Bamburgh Castle in the Clouds (Pixdaus)
“You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it . . .We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.” ~ Diane Ackerman
When we are children, we have such dreams, dreams of who we’ll be, where we’ll go, who we’ll meet, things we will accomplish. We see possibilities everywhere, and it doesn’t occur to us not to think these things.
I remember thinking that I could live in a castle, that I could live on a farm, that I could swing on a trapeze and fly through the air, that I could be president of the United States. I dreamed of being an actor, a singer, a writer. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins and dreamed of living on an island and fending for myself in much the same way as the book’s main character. I read fables and tales of imaginary places and wondered what it would be like to live in such ethereal places.
And then I remember the first time an adult quashed my dreams: I wrote a poem in the 7th grade, and the teacher—a humorless man with dandruff on his shoulders—told me quite frankly that it wasn’t a poem because it did not rhyme and because it didn’t have the correct rhythm, which he proceeded to recite for me: da duh da duh da duh da duh. I looked at him in horror and walked away. I dropped the poem in the wastebasket on my way out the classroom.
Adults forget how to dream, and they very often forget that children still possess that ability.
“Her father’s well-remembered voice came to save her. ‘When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.’” ~ Eva Ibbotson, The Countess Below the Stairs
Do I still dream?
I e-mailed a former colleague today and made the statement that I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be when I grow up; there is more than a gram of truth in those words.
Let me back up: I know that the month of November leaves me completely spent emotionally. Even though this year was not terrible, it still affected me in ways that I am only now acknowledging. So I write this post full of pent-up emotions and unfulfilled dreams. I write with a sense of pain that lies always just beneath the surface. At least I am aware of this much.
At one point in my life I thought that I truly had all of the answers. How utterly laughable. I was in my mid-20’s and full of a sense of power and accomplishment that I had neither earned nor deserved. This reality did not keep me from acting as though the world was mine for the taking. I had but to reach out and my just rewards would come to me.
Ah youth. Folly and hubris rule unabated. Unabated, that is, until someone older and perhaps wiser steps in and crushes those dreams.
Is life just one long sequence of dreams followed by crushing realities? Do we ever reach a point at which the cycle stops? Does it take the relinquishing of dreams for this to happen? If so, then I refuse.
“Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark.” ~ Wallace Stevens
What do I dream? I dream of lazy afternoons, floating above the earth in a large hammock, a book on my chest, the sun in my eyes. I dream of hiking the Virginia foothills again, no thoughts of pain keeping me from the adventure. I dream of finally seeing the Grand Canyon and walking among the verdant hills of Ireland.
I dream of writing the ultimate sentence, the one that makes me pause and say to myself, ‘Damn. That’s good.’ I dream of sitting in a darkened theater and listening to Puccini. And I dream of the day when I can think of those in my life who are no longer here and not feel as if my soul has been cleaved.
Thick cream-colored linen writing paper, hot mugs of strong sweet tea, wines heady with perfect blends of fruit and smoke, and rows upon rows of books. Reading lines of verse that make me wish that they were mine and listening to music that makes me teary-eyed. Walking through Central Park in the fall and smelling fresh cardamom and cinnamon in the markets of some far-away country.
Traveling by rail from Istanbul to anywhere. Seeing the earth below me from a hot air balloon. An afternoon spent on a beach fronting blue waters clear enough to see the bottom. Lying in a clearing at night beneath the open sky, gazing up at stars unobscured by city lights.
“I am the one who splits in the night.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
What will I be?
I am old enough to remember “Que Sera,” to remember thinking to myself that it was a song of promises. I am also old enough to know all that I do not know, will never know.
These things I know: I will always be a product of the soil that nurtured me, which means that I will always be part of two worlds. I will be my father’s daughter, the good girl, the girl who could do anything, and I will be my mother’s daughter, the girl who was always reminded of imperfections, the girl who never knew how to do enough.
I have opened my heart to those who have trampled it and tossed it by the wayside carelessly. I have given my heart to those who have cherished it and held onto it with great care. I have learned to love again and again, and continue to be astounded at all that there is to learn about love—still.
I have bared my soul to strangers and friends, and I have found comfort in the arms of the unlikely. I have railed at injustices—real and perceived, and I have keened until I thought that my heart would break. I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and I have experienced bliss that left me breathless and weak.
A self-proclaimed curmudgeon, I am self-aware enough to know that at heart, I am a romantic. The complexity of all that is me still catches me unawares at times, as if this skin that I am in is new and untested, but that is hardly so.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams.” ~Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy
What is the point in all of this? Damned if I know. I suppose that once in a while I find it imperative to gaze intently at my belly button to try to discern if some pattern exists, and quite predictably, one never does.
At night, as I seek the comfort of my bed, no great truths come to me. No epiphanies lurk on the periphery of my vision. At least, not usually, and I have become accustomed to that. If asked to identify the meaning of life, I would be just as hard-pressed as the next person. I know only that I still have much to know, that what I know I paid dearly to learn, and that there are things that I would quite willingly unknow if only I could.
I cheat destiny when I can because I know what an exacting master destiny can be. As the song says, “it’s only half past the point of no return.” I have enough fuel left in me to continue this journey, and with luck, I may one day reach the point at which I become what I am supposed to be.
Until then, “the time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings” (Lewis Carroll).
More later. Peace.
Music by Pink, “Glitter in the Air”
Glitter in the Air
Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care”?
It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?
Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You’re whole life waiting on the ring to prove you’re not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?
It’s only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?
La La La La La La La La
There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar
Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?