Wednesday, March 12, 2008

endings and today

after a great weekend in colorado, attempting to ski in breath-taking craggy mountains (i actually skied fairly well, but did not, unfortunately, rock the all-white snow ensemble with a faux fur vest and black skis that i had always dreamed i would wear when tearing up the slopes) and eating delicious food and spending some really wonderful time with a really wonderful family, i return to santa barbara only to feel a bit let down. disappointed. sad, really.

do you remember going to summer camp in junior high or high school? church camp, more specifically - you have a great times, make new friends, flirt, swim, and connect in deep ways with God and others as only a bunch of prank-playing, goldfish-swallowing, sunburned 14-year-olds can? and then, you take a bus back over the flat wisconsin highways, your surroundings becoming more and more familiar, until you collect your belongings (which could take hours, given the haphazard way the hundreds of suitcases and sleeping bags were strewn about the gym entrance), get in mom or dad's car, and wave goodbye to your new friends. Wishing that it was next year already, wishing for another day of jumping off the docks and standing on chairs while you sang and long conversations with heretofore strangers about the nature of God's love for us and knowing that you can change the world.

that's how i feel - at the end of most every trip, these days. well, every good one. i get nostalgic and wish that i could turn back the clock for just one day; wish that i could recapture that feeling; that indescribable, i-am-on-vacation-and-carefree feeling; that connection with place and time and others. sometimes, i think that i am most truly in the moment when i am away from my ordinary life.

so, yesterday, thinking about all of this in trader joe's, i decided to buy myself some flowers - ranunculus (is that the correct plural form? ranunculae? ranunculi? ranunculuses? . . . i bought myself many a ranunculus. ranuncula. hmmm.....), which are so fun-looking with their paper-thin petals, which look as if they have been watercolored with shades of berries and the sun and sunset magentas. then, i went on a run in my neighborhood. i feel badly for anyone who doesn't live in santa barbara - really. my god, it is SO beautiful. as i ran, i noticed every house up and down every street, and how different they all were. how each one has a story, from its inception, up through this very moment. how people make those stories. the mountains were a dusky purple - the color they turn just before sunset - and flowers were literally bursting into bloom. huge clumps of wisteria over arbors, yellow buttercups springing shyly from the ground, honeysuckle more fragrant than any perfume, and my body, running forward and up and down, that could propel me forward and take in all of these sights and scents and could deliver oxygen to my muscles and sweat to cool me and take in air.

forgive my run-ons; it just struck me that all of this was nothing short of a miracle.

and it helped me, for those moments outdoors and for the rest of the night, to live a little bit more in each moment - to be grateful for these trips and journeys (while still allowing nostalgia its place); to acknowledge the goodness of all different places and people while simultaneously recognizing the beauty and sacredness and infinity of this present moment.

so, that helps me through the sadness of endings - a vacation ending, a day ending, a chapter in life ending. not all at the same time; not all now, but they have and will come. as the wise men of semisonic (flashback!) remind us:

'every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.'

(an aside: i just finished the bell jar and found it to be less depressing than it's made out to be. just really self-involved. which i guess is a certain kind of depression. but, would very much recommend the books tweak and beautiful boy; the story of a son's addiction to crystal meth seen through his eyes (tweak) and his father's (beautiful boy). really well-written, both of them, and thought-provoking and interesting and touching - and a different experience to get to read about the same events through two very different lenses. who doesn't love a good drug-addiction story?)

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