Friday, April 20, 2012
Sometimes the Universe humbles me with its random endowments of unnecessary beauty. When again I have looked upward, bored, expecting to see the mediocrity of a sky cast in the usual tones of blue made dour by rain, the Universe occasionally surprises me with the lavishness of a rainbow. My breath catches as I am forced again to recognize that while this world may rain down hurt without so much as an explanation, it also invests its resources in the refraction of light that makes an arc under which we could imagine one could walk to another plane altogether.
I forget, sometimes, how I can be surprised.
Yesterday I was traveling to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference. A tightly packed plane ride taking me from Albuquerque to Atlanta had been survived without incident. I had walked through the Atlanta airport, passing trains packed as if full of cattle, miles of moving walkway and escalators as steep as fire escapes. Humans jostled one another, forced a shoe ahead to get one person ahead in line. Repeatedly, I was bumped and knocked. The rule of travel, it seemed, was every organism for themselves. Finally lowering my body into the seat of my second flight, bound for Dayton, and gingerly organizing my belongings about me, I extracted a fantasy book and prepared to cocoon myself in the world of demonic evil and tormented good, apart from the crush of bodies all around me.
"I think someone is in my seat," she said politely.
My neighbor and I looked up. A polite, composed woman with eyes accustomed to laughter stood in the aisle beside us. The man seated next to me was in the wrong seat. They switched seats and she sat down. She and I exchanged pleasantries as she got settled and extracted her own book.
"Are you going home or leaving?" I asked.
"I am going to this event called the Erma Bombeck Writer's Conference," she said.
Synergy. The rest of the flight was spent getting to know Nettie Reynolds, who was to be a presenter at the conference and the first one on my list with her presentation on blogging. We talked about the conference, about writing, about blog promotion. Nettie works with talented people—some of them incredibly accomplished musicians, artists, and business people to help them use web strategy to get their message heard. She is the source of a wealth of knowledge in the area where I am in sorest need. I absorbed all of this information with rapt attention, grateful that she should take the time to share it with me. Then we spoke the rest of the flight about raising children, about surviving divorce, about faith. We talked about things I rarely discuss with anyone, things I can't even write about.
Occasionally, you meet someone with whom you feel immediately comfortable, someone you know is already a friend before a friendship could reasonably have formed, before you can remember their whole name. I recognize this feeling from my writing. The reason I get up at 5 A.M to write every day, whether sick or well, is because as words spring from my fingers onto the computer and into the world, I re-create the world as authentic for myself. The little corner I have written is perfect for me, and I can inhabit it with my whole soul. It is wallpapered in Truth and decorated with Meaning. I took the real world and made it mine, with nothing but a thesaurus and the patience to re-work one sentence fifteen times. When I find a friend like this—whether old or new—it is like already arriving in a corner of the world made up just as I needed, with the wallpaper just different enough to be refreshing.
"How are you getting to the conference?" she asked me.
"I was just going to catch a cab, " I told her.
"Well, " she said, "They are sending a limo to pick me up. Why don't you ride with me?"
"Ummmmm....sure," I said. My ordinary ride is a 2000 Dodge Caravan with a cracked windshield and weather stripping which is falling off like the skin of a snake suffering from leprosy. A limo. Sure. I guess that would be fine.
Arriving at baggage with Nettie, she sweetly informed the limo driver that I would be riding with her. And then, up walked Karen Walrond. This was all a somewhat surreal experience. I follow Karen on Twitter and Facebook. She is this gorgeous, inspired writer and photographer who I discovered through her photographs of Jenny Lawson, with whom she is close friends. All of her subjects are beautiful somehow and infused with a sort of love that has always made me curious. How does somebody photograph people and have you feel that these photos are of their souls, not just their bodies? After spending the limo ride with her, I didn't have to wonder anymore. Karen obviously sees people as beautiful. Her demeanor is like the warm breeze that tells a seed it is time to waken. People, it seems, would come alive around her, ready to be seen for who they are.
I was in the presence of accomplishment and talent, so enormous it threatened to use up all the oxygen in the small limousine, and yet what I felt more than anything was the profound joy of shared humanity.
I am just somebody who didn't finish college. I have a hole in my sweater. I don't have any business cards. I am just the mother of three. I have made your coffee, waited on your tables and taught your children. I have never made more than eleven dollars an hour. I have fibromyalgia. I have a blog. I don't make a cent as a writer. My life is full of doctor's appointments and cat hair and the dust that collects in corners no one has energy to clean. Cracks form in the wood of our white trim and then darken with dirt. I came here because my father believes in me more than I could ever have begun to believe in myself. I came because I love to write.
Synergy. Sometimes, over and over, there is nothing but air and water and light. Sometimes there is rain. Darkness covers everything. That is part of the poetry of being alive—this sadness, this cast of grey, this separation of light from dark, water from air. But sometimes, just sometimes, drops of rain become tiny prisms, and we can see light shiver into color, its bend made visible to the naked eye, the stuff of fantasies. Sometimes we show up as our ordinary selves, with our low expectations and limited experience. We have never seen anything but Kansas, black and white as far as the eye can see, all we have ever known or felt we had a right to expect. And even so we walk right into Oz.
Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License