(Continued from previous post.) I asked all my friends two weeks ago what they thought their souls looked like, in regards to landscape or art. One of the dearest of mine said hers was an ocean of sorts. She is a glorious depth, though; a pressing of blue in a million shades, dappled sea mist, light-tipped waves, turquoise in the gentlest parts. There is a kingdom subsurface, and the rush of swells, the blast of current, can be seen occasionally, the gleaming bits of a watery country. Not to mention, entering the deep. Distant, boon, tempest. She says she stands on the shore, under the jagged crags, looking at the flat gray jewel of it all, afraid to step in. She doesn’t trust she wouldn’t be alone in there, which is essentially what we’re all afraid of if we’re honest. This is a shame because there is beauty afloat everywhere underneath (I’ve seen some of it). The weather in that place is cloudy today because of the fog. I’ll ask her for another weather forecast tomorrow. Some of my friends, I think, believe they are just columns of cement or lumps of ash and wet sand, but their souls are such weighty things of glory. We will be struck with the blaze of these when the right time comes.
I drove through Chicago once, and it made me think of how I’ve always thought life would be like once I was truly grown up (And what does that mean?). The apartment buildings there were mostly brick and ornate, sprawling upwards with elaborate cement patterns curling by the window corners. A black fire escape rested diagonally on various sides. Some were more modern with wide, glassy picture widows, white and black trim, the sky creamy in the reflection. Even still, but mostly in years past, I’d picture myself pulling on a pencil skirt while staring out at a city skyline, the sun a huge red semicircle, orange at the line were dusk meets the black earth. The city lights would be blinking on in the inky turning of the night, and the cars, two glows each, would never stop. But this was comforting – the white, yellow, and occasional red and blue, flickering around the skyscrapers. There is nothing of a child, gold-encrusted or otherwise, in this image. Reassuring this picture has always been but empty too.
Once, I stood in the fluorescent light of a stale, arctic frozen-foods aisle by the cheap ice cream. It was a sleepy hour, everything glazed over in the glaring off-white shade of the late night. Three boys, who were half a decade younger than I was, strolled toward me, suddenly, and pushed written numbers they had scrawled on the backs of ticket stubs into my hand. Call-me-baby, they said and sauntered away. I felt old and young at the same time then.
I think the idea of youth and the elderly is a different form altogether. Something stranger and more beautiful than we’ve all supposed. If you’ve ever known someone past small talk and past best friends forever and even past transgressions, you know that there is something in your heart that grows a little when it happens. A seed or something semiprecious. To be young was to be very straightforward – Will you be my friend? Yes. All right. – But now, that part has crawled away, and it takes layers and layers to peel back and see through to the purest of what we are. Community is a hot word these days, but maybe there’s a reason for this. Maybe all the learning, working, academics, the corporate ladder, the American dream, the five-or six-digit figures, the family with nice clothes and a sturdy house, the growing up, is really about crawling into the deepness that everyone carries around inside of them. There is something stale about growing old – stale and sad and lonely – but this is not how everything is supposed to be. It isn’t That’s how life is. Each day I am given the chance to grow but not young or old. The wrinkles humans don’t have or do, weight, muscle, skeletal build, is involved but not in the way I thought. It’s detached and irrelevant from this thing that is growing in our souls, out and over like a teeming forest maybe; it looks different for everyone. We are reaching toward each other.
Gathering at Diamonds Coffee Shoppe in Minneapolis, a small community of twenty-somethings, me included, sat in velvet chairs under cracking wood to practice growing; although, they called it something different than that, getting in-depth or going deep. A woman with short, dreaded pigtails behind the counter handed me the Ginger Ale I had bought. Just-an-ale,-huh? Ashley asked. One girl, another I had never met before, turned to me and asked how old I was. When I told her, she said, Well-ya-don’t-look-it-I-woulda-never-guessed-your-twenties. She had glasses and was sipping a latte. Normally, I would have felt burned. Inside, though, I smiled all over. It wasn’t because this was a compliment. I actually would have taken offense at other points in my life because I hate to be coddled. I was pleased because I recently have come into knowing that I’m not fastened - like J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and his shadow – to this cabinet of a body that holds whole worlds. I am neither growing old nor young but simply around or near, my heart teeming, linking; a fastening with other hearts into a netted meshwork. We can toss this webbing into the ocean of the world then, and pull in the other free-floating hearts.
When my mother places her hand next to mine, I’ve stopped seeing our complexions.
The dog is only a sad thing because we think of animals having the same souls as people.
Someone I know well once said that she was not just a wall but a city of walls. I would think, in cities of walls, things grow slowly if at all. They are also hard to walk into. I’m trying to make a habit, now, of climbing over these bricked up places in those closest to me, helping stop the construction.
This is when I start to feel it coming. Slowly, and gently, the slow cover of dawn over a morning-flecked field.
I pause to turn my face to the sun for a vivid instant.
Something is blooming recklessly.