When I was a little girl, my eyes were flicking around at the breathing of the world.
I never glanced at things, wondering if they were relevant. Every cloud, every rock I saw, was like I was seeing it for the first time. I sat on my family’s first rod iron fence hugged in by an air pummeled with desert flowers, and I watched hot pink bleeding into the sky.
Mystery was just a curtain’s pull behind everything. With each basketball dribble, a spurt of possibility was pounded out. Everything was easy and it was magic. I wanted to fly, and meet Santa Clause, and eat the world because it was made of sugar. And it’s not the state of things that has changed. It’s I – with my big brain and mature heart – who has changed. And I think maybe if we try to pull a reverse of a Benjamin Button – we’ll live better. We’ll see things better.
So sometimes I forget about the Sistine Chapel. I forget about Stonehendge, and that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, but now Starry Night is worth $100 million. I forget that humans blink 28,000 times a day, and that my heart has been ga-guh, ga-guhing for over 26 years. I forget how many people I’ve loved and visa versa. I forget the book-drunken life – swinging tree to tree in Tarzan and then drinking whiskey with Hemingway. I forget to see things. To pay attention. I forget how everything is part of everything else, and how miraculous the world is. And the soul soot is why.
So if I could knock the soot off my soul? Give it a good, hard shake – I might be willing to do it all over again. A second round of Natalie Holtz with her college English classes and skiing fiascos. Except I’d want Beyonce’s body and my face. And if we could X all those ambulance rides, too, that would be killer. But no seriously, if I could do a Super Nintendo-style reset for my soul that would be uber-coolio.
But since I’m not God or David Copperfield and I don’t have a real-life reset button, I just try to think about what’s beautiful in the world. Truth is, literally everything is interesting. And that’s my own little soul cleaner.
Thinking on these things, the miraculous unveils itself. The North star shines bright in the African sky as I decide that my father is actually the best man in the world. I am standing on skis again with a wind burned face, and a mountain range opening up beneath me like it could just crack open and swallow the world. The thing is – life is beautiful in a million different ways, and you can’t clump it all together like it’s all the same thing. But sometimes it’s the things we take for granted that are the most beautiful.
If you’re lucky, and many of us are – there are people that love you more than their own lives. They know each of your likes and dislikes. Every birthmark, every freckle. They’ve met every boyfriend or girlfriend that’s cycled through. So when you crumble into their shoulders, thinking something is the end of the world, they see a baby bottle in your mouth, and they know you won’t always feel this way. In the future, they’ll pour the champagne into paper cups when your baby is born. They’ll watch you from a pew – with every other person you’ve ever loved – as you wear a white dress. A veil fastened into your hair.
It’s like trying to swallow the sun – to summarize what I’m grateful for and why I think the world is beautiful. To give you a corner of a 1,000 piece puzzle: my Mom still grabs my face and kisses me on the lips like I’m a little girl. She rubbed my head with acid as she killed me and my sisters’ lice bugs – us three perched on the couch, plastic bags wrapped around our heads, like inmates being processed for jail. She’s always been there, and how we love one another – how pieces of ourselves float around in other people – it directs me back to the truth of things.
Ray Bradbury said once, “You can only go with loves in this life,” and Bradbury’s zest for life was shooting out of his pores. Always. Ping, ping, ping – he’s dead now, but you can watch his interviews, and when you do, his enthusiasm hits you, and he makes you feel like you want to live for a million years. That’s exactly right. But sometimes I forget that. How sweet and amazing life really is. How anyone who is able to see the world as it is – instead of through the goggles of their own inner worlds – is learning to live appropriately.
To me, that would be my biggest accomplishment. Being interested in everything, and waking up every day, rushing to get to work. I can’t imagine living better than that. Loving the world and loving what you do. But both of those are also the biggest challenges I will ever face. If I try my best to do those things, I think I can put my head on the pillow and sleep soundly. I think I can die without regrets, and that’s the way I want to die. I just want to try to see things with the right goggles on. Each day better – each day with better eyes.