Finding Out What’s Real

I’m just gonna say it: I miss summer. Yes, I know we’re smack dab in the middle of it up here in the northern hemisphere. The season is upon us. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m an adult. I go to work. A lot. I miss summer.

I’m not out and about on a beautiful summer day. Instead, I’m sneaking snaps out the window between stares at a computer screen while Neil Young’s Sugar Mountain is playing on my iPod. Now the lyrics “You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain, though you realize you’re leaving there too soon” make sense.

I remember when I was getting close to graduating high school, I asked my father what it was like being an adult. He told me, “There’s a lot of nostalgia.” For what? I wondered.

Then, several years later, after college and before the eve of my best friend’s wedding, I asked him if he ever realized he was younger on the inside than on the outside. It had begun to occur to me that my inner self was trapped somewhere in the 1980s, although the 1990s were flying by. My dad laughed at the question, so I knew he understood.
“Well,” I pressed. “How old are you inside?’
“17,” he said.

Man, who isn’t?

I’ll never forget that conversation because we were hiking down from the Never Summers. I didn’t miss the irony. Childhood held something special, something soon to be ethereal: a whimsical cloud-shape-finding, long-grass-lying, skateboard-trying effervescence where anything is possible, nothing hurts, and someone has dinner ready when you get home.

A girl bungee jumps off a bridge to uncertainty

The free fall of summer. Anything can happen.

Decades later, my days of lying in hammocks, biking through the evening screaming the lyrics to U2’s Twilight, stealthily shooting bottle rockets into lakes (it makes the most satisfying sound), river rafting, fair-going, and having no real responsibility whatsoever seem like day-dreams, just something I imagined while expelled from paradise–I mean: sitting at my desk. It’s not helped by the fact that these days when I roll home, my kids are gorked out on cartoons and Bazooka bubble gum, proud of themselves for being the first guys to ever try building a tree house with remnants of fence, or to ever dizzily jump from the highest branch off the rope swing and not fall into the irrigation ditch.

Children, please.

I could be any time in summer: 1976, 1984, 1992. Aside from my height, who would know? Summer is the eternal optimist, the ultimate experience in what is and what should never be. We would carouse all evening, never feeling cold, never needing to go home. We’d bounce house to house, boat to boat (if at the lake), or ride bikes while slightly impaired, a tittering, teetering experience that made a girl feel smart and stupid all at the same time–a common experience with summer, I learned.

The air was always soft. Everyone was always in good humor. Plans just “worked out.” Even thinking about Friday night was exciting because we really didn’t know what was going to happen next. Maybe that night, I would meet some guy and fall head over heels. And then, one year, I did.

But, no point wasting youth on the youthful. One of the first rock lyrics I taught my boys was by Rush, of course: “Though it’s just a memory, Some memories last forever.” It made sense to pass it on down.

I suppose that’s the point, too. I want their summers to be like my summers. I want the glory and the innocence and the unraveling of that innocence to be wrapped up in thunderstorms and lightening, fireworks and campfire, mountain hikes and riding bikes and singing songs together. Swing Life Away, boys. Swing away.

Then, maybe, summer never truly ends.

From the Whirlwind

It’s Spring, that time of year with lion and lambs and other goofy analogies that runs rampant for a couple of weeks and then winds up just being hot. In other words, Spring: the hoopla with no “shazam!”

That’s what my life feels like lately. Not to get too personal, or anything. No one wants an over-share in a blog. But this time of year is always ridiculous: lots of travel, lots of red button issues, lots of family goings-on and then all of a sudden June is almost over, it’s summer and there’s nothing left to do but sweat a lot. And turn on the air conditioner. If it’s working.

It’s a lot of construction, but no building. A lot of writing, but no novel. And the best part is, it will all repeat next year–although that’s another issue in-and-of-itself. It’s like watching an action movie and getting all amped up and excited until the credits, when there is nothing better to do than get in the car and drive home.

When home is swirling as much as work, which is the case most any Spring, I long for that long drive off into the suburbs. But once I’m in the car again, well, I miss the spinning.

Chasing the dust devil in a desert somewhere

The whirlwind of my life: the dust devil.

And I don’t get that. Oh, intellectually I suppose I understand. Empirically, busy is a sign of life. Being alive is good. But when the whirlwind is so consuming, when time is so short, when things are barely getting done, the stress is constant and the relief seldom–why would any person in her right mind want that back?

Maybe it’s the test, the challenge. Maybe it’s the “work hard” portion that balances the “play hard” in the popular equation of American culture. I don’t know the answer to this; I just know that we girls always want what we don’t have. When things are slow, I want them busy. When things are busy, I’d give anything for them to slow down. Fair enough, I guess.

But what really trips me up is that when the downtime does come:  that brief interlude of a good jazz CD sound-scaped to a slightly cloudy afternoon overlaid on a religious holiday that zaps everyone’s energy right down to nap time, except mine; that one moment of space and time where a working mom like me can sit down and finally get all the things sacred to herself out in the open, or down on paper, or any of it, whatever it is, could be, should have been, that moment of Now, the time for what was dwelling under the surface to finally, FINALLY rise to the top…

…I’ve got nothing. Not even a long drive home.

It’s All About You–I Mean Me

It’s a funny thing when you stop writing. It’s also a funny thing to write in second person, but I’ve managed to do both.

How do you simultaneously stop writing and write in second person? It seems like a logical oddity, a riddle, a paradox. But, turns out it’s none of that. You just do it in your head.

You start by simply questioning those around you, albeit silently.
“Why are you driving like an asshole?”
“Really, you can’t help me with my mailing?”
“Are you certain you should tell me that you stayed up past midnight playing on your phone?”

Granted, that’s not writing. It’s snotty sarcasm aping as internal monologue. But, it’s habit forming. So, when something really worth writing does come around the bend, you find yourself ranting off all sorts of emotive poetry, hyperbole, and whimsical observation from deep inside your brain—none of which you, or anyone else, get to read.

And that part sucks. Some of my best writing is still in my head somewhere. Honestly, where else do you keep it?

Truth: the second person bit is the real challenge. When’s the last time you tried it? Probably about that time your advanced comp teacher told you you were being lazy and yelled that you should learn to find your objectivity and remove yourself from the story—yet still have a voice: “It’s not all about you!”

Whatever. I beg to differ.

It doesn’t even matter what person you’re writing in as long as you’re writing to somebody. That’s the big point, right, making sure you actually have an audience?

Which brings you to my very first point: not writing at all. Stopping. Ceasing. Not knowing what to write because you don’t know who the audience will be. Even in blogs this is important because, face it, not everyone always wants to read what you’re going through or what it is you think you have to say.

A 3-year old boy dressed as a cowboy on his dedicated steed, er, Australian Shepherd mix.

Thursday, the best dog ever, died on Valentines Day. He was 16. We “assisted.” Worst. Feeling. Ever.

That’s how I felt three weeks ago when I finally, excruciatingly and with full-tilt melancholia, made the “let me stick hot wax in my eyeballs” decision to put my dog down. I would have rather laid on a bed of glass. Really, and I’m not bullshitting you with hyperbole.

Sure, I tried a few lines when I was and wasn’t crying:
–treading water in the wake of death
–wind chimes, ocean buoys, and grieving for dogs: i.e. things that moan.

But it didn’t go anywhere. Who wants to read that? You want to laugh, be moved, relate—and when you’re bouncing back and forth between despondent and completely agitated, you just can’t come up with decent metaphors suited for anyone’s consumption.

So you rant. In your brain. Alone: where the best and most acute suffering seems to happen.

Ironically, my non-writing is probably also my best writing. But now you’ll never know.

Intergalactic

Have you ever pulled up just short of your goal? That’s exactly what happened to Urb and Morg when they were careening through Earth’s atmosphere–

(Urb and Morg aren’t their real names. As I have no idea how they communicate, or if they even have a language, I am clueless how they refer to one another.)

–careening through Earth’s atmosphere when Urb suddenly pulled up on the brakes, stopping them mid-dive. As the atmosphere cooled around their ship and the flames died down, Morg awoke from cybersnoozis.

“What’dya do that for?” he huffed at his cabin-mate. Then, he cocked his wappadoodles–

(Again, as I don’t know how they communicate, I don’t know what they actually call the things on their extremities that interpret sound waves.)

“What is that horrible sound?” Morg granulated.

Urb retracted all five wappadoodles. “Dunno. But, I can’t take it!” he said through clenched siphonatics. “It hurts.”

“It’s a constant whelmatica. Ahhh! What can it be? Does it constitute as ‘life?’ Should we fotondrunda back that some form of life occupies this planet?”

“I’m not sure I really care anymore,” Urb replied. “Let’s get out of here.”

He threw the ship in reverse and jettisoned back into open space.

I thought about Urb and Morg this morning on my own commute, albeit one shorter than the aliens’, when a new song came across the World Classic Rock radio station.

This is the album cover for the Beastie Boys' album that featured the song "Intergalactic Planetary."

This song I like.

“What is that horrible sound?” I asked myself. “It hurts.” And I turned it off.

Normally, I like certain kinds of loud music. But this particular song, for whatever reason, sounded like tinny cheese-grater jingle bells dragged across mismatched guitar strings overlaying poorly constructed harmonies. I couldn’t help but wonder if I were the only one having such a reaction. In fact, could any species, anywhere, endure such a noise? What if all those sound waves floating about in space were to intersect across the audio palate of an uninitiated life form?

I surmised it would likely be off-putting.

And what ramifications would there be if two such creatures really did stumble upon our planet and…left immediately? Well, for one thing, I thought to myself as I drove alone in my car, we’d have to give our theology a much closer review.

I’m not quite sure how I moved from bad music, to alien invasion, to the existence of God; but isn’t that the purpose of art, after all: to inspire, cause wonder, see the world as one might not have seen it before and be moved to question?

I threw my mind into reverse and jettisoned back to my Philosophy of Art class so many years ago. I nodded at memories as I continued driving.

Then I leaned forward…and turned the song back on.