Beautiful Day

beautiful day


I looked up from the sandcastle we were building in our backyard.  We were both sitting cross-legged in my forest-green turtle sandbox; it was built for children, and my six-foot tall father had to place both legs on either side of the box in front of him in order to fit at all.

It was a bright summer day, the sun we both loved so much burning our faces bright red and giving me a hundred new freckles to match my favorite red dress.  I’m sure my father had housework to do and dinner to prepare, but I’d begged him to come outside and play with me.  Like he always has whenever I truly wanted something, he eventually said yes.

He looked up from the pile of sand and shovels in front of us, shading his eyes from the sun that was moving down in the sky slowly, positioning itself directly in front of him and right above my own small head.

“Yes, sugarplum, chicken-lips, kitten-nose, honey-bunch, sweetie pie, chicken-noodle nose?”  My dad had a hundred nicknames for me, always placed one on top of the other like a stack of Leggos just waiting to fall over.  It was a game we played – him listing silly endearments, and me laughing, telling him to stop.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?”

We are Infinite

we are infinite

From 30,000 feet in the air and rising higher every minute, I watched the world below me grow smaller.  I’d flown before, but somehow watching the highways and lakes below me shrink to the size of Polly Pockets make it feel new.  As though I’d never watched the world from this perspective before.

I watched the cars making their way down twisting highways that went on for miles, and I wondered which of them were going home, and which were running away from home.  I watched the lake that couldn’t have been more than a mile from the house in front of it, and wondered whether there was a teenage girl in that home who took her solace at that lake, because I know I would have.  I watched the football and baseball fields at the high schools below me, and thought of all the seniors who just graduated and are getting ready to leave everything they’ve ever known to start over at college.  I wondered whether they were excited, like I was, or terrified.  I thought of all the babies being born, and the 14-year-olds falling in love for the first time.  I imagined the old married couples who had been together for 50 years, and the young lovers planning their wedding day.

And I couldn’t help but think how amazingly endless humanity is.  How many possibilities there were on the ground below me, and how many incredible journeys we’ve yet to make.

Chbosky was right – we are infinite.

If I Had a Daughter

If I Had a Daughter

I always say I’ll never have children – I’m not the mother type – but sometimes all I can think of are the things I’d do differently. The things I would teach a little girl if I had one, the values I hope she would have, the things and people I’d teach her to believe in – the foremost being herself.

I would teach her about the miracle that she is, about al the little pieces and moments that had to come together just right in order to create her, and how perfect she is. That if even one step her father or I had taken had been left instead of right her eyes would not shine the way that they do, her hair would not curl at the ends when she wakes up in the morning. that every moment of my life was only ever leading up to her.

I would teach her that life is busy, but every moment is so important. That walking fast does not only get you to the destination quicker, it takes you out of the moment and away from the sunshine and the things that you are supposed to be seeing as you go. That nothing is a waste of time, not even lying in bed all day with a bowl of ice-cream and a good book if you are enjoying yourself. I would teach her to always try to enjoy herself, to listen to the music all around her and in her head, to pick flowers even when everyone else tells her they are weeds because their being weeds does not make them any less beautiful.

I would teach her to say “I love you” in a hundred different languages. Not just to the man or woman that she will walk down the aisle towards one day, but to her father and I, to her best friend, to a moment, to her kitten. Most importantly, to herself each night even when she things there’s nothing to love, because there is always something to love in yourself

I would teach her not to need anyone but herself, not even me or her father. I would teach her that nobody and nothing other than herself can define her. That the miracle of her life is all the meaning she needs, and the sound of her heart beating will always remind her of that universal truth. But I would also teach her that not needing someone is not an excuse to not want someone, and that she should never deprive herself of desire or love or hope. That the touch of another human being, of a mother’s hug or a best friend’s hand in hers, these are the things that make like worth living each day.

I would teach her all of the things that I am still trying to learn myself.

The Destiny You Met at Closing Time

The man you meet in a bar at closing time, your friend pulling you towards the door while he tells you how beautiful your smile is, is not your destiny.  No matter the almost-relationship that ended just hours earlier, or the fact that his hair is red and his eyes are making you pull your friend back towards the still-open-for-just-a-few-more-minutes bar.

The beauty you are seeing in one another’s faces is a reflection off of yourself, off of the beauty of this night, and the cool air outside, and your friend’s hand in yours pulling you back to a warm bed and birthday cake. You are caught up in a moment, in a feeling that you think you’ve been searching for all your life.  And there are 13 minutes until closing time.  Thirteen beautiful minutes until you have to stop laughing at jokes you probably wouldn’t understand in the morning and follow your laughing friends back to their house, too-high heels in hand because you just can’t walk on the cobblestone with them.  It is physically impossible at 2 in the morning, the late-April breeze in your hair and a warmth in your whole body that you don’t remember having felt in a while, to continue walking on the balls of your feet as you have been for the last five hours.

In that moment, with his hand reaching for yours and a smile that won’t fall off your face until morning, he may seem like your destiny.  You will see the life the two of you could have had flash before your eyes, and you will imagine that you’ve met your future in a college bar, the bartenders yelling for last-call in the background.

But he is not.  He is just a man in the bar, one who you likely wouldn’t remember if you saw him the next day and whose path you will probably not cross again.  He is a beautiful moment, a memory of the night you tasted life and love and freedom for the first time in what seems like forever.

The Ocean Inside of Us

the ocean inside of us

There is silence in all of us, in the space between the beats our hearts make, pumping blood throughout our bodies.  It is in the oxygen we breathe in, and in the carbon dioxide we release back into the world, our give and take with the earth all around us.

There is the silence we enforce, in 11th grade classrooms where students are taking the test they have been told can make or break their future, and in churches where we are told that God can only visit if we are quiet and listen for him to arrive.

It is in the convents where Monks have vowed never to speak again, the greatest gift they can think to give to their God, and in the voices of parents who realize that all the love in the world cannot reach their children’s hearts when they need it most.

There is the silence we wish we knew how to break, in the words we do not know how to say as much as we wish we had the courage to scream them for everyone to hear, and in the “I love you’s” we wish we could have said just one more time.  It is in the voices and hearts of 15-year-old girls who have just realized they are in love with their best friend, a sin in the eyes of their parents, even though fall in love while being wholly yourself is the greatest accomplishment of all.

There is the silence we feel while standing over an open grave, our hearts seemingly covered in the same dirt we are tossing onto the coffin that houses our loved ones, and there is silence when we are losing someone important to us not to death, but to our own stubborn mistakes.

It is in every kiss and in the moments we fall in love, and it is there again when our hearts break and we trade kisses for tears.

In September 2001, the whole world grew silent and held their breath while they waited for America to catch hers; and in May 2011 the world grew silent again when people all over America finally found their voices in the words their President addressed the world with, in the bittersweet victory they had been waiting 10 years for.  In the Vietnam War, John McCain and a fellow prisoner of war were punished for the silence they broke between them, trading taps on the wall that separated them from one another.

Silence can serve as the proof we didn’t really want, or as the doubt thrown upon a piece of history we don’t fully understand.  Historians use silence to suggest that something does not have enough historical proof, and parents use it to convey disappointment.  Prison guards use silence to break the souls of a convicted felon, and soldiers use it to break the faith of an enemy they have taken prisoner.

In some families, the silence is unbearable, a waylay between one conversation and the next; in others, it is a way of life, a family heirloom passed from one generation to the next.

There is silence in all of us.  In the same way that water makes up over 50 percent of our bodies, an ocean inside of us all, silence makes up 25 percent of our lives, a cavern of the words we never spoke.