One of my favorite writers, Esme Wang, was recently talking about something I think we can all relate to. She was having a good day at first, but later in the afternoon, she was going down.
Wang wrote that she hung a particular painting by her bed to remind herself of the better part of that dance. Of: “What could happen, when we are able to live, through no machinations of our own, and are capable of sensing beauty.”
Sometimes, I’m capable of sensing beauty. And it’s hard to describe, but it’s like Saint-Exupéry’s story – about how during some war, he was being held hostage by the other side. Afraid in this cellar, unsure if his captors were going to shoot him or keep him alive, Saint-Exupéry took a chance. He smiled, and asked one of his captors for a cigarette. As the story goes, this man got very uncomfortable, but he did give Saint-Exupéry a cigarette, and against all odds, the guy also attempted a smile. Of the event – the smile that saved his life – Saint-Exupéry wrote, “Real miracles make little noise! Essential events are so simple!” And I agree. Essential events are so simple. Like, my Dad’s hand under the seat of my bike when he took off my training wheels. Essential event – so simple. And when you know this, like when you can feel the weight of everyone who’s ever loved you, for instance, it’s like you’re facing the world in a different direction. Just like houses face east and west.
Say, for instance, it’s been years since you’ve been in love with someone. There was a horrible, traumatizing break up. It’s been years – months, days and nights – and you’re not even sure where to look anymore. And say, you go on a date, or you’re approached by someone in a bar, and they make you laugh. They say they’re getting a cup of water, and ask if you’d like one, too. The walls of the room fall away. Everyone else falls away. Time stops. Life just feels differently.
It’s a moment in which everything that has been dead for you, comes alive. Like you could die and you’d be okay with it. Like the tragedies of your life are removed altogether, like light on a shadow.
A few weeks ago, I called my best girlfriend from college and we caught up for about an hour. We talked about where we were and how we were. She listened and gave honest advice as I talked about my plans, worries and fears. And I listened as she talked about hers. The friendship she and I have is the no BS kind. The kind where you’d answer the door to greet her in a ratty sweatshirt with cake smears on it. The kind of friendship between two women, who have known each other for years, so long silences pass between the two of you with ease.
And talking to my friend, I remembered the road trip we took together to Kansas once – for the KState versus CU football game. I remembered yellow fields so flat, they seemed almost to dip down into the earth. I remembered a parking lot full of purple. I remembered the weather. The lighting and thunder that turned a black sky pink and purple with heavy cracks, and that as a Southern California girl, I had absolutely no frame of reference for.
I’ve found that, as I live my life, it’s like, Wang wrote: “I see and then I don’t see.” Like in the midst of standing in the airport security lines – as I walk under the train tracks through the drainage pipe with my shortboard under my arm – the spigot is either turned on or it’s turned off. I either see, or I don’t see. I either know that each day of my life is not just another day, but a gift – or I don’t. But this is such a beautiful season. One that I think we should sop up like bread with soup, and try to enjoy every second of.
So this week, I’m reminding myself of what can happen when I’m like this. What can happen when I’m capable of sensing beauty. Capable of sensing the beauty in my conversations with my friends and the warmth of my parents’ home. When I’m able to see how amazing it is to finally feel autumn in San Diego, not through the air, and not through the leaves on the trees, but through my feet, freezing on the beach, after getting out of the ocean. By surfing waves that are big, and fast, and that tear my board from my fingers while underwater, I give a little closed-mouth scream.
It’s almost the weekend, so happy weekend – I hope all of you have a good one.