Thursday, June 20, 2013

Call and Response

I read this yesterday: .

In the middle of the day, at work, when I maybe shouldn't have.  And it made me want to read Ocean at the End of the Lane, but it also made me want to say things I hadn't said.  I'm not promoting this post- if you find it you do.  I'm not explaining this post- you'll understand it or you won't.  I need the words to come, and I need to release it like one of those paper lanterns and let it fade out into the night sky. 

It's quiet, my door is closed, the fan's blowing on me and drowning out the traffic noise, and it's time to speak.

"it all started to make sense. i cried a lot.
and even THEN, i didn’t get it.
it wasn’t until we were at TED, taking a walk up a little hill in long beach a day or two before my talk, that i finally understood.
we were chatting about the book, i asked him a question about some of the symbolism in the story….and he stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and looked at me.
you twit,
he said.
and he filled in the blanks, and connected the dots for me.
i’d missed it completely.
i loved him so much in that moment.
and for a second, a split second, i was a neil gaiman fan.
and i was a fan because he’d tricked me, and he’d tricked me without me knowing, and i’d heard rumors that he does that, but i thought i was immune."
(Amanda Palmer)

These were the words that stuck out to me. It might never make sense to anyone but me, but I'm ok with it. 
The thing is, sometimes I miss the forest for the trees.  Sometimes I'm so deep into it that I've forgotten the big picture. 

Sometimes things overwhelm me. Too much interaction and I want to get somewhere like I am now- closed doors, blackout curtains, a cool breeze and nothing (and no one) else. As much as I love my friends and family, social interaction doesn't revive me.  I feel bad about it sometimes, because I don't want to ever sound ungrateful for the interaction or make people think I'd rather be alone, but I really value the time at the end of the day when it's dark, it's quiet, and I'm alone with my thoughts. 

Sometimes I wander off with my own thoughts and don't say what I intended to say, and that's what the last two paragraphs were.  

The thing is, there's exceptions.  There aren't many, but there's exceptions.  What claws at my guts from inside my rib-cage is that I'm missing an exception.  What makes my eyes well up with angry tears is that I can't seem to fight off the feeling.   

See, the exception for me was someone.  It's mayflies in a jar though, these exceptions, and there's only ever been two.  This last one though...maybe I thought it was a firefly, and it'd be in the field for more than a night casting a soft glow on the grass.  It occurs to me maybe the firefly was too dumb to know it was him lighting up the night because he couldn't see behind him.

I didn't know before this that a person could be a refuge.  I always assumed people would leave, and that's not the kind of place you could build your house.  I didn't know that as much as I gave could be given back in big and little things.  I didn't know that beautiful bright flowers grew out of hot sand, and that fire was a proving ground.  I didn't know a scarred hand and a heavy heart could hold ME and take away pain.  

I never thought there'd be a time when I'd be ok with not having that wind-down time by myself, to turn on some show, or surf through some sites, or write.  Better than ok, I would start to feel the sigh of relief I felt flopping onto the couch by myself in opening someone else's door.  I didn't know what it was like to laugh when the whole world is nothing but fucked up and pain.  

But the exception.  The exception turned back and said "you twit."
And I understood, FINALLY.
And yes, I did love him in that moment. 
And yes, that moment's gone, and it's possible it passed by unnoticed by anyone but me. 
And I'm a fan.  
I'm a fan waiting in line for five hours with a book to say "You changed my life, did you know that?"
And if I could just get that message into those hands...
I thought I was immune too, but I wasn't.  I didn't know about those exceptions, but there they are, and here they aren't.  I've learned so much but nothing at all.  I've been waiting in line to say "you're the exception. If nothing else, I need you to know that. I need you to know that you changed my life." and I could maybe walk away a little better.  But the truth is, sometimes the store closes, and your idols go home, and you have to move along to something else, and your heart will break, but you'll still be better.  And that's still love.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

This isn't a day I really know what to say, so I usually just don't say anything at all. 
I've started and gotten halfway through this post a hundred times, here and in my head the past two days. 

It's hard to know what to say.  It's hard for me to write this because part of me really doesn't want to share anything at all.  I've been on my own all day and that's the way I handle these things. 

I know I'm not the only one who's hurting, but with the multitude of Facebook posts of yellowed photos of happy little girls with curls and dads with striped shirts and bad haircuts, I feel a little bit alone.  I don't know what that's like. 

Sometimes I think it'd be easier to talk to other people who have lost parents on days like today, but I don't. I don't know the way it feels to have someone there one day and not the next, and I don't know what it feels like to watch death slowly creep in and take someone, either.   

I just know it as a hole.  Something that should be there that isn't.  
I've come at it thousands of different ways, and I should be good at handling it after having it there with me my whole life, but one thing I can tell you is that grief isn't temporary.  It's there. It's there when you feel it and when you don't. 

I don't think I'd have started writing this at all if it hadn't snuck up on me a week or two ago at a relative's wedding. One minute I was on a trip, taking pictures, and the next I was watching the bride dance with her dad feeling the kind of pain that makes it hard to breathe.  And I didn't see it coming, and I didn't like that I couldn't control it, that it came so out of left field, and that it just hadn't gotten better already.  Because honestly, as an adult, shouldn't I have seen it coming and been able to just push it off?

When I was a kid, I made up stories about spies and dreamed of unlikely returns. When I was a teenager, I wanted to learn.  I felt like I couldn't know who I was if I didn't know who he was, even though the more I heard the wider the hole seemed to tear open, and the angrier and sadder I got knowing more about who I'd missed.  I was jealous that everyone else had stories- relatives and aunts and uncles.  They had encounters and I had ideas, and that was never going to change. 

I wanted to be like him, but when I was, and someone noticed, that hurt too.  I read thing he wrote and dreamed of places he'd loved.  When I first got to Colorado, I couldn't stop staring.  I felt like the better I knew the place the better I'd know him.  When I saw my first mountain I felt like it was something that we could share, because I knew it was something that he loved too, and I knew that I was somewhere that he had been.  That trip was with the school, and I worked hard to hide everything I was secretly trying to process, save from a few people. 

A few years later I went back to Colorado as a newly minted "adult" to stay with a friend.  The plane landed in Denver as the sun set over the Rockies, and I cried. I felt like I was touching something I couldn't touch anywhere else. 

The truth is, all these years and I still don't know the best way to deal with it. 
All these years later and I still lose "control" over it, even as an adult. 
Sometimes it's something I barely think about, and ten seconds later I'm setting my jaw against a complete breakdown.  Sometimes I see someone with their dad and I get angry or jealous, and I know it's not rational, but it doesn't make the feeling go away. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't feel the way I feel, like I don't have the right, or it's not important, because I was too young to know what life was, let alone death.  Sometimes it feels good to know that I was so, SO loved by my dad, even before I understood what that meant, and sometimes it makes me sad that I never once got to run up and hug his neck and love him right back. Sometimes I'd give anything to remember, and other times I'd give anything to forget. 

This time I'm writing this because I don't know the right way to grieve. Nobody does. 
I don't understand how anybody else who has lost someone they love feels, and nobody else understands exactly how I feel about my loss. 

I've had to learn that it's ok to have my rituals and it's ok to have my radio silence.  It's ok to allow myself a moment of anger or jealousy or just cry. I've relearned in the course of three weeks that as far removed as you feel from it, loss can sneak right back up on you and tear down all the fortresses you built to keep it out. 
And that sucks. It sucks that it's a part of who you are from that point forward,  and you can't change that.  

I don't have it figured out, and I don't know that I ever will. 
Some days are better than others.
This isn't a better day. 
But there's other ones coming. 

Maybe no one knows how I feel exactly, and maybe I'll never be able to explain it, but I know I'm not alone.
I'm not alone, and that's enough. 
And that's why I decided to write this.
Because you aren't alone, either.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Valley of Fires- NM Journals Part...4?

Maybe I love the desert because I love the extremes in nature. 
High and low, blazing sun or monster storms. 
White and black. 

The trip to White Sands had been amazing, and if that was the only place we had visited that day, I think it'd have been worth it just as much. But Lewis is an adventurer and a damn good tour guide, and we weren't nearly done for the day. 

Once we'd left White Sands, we stopped for some traditional New Mexican food. Carne adobada was calling my name, and warm sopapillas with a coating of local honey are something nobody should miss while they are in the state.

Once fully air conditioned, hydrated and satisfied, we set off for more adventures.

I love pistachios, and therefore could not miss an opportunity to worship the World's Largest Pistachio

Lewis took the more casual "hold up the giant fake pistachio" approach.
I'm still hoarding my green chile pistachios, as I've gone straight through the free bag and the variety bag that I  brought to work. 

The whole drive was beautiful- the mountains off in the distance, and the dust devils whipping tumbleweeds around...

But we were headed somewhere special.  Valley of Fires.
This is a very young (geologically speaking) lava field that you can explore that's in between Socorro and White Sands.  

The shapes and colors are amazing. I still don't know if I can really do it justice with a camera, especially because it's such a shock to your system after all the white. 

The hedgehog cactus blooms were everywhere, and they really stand out against the black rock.

The billowing and folding of the rock and the tubes and formations are amazing.

And Spring was here, too.

Everything is so severe here- wind twisted, sun-stained, shaped by fire.

I half expected there'd be places along the trail where lava was still shifting and cooling.

Luckily, there wasn't...though I do think I'd like to see that one day too.

 We spent a little time chasing cactus wrens and ground squirrels.

 I spent a lot of time looking as far out on the horizon as I could, breathing in the desert air and feeling lucky to be able to be in a place like this.

It was easy to spend all day out there, and just as we were coming into town, the sun was setting over the Magdalenas. The final flood of sunlight and the pale blues and yellows on the ridge made everything seem surreal. It felt like we were driving into a painting. 

That night we came home, watched a flurry of hummingbirds at the feeder, shared pictures, had some wine and cheese, and let the evening float away. 
I can't picture a more perfect day.

If you'd like to see the full set of pictures from Valley of Fires, go here:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Absence: NM Diaries Part 4

White. It's technically the absence of something, isn't it?  No color. No pigment. Just...white.  Blank. Empty. Glaring. 

But I came to the desert this time for this. Because it's blank.  Because of the absences in my life, even. Because I had a dream for years that I would stand here. Explore an alien landscape. Try to capture the unique beauty of it all.  Get lost, run, roll, and dive.  Feel it between my toes. 

This is the desert in purest form. Immense, and solitary. Fierce and quiet at once. Surreal and wild, alive and mysterious. 

I've seen pictures of this place, but there's no picture that explains it. Driving in you can catch a shock of white tucked in among the mountains, but even then you can't tell how immense it is. 

One step isn't like the next. Sometimes you sink.  Sometimes the ground is steady.  When you take your shoes off (and you will, because this place sings to your inner child), even though the sun's reflection has you nearly blind, even with sunglasses, you find the glistening sand to be cool and soft. 

It's strange and sparkling and surreal here. It's quiet, and bright. The blue of the sky is as shocking as the white of the sand after a while, but it's also your reprieve from the glare and the best way to "reset" your eyes and gain some clarity. 

Everything seems far away, removed from you.  The softly curved dunes are more massive than you realize, and the climb could be a deep trudge, but still I felt like I had to explore.  

People are dwarfed.

There are posts to guide you if you lose your way while you explore. The sun was intense, as we were there at high noon. We had water but it was easy to feel your body lose it as quickly as you could replenish your supply. 

It's so hard to explain the magnetic pull I had towards this place.  I can so easily understand why the posts are there to guide you. The sun is as harsh as anywhere else in the desert, and the hiking can be difficult when your feet sink in the sand, but it all seems completely irrelevant. Sometimes I felt the need to stop and stare, and the next second I'd be racing up a dune with Lewis and tumbling down like a child. 

This place is peaceful and foreign all at once. When I'd slid to the bottom of the dune, my whole body was pillowed in soft, cool gypsum sand. 

And as blank a slate as it seems, this place is very much alive. 

I lived in the desert, but I was still surprised to see flowers here. There's something so cool about the things that grow here. It's against the odds, and when they bloom, they bloom so brightly.

It may not seem like much, but in the heat of a New Mexico afternoon with no shelter from the sun, where it's so dry that you don't feel yourself sweat except in the shade of your sunglasses, where salty drops pour into your eyes, and you can feel your whole body's longing for water if you neglect it for too realize how amazing it is that anything grows here.  Suddenly your everyday yucca is a symbol of unearthly strength. 

Adapt to survive.

As many paths as you find in this place

The next wind can erase and rearrange them

Maybe that's what's so beautiful about it.  Colors stand out here. There's no shade to hide from the sun. Things are upside down- softer, larger. Farther than they seem.  The environment screams for your attention and so does your body, and you must listen to both. 

Against all odds, things grow here. Take root and stay, even as the sands change. 
The way that you see it today is potentially completely different than the way people will see it tomorrow. 
There's something sacred about that, to me. 
The desert speaking, just to you, just at that moment. 
And that's what makes it beautiful beyond measure.