It has been awhile since I posted, especially any writing, and I apologize for that. I’m sure I could make all sorts of excuses, but I hate doing that, so I won’t. Anyway, I promised in my Notebook section to post my lyric essay when I finished revising it (which I think I have), so now I am. I want to say thanks to my workshop group (who will likely never read this), and to my teacher Kati (who might) for helping me with some of the more stubborn lines in the piece. In all I’m quite fond of it. So, without further ado:
The Silence Between Stars and
There are certain things which stand out as impossible to me now. The way the seats lined the wall, all the way around the back. The lack of other passengers on a flight across the Pacific. The quiet. I remember my mother’s whispers, though not her words, and nothing else. No questioning stewardess, no engine’s roar. Nothing but…
The black of ocean below, broken here –and there- by the pale white crests of waves. And the endless, endless, endless blue-black of the sky, its infinity spattered by sparkling specks beyond number. My young mind stood still in awe of a vastness I could not comprehend. Forever above and beyond us stretched a miracle of light and shadow, and below the swells and surges of the unknowable sea, while we hung suspended in a cylinder of near-magic, surrounded by a silence made of a world muted (in memory) by beauty.
Though I could not have stood for long upon that impossible seat beside my mother, face pressed to peer past the glass, the moment looms large in my mind: shading my youngest years beneath a starry canopy of deepest night and drowning out everything else until the birth of my brother nearly a year later.
We two lay on our backs, against cold concrete, hands clasped in comfort, eyes fixed on the multi-hued dome of light above. The querulous glow of the city -behind and below- shaded the sky in pinks and purples, obscuring the pale pinpricks for which our sight strove. Though I had a long made habit of watching the sky in the hours between dusk and dawn, she had never stopped to look up from the ground which bound her. And though what we had was not to last, the moments we spent there, gazing upward and forward, go on (in memory) forever.
Surely the sounds of the city reached our love-struck ears, straining as they were for the warning of steps coming up the hill, that we might shield ourselves from the disappointed stares of our parents had they seen. And surely we spoke, for we chattered incessantly in every other moment of our time together. Even in those tense moments when she stole through the basement window of her father’s house, and hurried to the open door of my idling car, we whispered and laughed together. But…
Though I recall the softness of her hand in mine, and the warmth in her lips and eyes, I hear no sound. Ensconced in our private world of light and love, all is calm and quiet, sure and silent, with no hint of the tumult to come.
The four of us stood at the edge of the lake, marveling in the perfect stillness of its surface. It was our second night away from civilization, miles and miles deep into the wilderness of the Uinta range. Weary though we were, after hiking with our subsistence on our backs and a day of ravenously reveling in the freedom of the mountains, we were wide awake in that moment.
The sky above, unmarred by man’s intrusive glow, was so very crowded with little lights that the blue-black of night became a soft and soothing purple-blue. Blue like ocean depths, purple as mythical mountains majesty. Below and before us the perfect black stillness of the lake reflected back the glory of the stars above. Points of light etched in nature’s glass a clear path across the night, and seeing this I understood the wonder with which the ancients so often termed our galaxy a road through the heavens. And…
No sound broke that perfect moment. We marveled in unison, and no one of us spoke a word. No cars or trains or other people assaulted our solitude with sound. No animals called in the night, nor crickets chirped their delight. No wind whispered through the trees to mar the mirror surface before us, as though the world understood our awe and wished to share in it for a moment. We share it still (in memory).
I wrote this This I Believe essay for my Creative Non-fiction class. For some reason I feel nervous and elated and exhausted having finished it. Maybe because I don’t write a lot of non-fiction, especially about myself. Anyway, here it is:
I believe in the power of symbols; that they are at the very heart of what makes us human. Our ability to take objects, people, actions and abstracts and recreate them in the mind of another using a jumble of shapes and/or sounds, is what allows us to carve out everything from statues to relationships from reality.
I can see it, as I did this morning, standing at the foot of a crosswalk, watching painted lines guide and stop the motion of cars. Or as I did on May 24th, when I traded round pieces of metal, and words, with the woman I love, and bound our two very lives together. I can see it in the simple combinations of shapes which tell me from which restroom I would be forcibly ejected, accompanied by cries of outrage and disgust; and in the movement of the lines which tell me by their position what time of day it is. I see this power best, perhaps, in the rows of symbols for sounds, which combine to create symbols for other things, which in turn paint images in my mind of beauty or loss or true love (which may themselves be even greater symbols). And I feel it in the name which symbolizes my very being.
It is my belief in the power of symbols which so attracts me to our most versatile: words. Words, woven in infinite orders and combinations, can create a tapestry in the mind, depicting anything: whether the life of a person around the world, or a whole other world entire. Learning to interpret and create these most potent of symbols has formed the core of who I am; in the days when they were a respite from the Golding-esque cruelties of Catholic Elementary children; in the years when I used them to find and define myself; and in the future I hope to build from them, one sentence at a time.
It is the symbolic power of words which allows me to purge my emotions onto a page when they threaten to overwhelm me. In these symbols I can store the pain or confusion, or even urgent joy, which crowds my mind and through sharing them (even with no-one but myself) release my burden. This particular power of symbols has saved my life a time or two; in that I could write something like: Snap-crack/ Swing sway/ Face black/ Last day/ Big drop/ Short way/ Sudden stop and let the power of words bear the weight of my sorrow and hopelessness until I myself am restored enough to deal with them.
The power others found in words were ultimately what inspired me to start down the path I am on today; from when Bruce Coville’s Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher opened my eyes to the world of my own imagination, to the lessons in the brutal power of names learned from the mouths of my classmates. These words taught me strength, and compassion, and hope; touching my life so profoundly that I struggle now to articulate it properly. And yet -despite my doubt in myself and my ability- I have faith that the power of words, woven on the loom of experience and imagination, will show you what I mean.