I’ve been feeling the weight of the world lately. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, just honest. I’m down about the way the United States has handled Covid-19, and it’s frustrating to see – again and again – how some people value personal autonomy over collective health and well-being. Our lack of leadership is astonishing.
And this morning, I was mulling over how corrupt the Roger Stone situation is; there’s no reason why he should get away with what he’s gotten away with, after being convicted. It’s just yet another example of this administration’s self-interest, in the desire to pit us against one another, all the while seeing how far they can take this corruption without consequence.
Anyway, I have lots to be grateful for – and I am – but I found myself sort of fighting that stuff today. I also found myself thinking about words. My whole life, writing has been a path through my emotions towards a place of greater understanding, but lately I haven’t even really been able to write. I feel out of whack, and so I thought maybe a list would be a good way of getting some writing done, while still allowing for the limits I find myself experiencing these days.
My list for today? A few of the places I’d like to go, if time travel was possible.
1. My grandparents’ apartment in Galveston. It was often so hot and humid out when we’d visit that we’d stay inside. My memories are of the cool, dark living room with the formal down couch that invited napping, and my grandmother’s shelves of paperback biographies that I liked to thumb through, learning about Lauren Bacall and Rita Hayworth in the process. My grandmother had small figurines of dancers that my sister and I would gaze at, choosing our favorite ones over and over, and an old-fashioned timer in the kitchen with three conjoined vials of sand that indicated either three, four, or five minutes. My siblings and I would race them, not realizing the numbers were written on top. The apartment was calm. Now, living at the ocean, I wonder if the peace I find in large bodies of water was founded in that air thick with the Gulf of Mexico, how it would find its way to keep the bathroom towels damp after hanging, just as mine are never fully dry now.
2. My other grandparents’ house in Austin. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to live close to my grandparents when I was a child, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve come to appreciate that gift. Their house was clean, quiet. I liked to lay under the piano in the living room, where the carpet was cream-colored and plush, and I liked to go outside to see my grandmother’s flowers and my grandfather’s vegetable garden. I remember small details, like laying with my cousins in my grandparents’ wide bed, and my grandfather’s tooth powder in his bathroom, and the way they kept extra cans of food in the closet in the twin bedroom, so-named because of the matching twin beds with blue coverlets. The pink bedroom, with the window seat and the feminine touches, was the most special room, but the kitchen – spotless and yet humming when my family was there – was my favorite.
3. This is an odd one, but sometimes I return in my mind to a hostel in Switzerland where my friends and I stayed. Erin and I had been traveling together for a couple of weeks by then, and we’d just come from Florence where it was so hot that the chocolate we kept in our hostel-tent melted every day and firmed up again each night. We met another friend in Switzerland and it was such a joy to see him. We got doner kabob for dinner and stocked up on gummy bears, and the three of us sat on the balcony of our room and talked late into the night. There was rain, and after the heat of Italy, it felt like a deep relief to be somewhere so easy, and the hostel was oddly deserted; I don’t know if we saw anyone else there at all. I remember parts of that summer as an awakening, and I remember other ways in which I held back, and sometimes I want to return to those days and do them over again, for the beauty of them and for the things I now know about how quickly our lives fly by.
Does it help to have wanderlust for the places I’ve already known, to long for the moments that could never be repeated? I’m not sure if that part helps very much, but what does ease my heart right now is allowing myself to dive into them for a moment, to recognize what joy I have had. I know that there are places and moments now – even just my walk down the street a moment ago with my dogs – that I will long for in the future; I know that appreciating them in the moment is the trick.
Thus, it’s worth remembering: as all of these places exist in my memory, so too is my current moment, my house, calm and quiet. It’s just me and the dogs here now, one lamp on as the fading light of day filters through the last of the open blinds. I hear the clothes dryer going, and I’m thinking of a snack: fresh strawberries from a farm down the street. The berries are flawless, ripe, and sweet, already cut and waiting for me in the kitchen.
And with that, I have to admit: I feel a little better than I did moments ago. Again, perhaps as always, it’s writing that brings me home, regardless of what the world tosses in my path. Maybe I’ll do another list soon, of something, of some part of me, of some of the wonder I have held.