November 24, 2009

... so this is what you do at the library

After my conversation with Evan last night, I have the most delicious questions running through my mind.

Does God like cheesecake? And what kind of toothpaste does He use? Does the cheesecake taste good even after the teeth-brushing?

I love cosmic questions. Maybe even more than I am looking forward to the cosmic answers.

November 19, 2009

leaves like butterflies

I’m sitting at my computer, the cursor blinking. Unforgiving. How am I to write about the conservative influences on France’s Third Republic or “l’Affaire Dreyfus” when all I can think about is what a coward I’ve become? Cowardly in that the very thing that has afforded me stability and a creative outlet my whole life is now falling short of expectation: my words. My speech. My voice. And I’m not talking about my appalling inability to not so much as flounder around an essay topic in French (although that is particularly apropos this evening as well). My disappointment springs from my inability to talk to Him.

Who is Him, you ask? Well, take your pick.

Life (the one in the black t-shirt with a predilection for winding roads and evenings of stargazing)? God? My father? My brothers? My blue-eyed best friend of yesteryear? That Canadian waiter in Edinburgh? The dozen or so men in my dance class who have to deal with my blundering, maladroit version of the Viennese waltz?

Dance isn’t such a bad analogy for this. Part of my problem in the face of constantly being told to “Relax!” is that… well, it seems nigh impossible. I have a hard time trusting that those sweaty-handed men can really get me anywhere without a fatal crash into the wall or, worse yet, an innocent passerby. Often, I am being swirled and spun into a dizzy frenzy, flying backwards and all the while never knowing when I’ll feel secure again. I want to love that feeling. I crave to love it. Yet, even after every vow to myself that today will be different, today I will relax, today I will trust… today becomes another fractured dream. My dancing will always be gauche as long as I refuse to surrender that little part of me to another person, or to my own embodiment even. And probably so will my life.

I don’t mean for this to be a postmodern lament on how my marginalized voice leads to a fractured identity, resulting in my disembodiment and consequent loss of phenomenological experience. (You can thank my literary theory courses for such lofty explanations.) Alls I really need is a good, hearty dose of courage. And maybe some chocolate milk. We Americans have this awful habit of saying “Good luck,” as though we move through our lives helplessly at the mercy of this Luck, who occasionally smiles down on the fortunate. Luck is kind of a fair-weather friend, though. I’ve found that the equivalent French phrase is much more awesome, as the French are wont to be: “Bon courage.” It’s not about happenstance anymore, it’s about having courage to face what lies before you and to tackle those things head-on.

I probably shouldn’t tackle anyone from my dance class head-on. But I should probably pretend to be graceful until the blessed day that I actually am.

Perhaps all of this is why, as I was contemplating what to post about, the first thing that came to mind was a butterfly-shaped leaf I found on campus. That is a much simpler topic.

The moments of happiness—not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfillment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness

Writing means never missing the meaning. Living means never missing the experience. I kind of need both. As always, salvation lies in the balance.

November 17, 2009


Maya Angelou is known to have said, “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I am with you, kid. Let’s go.’” Now, I’m not meaning to suggest that our dear friend Maya is a liar… but I’m wondering about the extent to which this is true. Come to think of it, some of the best times in my life have been when I’m willing to run around barefoot and harvest the day with reckless abandon. I have this fantastic image of Life and me having a go at the park and flying kites. Mine would be purple (because it’s my favorite color) and Life’s would be red (because red seems as though it should be Life’s favorite color if it isn’t already). I might take a moment to pause and ask Life, “Why are you so difficult sometimes?”

Life would just look at me with the earnestness of a child, not saying anything.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it…” I would stammer. “Hey, last one to the tree is a rotten egg!”

I don’t think Life would have a lapel, though. He’d probably be wearing a black t-shirt—black because it’s either the most beautiful or the most devastating color. After a lunch of PB&J’s with sun chips, Life and I would head back home. He would want to take the “scenic route,” over all the bridges and through dense thickets of forestation. Whenever I’d be tempted to complain and ask why we hadn’t just taken the highway, Life would say some cheesy thing like, “It’s not about the destination, but the journey itself.” (A line he learned from my cousin Keith after we spent two hours bushwhacking to finally arrive at a lone outhouse off a beach in northern Michigan when we were twelve.)

But you know? Keith and Life kind of have a point. It’s like when you’re a little kid and you keep whining to your parents, “Are we there yet?” not even considering that the state of being in transit can be wonderful. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to find that I love road-tripping, or driving just to drive. There is something about being in your car, listening to your favorite music, and watching the scenery whizz by as a world-montage, the stage for those thoughts you can only have in the quiet moments. As a lover of literature, it’s hard for me to admit this but… there are some things that just aren’t meant to be vocalized. Like the way I feel when I see the sun set behind the mountains as I’m driving back to my apartment from Springville and a beautiful Eric Whitacre chord seems to aurally paint the majesty I’m witnessing.

So, you know, Life being as wise and adventurous as we’ve learned he is… not sure he’d approve of the fact that I took an evening off from work just to sleep and hide from him. In fact, Life approves of very little I’ve been doing lately. We used to be best friends, you know. When we were little. Back then, we’d have the greatest of adventures. But now? Now we always seem to have these awkward encounters. I wish I weren’t so afraid of him. I wish I could just tell him how I feel and ask him why things have to be so… hard. He’s never liked that question. For being such a wise guy, Life can be really bad at sharing his feelings. Maybe the best thing to do is go stargazing. Life always seems to open up when I just allow him to be silent and look at the stars.

And imagine my luck: the Leonid Meteor Shower is tonight.

we're never where we want to be
that's okay with me
that's just the way it is, they say
it feels like make believe
that you're my history
but brother I've rediscovered you and

we're pushing on
we're passing through
and it won't be long
till I walk with you
tonight I'm down
yeah, I'm inside out
staring at the pictures in the album you forgot about

isn't it a shame
that times have changed?
but isn't it strange?
lifelines stay the same

round and round
I can't believe my heart has waited this long
all along, we've been children in a cold world
where wonder was lost, every day
and if love was a compass
oh, I've lost my way