Category Archives: In The Moment

“Dreams do come true in New Orleans”

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“I’m not going to lay down in words the lure of this place.  Every great writer in the land, from Faulkner to Twain to Rice to Ford, has tried to do it and fallen short.  It is impossible to capture the essence, tolerance, and spirit of South Louisiana in words and try to roll down a road of clichés, bouncing over beignets and beads and brass bands and it just is what it is.  It is home.”  –Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic

There is a magic to New Orleans that cannot be put down in words–it must be lived.  On Saturday, R and I woke up a little later than planned and got dressed to go see the mythic French Quarter.  As we walked down the street to catch the Street Car, the sun was warm and a cool breeze sifted through our hair.  We climbed onto the full car and rattled down St. Charles.  As my curls tangled through the open window, whipped in the sun, I drank in more of the beautiful architecture.  R, being the girl she is, struck up a conversation with a lost couple next to us.  They asked where to get off for Lafayette Square and she directed them, asking what they were up to.  They told us there was a festival, so we decided to get off with them and see what was out there.  We wandered through booths and heard a little music.  R told me “I love a good festival!” and that summarizes New Orleans well.  We got breakfast–a beer for R and the best pina colada on earth for me–and walked on.  (One of the strangest, and most enjoyable aspects of New Orleans was the ability to drink on the streets.  It never felt normal to get a drink to go, but it was wonderful!)

R wanted me to see a Second Line, so we walked to City Hall for the Occupy NOLA protest, listening for the band.  As we sipped and watched, R saw some of her friends from school, who stopped to chat for a moment.  They told us that the band could not be booked, and no Second Line was coming, but they were heading our direction, so we joined them.  We were accidental protestors.  “This is what happens when you fly by the seat of your pants!” she said with a wide grin.  Walking with the protestors was surreal and we were glad to have alcohol on our side.  A young girl rode on her parent’s shoulders on the outskirts, taking in the scene.  Signs were everywhere, all angry about something different.  A woman marched in front of us with a sign on her backpack reading, “3 degrees, 2 jobs, and I can’t sell my house.  I’m tired and angry.”  A drummer walked next to us for a block, flanked by a saxophone player, as people shouted “This is what democracy looks like.”  As we entered the Quarter, we broke free and left behind the shouts of unrest.

We stopped in a stately hotel, cool behind its white pillars, and glimpsed the slowly turning Carousel that made up the bar.  After the pit stop, we strolled the streets, passing galleries and shops and a cat in a window.  We wandered the historic streets, older than the stars and stripes.  The corners bore tiled signs, proclaiming the names the streets were known as under Spanish rule.  Stone and brick sidewalks turn into cobbled alleys, old shuttered doors bright and warm.  We wound down to Jackson Square, arriving just as horns began to echo.  We were surprised by a Second Line!  We stopped to watch, as the band approached, and clapped as the bride and groom followed.  We walked past the artists, work strewn on tables and pinned on fence bars, and the fortune tellers, browning in the autumn sun.  Skinny streets with beautifully old names crisscrossed through history and we wound up next to the mule-drawn carriages.  Promised a cheap ride if we joined strangers, we toured the Quarter by carriage, listening to tidbits of history and lore, seeing the oldest bar in America (Jean Lafittes Black Smith Shop), the only business open during Katrina (Johnny White’s), and an elementary school just off Bourbon Street.  Back at Jackson Square, we admired Saint Louis Cathedral, popping in for a look around and a homily about economic justice.  We walked back past the art vendors, enamored with a collection of bird paintings, and then headed for lunch.

We entered an almost empty dining room at the Gumbo Shop, which I would have walked right past if R hadn’t stopped me.  We entered the cool restaurant, seated next to the window where we watched a large woman, dressed all in red, clean up her keyboard and seat for the day.  R ordered gumbo and I enjoyed my first po’ boy after we shared an order of alligator sausage.  It was all new, steps away from all that I know and have ever experienced, and it was delicious–just like the city itself.  Full, hydrated, and content, we left our first real meal of the day for more walking.  Our feet had grown tired and we had not drunk nearly enough for a day in the Quarter, so we made our way down Bourbon in and into Pat O’Brien’s, where we would stay for much longer than we intended.

In the dark, smoky piano bar, we found an empty table near the stage and sat down with my first hurricane.  Sipping and singing, we watched tables fill and empty and fill again.  We heard some songs three or four times, and grew excited when a new one was requested.  We were mesmerized by their fingers, pounding and flying, effortlessly creating every song we threw at them.  The players cycled through, as did our drinks, and we sang on.  Finally R’s roommate joined us, which called for another round of drinks, and shouted our day’s journey to her over the music.  Eventually we tottered our way out, squeezing between crowded tables, and found that it had grown dark outside as well.  We walked to the car, taking Bourbon just to say that I did, and slowly drove away from the Quarter, just beginning to pick up for the night.  We listened to her roommate’s day, filled in details of ours, and decided some food was in order.  We drove through Rally’s, another new taste, though much more familiar than alligator.  We limped home, tired and hungry, and snuggled in for a little television before sleep.

At the end of the day, it felt like we had live a week.  It felt forever ago that we climbed onto the Street Car, and we crammed as much into a day in the French Quarter as possible.  I got to see and taste the city, breathe in the pounding heart of New Orleans.  It is a place of history, rich in humanity.  The streets ring, sing right along with the brass bands marching.  People come to perform, to dance and play, to paint and predict.  People come to where the life is.  For one day, I was one of the people who came to the Quarter, one of the pulses creating the beat of the street.

“You cannot help but learn more as you take the world into your hands.  Take it up reverently, for it is an old piece of clay, with millions of thumbprints on it.”  –John Updike

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A Dark Day

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“In the future, can’t wait to see/ If you open up the gates for me…It’s kinda hard with you not around/ Know you in Heaven smilin’ down/ Watchin’ us while we pray for you/ Every day we pray for you/ ‘Til the day we meet again/ In my heart I’ll keep you friend/ Memories give me the strength I need to proceed/ Strength I need to believe… I still can’t believe you’re gone/ Give anything to hear half your breath…”  –Puff Daddy, “I’ll be Missing You”

September 8th is a difficult day.  It marks the anniversary of my aunt’s death, which rocked my family.  My mom’s only sister, her death was incredibly painful and something that we just don’t talk about.  In fact, her name is only mentioned with the greatest caution.  While she crosses my mind throughout the year, the day we lost her always comes with an empty ache, a fog that makes everything else so much less important.

Terry was the first person I knew who died.  I had friends who lost parents and knew of some girls who had tragically died when we were in junior high school, but no one that I knew, that I loved, that I had a relationship with, had died before.  I remember the frustration and deep, novel sadness that overcame me.  As a freshman in high school, I was in a difficult middle place between wanting to be comforted and coddled and feeling compelled to comfort my mother.  It pains me that we do not talk about her.  I hate that she is taboo, too hard to remember because she was wonderful.  I know that we turn the dead into saints, and she had plenty of demons that she faced and conquered in her life, but she became a wonderful woman.  I actually spent very little time with her, but she was an inspiration.  On top of defeating addiction, she was the mom I hope to be–she led her daughter’s scout troop, shuttled her children to archery and AWANAS, loved her grandbaby fiercely, and met the neighbor kids at the front door to pray with and for them before they walked to school each morning.  Her family fell apart after her death and now, twelve years later, I still do not see the silver lining, the reason, the good that came of all this.

This unresolved anger, the senselessness of her passing, is perhaps why I feel so unsettled on the anniversary.  As I drove to work, I was incredibly stressed and tired.  I had (big shock!) computer complications that made me miss an important conference early in the morning and was running on just a couple of hours of sleep as I left for a long day of work.  For the last month and a half, the only thing that I have listened to in the car has been the Avenue Q soundtrack.  I closed at work the night before, so I had listened to the radio on the way home because Love Line is a super secret shame of mine.  As I started my car, the radio was still playing.  Before changing over to my cd, I scanned my presets just to see what I was missing.  In a moment that makes me think that “coincidences” are just a simplistic word for God at work, the song that opened this post, good old Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You,” was just starting.  My eyes flooded and throat closed, but I couldn’t turn it off.  A cheesy remnant of my adolescence, this song is so full of sorrow and strikes me as painfully sincere.  It was a reminder of Terry, of her day, that sadness and anger is okay, and that her memory and legacy live on.  I haven’t heard that song in years, but it made its way, in its entirety, into my drive.  Mourning with the radio made me feel a little less alone.

As the day dragged on and the city baked in an above-average heat, the day looked to be as bad as it could be.  And then everything went black.  From Mexico to Orange County, the Pacific to Arizona, electricity disappeared.  Of course.  Because when it rains, it pours on the day I forgot my umbrella.  Sitting in the darkness, unable to leave work, I thought about the fatigue overtaking my body.  I thought about my stressful morning, about how tired I am of having the worst-case scenario always play out, and then I thought about Terry.  The day was just overwhelming.  I felt small and helpless and very, very alone.

I finally got home and quickly rounded up candles and flashlights.  I called home quickly to tell my parents I was alive and, if something more sinister struck while we were without power, that I loved them.  I settled for the most edible of my food and finally gave into the darkness and went to bed.  Laying in the still, hot darkness, willing my open window to carry a breeze instead of the roar of freeway traffic, I drifted in and out of light sleep.  I woke up and hoped that when I checked the time on my phone that the night had passed, that dawn was near.  It was 10.  I lay in sweat, near tears, and resolved that it would be a sleepless, endless night.  No tv, no reading, no video games, and no phone.  I knew I would never make it.  And so did God.  As I lay there, feeling the hot darkness crush me and my spirit, it happened.  About ten minutes after I woke up and panicked at the long night ahead, the lights came on.  My fan kicked in and the air swirled over my hot skin.  He really wasn’t going to give me more than I could bear, but as Mother Teresa said, “I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” 

I do realize how insignificant a dying computer, mean customers, no lights and a hot night sound compared to my aunt, who no long can fight those little battles.  It was just a long day,  a hard day, a day that I was more than glad to see end.  But, as I fell asleep, with most things back in order, the words of my beloved Avenue Q ran through my overwhelmed mind:

“For now we’re healthy/ For now we’re employed/ For now we’re happy/ If not overjoyed/ And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now… Only for now!/ For now there’s life!/ Only for now!/ For now there’s love!/ Only for now!/ For now there’s work/ For now there’s happiness!/ But only for now!/ For now discomfort!/ Only for now!/ For now there’s friendship!/ Only for now!… Each time you smile/ It’ll only last a while/ Life may be scary/ But it’s only temporary/ Everything in life is only for now!”  —Avenue Q, “For Now”

Wedding Wrap

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“No it won’t all go the way it should/ But I know the heart of life is good.” –John Mayer, “The Heart of Life”

After a few whirlwind days, my best friend is married to a wonderful man.  I am tired and my head is still spinning from all that we rushed around doing and all the emotions.  I am ready for some very good sleep and can’t believe it’s all done.

In a nutshell, it was amazing.  We ran ragged and should not have made it to the end.  We ate nothing, never slept, and it all came together.  A dress zipper broke.  A bridesmaid fainted.  The rings were determined to disappear.  It was wonderful.

E was beautiful.  She always is, but she shined as she walked down the aisle.  As my strong, brave, silly friend’s chin began to quiver when she hugged her father, I knew I was done for.  As every eye misted over, the breakneck insanity of the week stopped and every moment took its beautifully sweet time to pass.  They savored the vows, embracing the calm that came with an end to planning and preparing.  They were happier than I have ever seen before.  As I watched him watch her, I knew that my best friend, my roommate no more, is in good hands.

Families bickered and cakes were messy.  Presents were forgotten and dogs ran off.  And, in the end, it was amazing.  The joy, the radiating love between them, was undeniable.  As he tended bar and she carried their dog around, the evening was relaxed and simple and filled with people loving them and wishing them luck.  As they danced in her living room, to the music of youtube coming from a laptop, it was the most touching reception I can imagine.  The simple was enough.  They had family, a few friends, and each other.  It was more than enough for the wedding, and will be more than enough for the marriage.  I have never been happier for her.

The speed of childhood

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 “But to be most effective, the faces of the children would need to be painted in a blur, the way all children’s faces truly are.  For they blur as the run; they blur as they grow and change so fast; and they blur to keep us from loving them too deeply, for their protection, and also for ours.”  –Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister 

In the past week, I got to visit my babies that I’ve had the privilege of watching live.  My baby cousins, now little boys with hobbies and voices and lives, and the children I babysit, now in preschool and building Lego houses, are not the tiny ones I once knew.  I have held them and fed them bottles, burped them and felt their tiny fingers squeeze my own.  I have propped them on my hips and stroked their wispy hair.  And now they are all walking, talking tiny people.  They like some food, hate others.  They tell jokes and giggle and tell me stories.  They say my name and climb into my lap all on their own.  In the past four years, I have stagnated and life has passed with no noticeable changes.  For them, life has made them unrecognizable.  I love their little toddler voices and the little boy stories they tell.

To see these children grow is bittersweet.  They bring us all so much joy as they develop and change.  They become more complete and whole as we watch.  I do not see them nearly as often as I would like, so each time I meet new children, find new little lives that have developed.  I watch as their scribbles straighten into shaky letters and words.  Their steps stabilize and evolve into endless running.  I love seeing them become more every day, but I miss those tiny bodies that slept and cried and just wanted to be cuddled.  It’s the pull everyone feels, every parent agonizes over: an ache to keep the baby frozen in time and an excitement to watch the child come into their own. 

I watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader this week too.  The Chronicles of Narnia were a fixture of my childhood.  I can remember sitting on the couch, next to my dad, in my brothers’ room, listening to the stories before bed.  But, in the scariest way possible, the memories are fading.  They stories are hard to remember, the details vague.  I can’t remember the nightgown I wore or which side of my dad I sat on.  I remember the story time, feel my heart swell each time I hear the books even mentioned, but the details are fuzzy.  It scares me that twenty years have melted away and that life will never return. 

 Watching the movie, I lost it and cried uncontrollably as the children slept on a dark beach.  They lay next to the fire, Eustace quietly crying his giant dragon tears.  I felt that fear, that pain so deeply.  I wake up and have no idea how I became this monster, this grown-up with freedom and power and authority.  I don’t know where my old life went and how I managed to let it slip away.  It is lonely and uncertain and all I can think is how much I want to be back home with my parents protecting me.  Somehow, my life got away from me.  That story, those words that lulled me to sleep all those nights, are forever a memory, never again reality.  I don’t get to go back, to return to those nights.  This, more than anything, breaks my heart. 

I marvel at the little lives I get to watch unfold.  I am a witness to their stories being written, their memories branded, their persons formed.  I love knowing more of them, privy to more of their thoughts and ideas and joys.  I do mourn the quiet, small times when they couldn’t play tee ball or chase after the dog.  I miss the soft weight of their tiny bodies curled against my chest.  I am trying to remember to enjoy them just as they are, each time I see them.  It is exciting to tell my parents about the changes they have to miss, the wonders of the everyday.  As I was told all about cars and school, I was just struck by how fast is has all gone by.  It is a reminder that each day is only here for a moment, that things change and people grow.  The first girls I ever babysat are now graduating from high school. 

The years streak by and there is joy in the changes that they bring.  The danger is not savoring the changes as they come, enjoying the process of life.  The more I drink in the present and force myself to be present, the more salient the memories become, sinking deeper into me.  Those nights, listening to stories of dragons and fauns and witches, my mind was not wandering.  I was not worried about the next day or regretting the one passed.  I was quiet and still, drinking in the story as it happened. 

“…Stop this train I want to get off and go home again/ I can’t take this speed it’s moving in/ I know I can’t/ ‘Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train…”  –John Mayer, “Stop This Train”

some very small things

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“Our lives are made in these small hours/ These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate/ Time falls away, but these small hours,/ These small hours still remain…”  –Rob Thomas, “Little Wonders”

I tend to return from a trip home to see my parents with a certain loneliness.  It’s sad to go back to my empty apartment, listening to the roar of the freeways instead of the wind rustling in the trees.  My laptop is warm on my knees, but not as cozy as our dog curled at my side.  It can be a bit hard to pull out of this funk because I miss my parents, miss my home, and am floundering on my own right now.  I miss the security and companionship and comfort of home. 

Yesterday I decided, in order to help myself feel a little more upbeat, I would make and send some Easter packages to my brothers, who are now both away from our home for the first time.  I had the best of intentions and picked out things to remind them of our childhood Easter baskets and the excitement of that morning.  I even spent the better part of the afternoon tracking down ingredients and testing recipes for some cookies one had asked our mom for.  I didn’t make it to the post office.  I couldn’t find packaging tape.  I made some gross cookies before getting the right recipe from our Grandma and making some good ones.  And I felt like a failure.  My good intentions and high hopes were ruined and I couldn’t pull it all together.  I was disappointed and saddened, but amidst this, little things brightened my day.

I have come to really, really enjoy PassiveAggressiveNotes.com.  A lot. My best friend introduced me to it, ironically, after we reminisced about how we lived with a girl in college who only communicated through rude post-it notes.  Now I love checking in on the stellar communication skills demonstrated on the site.  As I struggled to haul my bags up to my apartment, I was greeted by a wonderful example of my own:

The envelope was clearly one sent for returning an invoice or something else to a sender.  The ample scotch tape is classic.  I love that someone else saw the note and decided to add, in different writing and ink, who the note was “From:”  And the kicker is the paper towels, torn up and tucked inside!  I should have been disgusted, for sure, and probably annoyed with my neighbors.  But I was tickled!  I laughed out loud and, clearly, felt the need to photograph it.  I loved it!  This literally made my day.

Then I dyed eggs.  I have no one to hide them for, no one to hide them for me.  I will probably not get around to eating all of them before they go bad.  But I realized that I had not dyed eggs since I was in high school, and I desperately wanted to.  So I bought some vinegar and a cheap dye kit and got to work.  I wish I could say that they were stunning.  They should be artistic, impressive, something far superior to those of my youth.  Martha has taught me better than this.  But they were nothing special, nothing exciting.

Yes, I cracked some eggs boiling them.  No, they were not spectacular.  But they made me so happy.  Knowing that they are sitting in my fridge makes me happy even now.  I am excited for egg salad sandwiches next week, because that’s part of Easter, but I’m also sad to think about the fact that once these are gone, my eggs will be white again. 

I’ve tried to find little things to make my day because the big ones seem to be few and too far between.  While creeping on a friend’s facebook page, I saw that one of her friends recommended a blog to her.  The title sounded promising, so I browsed through it.  I now love it.  I loved the pictures first, because I wish I could take good photos.  And I wish I had beautiful little girls to dress up.  Now I love reading the posts, hearing her thoughts, sometimes nearly my own, sometimes very far from them.  I highly recommend a look at Enjoying the Small Things.  If nothing else, it brings a smile and reminds me to keep looking for the little moments, the things that make days good. 

Until the big things come along with some certainty, the little things will have to do.  And that’s okay, because big things can be overwhelming and confusing.  I’m not sure what I will do with a new job or relationship or home.  I am sure that my Easter eggs make me smile.  For today, in this tiny moment, that is enough to be sure of.

“Human felicity is produced not as much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day.” –Benjamin Franklin

A glimmer of hope

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Yesterday I spent time at the beach.  I sat alone on the sand, read and watched, and then went to a movie.  By myself.  While I was hesitant to do this, I ignored the voice telling me I should feel lonely and listened to the one telling me to do what I wanted.  I felt the cold ocean on my feet and watched people parasailing, and then settled into the sand for some reading.  As I tried to get through a chapter, I couldn’t help but watch all that was going on around me. 

I had started in a fairly empty stretch of beach, but people began to close in around me.  I was close to midway between the two piers that stretch into the water and mark off the beaches.  I was immediately back in my childhood.  On a visit down here, I took off on a walk with a friend.  We rarely saw each other, but managed to have fun when we did.  Maybe it’s just the way kids are.  We walked along down the beach, talking I’m sure.  The next thing we knew we had rounded a bend and were nowhere near our parents’ sight.  In my mind we walked for hours, but I’m sure it was no where near that long.  I just remember walking, no destination in sight, no fear, no timetable.  We were probably 10 or 11, and despite how beautiful she always has been, I can oddly remember feeling no insecurity as we walked along in our swimsuits.  We had an adventure, inadvertently, and that quite afternoon is both fuzzy and salient in my memory.  I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, what we saw, but the feeling of setting out, of going, of disappearing, is more vivid than my lunch yesterday.

As I left this memory, I noticed two things I have never seen before.  I saw a seagull in the water.  It was not flying above the waves, or pecking through the sand, but standing in foam that rolled in.  It let the water wash over its feet and lifted them to stay in place as the sand rushed back out with the wave.  It stayed in the water, something I have never seen before.  Another gull joined it, and then they both flew away, but for that one moment, I was seeing something completely new and unknown to me.  Then, moments later, an orange balloon rolled through the foam.  An orange, inflated, latex balloon just rolled along and then out of the water.  It blew across the sand and down the beach.  I wonder if anyone else saw that balloon.  It sounds like something Alice would have seen, beckoning her to a land of imagination.  Nevertheless, I have never seen a balloon at the beach before.

As I sat and watched the water, I noticed a young boy out in the waves.  He stood, letting them wash up onto his torso.  I am in middle school, standing in the water with my mom and youngest brother, raising onto tiptoes as each wave broke on my knees.  I watch him alone in the water and feel for him.  Then he’s joined by another boy, neither of which could have been more than 11 or 12.  They stood in the waves together, pulling long strands of seaweed out and whipping each other.  They twirl them around and jostle each other in the surf.  Then I notice a man on the shore.  He’s taking a picture of them out there, of the moment.  I can’t explain why, but it brought tears to my eyes.  It wasn’t a baby’s first day at the shore.  It wasn’t an engagement shoot.  It was simple and quiet–unextraordinary.  It was a desire to capture this moment, this day, this child, just as it was.  I can’t explain why, but I have such deep love for those children and that dad even now.

After the beach I went to the mall to see a movie.  I have not done this on my own before and it is something I have dreaded.  I have feared the loneliness and embarrassment that would come from sitting alone, worried that everyone would stare.  Poor, pathetic girl who has no friends.  Poor thing has to go to movies alone.  So sad.  On the contrary, I was much less anxious than I thought I would be.  At the mall, parking areas were blocked off for a skateboarding expedition.  While it made maneuvering the area a little tricky, I was less annoyed than normal.  This was something else, something new, that I have not seen before.  I watched for a moment before going into the movie.

All of this is to say that, as I sat and let my mind wander, I realized that I am every so slightly closer to my goal.  I had plenty of road rage and almost slapped a couple of people in the movie, but I saw new things.  I know, deep inside, that I want to continue to see new things.  I want to experience more, to see more, to know more.  I want to see New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Time Square on New Year’s.  I want to see the glow of the Vegas Strip and the Northern Lights.  I want to cook and sew and plant a garden.  I want to do and be more.  I started writing to change my attitude, to get some perspective.  I wanted to learn to love people again, to find joy in the world.  I’m still dissatisfied with my job.  I’m still lonely in my crappy, over-priced apartment.  I still don’t really feel like the me I used to be happy with.  Yesterday I really enjoyed being here.  I have a long way to come, but I have hope.  I have seen a glimpse of what life can be like, of the adventure and joy it can bring.  I have been reminded that this process and road are long, but there is progress.  Somewhere, in some way, my attitude is changing.  That’s really all I can hope for. 

“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”The Shawshank Redemption

Just Beachy

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“I hope you still feel small/ When you stand beside the ocean…” –Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”

The Pacific

With no work, and no friends to spend time with, I headed to the beach today.  I have been alone a lot lately and am trying to work up the courage to go and do all the things that I want to, despite the fact that I have no one to come with me.  After getting up, I decided the longest day of the year and the first day of summer deserved some time in the sun.  I planned to go read, listen to the waves, enjoy the sun and then run my weekly errands.  Because I am me, things did not go that way.

About fifteen minutes after settling down in the sand, taking pictures of the rolling waves, Murphy’s Law caught up to me.  Miscalculating the speed at which the tide was creeping in, I was not quite quick enough to pick up my things and got much, much wetter than I had planned.  So I headed back, sandy and wet, fully clothed, with a very heavy towel.  As my face heated and shame settled in for my stupidity, I remembered why exactly why I went to the beach.

I looked around at all of the people.  Some sunbathing, some walking, volleyball players and cyclists.  People come from around the country and world to see the beaches here.  All different shapes and sizes soaked in the sun, enjoying summer’s emergence from hibernation.  People didn’t come here to judge me and my wet pants.  People watching is part of a day on the boardwalk, but it’s not why we go to the beach.  There are so many weirder, louder, more baffling things there than a girl who’s wet.  While I was uncomfortable and sandy, the anonymity of crowds gave me a little bit of dignity back.

I went to the beach to enjoy the beauty of it, but also to get perspective.  The waves crash in, spreading along the sand, drowning out talk.  They come regularly, rhythmically, always.  The water stretches to the sky, and beyond.  Turning my back on the boardwalk, it is easy to forget that yards away are homes and hotels; the ocean becomes consuming.  The sky and sun  cover the sand, uninhibited and free of power lines, overpasses and towering buildings.  The sand stretches out to the piers, and deep into the water.  It continues deep beneath the small indentations my feet make.  The tide smooths it, erases the messes people make, leaving sparkling perfection.  The ocean is too big, to the point of inducing anxiety.  My heart races when I think of how small I am in comparison, how easily I could be lost if I went out there. 

And it is comforting.  I am small.  I am young.  I am transient.  The ocean in huge, old, permanent.  It doesn’t waiver.  The tide comes in and goes out every day, waves continuing their predictable dance.  Waiting to hear about this job is easier.  The cruelty of my acquaintances, whom I misjudged to be friends, is trivial.  My loneliness is lessened.  We are all small.  I remember why I live in this city, why I struggle and stress over money in order to live here.  This is why I miss my family, why I miss friends, why I stayed behind.  Sitting small in the warm sand, I remember why I love this city.  Everything else, everything that isn’t warmth and refreshing and huge and enveloping melts away. 

“You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?’

“No.”

“They say it has no memory.  That’s where I want to live the rest of my life.  A warm place with no memory.”

The Shawshank Redemption

Lasting Impressions

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“Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.”  –Oliver Wendell Holmes

One afternoon, in Junior High, I sat on my best friend’s driveway with her.  We sat on the warm cement talking about boys and music and whatever else was important to our barely-formed selves.  We watched cars drive past and her cat at it pounced around the yard.  Slowly and softly, rain began to sprinkle down on us.  We laid down, sprawled on the gray slab, side by side.  We lay still and talked, letting the rain fall steadier and harder on us.  The ground warmed us for a while, until we steadily grew colder and damper.  We ignored her mother’s requests to come inside and stayed still.  We let the driveway grow wet, dark, shiny around us.  When we finally gave in and fled the chill, we stood up to examine our handiwork: two pale bodies, laying side by side, silhouetted by the rain.  We watched drops splotch over our images which eventually disappeared completely into the wetness.

Tonight I drove home with my window down, taking in the smell that can never be fully captured.  When I ran home at lunch today, my car was hot and stuffy, barely bearable even with the air conditioner blowing.  By the time I left, gray had covered the city and darkness had fallen early.  As sprinkles hit my windshield, I could smell it beginning.  I opened the window and reveled in the memories and peace of the beginning of rain. 

Nothing on earth smells as good, smells as safe, smells as comforting as rain on a warm sidewalk.  I inhaled so deeply that my lungs could have burst through my ribs.  I could not breathe in enough of the smell, could not possibly take in enough of the air around me.  It is warm and sweet, clean and alive.  I remember the smell drifting through the screen door of my childhood home, hearing the rain begin to lightly hit the fiberglass roof over our patio.  I am suddenly sitting in our living room, in front of the big window, watching the world be bathed.  I remember sitting outside at lunch in high school, sitting inside for lunch in elementary school.  I am back on that warm driveway, sharing life with my best friend.  The smell is safety.  I feel at home, draped in a blanket of memories, warmed by a simpler time.

Our outlines did not last.  They were quickly blurred and disappeared.  The smell of rain drifts away as the clouds continue to drop, lasting only long enough to be missed.  The moments, the smell, are fleeting.  The memories are indelible. 

“Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.  Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”  –Langston Hughes