Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Strange Currents

Two costumes deep and nowhere to wear them. A few bags of check-out counter candy run-off in a last minute panic that trick or treaters were going to come by our apartment door. I may put on my Angela Chase costume all the same and eat Almond Joys with Jordan (heheh – Jordan) while we watch Hocus Pocus on the pull-out couch. This will have to be enough holiday for now, because keeping pace with multiple lives is an exhausting business: work, writing, French class, cooking, fires on the beach, old friends coloring the west coast with an odd sort of implied time travel. Maybe I’ll pull it together for late-night Halloween karaoke. It’s possible… but I doubt it.

The kitty surveys her carnage.
The cat has eaten my Mac cord.  Literally must have swallowed pieces of it while I wasn’t watching, because not only is it in chunks, it is substantially shorter. She is a strange bird these days – racketing from room to room like a furry, white comet making little chirruping noises as she goes. She follows me while I fold clothes, clean the mirrors, look for my keys and she finds various perches from which to observe and evaluate my behavior. She is tolerant, if not affectionate, but oddly more involved and invested in the goings-on of the apartment than she ever was back in Seattle. And now she’s eating electrical accessories when they’re plugged into the wall. I worry about her.

I worry about all of my time on a motorcyle, too. In my experience, the most dangerous thing about being on a motorcycle is also one of the best things about it. Not the speed or the risk, either. It is the quiet of it. Not, certainly, the quiet of the engine or the wind that harasses even the most smartly buttoned leather coat or the roar of other irritable cars on the road – the internal quiet. Without music or conversation, there is really nowhere for you to spend time but in your own head. On a long enough ride, you can take some truly meditative journeys and find yourself at the top of Mount Diablo a bit surprised at having arrived on a peak from which you can see most of the surrounding country. One considers the validity of one’s contribution to her job, the state of climate change, whether our democratic process has really imploded, if living up to one’s potential is actually that satisfying, the regrets of past conversations. It is possible that you speak of this to no one.

Traveling to Pittsburgh in the fall means pumpkin carving and friends and the smell of leaves that reminds me of a brick-buildinged campus that is almost a decade in my rearview. It means that people I love have made a small child that has the most perfectly pink lips. This small human and I looked at each other: me, considering the first very tenuous weeks of her life that brought her here to my lap and what it will be like for her to grow up in a generation that has always known Facebook. I wonder what her prom dress will look like. Her trim little shoulders seem to shrug when I sit her upright on my thighs and frown over these thoughts.

Sandy in Nantucket, MA
Much of my family (real and chosen) is back East – scattered from Maine to Massachusetts, New Hampshire to New York. They stayed away from their windows and hoarded water in their basements with a resigned New England air as Hurricane Sandy pummeled the coast this week. My mother lost power quickly enough, even though they never cancelled her classes that she taught at school that day. My cousin on Nantucket Island sent photographs of water flooding the port and Main Street and surrounding the lighthouse of Brant Point. My pregnant cousin is still without power, ferrying herself and the rest of the family to the community center to periodically recharge their phones and shower. It is possible that they won’t have electricity before the election on Tuesday. A close friend’s basement flooded waist-high in Brooklyn and their car bobbed down the street and away.
With my hair like this...
it hurts to look at me.

These are the things that I’m thinking about on my couch while wearing a plaid shirt and black leggings, wondering whether it’s really a complete costume if I don’t dye my hair red. I’m thinking about the disparate driftwood of experience that is making up the lives of the people I know, feeling (as ever) a bit overcome.

Look, it’s a strange year and we’re caught in strange currents. Nearly everyone I know is living their life at a higher volume than they’re used to; making bigger moves and maybe vibrating at a slightly higher frequency as a result. People are moving, quitting their jobs, writing their novel, buying houses, having children, sitting in hospital waiting rooms, falling in ill-advised love, and going back to school. Maybe it’s 2012 and there’s an enormous prophesied bird-dragon headed right for us, maybe I’m in my thirties and so are many of the people that I know and love, and we’re going through those big life changes that we’ve been hearing about all these years. Or maybe I’m thinking too much. Maybe it’s not all as connected as it seems. But troubling as some of these realities are, I like thinking of my life as more comprehensive and inclusive. The boundaries between me and you don’t feel quite so linked to geography that way.

Last Saturday a small pack of East Bay kids crossed the bridge and headed for Ocean Beach: three scientists, an architect, an ex-theater kid, and a socially ungainly writer who would be the oldest person in the group. We dug a hole in the sand and built a fire that evening.

I’ve never made a fire on the beach (though I’ve certainly spun fire and watched fire spinning by sunset before on the shaded, well-trafficked beach of Golden Gardens in Seattle). But simply watching a flame swallow branches and old cardboard is better than most forms of entertainment that I pay for (internet, film, shows, museums). It is a pleasantly primal experience to hold a stick and marshmallow near a flame and watch it brown. The fire stays in your clothes for days afterwards, causes you to lean into strangers, share blankets, lick your fingers of small dabs of chocolate. It feels more permanent than most things in our commercial break world.

Just another pack of strangers discussing the weather, politics, stories we’ve loved, times that we’ve been left, nicknames we’ve adopted (by the way, I now refer to Jordan as “zombie”), all edging around the borders of vulnerability wondering what’s too much to share or say.

But what if nothing was too much and you could just say what you meant at that moment? What if you could tell strangers that you were lonely and have them put a blanket around your shoulders? What if you could tell the girl with the glasses that you think she laughs better than most of the people that you’ve known in your life? Maybe you could talk about what faith is like, where it gets lost, how difficult trust is, how grateful you are. What if simply saying things out loud felt like a solution? Perhaps that could be California in October.