing with our comrades on baby island. note the inverted colors of my sister's and my overalls.

I think that I have a particularly selective memory, where I can remember most of my life starting at about age 4 in a kind of overview type way, but with inserts of photographs and videos. The photographs and videos are of days and events that I can remember as vividly as though they happened yesterday. I try to think about them a lot, because I don't ever want them to fade. Some do fade, though, like grains of sand that you try to hold onto but end up slipping through your fingers anyway.

One of the characteristics that most of my memories have in common is the fact that they involve me becoming fascinated by something- like the butterfly hatching kit my parents got my older sister and I when we were little. I was really doubtful that a butterfly would actually come out of what looked like a piece of foam attached to a stick. It did though, and I was so obsessed with the butterfly that I kept trying to snatch it out of the kit until my mom moved it.

I still remember some of the books that my parents used to read to us before we went to bed. My favorites were about kids taking things into their own hands and having adventures. And anything involving fairies or mermaids. There was one book that my mom always used to read to us called 'Roxaboxen.' It was about a town that a bunch of kids made out of rocks and pieces of seaglass. We were so obsessed with it that our mom helped us make our own Roxaboxen in the empty dirt next to our garage. Our slightly deranged former neighbor then put up a sign on the empty dirt that said 'No Trespassing.' There would be NO fun had on HER empty dirt. This made Roxaboxen even better because we had a real live villian like they did in the book.

In second grade, my friend and I extensively planned a trip in which we would make a car by attaching a motor to a wagon, and drive to Mexico. We picked a date and everything, but then got intimidated by the fact that they might not let us cross the border. We thought that we could maybe settle for driving back to Girl Scout camp and living in the fort we made out of sticks in the forest.

I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.
-Holden Caulfield

In 4th grade my teacher always read to us after lunch. My favorite by far was 'The 21 Balloons.' I remember that one day I started choking on a piece of hard candy while she was reading it. It was still my favorite, though. The best part was when William Waterman Sherman made a balloon house so he could live in it while he floated around the world. I remember asking several people if they thought that I could do that.
"Arguably, no artist grows up: if he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist." -Ned Rorem

I also remember getting really excited about products that had logos where inanimate objects had faces. I would always giggle at the little smiling glove on Hamburger Helper and the Pillsbury Doughboy. I feel like I was continually really content by stringing together the happiness that little oddities gave me. I hope I don't lose that. I love when inanimate objects have faces.
We really liked Little Nemo even though it was a little bit scary. I loved when the magical blimp came to his house to pick him up. I think it was after watching this movie that I was absolutely positive that I saw a line of fairies walking on the grass next to my house. Then they went into a little burrow in the ground and I didn't see them again, even though I dug about a foot into the ground there the next day looking. I think there was something about kids floating away that really intrigued me, because my favorite book was 'James and the Giant Peach.' I read that book like 10 times, and I did every report possible on Roald Dahl throughout the entirety of grade school.

I was really easily scared, and I remember that my dad would always turn down the song 'I am the Walrus' after the line 'yellow matter custard' because I told him that the next line would give me a nightmare.
My favorite picture from one of our favorite books. I also loved the picture where the mountain of snow was actually mashed potatoes. I would be a very happy camper if weather was actually like this, I don't care about the problems that occurred in the book. It would be totally worth it to have school closed because a pancake fell on it.

I was talking to a friend of mine once about something that happened on the 4th of July when we were little kids. Then we started talking about how we used to go camping every year, and how much we missed it. He said that the fact that memories get better as they get older makes up for not being able to go back. I don't know if that's true, but I like the thought.

looking beyond the embers of bridges glowing behind us
to a glimpse of how green it was on the other side
steps taken forwards but sleepwalking back again
dragged by the force of some inner tide

at a higher altitude with flag unfurled
we reached the dizzy heights of that dreamed of world

encumbered forever by desire and ambition
there's a hunger still unsatisfied
our weary eyes still stray to the horizon
though down this road we've been so many times

the grass was greener
the light was brighter
the taste was sweeter
the nights of wonder
with friends surrounded
the dawn mist glowing
the water flowing
the endless river

.forever and ever.
pink floyd