The Family by Mary Oliver The dark things of the wood Are coming from their caves, Flexing muscle. They browse the orchard, Nibble the sea of grasses Around our yellow rooms, Scarcely looking in To see what we are doing And if they still know us. We hear them, or think we do: The muzzle lapping moonlight, The tooth in the apple. Put another log on the fire; Mozart, again, on the turntable, Still there is a sorrow With us in the room. We remember the cave. In our dreams we go back Or they come to visit. They also like music. We eat leaves together. They are our brothers. They are the family We have run away from. grateful slice: family
Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo.What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us; it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
-Milan Kundera (from “The Unbearable Lightness of Being)
Short Story Idea/Character Sketch: (May 8, 2009, 11:30 pm, Apartment)
There’s this girl addicted to MUJI pens and salt&vinegar everything. She likes bookshelves and office supplies and bookstores and office warehouses, and walks around with different colored Post-its. This is in case she stumbles upon an interesting idea and needs to jot it down. She meets a guy who is obsessed with music and who doesn’t ever remove his Skullcandy earphones. She wonders how he bathes. She is convinced she knows him from somewhere and follows him around all day. She, of course, has never seen him in her life but she’s dreamt of him and his earphones. She’s also seen him playing guitar. She writes a song on a lime green Post-it, as he hums a melody in the grocery/department store. She buys salt and vinegar chips, while he looks through the CDs. Her song is about teenage pregnancy. She calls it “Mr. Earphones’ Paternity Test.”
Suddenly, she hears gun shots. Earphones guy gets shot by a mugger in the store and dies instantly. He never hears the song. She weeps as she eats her chips. She thinks she smells smoke and copper. She knows she smells the salt and vinegar. She feels her lips burning, her throat dry. She puts a baby blue Post-it on his forehead and writes: R.I.P., This boy was loved.
She never wrote another song again.
I found this bit while rummaging through my many journals the other day. Seems like I have been writing all my life, looking at just how many diaries/journals/notebooks/scraps of paper I’ve filled up and scribbled on in the last three decades. They hold so many of my secrets, desires, disappointments, loves, stories, joys, beliefs, and well, bad poetry.
I am not sure what I was thinking anymore when I wrote it, what it was meant for, but there it was, just waiting to be judged harshly and hidden forever. It came right after another journal entry on being grateful for small mercies. For being “happy” to be reunited with a great love who I thought I had lost forever. See, prior to that, last I saw him, he was lying face down in a shallow tub of his own depression. He was insisting on drowning himself silly when he could have easily lifted his head to breathe. It seems, upon writing that story idea, it was about the same time I agreed to wade in the dysfunctional tar with him again after he asked me back. It was true love, I thought. To stick by your depressed partner and not give up on him even if you can’t recognize him anymore. It was also the only way I thought he would not die as I propped him up, out of his dark, shallow pool, just like a marionette. And in my sticky, codependent bliss I came up with that sketch. It would be so easy to take this story idea apart and pinpoint which pop-culture reference gave birth to what.
Anyway, I WAS going to lock it up with the rest of my over-analysis and throw away the key when I decided to take it out, read it aloud and write it here. Of course, I laughed aloud for a good minute after re-reading it… and here we are. Exactly where we need to be. Publish.
I write it here today for no other reason than to share it, silly or not. I am sharing it simply to tip the scale. I mean, I demand so much from my young writers all the time and they’ve never seen me do the same. To write even when it hurts; and to write boldly and be read, otherwise, why write?
So, here’s to every single time I asked my kids to write when the stakes were high, when it was not easy, when they were scared, when they couldn’t, when they were vulnerable, when they didn’t want to, when they knew it was risky, when they believed in what they wrote but terrified nobody else would, when they could not stand a word that spilled from their pens;here’s to when they felt all these things but wrote anyway; here’s to my stepping off the cliff, to succumb to my desire to fall because it’s only fair.
Here’s to me taking my own risk as I feel faint from vomit and vertigo.
Sigh. The things we do, must do, don’t do and should have done a long time ago…
grateful slice: old story ideas and writing them down for people to read even if you’re afraid (oh and being out of that dark pool forever). Win.