Years ago, when the kids were little, Sam was out of town for the weekend. In the middle of the night, the phone rang. A man said “Laura?”
I didn’t recognize the voice, but half-awake, said yes.
The caller wasted no time launching into a graphic description of a particularly perverted sex act he was hoping I’d join him in. Freaked out, I hung up immediately, my heart pounding. What worried me was our house had no security system and this guy had called me by name, and since our listing in the phone book was under Sam’s name, the call probably wasn’t random. I also surmised he must be aware that Sam wasn’t home.
The next morning, I decided to call the police. I had one more night on my own, and better safe than sorry.
A cop came to the house. It was early, and the kids were playing inside. He took my statement, and in addition to the relevant details I provided, he wanted to know what, exactly, the caller said. I told him I’d rather not repeat it. He told me that knowing what was said, verbatim, was important if he was going to catch this guy. I could whisper it in his ear if I didn’t want the kids to hear.
Maybe I was intimidated because he was a police officer. Maybe he had me momentarily convinced that this made some kind of sense. Anyway, I whispered into his ear what the caller said, my face bright red, feeling like I was somehow working the wrong end of a phone sex line.
I never heard back from the cop. That night, I did what I would have done anyway; locked the doors and slept like crap. The only thing worse thing than the obscene call itself was repeating it, all the while knowing it would not in any way help my situation.
This memory surfaced this past week, with the release of the 911 tapes from the Newtown school massacre. Not that a horrific tragedy and a creepy obscene phone call are comparable, but both involved the pointless disclosure of information that serves no purpose except to satisfy curiosity.
We are, by nature, curious. This explains rubbernecking and the National Enquirer. While something positive might have emerged from Newtown - say, banning assault weapons- sadly, nothing did. Outside of limited legislation, there was no substantive takeaway. There is, however, lingering curiosity, which we indulge.
Repeating the exact wording of that phone call served no purpose. The release of those 911 calls serves no purpose. What we need to know is one thing; what we want to know is our native curiosity, pretending not to know the difference.
My yoga teacher says,
as we attempt a balance pose.
Much of the pressure we are under
we bring on ourselves.
She is right
proving her point as I
grit my teeth, willing myself
not to fall.
Putting pressure on ourselves
(as I, on my third attempt,
keeps us from noticing
the cage isn’t locked.
I think about this
from one steady leg,
and midway between
distraction and enlightenment,
I find balance.
One gift I seriously covet is the ability to sing. In my fantasies, I open my mouth and my voice emerges, clear and strong and pitch perfect. When I listen to those fortunate enough to be able to sing, I am torn between being transported by the beauty of their voices and uncharacteristic murderous jealousy.
Anyway, last night I had this dream that I could sing. Not passably, but like Mariah Carey meets Joni Mitchell (before chain-smoking robbed her of that extra octave) meets Sarah McLachlan meets Regina Spektor. In the dream, I wasn’t singing to a packed audience of adoring fans. I was alone, walking down an empty hallway, singing my heart out.
It was awesome. There was nothing flashy about the dream but it made me incredibly happy. In contrast to my waking life, I was just putting it out there, with no need for external validation.
I appreciate the reminder from my subconscious that dreams live and breathe (and act and write and sing and dance) in that moment of inspiration, and wherever that moment takes you. It’s not about the pot of gold; it’s about the rainbow.
This past weekend we watched a movie on Netflix- “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”. I don’t recommend it, because it was terrible. Not just because there is zero chemistry between Kiera Knightley and Steve Carell; not because it was set in what was supposed to be the New York metropolitan area, but every identifying marker screamed Greater Los Angeles. It was an awful movie for a whole host of reasons. The plotline, however, was intriguing. What if an asteroid was on a collision-course with Earth and we knew we had only a month to live? How would we spend the final days of our collective planetary existence?
According to this movie, it would seem that most people select one of four approaches: hedonism, total denial, praying, or planning/committing suicide. Hedonism is what gets the most screen time. One male character observes that the coming apocalypse throws women into sexual frenzy, since they no longer care about getting pregnant or contracting an STD. Speaking for myself, never mind the STDs, I would hate to live the last weeks of my life with even a simple yeast infection. It’s a totally off-base premise. What keeps us ladies from wild promiscuity is not fear of pregnancy or disease. The majority of us seek some kind of emotional connection when it comes to sex, as opposed to whimsically rutting anything that moves.
But I digress. The movie sucked, but it started me thinking how I might spend my last month before annihilation.
I looked at this list and I see why the makers of “Seeking a Friend” stuck to orgies and suicide. No one would pay to watch me take on a box of Q-tips, though I am sure it would be preferable to watching Kiera Knightley make that stupid pouty face.
Anyway, hypotheticals are one thing, and I can’t say for certain how I would really feel knowing the end was imminent, though I am quite positive about #2.
Life isn’t fair;
A notorious mobster disappears,
only to resurface
outside an apartment complex in Santa Monica
overlooking the Pacific.
Nineteen cold-blooded executions to his name,
good Samaritans are struck down every day,
changing tires for strangers on the interstate.
Life isn’t fair,
But the ocean is beautiful
and pavement hard.
the good Samaritans
aren’t keeping score.
Sometimes the things you feel most deeply can’t be expressed, or at any rate, I find I am unable to write about them. I think it’s that I lack adequate reflective distance; it’s not an intellectual undertaking, but an emotional one. My heart feels what it feels, but I can’t find the objectivity or detachment to translate my feelings into words.
What I want to say today could most accurately be conveyed by a primal scream, or maybe wailing. Silence would also work; I am imagining standing at the edge of the ocean in the rain. I had wanted to tell you about a gentle, huge-hearted man named Bob, who came into a family torn by loss, and over time, without fanfare, restored us, but the only picture I can paint for you today is an impressionistic one. In it, you will see mostly grays, but if you look way out, to a point on what looks like a horizon, you can see what looks like the sun. It might be beginning to rise, or set; that part doesn’t really matter. Anyway, that’s him. That’s Bob.
The Pilgrims had a lot to be grateful for that first Thanksgiving. For one thing, a reasonable number of them were still alive, and for another, the Indians turned out to be awesome neighbors.
Fast forward to today. Some of us steadfastly maintain their Thanksgiving traditions, while others, like us, fly by the seat of their pants. For example, since the girls and I are either vegans or vegetarians and Sam is not a fan of turkey, we won’t be serving it. In fact, as a general rule we have lost our appetite for stuffing (of the literal or figurative variety) and we have never been football fans. This year, Micah and Jake will be celebrating Thanksgiving with their California cousins three thousand miles away. The rest of us will be eating sweet potato soup and homemade bread and may go on a hike. It’s hard to find anything traditional in this, but today I was thinking about how even though we keep changing up the way we celebrate it, the essence of Thanksgiving has not changed since its inception.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful for safe passage. It’s about the nourishing fellowship of kin and kindred spirits, quiet reflection on our losses, celebration for our capacity for resilience. It’s about abundance sweetened by our desire to share it. It’s about a force greater than ourselves aligning with faith so strong that we are willing to risk all we know for what we believe.
Whether reflected in familiar faces or the faces of strangers, Thanksgiving is about seeing the world new and hospitable, and love, portable and enduring. What we share, the essence of Thanksgiving, is not about turkey, but gratitude.
People that build their houses inland,
People that buy a plot of ground
Shaped like a house, and build a house there,
Far from the sea-board, far from the sound
Of water sucking the hollow ledges,
Tons of water striking the shore,—
What do they long for, as I long for
One salt smell of the sea once more?
People the waves have not awakened,
Spanking the boats at the harbor’s head,
What do they long for, as I long for,—
Starting up in my inland bed,
Beating the narrow walls, and finding
Neither a window nor a door,
Screaming to God for death by drowning,—
One salt taste of the sea once more?
“Inland” is by Edna St. Vincent Millay. It speaks to creative nonconformists everywhere.