Come, lay on the grass with me. Let us look up into the sky and name the clouds.
Let me see through your eyes for awhile.
I was walking across the parking lot the other day, toward a Whole Foods. A bald man with a Dakine hoodie walked the other way toward me, holding a sandwich and laughing.
The distance between us collapsed and he looked at me, still grinning and amused. When we passed, I smiled and asked:
He responded: “You must be thinking that I’m really hungry, to start eating my sandwich while walking to my car.”
The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.
So, I had to laugh with him.
Crossing borders can be uncertain. You might find a used condom under a bed in a hotel on the Ethiopia/Kenya border, or you might not almost be let into Syria because you put ‘news assistant’ on the customs form (thank you, stranger, who somehow convinced the custom officials to let me in after an hour of discussion. The official ripped up the form and instructed me to put “secretary” on it instead).
Or, it might be reaching your hands to the windshield and yelling “First to Missouri!” or “First to Washington!” in triumph as the car passes over an invisible line.
There are liminal periods and transitioning places and collaboration around borders too, such as the town Kanorado on the edge of Kansas and Colorado, or Calexico near California and Mexico.
We all know borders are arbitrary, constructed to create order over open lands and along rivers.
Our internal borders are arbitrary too, ones that we build from our past to identify ourselves and categorize our lives.
But, they are there for a reason. Perhaps it is so we can cross them.
My name is Kimberly Jane Bowker. I am 31-years-old. This is who I am:
Sitting on top of big-ass sand dune, on a log, my feet stuck into the sand and jean cuffs rolled up. Lake Michigan stretches before me – a lake that looks like an ocean.
I climbed the dune under clouds. Light beams through holes onto the water
A woman in a vacant parking lot below feeds bags of cheap white bread to seagulls. The grey gulls flock around her, their voices contending to be noticed.
It’s like the people who feed pigeons at Trafalgar Square.
I want to feed them too. To be in the middle of it, to be in that.
I descend the sand dune in deep strides, and ask if I can join her.
She hands me half loaves of the bread. I tear the slices into pieces and throw them. Some are thrown closer – to the patient and quiet gulls – and then high to the ones who are flying and who catch the crumbs mid-air.
The woman feeding the seagulls wears a shiny necklace, black slacks, and a nice purple shirt. Her thoughts do not come out conventionally: the policemen are damn assholes. They took her car. She wants to sell antiques. The man she married (whom she shouldn’t have married), cut her head. That’s shit.
I don’t know why she feeds the seagulls. She didn’t tell me, or maybe she did and I didn’t hear.
But I am here. Someone, just now. Here, in the middle of it. With someone else.
Until, on a whim, I stop and sit. The green willows shudder into a moving painting, there is the sky, a duck laughs loudly at something, somewhere.
I turn around and read the plaque, like one that is on so many benches.
“A Place in the Universe, At a Moment in Time. L and L Read.”
And this is the view. It was maybe a space of pause for a couple during evening walks, or perhaps it was the favorite spot of someone who died, or maybe one day something big happened here, or not.
But – looking at the view – I knew it to be true.
A place in the universe, at a moment in time. That is the only thing that is real. It connects us all, beautifully and effortlessly.
A place in the universe
At a moment in time
At half time, during a college football game, a jewelry store sponsored a competition for a free ring. Two couples competed. The man would run to the woman with a large cardboard ring around his waist. When he approached his mate, he was supposed to take off the ring, put it around her, and don another round cardboard ring around himself. Then they would run to the finish line together in their large cardboard rings.
One man booked it across the field. When he reached his partner, he flung the ring off him. It flew away and she had to run to catch it and put it on. He took off without her. When he realized she was not by his side, he reached out and pulled her to him. Her ring fell off, but they kept running, his eye hard on the finish line.
The other couple was slower. They stayed together, helped each other, and ran across the finish line, second, but both complete.
The couple that came in second won the actual ring, because they both crossed the finish line wearing the cardboard representations. The man that wanted to get there first, who wanted a specific result so badly that he sacrificed the experience, did not get what he wanted so desperately.
What a lesson in relationships for me:
It’s not about speed or reaching an outcome quickly.
It’s about slowing down, being mindful, and taking care of each other. It’s about enjoying the run – together.
A few weeks ago, my laptop was stolen. Someone had busted the back window of my parents’ new car, reaching in to efficiently search and retrieve my laptop.
Surprisingly, it was ok.
No, I did not password protect my computer (which I suggest to everyone now as a reminder). I lost five years of my writing, of academic work, of work work, of deeply personal journals, and a digital lifetime of photographs. Yes, I had backups, so all was not lost.
Just a computer,
to someone who needed it more than I. And, to someone who might find something in there that they need, too.
Because the universe works exactly as it does. Thank you.
I am poised to write – ready to go with a blank page and a blinking curser. But, what to write about?
The possibilities are endless. I could write about the long tongue of a giraffe curling around a leaf of lettuce held in my hand, or the dangerous seductiveness of a Midwest thunderstorm, or the masterfulness of Truman Capote.
There is the image of the Taj Mahal to describe, or the space of the Sahara, or the expression on someone’s face when something bad just struck.
I could write about the mosque alarm clock I bought in Syria that brought back childhood memories of a friend who brought the exact clock to show-and-tell, or how my boyfriend found three ticks on his body yesterday after we went shooting and I am worried because I found none, or how my mom just sent me the new Coldplay CD.
There is the meaning of life to embrace, the urge of not residing in the moment to contemplate, the fear of losing control to consider.
I can write about the gratitude of waking from a bad dream, or the shame of accidentally pushing a toddler in the sand as he cried reaching toward his mom, or the relief from taking a deep breath – accepting that what happened was true, and that I can live with it because I will.
There is the warmth of the sun, the healing of a drop of Neosporin, the truth of a smile.
The possibilities are endless.
On the last day of my thirtieth year…hmmm…I woke up, dealt with insurance, took Big Dog on a walk, dealt with insurance again (then again), heard the thunder, cried with it, made a Yumm Bowl lunch, went to the store, went to David’s Bridal to pick up a bridesmaid dress, and now I sit here – writing.
Around the days celebrating our birth, we can feel reflective – what composed the last year, what emerging intentions we might have for this new beginning. Lest we forget, there are always new beginnings.
So this last year – thirty – was an amazing year. It wasn’t the easily AMAAAZING year that we sometimes have, but it was true and enlightening and funny and hard.
The fall bulged with colors on our street – red and green and yellow – mixed with sweat and the fading sound of cicadas.
Thirty, for me, culminated in a Midwest winter with North Winds and crazy amounts of snow. It slapped me in the face – wake up – she said – I did this so you don’t have any distractions, so you can face what you need to face in exposed cold.
And I did, and I still am.
The ice gave way to spring – to green everywhere. Then twisters (change) and fireflies (magic) and wheat (acceptance).
If anything, on the even of turning thirty-one, this last year was a year. It was a big year.
Today you were far away.
The evening was warm. Weathermen threatened thunder and storms, but the sky was partly cloudy and let the sun through for the show.
What could I say.
Honkers flew above the stage. The sun set in pinks and the night slowly poured over.
Tonight you just close your eyes.
The heart broke open, as it often does on a daily basis. The singer hunched over the microphone after swigging from a bottle. A light glinted off his glasses, broken strings of a violin bow swayed in the breeze, strangers moved together: today.
Hey, are you awake
Yeah I’m right here
Well, can I ask you about today?
(See About Today, The National)