Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am recovering from heartbreak in the ways that I know, with evenings and long afternoons in favorite bars with favorite people, with late nights and comfortable books or a hand in my hair and teeth at my throat, with dance parties both planned and impromptu, with hugging babies and friendly dogs and with long slow walks home and many very deep breaths. Speaking mostly in metaphors and quiet lies and onomatopoeia, trading in optimism, scheming and plotting and having capers. Of all the lives I could be having, this is very far from the worst, even with a small dose of crying in cabs and unfortunate bar bathrooms. Peace will be brokered and life will move on, softened and cracked but still so much better than the alternative. Already the trees of my city are considering when to bloom.

There are two hummingbirds living in my trees now. It's possible that there have been two all along, of course, but it's only recently that I have seen both of them at the same time. One of them seems completely unafraid of me, letting me get close enough to touch were I willing to risk ruining everything. In the Secret Garden it's a friendly robin that leads the way to something exciting, but I'm willing to bet that the hummingbirds have something new in mind. Seems as logical a thing to believe as any other.

Monday, January 30, 2012

They amended the rules of salvage in 1989 because of all the ways we pollute our waters and then leave. Before then, it was just as easy to leave a dangerous situation as it was to try and save what might be delicate and damaged, since if the salvor didn't manage to save the ship or its cargo they weren't likely to be compensated. A slim chance of success is not usually enough. Terrestrial law is not nearly as poetic on the subject of adventure, but then the sea has always held more romance than the land. 

It's hard to say how much we've lost to the waves, all the ships and people and heirlooms, pets and thoughts and plans. I keep having dreams about what may be under the water, moving through my days with holes in my sweaters and a bruise like a hand around my hip, a little bit unraveled and worn. Maybe the rewards for finding what has been lost will be worth all the effort. We've never been ones to stop an adventure just because we're unlikely to succeed before, so there's no real reason to abandon things now. One of these days we'll come back up with treasure or a sea monster, or both, rather than just empty hands and a damaged ecosystem.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

So we've had some setbacks lately. Lost a few babies, a pretty significant organ, and another piece of our faith in the grace of the universe. The gift of all this loss is the flood of affection that tries to hold it all back. It's not really enough--better would be to not lose these things at all--but it's enough for now. There is a lot of work to be done now. (I think I'm planning a going away party for a thyroid, if anyone has any ideas for decorations.) The triumph of the human spirit is my favorite thing, right? So there's really only one option.

Last night I went to see Pico Iyer speak. He was talking about all the artists who tell you your stories while they're telling you their own, since his latest book is about a lifetime of encountering Graham Greene and his characters all over the world inside his own head. Greene struggled his whole life with the space between faith and reality, and found that the only common ground was the need for and the use of kindness. Iyer talked and talked about using his feelings of being on the outside to cultivate a persistent sense of wonder about the world, and the need to see other places in order to see ourselves, and as he stood there and told my stories by telling his stories the world collapsed for a moment into someplace safe and warm and purposeful. Afterward I walked in the rain for a while, trying not very hard to find a cab home, feeling calm and clear and a little sad. We tell our stories in order to find our stories.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sometimes I wonder if Chamfort wasn't speaking in hope and possibilities instead of warning. A man who shoots off his own nose has to maintain some sense of humor, right? No matter how sad and bloodstained and heavily guarded his eventual end. Maybe when he talks in his last words about this world where the heart must either break or become hard as bronze he is giving us choices, where we can remain warm and sore or hard and cold. Nietzsche, who introduced me to Chamfort when I was 15 and impressionable, called him someone who almost considered himself lost on a day in which he hadn't laughed, which certainly feels like somewhere in there Chamfort was my people. In the last weeks we've had miscarriages and breakups and a terrible illness in my urban family, and it seems like the choices are slim but the bad ones are to avoid feeling any of it. Breaking seems superior to bronzing, if only in the long run. Chamfort doesn't ssound like a guy who believed much in hope, but sometimes it's easier to believe that he did. Se brise ou se bronze. Nose or no nose.

This hope is the currency I trade in, what Cummings called "the dangerous looseness of doom". I could build you a clown car made of love and cotton candy and gremlins, but you don't really believe in the romance of adventure. The only thing I can be sure of is that each time my heart is ripped free of its moorings it is leaving space for something new and bigger. Somewhere in these new holes is a genie in a bottle with wishes that I could waste, and I might lead you to genies but I can't make you understand in time. You either believe in magic, or you don't.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The winds showed up in the middle of the night, wuthering around the corner, shouting so loudly they woke me up. All of December's babies have been lost in January, and all of our days are turning into bear traps and quicksand. I only have so many limbs left. 

I was drinking with an old flame who has reappeared again (they almost all come around again and again and again; it seems I am about as hard to get over in retrospect as I am to appreciate appropriately when it counts), feeling the power shift back to where I am more comfortable, stretching all of those muscles and having a familiar kind of fun. Feelings are lined with spikes and monsters and I am tired of walking so carefully around them. We've never had much of anything in common but heat, and given how badly things have spiraled away from me lately it was nice to fill my hands with fire and nothing else. Fire is uncomplicated. I will take light where I can get it in these heavier times.

I've been tearing through town in the old ways lately, cold and charming and mean, making lemons into hand grenades. Not a single little bit of this is the way that I would choose for things to be, but at some point you have to look at the options you're given and walk forward from there. Mostly, I do not get to pick. Brambles and wolves and the cold expanding heart of the universe, and all. The lights at the ends of our tunnels could be sunshine and puppies, but it seems to me they're just as often only the beginning of more tunnels.

Friday, January 20, 2012

They say that a way to save Venice may be to fill the ground under it with water, which is funny because it's the water that's undermining Venice in the first place. While I was there a beautiful Venetian romanced me partly by detailing his vision of what the ruined future of Venice would look like, but mostly I think that Venice will look always in a state of decadent decay no matter how far above the water it stays. Late that first night I walked home and watched the crumbling bricks and hazy lights reflected in the puddles, feeling how the holes in Venice matched my own worn places. For the moment, sinking wasn't the worst thing either one of us could be doing.

They want to use the seawater to counteract the settling of the soil, to lift all of the place slowly becoming concave. But the high water doesn't bother the Venetians, who have long accepted it as a part of their lives. It's everyone who lives outside of the city that fears its eventual disappearance under the waves.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I prefer the idea that Venice would survive without our intervention, that the seas won't ever really take the town away. That the holes in it will not be its eventual undoing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I sliced my finger open on the ice, playing in the snow on the way home and pretending for just a little while that everything was ok again, that faith and deservedness can sometimes work magic. These are still the things that I believe in, the small sad statues and the left behind places and the uncommon sacrifices. I was not unhappy to discover that I had paid a small tribute in blood for a momentary lifting of the crushing silence. Even if nothing important has really changed.

I was thinking again about the Golden Buddha in Thailand, how something so valuable was hidden in plan sight for so long only no one realized that it was there because they never thought to look. How its rediscovery was almost incomplete because of bad omens and inconvenient superstitions. It was only being dropped that saved it, and the luck that there was one monk who braved the omens to see through the cracks and the floods. And how unlikely it is that our statues may secretly be gold, but that the only way to know for sure is to take a leap and look closely. I was thinking about all the ways there are to be brave.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I don't know. I guess I never really considered why the birds and the fish remain so far apart, how it would never really matter how hard I tried to lift if you hadn't yet evolved the lungs to stay there. How it was always going to be back to your depths because you haven't grown the strength for my air. My tiny hollow bones can only do so much.

And all that's left, really, is to retreat and try to polish what was so deliberately tarnished. Because there are more fires ahead, and now I know that I will walk through them while you will turn and find the easier path. Our hearts are the only currency we have, and I think that yours might spend easier while mine at high shine can be seen from space. Neither better or more useful, but it turns out we spend differently. It's probably true that no one could have guessed.

I believe in a life in the rarefied air, where fish and birds and things that haven't been invented yet all live in the same place, breathing something that none of us have ever known before. Later may be too late, but something is usually better than nothing at all.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I don't know a thing about playing poker, so it shouldn't be a surprise how I lose everything each time all my chips are in, but I'm not sure knowing the rules would change my habits anyway. Luck and skill are never on my side, so it's always a losing game. All the other options are even less fun, and the rumor is that there is as much to be gained in this way as there is to be lost. I have yet to see the truth in that, but it seems to be as good a way as any to have faith in.

I fell off the edge of the map when I wasn't looking, and the main obstacle with ultima thule is that there's no way back to where the waters have already been charted. No way out but around the edges. I could handle some softer learning experiences, with my heart rubbed raw from scraping against the rocks and my bones all sore from the sudden stop at the bottom. Ultimately I saw what I have worked so hard to get in sight of, and though the ending was catastrophic it would be against the spirit of adventure to say that it was not worthwhile to have been so happy for some time. Perhaps it will turn out that the softer landing will have been the moments before, once my bruises have healed and I can look back up at what was once an open space. Maybe off the edge of the map time moves backward and forward just as easily as the water, as deliberately as the blue butterflies that live in all of the meadows.

Maybe the lesson to be learned is that sometimes there are no lessons at all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The first time we met, we didn't fall in love.

We should have, though. The ingredients were all there. Unexpected snowfall, unexpected snow man, fun and laughing and booze and strangers. If you were going to write a love story, that would be a good place to start. I still don't even remember you being there, not consciously, but somehow still after the third time we met, early in the hours of my birthday, every cell in my body answered as soon as you said, "I don't know if you remember..." As though that night was secretly etched somewhere even I can't reach.

I've been saving that story, a little poem in my head about the best time to tell it. Happier times, not these sad smashed ones. The second time we met, we didn't fall in love. The third time, maybe one of us did. For a while, I couldn't imagine a world in which this story wasn't the story of both of us. I still can't, although I suppose that will change over time. Everything always does.

In French there is the phrase "chercher des chichis", the feeling of which is essentially "looking for unnecessary complications in something". This is usually my worst habit, breaking the things that don't need to be broken just for the sake of smashing. I haven't yet found the words for the opposite thing, although I am familiar with the feeling of it. Hope is the hardest thing to outgrow, and maybe the saddest thing with wings.

So I guess the third rule of fairytales is that some brambles are too thick for crossing and too big to go around, and the only option is to find a new path and start a new story. Still I have all these love letters, stacked unwritten in my fingers, waiting to be pierced by these thorns and hang there to dampen in the wind and the rain. I'm not ready to leave this path yet, to stop looking for a way through this thicket. To have crossed this swamp in vain.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

They say that in Spanish and Italian the words for "sleep" and "dream" are the same, as though you can move across borders and no longer need to differentiate among what is happening inside your head, to explain and then analyze. Sleeping in Italy and Spain must be so much more restful.

Picture for a moment the rainbow eucalyptus, sitting improbably in forests and ornamental gardens, its colors streaked like crayons, each layer of bark shedding in patches and changing shades as the time passes. The wood at the heart is used as ornamental, the bark used in the Philippines to battle fatigue, the smell of the leaves familiar and yet not so strong, so perhaps the tree is using much of its power to show passers-by and jungle birds something different. Aboriginal Australian tribes believed that the sky rested on a eucalyptus tree, but nothing seems to record what might be resting on the rainbow eucalyptus. Possibly because everything is.

Monday, January 09, 2012

When I got closer it turned out that your skin was lined with bombs, which was unexpected, but still I set to work. I unpacked my tools and started defusing, fingers cracked and bleeding from sparks and unexpected wires. Common sense and years of spy movies have taught me that the trigger was probably somewhere near your heart so I followed from the outside in, tracing red wires from green wires from white wires, waiting for everything to explode.

Still, it was a surprise when I got there to find that bomb was all that was left. I took the whole thing out, twisting and ripping and throwing just about as far as I could. I settled in to try adding replacements, bottles of champagne, puppies, an old movie camera I had found somewhere. My own hand with a mouse in it. Nothing else worked quite as well as your bomb, and your breathing grew shallower, your singing voice worse.

The decisions then to be made were unclear. I know less about building bombs than I do about defusing them, and anyway it didn't seem right to fill you back up with explosives. Flowers would only make you smell like potpourri, and more mice would eventually die. There was no way I was going to climb in there myself. The only heart I had on hand was my own, so I carved off a chunk and ironed it out. It wasn't in the best of shape even then, but it was maybe a better option than nothing at all.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Today was the perihelion, so I brought the sun a glass of water and it settled down low for a long chat. We talked about secrets for a while, about hearts and flowers and bones and magic and Tolstoy. About that old photo of Nabokov and Vera and their butterfly nets, about how they were both the same flavor of synesthete reading the world in color and catching butterflies together.

I told the sun about how I was reading recently about a garden in Japan that's arranged so that you can't see all of it from any vantage point--that when you're in it you can only see sections of it so that the entire garden exists complete only in your imagination. About the feeling of rain soaking through my boots and hands in my hair, about how they keep finding new ways for under the water to surprise us, just as frequently as outer space does. The sun nodded knowingly, familiar with how what is in front of its own eyes changes each time it looks.We talked about how you could cheat the garden by going above it, but how that's probably not the way to enlightenment, unless that's where we already are anyway. We talked about airplanes and acts of courage and gravity, and I gave it a couple of promises to keep tucked up somewhere safe.

And then we hugged and the sun turned away, already farther away than I could reasonably imagine. We promised to meet back here in a year.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Hey there, 2012. I see you've decided to start off in the exact opposite way of 2011. I support this move, although I am still somewhat suspicious of your motives.

I was at a party full of almost all of my favorite people when you arrived, wearing a dress made entirely of sequins, kissing someone who is very distinctly not a gay man. I have subsequently spent most of our time together lounging, kissing, and laughing, which we all know are three of my very favorite things to do. If you keep up like this, 2012, we're going to get along just fine. I'm just going to go ahead now and decide that you are going to be awesome, full of high fives and new babies and parties and whiskey and adventures and friends. Deal?

More to the point, I guess, is the plan to keep in mind this favorite line of E. E. Cummings: "Miracles are to come. With you I leave a remembrance of miracles: they are somebody who can love and who shall be continually reborn, a human being; somebody who said to those near him,when his fingers would not hold a brush "tie it to my hand."

True love and high adventure, right, 2012? It's the only way forward that we know.