Category Archives: Memory
Just ashes and stale smoke.
Fire is this really cool thing that happens with wood and friction and oxygen. Oxygen is this weird thing that is supposed to be the air, but the air is really mostly nitrogen, so I have no idea why we keep giving oxygen all the credit.
What do you think of when you hear the word “nitrogen”? For some reason, I think of a balloon-shaped banana… and what I really meant to write was a banana-shaped balloon… anyway. I really ought not to think this, considering balloons have helium in them and bananas have potassium in them. I never was very good at chemistry, folks. The periodic table was as interesting as it got for me, and still I didn’t understand what I was doing.
That aside, fire is still cool, and I should really attempt to stay on topic. That is part of this exercise.
Now it is.
Fires can be built in all manner of ways, and everybody seems to have their own idea as to how they should be built. Put three people together to build a fire, and it becomes chaos, because they are all trying to do it three different ways, but nobody really notices, because of the whole “common goal” thing. But if one of you is leaning, and the other is stacking, and another is just throwing a bunch of brush together and staring at it for a long time, that is when it is time to name a leader. Unfortunately, everyone thinks his way of building a fire is right, so they try to hijack the project, and we’re just left with a bunch of egos pushing each other around.
It’s kind of a big mess.
And a really horribly accurate reflection on the world these days…
Nevertheless, somehow the fire gets started eventually. It was probably because one person, whose name may or may not have been Jessica, just decided to sit back and have faith that eventually this would happen despite the circumstances.
Many a night we would build a bonfire in the pit across the street from the farm. The area was tucked away in an old overgrown private golf course surrounded by woods full of Live Oak trees towering like pure-hearted wise old giants who would hold us and give us shelter for eternities if we only asked them. We would talk about life on the farm, laugh about the owners’ kids and their favorite word, “diaper”, and occasionally exchange stories about life before the farm, involving eternally famished pet pigs, “find the fire in the trashcan” games, and general musings about the days when everyone’s hair was longer.
Many significant memories and feelings are surrounded by images of the fire. A couple of times we kept it burning all night and managed to stay awake, catching ninth and tenth winds, musing philosophy. Many times we would do a fire several successive nights, starting it from the previous night’s red coals.
You all should really burn a pixie stick and listen to the sound of the falling melted plastic.
We didn’t always have fires in the fire pit. Sometimes we had them inside the old colonial-style kitchen. The space was big enough to roast a significantly sized pig in (which the owner of the farm occasionally did, actually), and the room had a crunchy, dusty smell to it. A few times we would go over to neighboring farms and have fires with the other farmers. Many musicians worked at Jonathan’s farm, so there was always an exchange of tunes, which seemed ever so much more haunting around the flames; at Chase and Charlotte’s, we’d hike through the woods and across the creek to have a big fire on the beach.
One night, everyone else was drunk and high enough that on that beach I taught them the “Single Ladies” dance.
That really does cause me to question my own sanity, when everyone else has to shove a bunch of substances into their bodies in order to reach that state I apparently exist in all the time; the state of whimsy, of low inhibitions… why people feel like they have to fill their lungs with smoke in order to see beauty in a thunderstorm, or feel the world is still a safe place.
And then what? When the substances aren’t there, existence is harder, and you just wait for a time when you can continue their consummation.
I do not wish to chide anybody; people I love are like this, and I still love them. I am just sad and I wonder at this sort of existence. It is very easy to embrace it to the extent that your mind mistakes it for heaven; the epitome of being. That is what I see in the eyes of every gambler in Vegas with a cigarette and beer in one hand and a slot machine lever in the other: this is all there is, this nothingness, and its sinister song is a never-ending siren’s melody.
Am I powerless to show anybody that it isn’t this way? That new life can be drawn from a simple walk down to the Mississippi to pick a flower and swing in a giant swing right over the water, watching the ships go in and out? Would anybody believe me?
It was a strange sort of normal seeming transition for me to go from sleeping in a tent every night for four months to go back to sleeping in a bed. The first night it was okay; I slept like a little rock and woke up on my back, and surprisingly every inch of the aforementioned posterior was touching a section of bed. But after that, the wonderfulness of the bed wore off and I started to sleep horribly. The bed was too squishy. I could feel all the squishy parts of it all over me all night.
It didn’t help that there was a cat walking all over me…
Wait a second.
There were cats at the farm, too.
The thing was, I was at a farm. Now, when you think “farm”, you probably don’t think “living in a tent.” And if you do, then you’re really awesome. If you don’t, that does not make you not awesome, it just makes you a normal person who goes about life assuming that the other parts of the world that you do not see are a certain way, which is NOT TRUE GUYS. But since you assume that anyway, you probably think that “farm” means “cows and roosters.” Which, incidentally, were also a part of my stay. I don’t know if you would assume I would be sleeping in a house. I mean, there was a house there, but it was not for me to sleep in.
I slept in the house once, because I was sick and the family who owned the house and the farm and whatnot decided that I should sleep inside in a real bed so I could get a better night’s sleep and heal faster. It worked. I was in Louisiana, but even Louisiana has cold winters, especially when your only source of heat is yourself and hopefully your blankets are insulated enough to help you keep your own heat to yourself.
|This is actually another cat from the farm, Cheddar Blossom|
Even though the night was supposed to be comfy, and it was, there was a cat. The farm owned four cats, along with some strays that still ate the food, and one of them was in the house all of that night. She came into the room and happy pawed my face and then slept on my head. I don’t know why she couldn’t have just slept beside me or on another part of my body, but she was this particularly strange calico named Two-face who was kind of whiny and had lots of fleas and gained weight around her stomach only, so we kept wondering if she was pregnant, but then she wasn’t, because her stomach size fluctuated by the week and she never… well, anyway, that is pretty irrelevant.
In the really early days they put me up in the bunkhouse over the colonial-style kitchen. That was cold, too, but the cats would usually sleep with me, so I wasn’t too bad. Everyone was jealous that the cats seemed to like me best. They said it was because I have a calm nature. I didn’t know I had a calm nature; I feel pretty… I don’t know, over-active in my head, and I very often have trouble sitting still. But, I guess, I do not really get strung out or stressed… definitely not as much as some people. So I suppose that is what they meant. How nice of them.
After three weeks, I determined to move out to a tent.
Actually, I determined after the first week, but it took me two more weeks to actually get around to it.
I waited till this girl named Marlee left. I then took her tent and the book she was reading and her muck boots. She was aware that this was my plan, so I exaggerated it to say I was taking her identity and soul too, so she would know that I really wasn’t eagerly counting the days till she left. Fortunately, she wasn’t one of those serious, sensitive girls who can’t take a joke; Marlee was a really cool girl. Her hair was a little longer than mine and nearly as curly, so I kept observing her hairstyles so I could follow suit once my hair grew to that length.
Marlee walked with quite the swagger, and for about a week of wearing her boots, I felt compelled to walk the same way. But then I got my own swagger when I started having this Christmas song in my head that I can’t remember the name of which compelled me to do a kick-march sort of dance through the rows of kale and feel like I should apologize for singing Christmas songs. I did for a bit, but then I decided that this was a favor that nobody in the world deserved, especially if they thought they did. I have a right to sing any song I want to at any time, right? Right.
Marlee’s tent actually belonged to the farm. It was a happy yellow Junior Scout tent that I had to sleep diagonally in. The first night I slept in it, it was a low of 20 degrees, and I think I woke up every time the temperature dropped, feeling my bones shrink and maybe crack a little. It didn’t help that the evening prior, I had drank a beer and eaten some beans that had not been soaked long enough, so I was extremely gassy. Imagine how it feels to have gas freezing inside of you.
I felt so accomplished after my extremely cold night in my tent. I could do ANYTHING. And I still can, but at that point, I really could.
Upon my return home, I kept waking up thinking that I must be at the farm, and finding – lo and behold! – I am not.
And, most of all, I kind of want to go back to sleeping on the floor, or pitch a tent in the back yard. Apparently my mom is all for the latter.
I sit at the dining room table in the Hawthorne Hostel in Portland. Dudes in the parlor are playing French songs on the little guitar and waiting to leave for what must be an epic Halloween party – in a different way than the epic Halloween party I am going to… but we all celebrate in our own ways. I flew in a few hours ago, having spent many long hours in airplanes sitting next to nobody, next to a professional dancer from Philly who would rather dance than go to school, and a short and stout man, who was very nice, but took up considerable room which I felt I had more right to occupy as I had longer legs.
364 days ago, I was basically doing the same thing. Granted, I sat next to different people, got in earlier, ate dinner somewhere else, and I was here with 16 other unschoolers whom I was going to spend the next month living with on the coast. It is coincidentally strange that I should be here so close to that same time. Or is it?
I’m going to see some of those people on this trip, actually.
Now all I am struggling with is the fact that sleep beckons most heavily.
I have decided to turn my novel into a nonfiction information book. That is, I am writing a nonfiction information book this November instead of a novel. BUT ISN’T THAT SAAAAD!??!? It’s quite tragic. I wanted to write a novel. I have been waiting for months. I have planned out stuff. I roped other people on this trip into writing novels with me so we could write together and I wouldn’t feel so unsociable. And now I’m throwing all of that away. WHAT am I thinking? Well… I am thinking that it would be more worthwhile. And that I could do a novel later.
Except that is so sad. Really sad.
Maybe I will think it over once more? I mean, after all, I signed up on the website and everything. But… oh, gosh. I am such a wishy-washy person.
A guy working on re-doing some bathroom here sounds just like the camp director from where I worked over the summer. It’s strange. But they are definitely not the same person.
I think I just need sleep. It’s late on the other side of the world.