Apr 10, 2017
I want to write about the quality that the air has in my memories, that the sky has. It's a washed out blue, kind of smeared, blurry, as if you were looking into the distance and squinting from the sun and not concentrating on the edges. The sun lends a orange tint to the air, like the flesh of a nectarine just around the pit. A little too sweet to bear, a little too bright to see.
Were walking through a parking lot, shaded by eucalyptus trees overhead. I can hear the occasional crunch when I step on a leaf. Koalas like eucalyptus trees, I thought. They're both from Australia. I imagined koalas up there now, climbing through the trees. I imagined them talking to each other.
My dad had a poster on the wall of his study, "Earth Day '92". That was where we were going. The poster had a tree, with ribbons dangling from it that were being woven around by bare-breasted dryads. It felt scandalous to me. It was something my mom would've told me to turn away from, like when she would gasp and say "ahhh, close your eyes" at the sex scenes in the b-rated horror flicks she was so fond of.
The field is wide open. To me it stretches forever. I've never been so happy to run, laughing, chasing Matt. The sun opens up the sky; it's blue, a deep blue, spotted with perfectly white clouds. My dad looks for a place for us, squinting against the sun, cupping his hand over his eyes like a visor. I always liked when he did that. He had so many tricks. Like when he would cup his hand underneath the water in a pool, thumbs together and forming a tight seal, then bring them out and squirt. Or the time we were camping near a hot spring, and there was a black rubber tube laying next to one of the pools. What is that for? "There's a trick", he said. "If you connect the tube to the river with no air in it, the cold water will flow from the river into the hot spring. It'll cool it down." My eyes widened. He knew so much about the world. And there was so much to know.
The food stands at the edge of the field appeal to me with their bright colors and geometric forms. They're like houses from a cartoon world. There's something magical about their strange simplicty; they have a perosnality, they feel like characters to me.
As a child everything became a character. Everything seemed like it had its own spirit, its own mind, its own feelings. I used to watch the rain droplets course their winding paths on the car windows during the long, silent rides with my dad. I would stare at them. They seemed like creatures to me. Look, a big one just chased down and gobbled up a smaller one. Then he too, kept moving, winding his way towards the edge of the window.
Sun and rain. They seem to pop up in my memories, like overarching themes in a novel. Lately I've been called to the sun; just a few weeks ago it was the rain I noticed as a recurring motif in therapy. I wrote at the time:
We're in a car, and it's raining outside. But it's not dark, so we're just washed in a gray blanket of fog. I can hear the pitter patter of rain on the windshield. It feels scary out there, but it's warm in the car, safe.
Is that a memory? More like a melange, a mixture, a chain of memories smeared into an image, into a feeling. I feel myself kicking my legs against a car seat, but that can't possibly be right. I can't have memories from that young, can I?
Love is always patient, always kind... that was my mom's favorite bible verse. It hung above the stove in our kitchen, sometimes lit dimly at night by the oven light. What was it for her? A refuge? A rock in stormy seas? My heart opens now when I think of it. I can just barely see her when I close my eyes. I mean see her, see who she was. That's lost to my adult self. All the mistakes, all the anxiety, all the money problems, all the guilt trips - I can't open myself to her any more.
But now I'm flooded with compassion. I see her putting on that deep, ochre red lipstick before church, ironing our clothes with curling pins in her hair. We'll sit third row from the front, just behind Justine like we always do, until it's time for Matt and I to go off to the children's bible studies.
I just catch glimpses of her at the edges before the door shuts for me. She was so young. Can you imagine? Trying to make it through this world? This world with its cruelty, its heartlessness? With no help, no one there to guide you, to lead you through dark times? That was why she needed church so much. That was what she found there. People who were willing to help out, lend an ear, donate food, watch her kids while she cleaned a house for extra cash.
Sun and rain, sun and rain. In San Francisco, where I live now, the two are intertwined, one never far from the other. They're opposites contained in each other, opening up in each other. They're forces that move through us, that cause those those old memories to stir, to brew below the surface and course through our lives.