why i wear a poppy

If Hitler had won the Second World War, life as we know it would be different. Without letting the imagination go berserk, it is likely there would have been more wars, more corruption, more segregation, more death, more inequality and more fear. Maybe. Who’s to know what could have unfolded. Hitler lost, and we got to keep our borders. Our countries. Our cultures. Our capitalism. Our religions. Our socialism. Our ideas. At least in some part. There’s no doubt that there’s something very wrong with this world. When our planet can produce enough food to waste half of it and yet people starve to death, something is wrong. When our planet produces enough energy to run all the machines and computers that perpetuate our mechanical caretakers, yet our waters are polluted, our air dirty and our food poisonous, something is wrong.

November 11th is a day we remember those who died and fought for our bit of freedom that we share here in Canada. Our country isn’t perfect. No one can argue with that. There are issues that run deep culturally here, and issues that run historically deep. There is racism, and socio-economic disparities that create gulfing distances between us. But when we wake up every morning, we have the right to disagree. We have the right to be upset. We have the right to say no. We have these rights because some people chose to fight against someone that wanted to eliminate difference.

These days, though, I wonder if he was right. Maybe the differences between us all will always incite war. Maybe there will always be people like him who think their way is right and want to eliminate everyone who is not like them. Maybe making us all alike will stop religious wars, economical wars, egotistical wars. Or maybe we all need to grow up and stop being so insecure.

I wear a poppy, not just to commemorate the men and women who stood up against a totalitarian regime, I wear it because I know that people who continue to stand up are the reason I get to wake up each day and disagree with my government, if I so choose.

The fact that I see almost no one wearing poppies this week slightly breaks my heart, slightly rattles my brain, but truly tells me people have either forgotten or that something else has really gone wrong. What we gained from defeating Hitler has morphed into something that doesn’t seem to be working. I only hope that we don’t have to go to war again, to stand up again – to change what has been so grossly exploited – us.

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can you feel the sun?

When I left home in 2010, I thought I was running towards something. Like I was full-speed trotting up the mountain of life, escaping from that wretched valley life pushed me into, headed for some golden peak near the sun. But that’s the thing about grief – nothing’s quite like you think. I was running towards something just as much as I was running away from the life I didn’t know how to face.

The thing you think when you’re so low is that you have to get higher. There are hundreds of adages emphasising the valley and mountain scenes of life that it seems like the right thing to do to recover. If I could just get up to that next plateau. Climb the mountain. Escape the valley. But if the trials of life really do reflect the topography of our planet, I would have been much better off running into a forest and camping out beside a lake to let my heart heal. In retrospect, I can see that climbing a mountain isn’t always the right answer. Sometimes our hearts need to find peace first.

Staying in the valley isn’t always the best option, however. Rarely is it a good place to be. Yet valleys will come and go. Sometimes we won’t even blink an eye as we pass through them, while other times they might strike us down with their beauty, or their desolation. Remembering what we experience in the valley (or the mountain) is a reflection of what lies within yourself can help you find your way out. Even those who stick to the straight and easy plains can stumble into a valley. The planet is diverse, as is this life.

All too often we try to find the easy answer when our life as we know it is disrupted. We create adages to simplify the struggle within ourselves. Mountains and valleys. Egos and ids. Angels and devils. We’re afraid to do the real work lest we fall back into the valley, or worse, discover we are not capable of climbing mountains. What if we find we don’t have the skill? Or the will? Or the heart? What then? What if we discover it’s our own fault that we ended up in the valley?

There may be easy answers, but that depends on what you’re willing to accept. Whether we run towards a life we think we should have, or we run away from a life we don’t want to have, in either case we are moving, and it’s how we put our feet in front of each other that determines whether we make it up that mountain or find our way to the lake in the forest. We don’t always have to climb a mountain, but we need to feel the sun on our faces, and you can’t do that in the valley, in the shadow of the monoliths.

Thoughts?

 

 

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a home among no houses

2015-08-11 17.21.28I love where I live. I can’t deny that, and often I profess it to people without needing to hear them ask where I live. I tell them about the garden, about the massive clawfoot bathtub in our wood-detailed bathroom, about how we don’t have a microwave, or how we had ducks that used to demand food every morning. I love the house I live in, my housemates, and the area – a quiet country community called Dalefield, a short 15-minute drive from Queenstown, NZ.

2015-01-26 06.19.57Where one lives is a common topic here in Queenstown. There’s a bit of a housing shortage as well as a massive shortage of liveable houses. Many people tend to compare notes, always trying to better their living conditions and jump on opportunity – like when people leave town or move to another house. People come from all over the world to work and live in this winter ski resort/summer adventure town, but most everyone is shocked when they get here and find there’s almost no rooms available, the prices are over the top, the houses are built like no one knew winter actually happens here in the mountains, and for the really unlucky, the house they eventually find a room to fill probably hasn’t been updated in 40 years. Or they have to share a room. Most people who are here long enough move up to better and cheaper houses, finding ‘ins’ along the way. They get the clawfoot bathtub. They get the massive garden. They suddenly find themselves with pet ducks. But all the searching, and rent-gouging, and draughty hallways, and 1970s deco and appliances tend to take a back seat to the scenery and the lifestyle Queenstown has to offer. It’s amazing what people will put up with to live here.

2015-05-25 08.04.13The reality, however, is that most people aren’t paid well enough to live well here – hence the room-sharing. It’s a transient town, and that means minimum wage jobs are rife and home-owners aren’t in any rush to update their uninsulated and shabby homes that were built as summer get-aways when only gravel roads led to Queenstown. There are newer houses, most certainly, but many of these are built in communities on the outskirts of town, like Lake Hayes Estates, Shotover Country and Arthur’s Point. These locations aren’t very accessible without a car – and I won’t get started on the public bus prices. The housing shortage in town during summer means less employable people remain here – so many transients are pressured into long hours with few days off – meaning not everyone gets to enjoy what Queenstown does offer. Winter is the opposite – there’s not enough jobs and room-sharing is at an all time high. Add in the high cost to live here and you have low-wage earners trying to have a life here pushed to a breaking point. Stay and just survive, but get to live in Queenstown? Or leave and get your money’s worth? The town just keeps expanding. The minimum-wage jobs keep multiplying, but affordable housing continues to diminish. This boom town may go bust without these workers.

2014-01-30 17.23.41There’s no denying this place is awe-inspiring. It’s a tourism-trap. It’s over-priced and trendy. The hotels are over-booked. The roads are over-packed. Food and fuel are excessively costly. It’s filled with over-rated and over-done adventure marketed to the the not-so intrepid. And then there’s all the crazy amazing stuff for the seriously intrepid. But even with all the tourism-geared adventure and over-priced extras, I won’t deny that it’s all worth it. Every bit of it. From living in this town to working for these adventure/tourism companies, to paying improbable amounts for an avocado in winter – I wouldn’t trade any of it. And I doubt few people who have called Queenstown home, even if for a short time, would denounce it.

2015-08-11 17.16.21It’s like Queenstown was made just for this type of tourism and these types of adventures. If ever a truer place in the world existed that these kinds of things could be justified to exist, it would be Queenstown. A few things need to be fixed. But it isn’t all wrong.

2015-08-03 14.07.34This is my third summer here and I cherish where I live everyday. I cherish my drive to work at Jack’s Point, my hikes out in Arrowtown, my view out the Events Centre’s window when I’m working out, the open fires in the pubs in town, the stream of foreign friends that I’ve encountered, and so much more. In three months I’m leaving. Someone else will take my room and sit in that bathtub and feed the ducks, and that’s OK. I’ll always have my time in Queenstown, and I’ll know I survived the housing shortage – during the time when there weren’t enough homes to go around I had a room with two windows in a house out in Dalefield when there were still farmer’s fields and the suburbs hadn’t spread that far – not yet.

 

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freedom

We value our freedom in the West. In many ways this so-called freedom is what makes the West – the West. We’ve gotten comfortable being passive about the strings that control us, the rules that run our lives, the armies that keep us contained within our borders, the stigma and trauma that makes us obedient to our masters. We know we are not totally free, but we say to ourselves over and over that we are OK with these stipulations if it means we can have some choice in our daily lives. Some choices. But so many choices and selections are off limits to so many people and yet available to others. Education, careers, healthcare, housing, movement. We tolerate it, sort of. It creates a division amongst us.

The people who live in the West don’t like to think of themselves as weak, especially those who live with a selected amount of choice and the wheedling of freedom to have it. These people like to think they’re wise and worldly and empowered by an image of human emancipation they have been led to believe the world owes unto itself. An image they owe themselves to foster. Through all the famines, wars and illnesses that have devastated entire nations and civilisations, we in the West believe this image is the best course for human survival. One world united. A free world – without fear of persecution, where everyone is tolerant and kind, where we take care of each other from every angle, where being different is allowed and OK. This hope keeps us subdued. It keeps us under control. It keeps us working. It keeps us looking towards those who manage our strings, boundaries and armies for our next moves – lest we destroy the image.  Lest we realise the human race shouldn’t survive and all is lost.

So we agree with the physical, emotional and mental boundaries. We think it’s for the greater good. But the greater good, we know, or think, is the ideal of the people who live in the confines of the West. It is not, however, the ideal of those who run the West. We think the powers that be will get over their addiction to power one day. We think one day they will wake up and do what is good for all of humankind rather than for themselves. And we don’t want to believe that it may never happen. We are giving up some choices so that all of us may one day live in freedom and unity, right? That’s the promise, right?

We know we are not truly free, but we fear what true freedom may mean. It terrifies us because we fear ourselves because we know absolute power corrupts. We’ve seen it throughout history. We see it today. We know without putting limits on ourselves we are liable to forget our conscience. We’ll forget our neighbour. We’ll forget what has happened in the past. We’ll forget compassion. Or is this what we’ve been led to believe? Have we been so systematically manipulated that we think being controlled is a matter of safety for humanity, rather than what it really is – a continuation of division amongst us? If the world of civilisation were to revert to the age before such levels of organisation, will we become savages once again? Or will be discover we are truly the savages now?

Every age of man has seen difficult and contemptuous times because we can think for ourselves and repudiate control. We have love and goodness inside us, despite what foul conceptions emerge. Where once our leaders sat in the seat of power and made decisions based on what was best for everyone, no matter what would be better for themselves alone, we now have leaders who make decision based on how to keep the divisions, keep us working and keep us believing we are free.

There is a lot of good in the world, far more good, joy and love than darkness, threats and malevolence. Because people are more often good if they are given the choice. They are more often violent when they don’t feel free.

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looking towards 40

With my 40th birthday looming on the horizon I’ve got my eyes to the future, albeit briefly, as I make my next moves in life. People often say you need to stay in the present, and I agree, but looking ahead helps you decide where the best place to move to is. Maybe one day I’ll be happy where ever I am no matter what I’m doing. But until that day I’m gonna have to choose which path I follow. And as I choose, I’m gonna have to look at what options are available to me, or, as is often quite fun, create my own options.

It’s no secret that I like to travel, and that I like to change my country of habitat frequently. I don’t think anyone is confused by this lifestyle choice of mine, at least that’s what numerous Facebook posts lead me to believe. Truth is, though, there’s a few drawbacks to this way of life, but you wouldn’t know it from the smile on my face.

You see, living out of a suitcase gets old. Honestly. I can’t buy anything. I can’t own anything. If I do buy a hoodie, I have to throw one away. A new pair of jeans? Toss another pair. Hallowe’en costume? Don’t spend too much money. Everything I own must fit into my luggage, and if I absolutely need to keep something I don’t have space for, I need to post it to where ever I go next. This is do-able, and it makes me proficient at international postage rules, but ask my mom how much of my crap is in her basement. Sure, it keeps you living a minimalist life, and that seems to be trendy and all the rage right now, but a small part of me, the pack-rat part of me, lives deprived.

Switching jobs and friends every six months also becomes exhausting. I try to maintain friendships. All over the world I meet amazing people who I’m so happy I crossed paths with, but when the time comes to leave, as it always does, people’s lives go on as they did before. Staying in touch is easy at first, but soon you’re just liking photos on Facebook, commenting on statuses or wishing them happy birthday. Sure, you’re happy the social media world at least lets you peak into their world from time to time, but people slowly slip away and that intimate circle you were once so graciously allowed to penetrate slowly forgets your footprint. It’s rather lonely.

Trying to choose the best place to go next is like walking into a candy store when you know you have an insatiable sweet tooth. Honestly. Where do you go next? Where’s the best job? Do you return to somewhere you’ve already been? Or do you pull up your courage and walk into the unknown? You probably don’t think of this as an issue. Who doesn’t like sweets? And you’re right, it’s not really an issue. Most people I know only have to do this a couple of times in their life, and it’s usually a job down the road in their same town. For me it involves visas and airplanes and postage and apologies to mom for putting more crap in her basement. Again, not really an issue. As the holder of two passports it’s nice to have large parts of the world open to me, but this gypsy life means I don’t really belong anywhere. I skip from town to town, country to country, but apart from mom’s house, I don’t have a home-base.

Boo hoo, right? My friends locked down to mortgages, and dedicated to turning little people into human beings might drop their jaws at my lament, but let’s be clear. You chose that life. And I chose this life. They both have their pros and cons. You’ll be turning 40 wondering when your house will be paid off, whereas I’m wondering if I’ll ever live in a house for longer than two years.

I’m looking ahead. My body is tired, and my mind and soul are telling me they want to do something else – not necessarily do something new or go somewhere new, just something else. It’s not even about it being more fulfilling or more in tune with who I believe myself to be in some spiritual journey. Nope. I already feel fulfilled. I already feel in tune. As I approach 40 I’m thinking it’s time to re-evaluate the size of my suitcase, enrich and refine my circle of people and maybe get my things out of my mom’s basement. Living a life like mine isn’t always about being transient and seeing what the world has to offer. It’s also about knowing what the world does offer and knowing when it’s just what you’ve been searching for all along.

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happiness is?

Is your job supposed to make you happy? Or is it your home-life? Or is it a combination of the both? Are we meant to be happy with everything? Or are we meant only to be happy with ourselves? Are you supposed to be happy with your room, or your house or the colours you picked out for your bathroom? Is it the street you’re on and the neighbours you’ve found yourself between? Is it your ability to flip an egg or tell when a roast is done? Is it the time you wake-up at every morning? Or the speed in which you can get out the door? Is it how far you ran yesterday? Or that you can run at all? Is it having friends? Is it knowing you like your friends? Is it having money to go out? Or knowing you don’t feel like going out? Is it having a closet of clothes? Or a machine to wash them? Is it pots and pans and things and stuff? Or is happiness found in a good deed? Or is it in making another person smile? Is it knowing you won’t see war tomorrow? Or the next day? Or is it in knowing your fridge is full of food? Is it being able to drive a car? Or walk down a street with a friend? Is it taking a plane to a far away land? Or is it the job that let’s you afford this escape? Is it being able to repeat yourself without persecution? Or is it having friends that keep you sane? Is it access to education? Is it knowing when to fight? Is it not having to fight? Is it not having to know anything about the world around you except what makes you smile? What makes you happy in this world? And how do you know it’s not a lie?

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five years

IMG_0836I made it. I made it five years. Do I get a badge now? A congratulatory cookie? Is there some kind of database my name goes into detailing that I survived this … darkness? I really wanted to ask what I get for making it five years, but let’s be honest. Life isn’t fair and no one gives a rat’s ass what you are coping with. What I get is what I give myself. Period.

But what does five years feel like, you ask? It feels like three actual journeys around this planet by planes and buses and trains. It feels like visiting fifteen countries. It’s ten summers in a row. It’s shedding 10 million tears. It’s laughing at 1,000 jokes. It’s having two ex-boyfriends who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. It feels like five somewhat satisfying jobs. It’s countless side-jobs. It’s 1,000 excuses why I haven’t tried to live up to my own expectations. It feels like living in 15 or so homes. It’s keeping my belongings into what I can carry with me. It feels like 50 awesome warm-water scuba dives. And two whale sharks. It’s nearly 400 jumps. It’s about 20,000 miles in four crappy cars. It feels like 1,826 days. It’s watching each of my fingers become deformed from an AI disease. It’s learning to run again. It’s learning to be happy again. It’s learning to do everything for myself and not for anyone else. It’s saying good-bye to Don, Will, Adam B, Chris, Shane, Sean, Adam C, George, Steph, Steve, Max, Jordan, Alana and Uncle MIke.

Five years has felt like constant change. Five years has felt like a search beyond the scope of anything I knew. Five years has been a journey I am grateful for, but wish on no one.

I told myself I wasn’t going to write another one of these, but here I am … writing.

Shortly after Dave died a friend spoke to me.  He told me that his doctor told him it would take five years. He had asked his doctor when the feeling of losing his wife would go away. When he would feel normal again. His doctor told him grief is complicated, but that time helps. Five years was the going rate.

So this deadline has been vexing my mind since that conversation. Five fucking years? And sure, I wondered if it was true for everyone. I questioned if I had superior healing capabilities. Surely after years of journal-keeping I was much more adept than the common cat at healing my heart and head. I tried to bargain with life. I’ll be 39 when that deadline is up, I explained. People will question why I’m so old and never got married. People will wonder what’s wrong with me. People will decide I’m probably damaged goods. Damn you, Dave, I thought. Who will love me now? I mean, who will love me come then? Who can love damaged goods. And can damaged goods still love?

It didn’t take me five years to come to terms with the loss I felt I endured. But it almost did. What I didn’t understand in the early stages of grieving was the guilt. Every time I tried to move forward I felt guilt. It didn’t make sense. Where was it coming from? Dave wanted me to move on. Everyone around me wanted me to move on. I wanted to move on, but I was scared. I got so used to being damaged goods that being a functional member of life without some sad excuse to fall back on when I couldn’t hack it petrified me. It wasn’t really an excuse. I know everyone has problems. Everyone has dead people. I wasn’t special in any way, shape or form. Each step forward I suppressed the guilt and went on auto-pilot. It was mindless. My heart wasn’t in it. I was faking it. I so wanted to be a healthy, well-adjusted adult that I just pretended to be one. But deep down I was harbouring a battle ground. My guilt and my grief and my love and my logic and my heart and my past and my dreams all fought to be recognised at the same time, something I used to be so good at – and then suddenly had no idea how to do.

I thought all these things inside the tornado in those early days. I felt guilt for wondering what was left for me out there only moments after everything I thought I had disappeared. It was guilt, but not because I was still here and Dave left me in a shit-pile of emotional unrest, longing, questioning and deep grief. It was because him leaving this earth had nothing to do with me, but I was making it all about me. I missed him instantly. I still miss him, but not quite in the same way.

Have I moved on? I don’t think it’s quite that basic. But I’ve accepted my new normal. And the stuff I don’t like, I continue to work on these things. I’ve decided I’m not damaged goods, for that to be true most people on this planet would fall into that category. And having some emotional unrest or complicated pain is no excuse to be an asshole. Having an inner battle ground is kind of normal it seems. And multi-tasking is just a normal state of life. Life goes on. If you let it. If you let yourself, you can too.

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the stages of breakups

Ah love. Sweet dreary love. It’s beautiful and wonderful until it all turns sour and you’re splitting up the towels, figuring out time-share custody of the dog and deciding who gets the friend neither of you really liked. When relationships end they can be brutal, but not to fear, there’s a few hard and true facts about breakups that’ll make the process seem a little less maladroit, and help make that light at the end of the tunnel glimmer just a bit stronger while you waddle through the dark raincloud that is heartbreak.

Breakups are ritualistic, at least, the more you experience them and the more you compare notes, they appear that way in hindsight. Let’s clarify. The dumping itself is fairly sacrosanct. It doesn’t matter what leads up to the breakup or if it takes you by surprise or if one person is more to blame, or you find out weeks after the apparent dumping, the details are very clear and they impart a particular understanding of the reality of the situation. You’re no longer a couple.

During the discovery and acceptance of this imposed reality is when the routine-of-the-breakup is revealed, or rather is ritualistically unravelled. But in the time that follows, those weeks afterwards, that’s when a breakup seems to be comprised of a loosely followed but rather concise regimen.

In the initial stages most people begin to deal with their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. Why was I dumped? Why is no one good enough for me? How come I keep failing? Why do I keep going for such knobs? When will I learn? Am I being insecure?

These questions are usually answered by bad judgements and annoying amounts of validation-pandering behaviour. These can include, but are not limited to, greasy one-night stands with bush-league players, stalking friends to generate a visceral feeling of wolf pack belonging, performing overblown niceties for people who would normally be reprehensible, changing one’s appearance to create an edgier or more youthful look (ie. cutting bangs, dying grey hair black, getting a tattoo, wearing mini-skirts, …,) crying in front of perfect strangers for an opportunity to unload and gain new insight, and possibly using social media to post numerous self-promoting and self-deprecating statements garnering insight into one’s status quo.

(At times this stage will have mild interruptions of obsessive and compulsive behaviour to determine the status quo of the ex. This behaviour is highly unusual, though quite common and widely accepted as normal. Information of this sort often leads to a cyclic pattern of self deprecation. People can get stuck here for years.)

If one survives the initial stage, they tend to move toward the self-medicating stage. In this short-lived phase, the heart strengthens and the subject no longer needs other people to help them recognize their dignity; their over-inflated sense of self-worth returns ad nauseam.

The recovering addict will then try half-baked challenges resulting in frequent failures due to far too high standards which most over-achievers tend to place on themselves. The inflated sense of ego, however, will provide sufficient padding whence such failures occur. These tests are an important rite of the ritual of the breakup, symbolizing a flag of independence, a line in the sand, a shout from the highest mountain that they are capable of attacking life on their own, even failing on their own. It’s important to clarify not all aspirations will culminate in failure. The tests the addict sails through will usually redirect their life and create a starting point for new directions and obsessions.

Which leads to the last and sometimes final stage following a breakup – the love phase. Following weeks (and sometimes months) of cycles, status updates, failures, shopping sprees, triathlons and contradictions the heartbreak will have cleared, the ego will have rebounded and the subject may rediscover other people. (Unless they get another pet. Then it could be years.) The past, while still a fresh and touchy wound on the achy heart, is tucked under the carpet where it can lie out of sight and not frighten away new bees to the hive.

The love phase is characterized by a want and simultaneous need to connect to another person – regardless of the chances of one day having to buy new towels again. The need for this connection is humane and human. The want comes from the indestructible part of the psyche that never involves itself in human or humane affairs. But regardless of the origin, this phase signifies a recovery. A person can survive numerous recoveries through their lifetime, sometimes hundreds. Some people are so adept at recovering and progressing to the love stage that they may appear to always be in recovery and to never go through the previous stages. Of course, there are also people who clearly have barely survived the initial stages or even people who never get past the self-medicating phases.

What’s important to take away from this is if you find yourself in the love phase, congratulations, you are recovering! Soon you will find yourself looking for another person to love. Who that person is and what stage they’re in should be of utmost importance, though, this is normally not the case and it is seen as acceptable to love any odd duck so long as they say or act like they will love back. And while this behaviour tends to keep people in the cycle of the ritual, it’s not seen as self-destructive or antipathetic. But as time comes to pass, love, sweet dreary love, finds most of us.

Relationships, on the other hand, are not to be confused with love. They’re the first stage after the love phase. But that’s a whole other topic. Happy loving.

 

 

 

 

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feeling the rain

sheriphotodiary 014

“I love the rain,” she conceded. A slight air of hope lingered on her voice as though her confession would alter time. “Actually, that’s only half true. I like the sound of rain. I hate when things are wet. I can’t stand being cold.” She held her elbows and faked a shiver. She was a poor actor. “But you know how there’s that roar? Like a rumble on the verge of thunder? I like that. It always brings up old memories from such simpler times.”

I raised an eyebrow, theoretically, as I could only consider how someone so inexperienced could make such a reference. “Simpler times?”

Pierced lips flip into clever smiles. Eyes narrow to reveal hidden erudition. Secret talents would’ve unfolded from her face like a piece of origami if only she had an original thought in her head. “Do you remember your childhood?” Her pretence mimicked insight, but I was curious about what memories she spoke.

So I nodded.

“I don’t,” she said. “I feel like I’ve always been a grown-up. Like I’ve always understood, you know?”

I didn’t believe she never remembered being a child. Not really. Everyone remembers the innocence of childhood. It was sad that she feigned such a thing. How could she even believe such a thing?  I would’ve all but stopped her there if it weren’t for my similar feelings for rain. And, naturally, an innate necessity to watch helplessly and hopefully as a disaster unfolds. I had to press her. What would she lie about next?

“Nothing has changed since I learned who I was. I think I was six or seven. But nothing has really changed. It’s still the same voice in my head. But you see,” she plied her words upon me like layers of lace and arsenic, “whenever it rained, like torrential rain, like it does when you wonder if it’ll storm all night – whenever I’d hear that torrent come down I’d feel like it could be the end. I always remember that feeling.”

“The end of what?” It was a tricky question. I was baiting her, but I had to see how far she was willing to go.

“Just the end of life as I knew it. That maybe something in this great big world would change. That I would wake up in the morning after seas of rain and everything would be washed away.” She walked toward the window and looked into the night. “I would have to re-learn to live in a whole new land. Floods and devastation would undo civilization and then I’d have to carve out an existence in an apocalyptic world. Like in Mad Max or Red Dawn. I don’t know why I thought that way. Maybe I just always thought that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be and maybe rain would save us from it. Or maybe it was too many late night movies.”

Her reflection in the window was ghostly. Streams of water flowed from the broken eaves making her face seem like a sad and far away painting. I knew then, looking at her, that she believed each word she said.

I felt bad for her. The feelings she spoke of, all people feel, yet she carried them like they were her weight to bear, as foolish people do. “The sound of rain makes you think we need to be saved? From ourselves?” And then I added, dripping in sarcasm, “And water will cleanse us of our sins?”

“Not sins. Oh God no. I don’t believe in some kind of supreme being.” She laughed awkwardly. “You make it sound like I’m some kind of zealot.”

It was a big word for her.

“The point I’m trying to make is when I was young I disagreed with the way the world was and I used to dream that something would come and force us to change everything.  I believed I would live to see such times.”

“And so,” I began, “You hear the rain outside and you envision the destruction of the world?”

“No.” She shook her head and returned to the window. “When I hear the rain outside, now, I have a feeling that it’s all wrong.” She tuned and looked at me. “I feel how people like you knowingly confuse what is truly complicated with what is truly simple because it’s easier than admitting there’s something you can’t understand. I think how knowledge can lead one just as far astray as ignorance. I don’t see the world being destroyed. I feel there’s nothing here to keep.”

Her personal attack on people like me startled me and smarted. It didn’t seem fair, to pit me against the architects of the past, the masters who designed and built the intrinsic labyrinth we navigate every day of our waking lives. I frowned. “Feelings are very different than thoughts and knowledge,” I chided.  Deep down I wished the rain would stop.

“I don’t mean to be cruel,” she said upon seeing my face. “It’s only a feeling I have when it rains. I have a much different feeling when the wind blows or the sun shines or when snow is falling at Christmas. But you don’t understand everything. I don’t think you understand me.”

She came over and sat beside me, picking up my hands with her tiny cold fingers. “Memories are funny things. They’re so one-sided. Life is so much messier and complicated now then when I was a child. If I was seven I would only remember a glimpse out the window, a recollection of how heavy the rain was and how I felt about who was here. But now, because I’m older and have more knowledge, this moment will include facts and ruminations. And some day I might even reconsider tonight, for maybe I will learn something more and it will change everything I know.”

If only she did know, for in that very moment I fell out of love with her. It wasn’t the feelings or the hope that lingered on her vacant and sententious words, or the idea that she felt there was nothing in this world worth keeping. I could live with that. I have always lived with that. We have all continued to live with that. No. It was the credulous way in which someone so inconsequential and impressionable now looked down on me. It was because in that instant she changed. In that instant she became a know-it-all. And I – I became worthy of her pity.

I got up and walked toward the door, only taking a short breath before grasping the handle and opening it.

“Where are you going?” she asked, shock trailing off her tongue.

I passed through the threshold knowing I would never return. “Into the storm,” I said, imparting upon her one more experience. Then I stepped into the cold wetness, walking away from what was once bright and clear, but with just a single idea became dull, sad and just a memory.

 

 

 

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the ghosts of summer

100_2335There’s this feeling I remember in the late days of summer, like a ghostly breath creeping down my back. My hairs stand on end and I squint toward the sky, looking past the low damp clouds and beyond the flecks of glistening dust swirling behind busy harvesters. I’m reminded of this moment in autumn, when time swings around past Hallowe’en, when the cold winds begin to blow and I know I should’ve worn a warmer coat. When mittens and scarves begin to cross my mind, and stray shimmering flakes threaten to blanket the ground. Those days I pull up my collar, wrap my arms across my waist, take a breath and soldier right on past the chill in the air. And soon the days are drifting into a darkness that I’d all but dread if it weren’t for the bubble – the bubble I can’t describe. It pushes so heavily on every good sense I have in my possession, and each moral and every memory, and I try so hard to explain how it makes life feel so “inside” oneself, because the whole world dies all around us. It seems we are all that is left. The leaves have already started changing, the sun lingers longer on the horizon, skirting the curve of the earth ensuring the last few subtle encores of summer can barely, but just slightly, be enjoyed. The smell in the wind of decaying foiliage and freezing soil is so familiar that my shoulders creep toward my ears in anticipation of the heaviness of snow – not piles of snow, but the quiet heavy sound of snow. The crunch of snow, and how that loud reverberation under foot can drown out the whole world. That ghostly breath, the first sign of approaching fall on the wind, the moment my senses can no longer ignore it – when summer has passed the brink and I know a year of my life has some how gone by … again. I will live to see yet another winter. But until the snow breaks through the sky I will witness the world come to the end of its cycle. The end of this cycle. And then the planet around me will go silent and wait, blanketed in snow, surrounded by a bubble, quiet and cold and inside me. But I will still keep going. I must keep going. For I can see this world outside me. I know it’s there when I feel it’s breath on my skin.

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