Friday, August 26, 2016

gritty truths

I'm half-way through All the Light We Cannot See—a dazzling piece of historical fiction by Anthony Doerr; set in WWII-Europe with two protagonists, a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy. I haven't yet gotten to the part at which their stories converge.
As I was reading the other night, I was struck by the tragic familiarity of fear, hate, blame, and cruelty; politicians positing themselves as saviors; thoughtless rhetoric that dehumanizes others based on country of origin, race (our faultiest invention), and religion.
I went to Charleston for the first time this past June. It was humid, teeming with other bachelorette parties, and awfully charming. Over shrimp and grits, (grits, by the way, originating from way the Muskogee tribe's preparation of "Indian corn"), our food tour guide deemed Charleston one of the few colonial cities in which all religious groups were able to freely practice; an impressive privilege, indeed! but all the while legal servitude was booming. 60,000 black slaves outnumbered white colonists in the early 18th century.
It's so necessary and uncomfortable to confront our reprehensible histories—how we could possibly reconcile, what we should have learned, where we still need healing—and that's all before considering our current realities. There's so much, and at times, so little.

And then there are moments, moments that make me remember; like those at Courtney and Dani's wedding. I was so deeply touched by the power of (as J.R. Moehringer writes in his praise of All the Light We Cannot See) "the countless facets of the human heart." There is also love. Hope. We continue.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

a love letter to boston

Is it possible to have grown up in a city without ever having lived there?
I dreamt of Boston as a kid; I'd own a narrow brick home, Federalist style, filled with books and hope and a butler. And just when the loss of childhood logic revealed that "not all residents live as the mother from the 1961 Parent Trap did", my family vacationed there. It was a good one. We went on a duck tour, and my brother got to drive the boat, and the captain didn't even mind he was too young to do so. Later, my 8th grade class visited for American history's sake—our alternative to the traditional D.C. trip, since 9/11 had just happened. And soon enough, I'd decided I would go to college in Boston. I toured its universities more than once—the first time with my sister, my mom, her best friend and son. I told Chrissie of a memory I have from then: of my mom sitting next to my Aunt Donna on the T, singing some song from the '80s louder than any one ever should on public transportation; my sister and I laughing; Ryan inching away. And another time, with the college prep summer program I'd begged by parents to send me to. I marveled at a Mississippi boy marvel at hiking gear in Harvard Square, between campus tours. I considered what my future might look like. And though I was not then offered a spot in Boston College's Class of 2010, I spent a secret wonderful weekend nearby with a boy I'd soon fall in love as an undergrad at Syracuse University. Once graduated, heart broken, I would escape from the painful what-should-be that hung in the New York air. I'd be reminded of all that I was and had been. I had friends who lived in Boston then. I still do in fact.
I'd nearly forgotten these stories of such significance, until this past weekend, visting Chrissie. She just moved to Boston for grad school. We walked through nearly every neighborhood and drank too much wine and had all the teary heart-to-hearts. It was perfect.

Monday, June 20, 2016

death valley at 28

All I want to do is wake up in the desert on my birthday, I thought. And it was the oddest thing to think, because I don't even like the desert that much. If I were to rate landscapes based on how beautiful I found them to be, the desert would most certainly come in last.
And yet... I couldn't get the longing out of my head. So, I booked a hotel room (I am many things but a solo-camper I certainly am not), got my oil changed, packed a change of clothes and some groceries... and drove out to Death Valley around noon on May 28th.
I'm not not a birthday person. I do enjoy celebrating with close friends and, if I'm lucky, family. (I did, later). But this year I sought to be grounded, connected, gloriously free—all at once. I needed to lighten the heaviness of certain memories and current events.
After checking in, I ventured to Artists Palette; then Dante's View for sunset over Badwater Basin. And just as the desert became completely blanketed by stars, I arrived back at the hotel. I bought a beer and pulled a rocking chair out into the darkness to gaze.
The next morning, after accidentally waking up early, I watched the sun rise with Letters to a Young Poet, and ~20 photographers.
There aren't words to describe how spectacular an experience, nor how special it felt to be a part of it. Feliz cumpleaños, indeed. 
I went on to meditatively walk the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes before heading back to the hotel for avocado toast and coffee. And that was that! Almost. I also stopped for a hike through Mosaic Canyon and drove up to Aguereberry Point on my way out of the park.
Twenty-eight sounds old to me—not in a "ugh, I'm so old!" kind of way (how obnoxious), but in a "wow, I've lived a bit, huh?" way. And waking up in the desert at 28 was perfect. The wide open space and relentless dry heat and pristine towering peaks above the below-sea-level basin were everything I'd been craving. It instilled the most serene awareness of my minuscule, and all the while, worthy existence. Needless to say, the desert landscape might be growing on me...