August 5, 2012
drive until you lose the road
excerpts from an unsent letter, written in the air above colorado:
the world does look awfully beautiful at this distance. when the plane had taken off but was still relatively close to the ground, you could see the strange perfect geometry of the fields, the lines of the mower, the different shades of whatever crops there were, mostly all brown with occasional vivid circles of green. dry riverbeds snaking through. the houses just small specks in the middle of what seems, even from a height of at least a mile, to be an enormous expanse of land. and then higher up, the clouds so perfectly formed, each bit of them unlike the rest but also still so cloud-like. we're too far from the ground to see much of the land at all now. all of the world from here is coated in a fine haze.
the other day when I called my mom's house, my sister answered. we got talking about my flight and I said it came in at 10:30. "in the morning?" she asked. "because if so, sorry, but I'll be sleeping." it made me laugh. I remembered at christmas, how in her whole week off school she had only one day she could sleep in; I think it was boxing day. she was determined to make the most of it so she declared that she was going to sleep until noon, and that's exactly what she did. it was 12:30, I think, and when she finally walked into the kitchen, her hair all rumpled, she was triumphant. she's so much like I was at that age that it's kind of a mystery to me. and how delicious were those teenage years, when you could sleep until 11 and you didn't have anything to feel guilty about at all.
the thing that I always think of when I think of my mom's house is the light, how much light there is, particularly in the kitchen, which faces east. it's always the light I remember. it's the light I think of that morning with ashley, the cold pressing against the kitchen window, and all the sunlight, almost as if the house were open to the outside. I get homesick more in the summer than in the winter because of that, because you can stand in the kitchen and feel as if you are out in the world. that's the thing I always seem to crave more than other people -- a connection to outside, a feeling of being outside on my skin. when s and I were together I sometimes felt like a caged animal, because there was air conditioning in the condo and in the car, and when we drove anywhere he never wanted the windows down, not even for a few minutes. I know it sounds absurd but it really did make me feel sometimes like a wild thing that had been caught. when I moved into my apartment it was an unexpected treasure, the moment I realized I could sleep with the windows open again.
you know, the reason I'm so fond of birthdays is because I'm so grateful to get another year, to have made it another year. I think this sentiment is the one blessing you can receive from having someone very close to you die suddenly, and too soon, so I try to never lose hold of it. I'm grateful that the days keep coming, another and then another, and another. we don't think twice about assuming that they will, even though at any moment they could stop. there isn't a way to say that that doesn't end up in cliche, which is a shame because more and more I wonder at how much we take our own continued existence for granted. it seems to me that the simplest path to joy is to recognize our own impermanence. once I told you that I worried you thought I was frivolous, since I'm so often driven to seek out cotton candy and swingsets and bumper cars. and you said, I don't think you're frivolous, I just think you are very serious about your fun. you were right, of course, but I hope you know that I'm serious about my fun because life really is too short, and if I have a single driving force in my life it's the desire to never look back and think that I worked too hard and worried too much and missed something beautiful as a result. regret is probably the only real fear I have, but it is, in its own way, everything.