Superhero

Are you guys watching The Flash?

You should be.  It’s our family show these days, as in schedule a time, everyone on the couch, riveted for 50 minutes.  Finally a show all five of us can get into at the same time.  It’s 100% satisfying every week.

The Flash has been one of my favorite superheros for a long time.  He has the perfect combination of naive idealism with serious kick-butt abilities.  He can run across water.  He can stop a tornado by running circles in the opposite direction.  He can turn back time and save all the universes.  You have to take this guy seriously.  But he never does.  (Take himself seriously, that is.) That’s the best thing about him.

Okay, enough fangirl.

Let’s talk superpowers.  When my kids were little, I used to say that if I could only have one super power, I would want it to be the power to instantly make anyone sleep by just touching them.  Yes, I was sleep-deprived.  But think about it. Someone is attacking you, and all you have to do is just reach out and touch them and they instantly fall asleep.  You tie them up and haul them off to jail.  No need for killing.  Plus, bonus, you can make small children sleep.  Parents would pay a fortune for this. You would be so rich. This is a very useful power.

Less of my life revolves around getting people to sleep now, so I’ve started to think maybe I could branch out a little.  These days Flash’s super speed is looking pretty awesome.  Think of how much I could get done!

My kids don’t agree, though.  The house is full of them, eight kids ages 2-11. (WEEK 2 of SPRING BREAK!)  Here are the results of my informal survey:

WHICH IS BETTER, THE POWER TO TURN INVISIBLE OR SUPER SPEED?

Invisible: 5

Super speed: 1

WHICH IS BETTER, TO BE SUPER STRONG OR TO HEAL YOURSELF?

Super strong: 0

Heal yourself: 6

WHICH IS BETTER, TO CONTROL ANIMALS OR TO CONTROL PLANTS?

Animals: 6

Plants: 0

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY SUPER POWER IMAGINABLE, WHAT POWER WOULD YOU WANT (AND WHY)?

5yo: For every animal in the world to like me. So if you were in trouble you could be like, “Hey, animals! Come help me!” And they would. Like how Toby [our beagle] is so good at balancing. So if I was falling off a cliff, I could be like, “Help, Toby!” and he would save me from falling.

6yo: Web-slinging, because it’s fun, but it would scare me to go really high heights.

8yo: To bring back the dead. Fully alive. So I could see great-grandpa and other people.

9yo: Mind control because I could make people do what I wanted them to do

10yo: Mind control [This came with an eye roll because I was taking her away from more important things.]

11yo: Time travel because it’s awesome [I suspect this had something to do with the Dr. Who that was being watched minutes before.]

What do we learn from this scientific research?

1. Kids don’t have any idea how awesome plant control could be. (But they would find out when their silly wolves and tigers were all tied up with vines.)

2. Kids do not have enough to do, as they still think being sneaky is more useful than being fast.  This makes me want to give them more chores while they are still visible and too slow to get away.

3. I need to make sure 5-year-old Lucy gets a chance to see Toby scrambling at the edge of my bed unable to jump up.  She seems to have an inflated idea of his skill level and usefulness.

4.  Don’t ask preteen girls any more questions than you absolutely have to.  It’s just a more harmonious way to live.

What do you think? What power would you choose?  Are there any totally new ideas out there?

I feel some superhero stories coming on.  I’m thinking these would be perfect to make up along with kids.  Grown ups supply the problems, kids supply the superpower fueled solutions.  I’m going to try it out today.  Who’s in?

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Under the Kitchen Sink

I couldn’t say what’s under there
Old mold? A hibernating bear?
It’s not well-lit. Pipes fill the air.
My visits there are very rare

If I need the special spray
I reach in quick and look away
The back’s not been seen since moving-in day
Whatever was there was there to stay

Except. Except there was yesterday.

Yesterday, my fears I hid
To set an example for my kids
“No job’s too tough!” “The grunge we’ll rid!”
(I hope there’s not a giant squid.)

I knelt on the ground. “In I go,” I said.
I looked around. Wait? Why the dread?
No insects, no growths and nothing dead.
Just castoff bottles and dog food instead

Why are all the fun terrors just in my head?

IMG_0626

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The Transport Room

I’m not much of a scrapbooker.  I’m not much of a souvenir buyer.  I take really awful photos.

I’ve traveled around South America, climbed volcanoes, touched down on Pacific islands, taken a swim in the South China sea.  You want to know what I have to show for it?  A handful of refrigerator magnets and a box with a collection of relatively worthless foreign currency.

There are several reasons for this, of course, but the biggest one is this:  I don’t really want to spend time thinking back fondly on old adventures.  I don’t want to sit and remember the places I’ve been.

I want to go there again.

If I really loved a place, loved an experience, loved the people I met, I want to revisit it.  I want to be a regular.

It hit me yesterday as the kids and I were sorting and reorganizing.  This is it.

Here you go, my real, true scrapbook:

IMG_0623Eleven-year-old me would have exploded to know she would live here one day.

All of my favorite places are here.  Here because I can glance over at them and remember, of course, but it’s way, way better than that.

This is more than a scrapbook.  It’s better than an airport.  It’s the transporter room of the frickin’ Starship Enterprise in here.  Walk to the spot, select the volume, open the cover, BOOM, you’re in another world.  Instant teleportation.

All of my favorite places are here.  Prince Edward Island.  Middle Earth.  Edwardian England.  District 12. Hogwarts. Arrakis. A little house in some big woods.

And believe me, I am a regular visitor.

It started when I was a kid.  I stopped by Avonlea for a quick visit, then ended up spending hours with its people.  When it was time to go, I wasn’t ready.  My feet walked around the real world of Portland, Oregon but my head was on a little island by a different sea.  So I went back.  Over and over again.

I would tear myself free from one world only to get sucked into another.  I spent a few weeks in Walnut Grove.  I liked how I felt there, braver and tougher and more honest.  I passed a summer in Camelot, where the world was noble and also dangerous, and I had to learn to live with heartbreak.

Then I found that I missed my old haunts, so I made a trip back through.  Everything was just as I remembered it.

IMG_0620My original portals to Avonlea and Walnut Grove.

I remembered my dad taking me to Middle Earth when I was younger, so I decided to go back on my own.  Nothing makes you feel like you can be better, do more, like a journey by Frodo’s side.  I probably made that trek once a year from 12 to 20.

IMG_0621Visits to Middle Earth took a toll on us all.

IMG_0622Fresh portals were needed for a new generation. 

Of course, I keep visiting new places.  Some are fun adventures I can recommend to others but feel no need to relive.  Some were a waste of time.  And little by little, new favorites have been uncovered.  Places of beauty that held me captive.  Places that blew my mind and demanded more time to process.  Places where I was so happy, I didn’t want to leave.   Those places all sit, lined up now, waiting for me to come to back.

As the list grows longer, the gap between visits lengthens.  I hadn’t been to Middle Earth for several years when I took my kids back this time.

It is strange and wonderful and a little wrenching to introduce them to the places that rooted themselves so deeply in my heart.  They have enjoyed passing through, but I can tell the place doesn’t mean the same thing to them that it means to me.  That’s okay.  They have their own places.  Hogwarts and Camp Halfblood and the town of Everafters.  This transport room holds their places, too.

There are a bunch we haven’t visited yet.  As we sorted through, ditching the places that weren’t worth a second glance and the adventures that fell flat before they began, we lined up the new ones we haven’t tried out yet.   Places yet to be tried.  People yet to be met.  What will we find there?  Who will we be there?

It’s when I realize I have a whole lifetime to find out that I feel as happy as I can feel.

 

 

 

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It’s On

feetonthegroundWinter is over.  The time for sitting and contemplating (brooding?) has passed.

It’s Spring.  Bringing with it (slightly) elevated temperatures and little bits of green poking through the ground and the sound of birds singing and SPRING BREAK.

That’s right, my kids are home from school for two weeks, and it just took me ten minutes to convince my 5-year-old to leave the room so I could type those three sentences.

That’s okay.  We’re ready for action around here.  We’re ready to tackle our spring cleaning and head outside to the park and then build up a fire at night to toast ourselves because in spite of what our winter-shocked brains tell us, 45 degrees is really not that warm.

We’re ready to do our story-telling on the fly.  To reminisce about the good old days as we clean out the library and maybe finally say good–bye to the tattered old copy of Hippos Go Berserk (or maybe not).  To walk through the woods and invent fairy stories as we go.  To break in the fire pit and have our first ghost story marathon of the year.

I am ready.  I am ready to strap my shoes on and clear the cobwebs out of my head as well as my house.

I’m shooting to keep the posts short during this break, but to write one every day.  I’m keeping my eyes open for the stories we find as we go, and then I’ll pass them on here.  Old photos.  New birds’ nests. Toys stacked up in the Goodwill bags and that dogwood tree making a valiant effort to thrive in a capricious world.

Meet you back here tomorrow.  Let’s see what stories we find before then.

P.S. Need a Spring Break book to read?  I haven’t finished it yet, but the biggest impediment to my getting things done this week is my desire to never put down this one:

13thtale     It’s a story about stories!  And it’s really wonderful in an old-fashioned, modern Gothic sort of way.  Want to read it with me?  We can compare notes at the end.  I’m reserving final judgement until I see how the story turns out.

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The Edge

edge

I like to sit on the edge of high up places and look out.

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to jump.

I’m not ready to die, and I know I can’t fly. Not yet.

When you look out at the world and you can’t see the ground, even though it is solid under you, you really experience the landscape.  You feel its vast openness and its wild untamed nature.  For once the air is as important to you as the earth, and the totality of everything is right there.

You know that feeling inside when you’re much too high?  Your stomach swoops and your heart beats insistently and your head feels like it belongs to someone else.  You are just a little out of control but very, very alive, and at least half of you is screaming, “Make it stop! Go somewhere safer!” but the other half of you ignores it, and the tension is exquisite.

That feeling keeps pulling me back to the edge.

I work at a tennis racquet factory.  It’s not an exciting job, but I have been there long enough to be moved into the quality control room.  It’s much better than last year’s job applying the paint and lacquer finish.  That required wearing a mask all day, and I still went home smelling of chemicals. All day long, I test a random sampling of racquets, putting them in machines, applying pressure, taking measurements.  It’s repetitive.  I have a lot of time to think about the balance of strength and flexibility.

When I was six years old, my grandfather died. I had never met him because on the day my mother married my father, my grandfather said he would never see her again.  He was a man who always kept his word, my mother said.  That is the only thing I knew about  him.

She took me to his funeral.  My father refused to go.  “He wouldn’t have gone to mine,” he said.  But she said nothing can ever make you stop being family, so we went.

I remember that everyone there was very old, and I felt shy and wouldn’t leave my mother’s side.  I don’t remember the service, but afterwards we went to the highest point in the city to release his ashes into the wind.  My mother, as my grandfather’s only child, went right up to the edge to open the velvet box.  I was afraid of heights, but I was more afraid of the crowd of wrinkled faces, so I went with her.  I watched the ashes blow out over the city.  For one second, closer to the edge than I’d ever been before, I felt what they must feel, drifting without any anchor, for one hour completely free from the earth before returning to it forever.

My mother looked beautiful in her black dress, standing there at the edge.  She stood very straight as she accepted the condolences of my grandfather’s friends.  Her eyes were sad, but she did not cry.  I was proud that she was my mother.

Later, as everyone was loading into cars to return home and go on living, I heard two old men talking.  The one said that he had been in the air force with my grandfather during the war.  They had jumped out of airplanes, parachuting behind enemy lines.

“This was a fitting end, then,” his friend said.

“No,” he answered. “He always hated jumps. Said man was never meant to fly.”

My mother took my hand.  I couldn’t tell if she had heard or not.  I looked at her as she sat next to me in the back seat of the car.  I wondered if releasing his ashes from up high was her idea.

I never asked, but I hope it was.

I’ve been seeking out edges ever since.

In the tennis racquet factory, there is a door that very few people know about.  It leads to a long set of stairs and eventually out onto the roof.  No doubt there is a rule against going through that door, but no one has ever stopped me.  I take my lunch up to the flat roof and sit on the edge, letting my legs dangle as I eat my cheese sandwich. There is nothing between me and the wind.  My crumbs blow away, going where I can’t yet go.

Sometimes when I’ve finished eating I call my mother.  She and my father have opened a restaurant, and she seldom leaves the kitchen before dark.  It is hard work, but they are happy.  This is their dream, something they have made together.  Something that won’t grow up and move into an apartment as I have done.

We don’t say much on the phone, but I know she hears the wind rushing past the receiver. She doesn’t mention it.  She speaks of ordinary things like menus and the price of fresh fish. I wonder if she knows that it is her voice as much as the cement I sit on that tethers me to the earth.

I’ve never asked, but I hope she does.

 

Posted in A Thousand Words, Family | Leave a comment

Truer Lies 

Colonel Jessup was right.  We can’t handle the truth.

We like some truths, of course.  It’s true that no matter how horrible winter is, spring always follows it. (Thank God.) It’s true that we live in a huge world full of beauty.  It’s true that we share this world with an astonishing variety of human beings and other creatures.  We are not alone here.  These are pretty happy truths, universally acknowledged and easy to accept.

But so many truths are much harder to face.  Reality is tough to swallow.

The truth is that we suck.  We’re all selfish and afraid and think ourselves way more important than we are.  We just do.

The truth is that the world is full of atrocity.  People oppress, enslave, rob, rape, and murder each other every day.

The truth is that the planet is indifferent to us.  Tornados, earthquake, hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards.  They just keep coming and there’s nothing we can do to control it.

The truth is that every single one of us is going to die.  Our lives will end, sooner or later, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Depressed yet?  Is it any wonder we mostly prefer to lie to ourselves?

We all know the extreme cases. Holocaust deniers. Schizophrenics. People who are convinced that Elvis is alive and they’ve seen him.

But we’re not that bad.  Not the rest of us.  We don’t go that far.  In fact, what we do isn’t even really lying (is the first lie we tell ourselves).  We just…spin.  We refocus.  We ignore.

“I’m not a bad person.  I had to do it.  If I hadn’t that person would have taken advantage of me.  We all have to look out for ourselves.”  True? True, but just because you aren’t rewriting the holocaust doesn’t mean you’re being honest about your own history.

“I am cautious and careful and wise.” True, but still avoiding a bigger truth. If I focus really hard on driving the safest car and taking the most expensive vitamins and keeping scary people at arms length, I can convince myself that I’m safe, that I won’t be touched by the tragedy that touches others.

“I’m so busy.  My work, my family, my charity work, excercise, shopping” True, and good for me for working hard.  What I’m not saying, though, is that if I maintain constant motion, if my mind is crammed full of the details of my life, then I don’t ever have to think about what’s happening to people outside of my immediate line of sight, and I most certainly don’t ever have to think about my own eventual end.

Does that seem too harsh?  I actually feel uncomfortable typing out the words.  Plain speaking is one thig, but this all feels judgmental and negative and really, how helpful is it for me to point out the obvious?

THIS IS WHY I TELL STORIES.

Unlike facts which are so useful for avoiding reality, STORIES ARE THE LIES WE TELL TO HELP US FACE THE TRUTH.

I don’t ever want to write a post like this again.  I don’t want to tell you that it’s easier to ignore reality than stare it down.   I want to tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a princess who reached the age that her parents decided she should marry.  Being a princess, she was naturally not allowed to choose her own husband.  A member of the royal family had to be suitable.  Her father chose a man for her marry.  He was a prince from the neighboring kingdome, the seventh son, so he had nothing to keep him in his own country.  A week before the wedding, the prince arrived at the princess’s castle.  he looked okay on first meeting, but over dinner, when she tried to talk to him, she realized that he was spoiled, arrogant and more interested in dogs than in people.  Throroughly depressed at the idea of marrying such a person, the princess went for a walk in the garden late that night, weeping.  Just as she passed the pond, she heard a loud croak and a frog jumped out from behind some bushes.  The frog had some vines wrapped around his head exactly like a crown.  Glad to be distracted from her own worries, the princess stared at the frong, thinking how mmich  like a prince he looked and becoming convinced that he must be one under a spell.  Believing that she could undo the spell by kissing the frog, the princess picked up his repulsive fat body, congratulated herself on being able to see past the external to his true heart, and kissed the frog.  Nothing happened.  She kissed the frog again, with more feeling this time.  Nothing happened.  She put all her heart and sould into it and kissed the frog once again.  This time, hating how hard she was squeezing him, the frog leaped out of her hands and disappeared under the bushes again.  With a cluck, her old nanny stepped of the shadows.  She had been following the princess, worried about her extreme sadness.  Now she realized that it was time the princess was told a few things, starting with the fact that the chief characteristic of frogs was that they were completely froggy (and also that they had a tendency to get tangled up in vines from time to time) and ending with the fact that when princes were kept at home with only dogs for company and given everything they ever asked for, they tended to be a bit spoiled and backward.  The princess went home.  She married the dog-loving prince.  They traveled, and he learned to be interested in a few other things besides dogs.  The princess found that she wasn’t completely uunhappy with him.  When the time came, they made a very passable king and queen.  The citizens of their country lived happily ever after, as they would never have done with a frog for their ruler.

Not the finest story ever, I grant you, but way more fun to read than “The truth is that we all are who we’ve been made to be and we may as well accept that other people are, too.”

So yep, I’m sticking to the storytelling.  And I promise the next time I mention the inevitablity of death, it will be a fictional character who dies, so we can all wear sunglasses and squint at it sideways. Some realities are too glaring to take in all at once.

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Friendly Advice

birds

There’s a bird that keeps circling around my head
I don’t know how to get rid of it
I’ve screamed and I’ve yelled and I’ve waved my arms
But that creature ignores every bit of it

No offense to you, friend, for I’m sure that’s annoying
But it’s hard to feel sorry for that
You could solve your big problem quite simply, you know
If you’d take off your birdseed hat

I, on the other hand, have a true worry
I have such a long way to travel
But my feet are so hot and the ground is so rough
That I’m fearful my shoes will unravel

Are you hot? Too bad you don’t have shade on your head
Birdseed hats are a good thing to choose
And as for your feet you are wasting time fretting
Just go take off those knitted wool shoes

 

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Monday Morning Treasure, the Real People Edition

Helen,JerryDale,GailandDuaneonhorsearound1950

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.
-Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

The stories being lived out all around me, the stories lived out in days long gone, they matter.  My life isn’t lived in a vacuum. On the contrary, every cell in my body is recycled matter.

I’m taking some time this week to feel my insignificance, my teeny tiny thread in the giant tapestry that is all of us and all of history.

With that in mind, here are some real people who are doing real things.  Their stories put little tendrils into my brain in the last couple of weeks, and I’m wondering if they’ll do the same for you.

  • Someone whose world view is divergent from my own, but whose mother heart is feeling its way through the darkness in the same way as mine.
  • Lola Akinmade Akerstrom: Her whole story is fascinating, but I can’t stop thinking about her words on adapting the pursuit of your dreams once you have a family. So balanced and wise.
  • Not everything you do has to change the world.  Sometimes a little chalk can be enough.
  • Over the Rhine never ceases to inspire me, and Linford’s take on the continuity of our stories is stunningly beautiful.
  • Most wonderful of all, our stories are still in progress, and every day is a chance to make our life a really good tale.
  • A Meditation on Pain.  This story haunts me.
  • And before you get too depressed, read this.  You’ll be thinking about your own beauty for the rest of the day. (Seriously. Just read it.  You’ll see what I mean.)

Okay, enough internet.  I’m off to to get all my work done so I can start reading Look Homeward, Angel again because Thomas Wolfe’s lush, gorgeous language is all stuck in my head now.  The man was a depressing lunatic, but he could do things with words that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  And yes, that’s a recommendation.

P.S. That photo up there is my grandmother, on a horse with three children, because WHY NOT.  Remind me to tell you bits of her story sometime.  In my heart, that woman belongs on this list. (Which is a high honor, but only click that link if you’re feeling brave and don’t mind a whole lot of foul language with your hilarious feminist sarcasm.)

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Harold Blight and the Third Door

Harold Blight was a sleepwalker.

As surely as every day he would wake up at 6:45 sharp, eat a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon on top, and dress in a crisply clean suit and tie, every night he would fall into a deep sleep at 9:45 sharp, get out of bed twenty minutes later, and unlock the back door to wander the darkness.

If anyone at the high school where Harold taught eleventh grade chemistry had heard of his nighttime ramblings, they would have been astonished.  Who would ever have guessed that the perfectly combed Mr. Blight had a sleeping explorer inside?

To be fair, Harold Blight was only vaguely aware of it himself. He often thought that he did not awake as rested as he ought from his nine hours of sleep, and once or twice he had been startled to awareness by some noise and found himself in his back yard.  So far, though, he had always been able to silence the whispering voice in his head suggesting that his life was not what it appeared.

It was only the aliens, then, who witnessed the extent of Harold’s adventures.

At first, watching him was only a matter of staving off boredom.  Studying the patterns of homo sapiens was fascinating by day, but at night most of them just lay around for hours and even the twenty-somethings that passed the night in bars or the teenagers that sneaked out their windows engaged in the most predictably boring behaviors.  Harold Blight’s nighttime journeys were the most interesting show in town.

Sleepwalking Harold was a daredevil. He liked to balance himself on fences and walk the length of them with his arms stretched out. He liked to climb tall trees and then leap from one to another. He liked to plunge into the nearby lake and see how long he could hold his breath.

Sleepwalking Harold was an artist. Three times he used his bare hands as the mud to paint a still life on the side of the Henderson’s shed. Once he used his old-fashioned push mower to cut an empty field into a picture of the president’s face. And nearly every night he found sleeping birds and poked them awake so he could harmonize with their songs.

The aliens never knew what the crazy man would get up to next.

It was the night he painted his face to look like a bird and then stood in the middle of the street playing chicken with the cars that they were first tempted to interfere.  Unlike fences, cars were deadly, and if anything happened to Harold Blight, the aliens would be back to drinking way too much zorlag at night to stay to awake.

Direct interference was forbidden, of course. You didn’t ruin centuries of scientific study just because you thought zorlag was ruining your health. But introducing a subtle change in the landscape would not alter history, or at least not enough to draw the attention of their supervisors.

That’s when Harold’s bedroom got a third door. The first door led to the hallway, of course, and the second to his neatly organized closet.  The third door led to an alternate dimension, where Sleepwalking Harold could explore distant universes in relative safety.

Sleepwalking Harold ran with herds of Paloxis on the wide open plains of Benarfa Faloomp, and Harold Blight wondered why his pajamas were covered with feathers. He exchanged his down pillows for cotton.

Sleepwalking Harold climbed the endless stair of the tower of Harnak Ratha, and Harold Blight had sore feet for a week. He went out and bought new Naturalizers.

Sleepwalking Harold flew through the rainbow tinted atmosphere of Haroliris, and Harold Blight couldn’t stop smiling for days. On a whim he brought home a dreamcatcher from the street fair and then hid it in his closet when his friends came for game night.

Sleepwalking Harold went through the third door every night while the aliens placed bets on his next burst of impulse, and Harold Blight went off to teach every day while the aliens took notes on his extraordinary denial.

Hypothesis were formed, controlled experiments conducted. A very well-received academic paper was published. A prestigious award was handed out.  Roasted Paloxi from Benarfa Faloomp was served at the reception after.

Harold Blight woke up at 6:45 sharp, shook the sand from his hair, ate a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon sprinkled on top, and, being careful of his sunburned neck, dressed in a crisply clean suit and tie.

He sang Beach Boys songs all the way to work and looked forward to 9:45 and another good night’s sleep.

 

 

 

 

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We Jump

But I still ultimately disagree with the concept of saving people from themselves. Individuals have the right to pursue dangerous activities, as long as those activities don’t affect the lives of people who do not wish to be involved — and that extends into the realm of activities for which the downside cannot be predicted.
-Chuck Klosterman (in The Hazards of Other Planets)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Mars One colony.  And yes, I know the whole thing is super iffy and there is reason to believe it will never actually happen, but the idea of colonists on another planet, not in the pages of a book but in the real world, captures my imagination, and I have the luxury these days of spending time with things that capture my imagination.

The thing I love about Mars One is the daring of the whole thing. Daring to say that such an incredible thing could happen and daring the world to laugh at it. I don’t even care if money is the sole motivator. It’s a gutsy move. And all those people applying to be colonists. Knowing full well that they’d be heading out on an expedition they’d never come back from.  Knowing full well they could die in some horrible fashion or (worse?) live a long time locked up with a bunch of crazy people.  Knowing full well that they could be mocked mercilessly if the whole thing turns out to be a ridiculous hoax.  I don’t care if they’re nutballs. It’s a gutsy move.

More people should be this gutsy.

superstars

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
-Helen Keller

I still remember the first real risk I took.

I was 22. Sitting in a black Ford Taurus, next to one of my best friends in the world, late at night. It was Halloween.  Deep breath. Pounding heart. Unable to bear the idea of just swallowing everything I felt and going home to bed, safe and miserable. So I said it. I hedged a little. I worded it cautiously. But I said it. I suggested that maybe, just possibly, it was time to be more than just friends.

Sixteen years later that risk is still paying off so big it’s hard not to be reckless every minute.

cafe

We are the curators of our own lives. Curators make choices. Like when I was 21, 22 years old, I was selling vacuum cleaners, and probably making $125 to $150 a week. But when an opportunity came along to act in a play in Hollywood making $50 a week, I took it readily. That’s a curator’s choice. I felt my selling vacuum cleaners wouldn’t do anything for me as an artist.
-Leonard Nimoy (from an interview with Esquire in 2013)

All art is inherently risky. I’m taking this part of myself and throwing it out there into the world where anything can happen to it.  It can be criticized. It can be mocked. Or (worst of all) it can be ignored.

Not can be. Will be.

We’re too old to go into this with illusions about that.

But I’m in a rare position in history and geography.  I’m here in a place where I am free to create. I’m educated enough to create.  I’m safe and well-fed and warm enough to create. I have all the tools I need to create. I have no excuses.

I will lay it out. I will tell stories that only a few will hear. (Not no one. Just not enough. Never enough for my fragile ego.) And I will remind myself why I do it.

I do it because I can.

I do it because I’m alive and because I want to keep being alive.

mountain“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

It gets harder to take risks as you get older.  Life has rubbed off your boundless enthusiasm and confident optimism.  Consequences are real to you because you have seen them and felt them.  More is at stake.  Those consequences won’t just be your own. Small lives depend on you.

But to stop risking is to stagnate, to cease forward motion and begin to circle. Any scientist can tell you that orbits are dangerous. A little bit of drag and your orbit decays, your crash is inevitable.  (Or what’s the better option really? Endless circling?)  Those consequences won’t just be your own. Small lives depend on you.

Not risking is not an option. Now we learn to risk differently. To choose our risks with open eyes, counting the cost. To commit ourselves to old-fashioned hard work, to following through, forcing the ephemeral into reality with the bleary-eyed doggedness of 5 am.

We dedicate ourselves to sacrifice our own needs to achieve our dreams and to never demanding that others sacrifice theirs. We take a deep breath and we accept the probability of failure. We stare it down and we plan more carefully than we ever have in our lives for how to survive it.

We hold our responsibility and our daring in constant tension and we hold on to each other to keep it from pulling us apart.

We choose our mountain and we climb it day after day. Hand in hand we approach each new chasm and, not daring to blink, we jump.

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
― George Bernard Shaw

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