Thursday, July 21, 2011

shore to shore

Because I think that when I think of the world, and I mean the whole world, like one of those maps spread out over the family room floor or a globe that glows from inside out, then the continents are like slices of earth as if someone took a cookie cutter and cut these chunks out and dropped them, floating, onto that big blue surface of the ocean. And when you reach the edges they drop off into nothingness. Here's the land. Here's the sea. Here's the line that divides them.

But I can't think that because I've sat on beaches in so many different states, different countries. I've sat on that line that isn't a line, half on shore, half in water, being pushed up and pulled back by waves that will not be contained. I've watched the tides flow in and rush out. I've touched that line, ran it through my hands, come away with shell fragments, sea glass, and scratches. This is land and this is sea. Come back tomorrow and it will have changed.

Because isn't everything like that, in a way?  You can't say this is where one thing ends and another begins. Our brains aren't quilts made by ten-year-olds with scraps of torn up fabric stitched together, plainly obvious when one thing switches to another. Our lives aren't pinstriped and painter's tape. We're blurred.

You're sitting on a beach right now, on that ever-shifting line. What do you think about that? Can we use this to describe everything? Because we're all here, in this world, living about our lives, experiencing the what sometimes seems so random ecstasy and melancholia that inhabits the human experience, trying to make sense out of anything, trying to be what we can. And when we're making rules (we call them laws because we'll always pretend to be grownups even when sidewalk chalk and fruit snacks haven't yet lost their luster), we forget that there aren't these cut and dried categories that people and places and thoughts and being fit into. You're not in this pit or that one. You're somewhere in between along with the rest of us, and we're all looking around, hugging our arms around ourselves, scared to death to be found out that we can't fit, we don't fit, we won't fit, into that perfect mold labeled "expectation." I'm sorry, but I don't. Because I'm nineteen different people and they're all flooding together, like wave upon wave upon wave, hitting that line, forcing it back and then forward and then back again.

You know when you cross a state line and you wouldn't know that you'd crossed it except for that sign and suddenly the speed limit's changed? Blink, and you'll think you're in the same place. But told that you're somewhere new, you'll think you're there. This is coming off so much less profound and important than it actually is in my head. Because maybe that's the one jagged-edged cliff that stays constant -- the eternal wall between the messes of thought and putting them down into something concretely comprehensible for the rest of the world to relate to. Because I swear we're all quite the same, living as well as we can, trying to line up our lives that are not made of straight lines, panicking when nothing goes quite to plan.

Scattered and more scattered. Like sneezing. Like running away. But you'll always leave a trail.

Perhaps a great adventure is in order. Perhaps the great adventure will be different than I see in my head, with less backpacking around uncharted jungles and more sitting in coffee shops, writing letters.  Because these are the small things that make life livable, worth something, original, mine. Because this life is mine. And I'm living it for me. And coming into the very solidly comforting knowledge that I do not want to be anyone else.


Words and words and writing and reading and book buying and sometimes page numbers are the only definition I can see in my life.

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