Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ski Lifts, Bucket Lists and Life

When I was a little girl, I remember climbing up the gate at our house to sit on the stone column next to it and wait. Wait for my sister to leave for and then come back from school. Wait for the car to take me to school later on. Wait for my dad to come home from work. There was so much eagerness in that waiting--the excitement of something coming.

Yesterday I climbed the pile of snow plowed up by my house. The last few years I confess I tunneled into these piles with pots and pans and so of course, I had to make sure no other person tunneled in yet this year. But no such thing, so up I climbed. It was like my own personal little mountain in my front yard, a wonderful hawk-eyed view of the streets, the passersby. Not so high as my magic carpet, but wonderful in the way of the tree fort, the hide-out. 

And again, I waited. Waited for some friends to come through so we could caravaan off to the ski slopes together. Tennis I wanted to play since I was a very little child. Skiing, though, I've wanted to try since I first left the Caribbean and got over the shock of the cold and winters. And though I spent so much time around skiiers, I was never granted that opportunity. These past few years, I've thought about it, watched it come around nearly in my reach, and then either slip away again or else I myself have chosen to grab some other opportunity. 

But yesterday--yesterday was my day for skiing at long last. Yesterday, in this marvelously surprising unforseen way, I got to go skiing and it was just so delightful. Learning this foreign feeling, this way of thinking with the muscles of my body, of hearing them in my head and focusing on their directions. The conquering the never-ending fear of heights to move up the mountain, shaking in the seat as I try not to look down, as I remember all the other things I have conquered in my life and how this is the least of them all. To glide down this slope of pure white, so intent on harmony and balance and the beauty of your surroundings and having only a sensory awareness of others on the slope passing nearby at varying speeds. The hilltops across the valley smiling back at me and the cold kissing my nose. It was wonderful. 

And it is the waiting for wonderful things like that, the eager climbing up a snow plow pile and watching for adventure, for opportunity, for pure beauty--I want to do that with this whole year, with the rest of my life which sometimes feels like too many lifetimes to me. I want to climb to this hill of new persepective, of bubbling childish excitement, stamp a spot and plant my feet solidly and wait, eagerly; expectantly. Wait and reach out and embrace all the wonderful new experiences that lie around, hidden from my sight til just that perfect moment. 

Today I ran away from home a while to start reading the next book on my school-list. Sometimes you just need to work from a clean slate, a new environment where everything isn't chatting away at you familiarly and intrusively all at once. I ran away to a coffeeshop where lots of strangers pass through; strangers whose lives seem oddly comforting and vaguely interesting, and it is not intrusive to tune in to their chatter. 

One huddle of women around the firepit near me, wealth sparkling off their particular clothes, their large rings and fancy materials and all; they were talking about their vacations, where they wanted to go next, when they were done this skiing holiday of theirs. Belize, the Caribbean, somewhere really exotic. 

From there, their conversation turned to bucket lists, to checking things off (one apparently is getting quite near to finishing her original list). And it got me thinking about my own list of things I want to do. Not much, really. I don't often sit around and think up adventures, or set life-goals or throw stones at the future in hopes that when I arrive there, I'll find the stone and recognise the significance of that place. But I do have a few things on my list, casual little ideas like flying a plane, walking across a country, seeing the northern lights, looking at the moon from antarctica. Higher education and telling stories that have little truths in them, stories that can resonante with something in all of us who claim common humanity. 

I know I don't value my life enough. I spend copious amounts of time imagining for myself beautiful deaths, epic ways to leave this life behind because I get weary of waiting for the unexpected, or weary of letting ago of another piece of life that I loved dearly. Dearly. And because there is some part of me that finds an aspect of death alluring--Peter Pan saying "to die will be an awfully great adventure," perhaps. But I am grateful for the luxury of dreaming, grateful for the wealth of opportunities that I can choose to take hold of now and, hopefully, over the course of my lifetime. I'm glad that my life is one that can afford even the idea of a bucket list, of langously floating through life coming up with new adventures to turn my rotor towards. I'm delighted that I got to ski yesterday, and that I might go again sometime. I'm eager, in spite of the worse parts of myself, for the adventures of the lifetimes I have yet to live before me. And I am grateful for my life and its many measures of wholeness.  

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Intent to be Lost

"So many things seemed filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster"
~Excerpt from the poem "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

I was thinking a bit this morning about lostness. This week has been such a one for me, wandering circles in my mind, going nowhere, breaking down. Wondering why so many things get lost. Wishing I didn't always feel so lost, myself.

On my second breakfast of today, circling cereal absently in my bowl, I came into focus on the spoon I was using. I love this spoon. It's not gold or silver, and it isn't fancy at all, but... My older sister and I, sometime in our early childhood, were flying with our parents to the States for a visit. They had those handy take-out bags on the plane; most people called them barf bags, but we could see their true purpose. So we took our take-out bags, filled them with cookies (the flight attendants loved us, so we got lots of extra goodies from them), and then went up and down the aisle collecting cast-off treasures from other travellers. I'm not sure just when exactly our parents, seated somewhere else on the plane, discovered our entrepreneurial designs, but we did have to retire back to our seat eventually. Yet even so, when we got off the plane and offered up our treasures to our parents, they were surprised.

In addition to cookies, apples, sugar packets, towelettes, pretzels and some salt & pepper packets, we had taken several sets of silverware. Yes, real honest to goodness (not silver) silverware. They used to use those on planes, before it was just first class, before it was unsafe to have it at all. And it didn't occur to us that you were supposed to leave the silverware on the plane! So, we had this fine mini-collection of both of our sets of silverware--knives, forks, and spoons. Monogrammed with the airline's name, no less.

All these many years later, I wonder what drawers in what countries those forks and knives and spoons came to rest in, so far away from their airline home, so settled onto the earth instead of flying over it endlessly. And in fact, that airline shut down years ago. But somehow, I still have that one solitary spoon and it makes me smile every time I see it. Smile and remember two brown skinned blond haired girls going up and down the airplane aisle with barf bags. Smile and remember being told to NEVER take silverware off a plane again (though I'm pretty sure our parents probably muffled their laughter at our shocking actions). Smile and think how funny it is that such a small thing can still echo into today.

I think about that in terms of lostness. The fact is, I know that as bewildering and exhausting as the experience of lostness is, and even how frightening and overwhelming as it sometimes grows, I would rather live my whole life lost than ever walk on a road.

My youngest sister and I have a plan lying between us; our golden egg which we look forward to hatching. When she has a breath and I can get 3 months off in a row, we are going to walk from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland, and then ferry our way across the islands at the top to the highest one, to Unst. I dream of that place I have never seen. I dream of us wandering through all that land, wet and smelly and angry and perfectly wonderously content. They say that there are 3 ways you can do that trip--walk along the roads, travel from camp-site to camp-site, or wander by the stars through fields, hobbiting your way across the world. Can you guess which way we'll go?

I think of all the things I've lost through the years, the toys and the dolls, the pens and the keys and the books--so many books. The ID cards and tickets. The friends and the homes. Colours. Villages and cities and smells. Countries I love. Languages I now can only cry in.

But I think the fact is, we carry the truth of all these things with us still. I think someday, even if I am denied my freedom, denied my belongings, denied my dignity; I think even if I am cut off from my memories completely through cruelty or the naturally unnatural brokenness of the body, I think I will still be myself. And myself holds all these things, holds the image the imprint the timeless impact of all these things, of all the things which ever touch or shape us. So how can they ever be lost to us? And how can we ever truly be lost? Why should we ever despair in our feelings of lostness?

Maybe the experience of lostness is just tasting the wonderous expanse of the world that exists outside of time, and being perfectly overwhelmed. Perfectly.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Happy Sleepy Warm and Fuzzy Thoughts from a GRAD STUDENT!

I think January caught the flu; we've had about 24 hours now of enjoying the heat of its fever. After the bone-chilling weather of Vermont which had been years since I had to experience, the exceptional warmth of these days in NY came even more shockingly. Sleeveless dresses? Picnics in the warm sun? flip-flops to cross the grass while piles of melting snow tug at the corner of my eye? So bizarre. But not at all unwelcome!

These days of being back home, of adjusting to "real-life" once more; these mornings of waking up with the refrain I'm a student again! singing in my head so happily (far too cheerfully for so early in the morning!!) and of loving it, loving every minute of it. Tracking my first few books (yes, paper books still--I have yet to submit to the nook or the firepad) as they make their journey through the states (I think, it would have been so fun if the pony-express-boys could have had little gps devices attached to them so the girls in their dresses tucked away at home could at least follow the adventures of their little missiles...). Sitting in front of the computer screen and teaching myself it's ok, it's alright--release the Krakken; let your imagination come forth and swallow you whole. 

Writing. Just the pure joy and the crystalline despair of writing. Of investing in myself in this one thing which I love most and above all else. So wonderful! 

It's terribly invigorating. Though I have so much less time, I've already done more cleaning and more cooking and more baking and more walking and more scheduled eating than I usually do in at least a month's time. (Well, excepting the walking. I haven't walked that much yet, not a month's worth!) But really. It's like being alive again. 

Watch me take that back next week, when I get swallowed up in the craziness of starting up a semester again and decide instead of being alive, it's drowning instead... 

Today I made the experiment of cooking Ethiopian food. I had some ingredients for it hiding in cupboard around my home, I think they must have been whispering to me. And of course, experience says that when you are about to embark on the tied-for-2nd busiest month of the year, you should always have meals available for a quick grab, so that you don't subsist on 2 shots of espresso a day, office chocolates, granola bars, and shrimp and spinach. Not that those are bad things. But they don't promise the best nutritional balance or the carousel of flavour which I prefer to indulge my taste buds in. So now i have a freezer full of daro-wat and kik alicha, as well as enough in my fridge for the next week of off and on meals, and some stock to make into a hearty potato stew (if I get around to picking up some vegetables in the market). 

I also indulged my nostalgia and made poppy-seed bread which I haven't made in about a decade. It still tastes just as good! And fresh out of the oven poppy seed bread with a nice mug of fresh-brewed double-shot mocha is perfect for a Sunday morning. 

It was all very good. 

I think tonight I am just so happy it is hard to even think about sleeping, hard to imagine that I might close my eyes on this well of joy and wake up tomorrow still with this thrill, still with this exultation. But I suppose if I don't close them soon... I will be too tired and grumpy in the morning to even care about exultation! 

And so, goodnight my readers. I hope you sleep well, or wake well, whichever timezone this finds you in.