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Posts Tagged ‘Alice’

Somewhere in the middle of adventure, a person begins to long for home.  Today, I wonder if I know what home is.

No, I’m not sad, nor being dramatic.  I merely find myself contemplative.  I think back to all the times I felt I truly belonged somewhere, some point or place or person when, where, or with whom I felt completely complete in my skin and in my spot.  I can tell you they may not even fill the fingers on one of my hands.

And yet, I am not worried or upset.  Rather, I find myself becoming quieter and quieter.

Tonight at dinner, I was perfectly thrilled to be tucked in the corner of a large party of people listening to tales of hockey, venture capitalism, explosives, television shows and ads, computer programming, and adventures the world over.  I feel as if I am soaking up their experiences, and they fill me from my ears down to my toes.

Every now and again, someone tosses a question or comment my way and I pay my portion by responding prettily, but ache as I worry that the lovely thoughts that travel through my mind might escape.  Then everyone will know, I have no adventures of my own…just lovely thoughts.

At one point, after my second glass of wine and begging off a third, the gentleman sitting across to my left asked what I was doing so quietly tucked in a different corner that morning alone at breakfast.

“Reading Emerson’s Essays,” easily slid from my mind to my throat and out between my lips.

“Really!” he replied, to which the table fell silent and looked at me expectantly.  “What does Emerson have to say of interest in this day and age of intellectual progress?”

It was as if I had been dropped into the Queen of Heart’s croquet game.

She was looking about for some way of escape, and wondering whether she could get away without being seen, when she noticed a curious appearance in the air: it puzzled her very much at first, but, after watching it a minute or two, she made it out to be a grin, and she said to herself ‘now I shall have somebody to talk to.’

“Actually, quite a bit,” I say, wary of myself.  “Quite frankly, I don’t think he would exactly call our current life ‘intellectual progress.’  Rather, he would more likely shake his head and ask us to think about what it is that makes us think.  I mean, really think!”

“What do you think about?” asked the gentlemen across me to my right.

“I think about people.  Their stories.  How they seek meaning.  How they avoid it.  How they find it.  I think of ideas.  Whimsy.  Science.  Art.  Logic.  I think about how everything in life connects.  I think about better ways to think, using the simplest tools around us.  Skin.  Scent.  Sound.  Silence…”

I shouldn’t have said it.  But I did.  And what followed was silence at the table.  But not in my mind.  Partly because I had said something that was now resonating in my brain.  Partly because I was simultaneously trying to read the thoughts of everyone in my party by the expressions on their faces.  I worried that perhaps I had reminded them of the Mad Hatter.

“More tea?” said a voice at my elbow.  “Oh, what did I do with your tea cup?”

“I’ve had none yet.” I said…

I giggled.

Immense laughter was building in my chest, rising to knock at the back of my throat.  I coughed trying to push it down, but now my shoulders were shaking.  I put my napkin up to my lips hoping that would stop the oncoming laughter.

“What’s so funny?” asked my friend to my immediate right with a twinkle in her eye.

“I was just thinking of Alice in Wonderland,” I said trying to regulate the laugh that was now banging inside me to get out.  “At the tea party, the March Hare asks Alice if she’d like some tea. ‘I’ve had none yet,’ she replied, “so I can’t take more.’ To which the Mad Hatter corrects with superb logic, ‘you mean you can’t take LESS; it’s very easy to take MORE than nothing.'”

The table laughed and easily resumed their conversations about movies, and work, and baseball…and I retreated back to the safety of my silent observing.  The car ride back to the hotel was mercifully dark and noisy as they continued talking about vacations and school and phone service and hybrid cars.

It was only when the subject turned to social media that I again felt myself being drawn down the rabbit hole.

“What do you think of all this ‘new’ technology, Monica?,” someone asked from the back seat.  “You won’t need to write letters and post them anymore!  Charming though it is.  Old fashioned, but charming.”

It was then that I felt like I belonged.  Right there.  In that moment.  Responding to that specific question.

“I disagree.  As we become a society connected by wires and radio waves, satellites and Skype…as we find our relationships moving into the air and on the computer and away from touch and eye contact, I truly believe it will be the handwritten letters, the in-person-shake-your-hand meetings and the gentle carresses of loved ones that become our most important and valued means of sharing information and making connections.”

My little speech hung in the air as we pulled into the parking lot.  And we all sat for a still moment once the car was turned off.

“It’s possibly already true,” someone whispered from the backseat.

For the first time in a long time, I walked into my coveted solitude and felt the immense space of my life.  I picked up my phone wanting to reach out to someone.  My brain gently commanded me to put the phone down.  I changed and climbed under the covers pulling all the pillows from my bed up against me as if giving my skin the touch it now craved.  I picked up my phone again, thumb hovering over a few keys that if pushed in sequence would connect my voice with another.  But again, gently, my brain commanded me to put the phone down.

‘I could tell you my adventures — beginning from this morning,’ said Alice a little timidly: ‘but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.’

And so tomorrow, I will be different again.

Life is a series of surprises, and would not be worth taking or keeping, if it were not. -Emerson

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Ah, New England…

I feel a sigh of relief, almost comfort, come over me as I enter this change of scenery, this change of thought.

I’ve never been to Boston, but as I was posting the news on the board outside my office that I would be living there for the next few days, everyone gasped (beauty-queen, wanna-be style, with hands instinctively flying to touch their chins which were dropping at the sound of the rushing air being produce) then absolutely gushed “YOU will love it there!”

We shall see.

I’m actually not sure how much I will see it considering it’s a working trip.  And my agenda is full.

But if the entry to Logan Airport across Boston Harbor is any indication, this is my kind of town.  From the sky it looked old, not dirty and run down, but aged.  Like a fine wine.  It looked cultured.  Brick, not a lot of flash, beach grass and lighthouses.  It looked smart, not overdeveloped or overplanned, but in the European–with a gentle curve as the fastest way from point A to point B.

The flight attendant, with her precise voice and attentive demeanor, took a few moments from her flirtation with the Harley biker sitting behind me to announce that we would be landing shortly.  Chairs and tray tables in the upright position and all that.  I somewhat reluctantly stowed my beloved Emerson in my purse to watch the landing, and instantly thought of Alice in Wonderland

“What is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations…”

To create them.

I’m reading Emerson’s essay, Experience, and it’s already surpassing my previous Emerson favorite, Conduct of Life, and proving doubly good as Self-Reliance–a classic.  My favorite passages from this essay have quickly become vivid portraits that danced across my mind as we flew above mixed white rows of clouds and snow-covered fields below.

Now, as we bank over Boston Harbor, the words–and images re-emerge as if meant to fill the span of my brain.

Our friends early appear to us as representatives of certain ideas, which they never pass or exceed.  They stand on the brink of an ocean of thought and power, but they never take the single step that would bring them there.

The airport sits at the brink of the ocean in a sheltered cove stationary despite its transitory purpose.  The water wraps around the precisely plotted patch of earth as if a shawl.  For some reason I think of my Grandma W____.  Always welcoming and warm, but stationary with a blanket across her knees as she listened to the endless drone of the police scanner, and knitting some beautiful blanket out of scraps of yarn.

I feel momentarily lonesome for her.  And wonder…I was never close to my grandmother.  She seemed always a bit standoffish, disapproving, proud, like one might imagine an imigrant with a past full of experiences straight from Kipling or Stevenson, but a silence like a survivor.  I don’t know why, but I suddenly want to curl at her knee and feel the warmth of her hand on my head.

The plane dips ever so slightly and Emerson pulls me out of my reverie.

A man is like a bit of Labrador spar, which has no lustre as you turn it in your hand, until you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep and beautiful colors.  There is no adaptation or universal applicability in men, but each has his special talent, and the mastery of successful men consists in adroitly keeping themselves where and when that turn shall be oftenest to be practiced.

Thus far, my view of the Atlantic has been one of silent steely tones.  Not smooth and sleek like I think of when I picture glass, or steel, but rough and textured like the horse-hair plaster wall in my living room.  Until the plane tipped just so. Then the gray gave way to jewel tones–purples, greens, blues, all of them sparkling with frigid wave caps moving in toward the beach.  Then the bank of the plane straightened out and the gray returned, just as quickly.

My stomach starts to tap on my mind, reminding me that I haven’t eaten all day and the change in pressure, the shifting of the plane’s vertigo and the increasing heat in the cabin are not friends of mine.  Just as I begin to worry, a bird appears under the plane, looking like a popcorn kernel bouncing in the heat, as it rides the choppy wind beneath us.

Emerson soothes me once again.

Like a bird which alights nowhere, but hops perpetually from bough to bough, is the Power which abides in no man and in no woman, but for a moment speaks from this one, and for another moment from that one.

How true that seems in everyday life.  Perhaps pronounced now only in this trip as the characters in my life story are new and fleeting.  The bus driver from the parking lot at CVG.  The flight attendant and Harley biker behind me.  The woman sitting in front of me who refused to change her seat to sit with her friend in the back of the plane, because she gets sick riding in the back of planes, the Bostonian gentleman who flagged down my cab and then with sharp accent and attitude told my easy-speaking Caribbean cabby how to get me where I needed to go.  I love these people for the colors they add to my painting.  And so Emerson whispers to me again.

Of course, it needs the whole society, to give the symmetry we seek.  The party-colored wheel must revolve very fast to appear white.  Something is learned too by conversing with so much folly and defect.  In fine, whoever loses, we are always of the gaining party.

I left Dayton thinking of events from my past six months.  They haunt me like demons, no matter how I try to fight them, plead with them, succumb to them.

I land with a feeling that only Alice or Dorothy Gale might understand.  Perhaps what they say is true about change of scenery.  I suddenly feel as if I’m about to “Concord” the world.  Even though this trip has been, thus far, like Emerson’s Labrador spar, or my ocean–choppy and gray with hints of precious treasure.  I hear Alice’s dulcet tones:

I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ … Ah, that’s the great puzzle!

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