Tag Archives: adventure

Resurrection

6 Apr

Yesterday was Easter. As someone who know longer identifies strictly as either Catholic or nondenominationally Christian, the day does not hit my life as hard as it used to, back when Easter meant something like bunnies and chocolate and uncomfortable pretty dresses, weeks of waiting and a vague feeling of having made it somewhere when the trumpets played during the very last song, adolescence and jeans and strangled, crying prayers and final, desperate relief at sunrise. There was victory to it, back then.

There is some misgiving around it for me, now. I can look on it as a part of my family history and my life narrative, but not longer a part of my personal legacy. There would be less truth about me, if I went and sat in an Easter pew, now.

I am glad for those who can celebrate Easter with no taint of regret or guilt or hate or distrust lurking in the low notes of those Sunday hymns, whether the tinges be from wider eyes and disillusionment or vision shut down from hatred of the part of the world that isn’t you.

I belong to the former category. It’s a long story, but mostly boils down to my refusal to accept that what a group of arbitrary essentially-white men decided together in a randomly located room before the microscope was anywhere near invented is absolute truth about the universe at every single moment in time.

Call it doubt. Call it skepticism. Call it science. I don’t really care. It is where I am at, and I do not feel the need to try to force anyone else to try to be there. I claim no label because I do not presume that I know enough about the universe to say that yes, I am capable of finding absolutely the right one and yes, you should absolutely use it too.

I am not a god. I am not even a physics nobel laureate.

So instead, I have settled loosely upon allowing Shakespeare to describe my doctrine, with that Hamlet line, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Science revisits and retests and grows and revises itself. Discards and discovers. Describes everything with an ever-expanding vocabulary. And as someone who grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, who grew up writing sci-fi and fantasy, I am willing to clinging to a last little bit of hope that there’s some kind of magic out there, in this very wide place of existence.

Maybe it’s a network of universal consciousness. Maybe it’s a god. Maybe it’s the ridiculous self-trick that is the human mind, the reason that while I claim no religion I will still pray to the God that I muttered tearful little prayers to as a child because sometimes it’s nice to pretend that someone like that is maybe still listening.

Or maybe it’s just gonna be more science being really damn cool.

Whatever the case, yesterday was a day about celebrating resurrection. And even as the lovely little heathen I have become, I too could appreciate that feeling of a breath of fresh* air as a tomb opens and something you thought was dead walked out.

In my case, a character I spent five years writing and whose dead horse I thought I’d thoroughly bludgeoned beyond any future salvageability just up and showed up in the back of my mind and started talking and generating plot and apparently having a story again. And she’s not a character I’d heard from in a loooong time, outside of edits for that infernal manuscript of hers I swear I will finish cleaning up this year and finally send off into the vastly frightening, teeth-gnashing world of oh god please traditional publishing agents take on my book.

This character – Mariasa – she’s the closest analog of me I have in a character. Sort of. I’ve written short stories where the MC’s were also me, in some way, but I tended to be more self-aware about that. I wrote the short story because I needed to fling my emotions or my imagination into some other scenario so they could sort themselves out there. Or I was just playing pretend in words. That’s what we writers do, you know.

But Mariasa – I started writing her story when I was 14. I wasn’t super conscious of what I was doing, within my writing. I was just doing it. So I went along for about five years, pouring dreams and hopes and personality and adventure I couldn’t extract from my own life into this character. She was my soul, out having another life somewhere. And I didn’t realize this until about three years after I’d finished that first draft of her story. There is a line, in my development as a writer. “Before the time I realized that I’d used parts of real humans to shape many of my characters” and “After the time I realized that many of my female MC’s were basically alternate versions of me and that oh god so many of the male protagonists are based off of a certain guy friend and I should probably go smush my face into his and see how that goes.”

Ah, college.

Anyhoo. Mariasa. She lived in my head for so long. I would sit at my windowsill with my notebook in my lap and my dog at my feet and I’d loop the same 40-minute CD for hours and stare out my window at the world beyond it and it was really only a matter of how fast I could move the pencil to keep up with how fast Mariasa was traveling across her own world having adventures. She was the story I could just sit down and write. No writer’s block. No uncertainty. I’d sit down to pick up where I’d left off and suddenly have a backlog of five more scenes in my head that I needed to move Mariasa to. She was my great story.

And then I finished it. And I was 18, and my world and mental health simultaneously started to crack. Probably causative, that. But this meant that for five more years, Mariasa’s story stayed ended. I got stuck in this endless loop of editing. Because of course it was never good enough. Fix it. Fix it. Fix it. Grow into a different person with altered values and more knowledge and greater exposure and fix it again.

Over. And over. And over again.

Locked into a life structure of my own where I come up against the same brick wall again and again and locked into an editing loop where I’ve continually tried to smooth over the same set of passages while repeatedly stalling and not getting any further, I’ve been frustrated with the staleness of the same words and the same sort of life I’m writing them in, and I’ve been at the stage of “I just want to finish the damn thing” for a while now.

And then I went to Europe.

There was a lot of fresh air in Europe.

Mariasa’s story is one of adventures. I went out and had some adventures. Parts of me long quiet woke up again, and the other chatter that’s routinely bounced around in my mind and made it impossible to be properly productive, properly imaginative went silent. There was room for the quiet little voices in my mind that murmur about adventure to wake up again. I guess it makes sense that Mariasa would wake up, too.

And it’s a desperate relief, this resurrection. Because it means a part of me that I thought might be dead forever is coming back to life. Or at least did long enough for Mariasa to come out of whatever tomb in my mind she’d been hiding in.

She’s older now. Which is good, because it means that she’s grown. She’s got the light I build her character from but there’s spark to her now, too. Less worried about “good,” more able to make hard decisions. But still, as always, caring really damn hard.

She’s slipped on her sweater and the first pair of shoes in reach. She’s ready to go into the world again.

I’ve started her story – not sure if it’ll be a short of a full-blown novel as well, but I’m letting her decide that. This isn’t a story with an agenda. This is just a story.

Mariasa woke up. Apparently we’re going somewhere.

———–

*Okay, I know any air coming from a newly unsealed tomb around the time of Jesus would have been anything but fresh. Whatever. Pretend it’s the shiny Hollywood version. We’re talking metaphors here. Deal with it.

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Adventure In The Great Wide Somewhere

7 Mar

I have always wanted a Tardis. I have not always known the name for it as such. But to see all of time and space – and, if Dr. Who is any precedent, to have uncountable many adventures while doing so – is what I have, and will always, desperately want. I want it so badly it hurts.

But I was not always a Whovian. The seat of my yearning was not always a mad man with his box. No, my wanderlust came with other names – a wardrobe, a letter upon my eleventh year, a snag on my finger in the bookstore with an oath to follow, unicorns with amulets, wrinkles and tesseracts. My mind has always been an amalgam of Ella’s who have more adventures than their Char’s, Wilma’s who make incredible wishes, Sara’s who create kingdoms out of attics and words and poverty, Mary’s who find gardens tucked away in, well, space and time.

It’s always been books, of course.

Sometimes people seem to think that books make people sedentary dreamers. Perhaps this is true, for some. But for me, all it did was make me yearn for adventure in the great, wide somewhere.

I’m going there on Sunday.

There have been so many, many times in my life when I’ve had the thought, “I wish I could do [something].” But there’s always a barrier. Time. Money. Health. Sanity. Money. Energy. Money. It’s hard to make our own adventures in a world where experience belongs to the old and expediency to the wealthy. It grinds a bit, settling for the smaller scope and pretending you feel like you’re doing something more. There’s always that answer to keep us in our place, “Now’s just not the best time.”

I’ll just wait until things in my life become more certain. Then I’ll know better what I’m dealing with. Then I’ll be able to better move around the pieces.

This is reasonable. This is good. This is clear, logical, totally appropriate thinking.

But I personally realized that unless I was suddenly very, very lucky, I was never going to go anywhere. There was never going to be a “best time.” There was probably never even going to be a good time. I wasn’t ever going to be able to have it all. I was going to have to risk something. I just needed to figure out what I was willing for that to be. Money. Job security. Time. Not feeling alone. Absolute certainty that everything would work out.

Adventure means risk. You’re going to have to be willing to lose something. That’s what all those books I read growing up had shown me, right? You want the world. What are you willing to give it in return?

Sure, adventures aren’t inherently about taking stupid risks. I mean, we’re talking about my wanting to go exploring, not saving the world from the forces of evil. I can at least make the risks I take calculated.

And so I am. Five months ago, I saw something that I wanted. A bookstore. Of course, a bookstore.

In Portugal.

But… it was the bookstore, in a way. We’re not talking corporate white walls with B&N logo slathered everywhere (though B&N is lovely and I buy books there and that’s all well and good). We’re talking… well, we’re talking about that library that Belle found in the Great Wide Somewhere. Bookshelves on the scale of glory. Red carpet and graceful bannisters and dust hanging like history in the light shafts, giving the place an irrefutable air of magic and tales as old as time.

It’s called Livraria Lello, by the way.

I found the place while doing random internet browsing. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular. I was just flick flick flicking, procrastinating my time away while breathing between grad school apps.

And then there it was. The most beautiful, magical bookstore I had ever seen. Because it looked like the one I had grown up dreaming about. The one that I had always, always wanted to be real.

It was a bit like finding a wardrobe.

But… Portugal. That was so far away from ocean-locked United States. It would be soooo expensive to get there.

Sigh. Put it on the mental docket. “Places I desperately want to go before I die.”

*PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC*

YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT AND EXPECT TO ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO EVER GO THERE!

Holy moly, Anxiety Man! You’re right!

Sometimes my mental demons have a point. Knew there had to be some kind of reason I keep them around.

So. I sat there, staring at my screen. Doing some calculations in my brain. Thinking about time and energy and money and certainty and dreams.

And I’m going to Portugal tomorrow. And then France a few days after that. And then a few days more and I’ll be in Ireland, where I’ll be volunteering with that project I’d wanted to be part of since something like a month after I left Burning Man. The one about art and community and fire and redemption.

You know, things that sound like magic.

I am going adventuring, tomorrow.

Sneaky things, Tardises, when they go looking like plane tickets.

Totally Not The Season (i.e. “Christmas Monster”)

21 Sep

Today has been a day of adventure and art and literature and yearning ’round all three for me. I was in Santa Barabara, California as part of a spontaneous road trip with two of my best friends. It was incredibly sunny up in SB – so much so I was worried for a bit that I sunburned during our stop at a gloriously human-vacant beach – so it really didn’t even feel like fall, let alone fast-encroaching winter. But then my internet wanderings meandered me over to an illustration by the fantastic Eric Orchard that he called “Christmas Monster” (not currently featured here because of lack of explicit permission to do so). And the artwork – the storybook quality of the illustration, the whimsical subject matter, and the flat-out wintery snow – well, I ogled it all, and out popped a poem.

So, here you are. The totally unseasonal narrative, “The Christmas Monster.”

(Inspired by this illustration by Eric Orchard)

The Christmas Monster

There is a Christmas Monster in the sky
who once a year comes down the hill
and makes the fluffy white snow fly
and frost above the sill.

The Christmas Monster in the sky
bites his lip and sets to work
knowing soon the time is nigh
for the elven cirque.

The Christmas Monster ‘bove the hill,
if you ask a jolly ride
then in his sleigh he’ll with a thrill
tuck you by his side.

Then off the Christmas Monster flies,
sending all ‘round the snow
and a tinge of red on nose
and that glimmer, in the eyes.

Other Worlds: the Galapagos Islands

7 Apr

Ecuadorian flag island pic

Before I left for the Galapagos, I’d decided that when I got back, I was going to write a novel about it. Something with conservation and evolution and a plethora of landscapes. Something sci-fi with the Galapagos as the basis for world-building. It was to be a novel rooted in the fantasmic biological complexity of life. It would feature land and sea and maybe even air as homes for its characters. I was going to call it Other Worlds. I had most of the vague notions for it swimming around in my head. All I had to do, I thought, was go to the Galapagos, actually see and explore the islands, get their dirt under my fingernails. You know, go visit and so solidify my understanding of the place.

Ha. That, lovely readers, was quite a misguided notion.

Jeff leant me his underwater camera for one of the snorkeling trips. I'm kinda in love with the footage I was able to get.

Jeff leant me his underwater camera for one of the snorkeling trips. I’m kinda in love with the footage I was able to get.

I have now gone to the Galapagos. I saw, I explored, I got so much dirt under my fingernails. I swam with sea turtles, I paddled a panga through mangrove swamp, I even climbed volcanoes! I watched the mating dance of the blue-footed boobies, saw flamingoes fly, shared a rock with a marine iguana pile, and got bitten far too many times by fire ants. I was a voyeur to lava lizard courting, I learned how to distinguish the invasive from the native guava, I watched two frigate birds joust above our boat and shouted in delighted surprise as a manta ray jumped from the water and managed three flips before crashing back into the ocean. I counted rorqual whale spouts, chirped at ground finches, and can now tell the difference between a’a lava and pahoehoe.

All that, and the list isn’t even half done. And yet after nine days in the Galapagos, I know that while my understanding of the islands is certainly greater, it is by no means more complete. Definitely one of those “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know” kind of things. I was constantly overwhelmed, in the most beautiful and wondrous of ways. There were times I actually felt like I was giong to explode from the sheer amount of coolness around me. The perpetual flow of strange and interesting and beautiful and curious and dangerous – I’m seriously flabbergasted as to how I didn’t just pop.

“Other Worlds” would certainly be an apt term for a book shaped around the Galapagos. My conception of the islands was completely blown apart by going there. On a map, the islands look so tiny. Barely even crumb-sized, next to the giant swatch of continental pizza that is South America. (I swear I’m not hungry. I seriously just ate. I have no clue where the food metaphors are coming from…)

Here, I've provided a handy figure for you.

Here, I’ve provided a handy figure for you.

Sure, I didn’t get a chance to visit all of the islands (oh, don’t worry, Galapagos 2.0 is totally already on my to-do list), and the islands I did explore were some of the larger ones, but still – the Galapagos islands are freaking hugeIt’s absurd, the amount of diversity, of flat out differentness (shut up, differentness can use fake words instead of their real versions if I want to) present on one island. At times, if I hadn’t known we were just visiting a different side of the same island, I would have sworn we had to have gone to another island. Another latitude, actually. There was no way we were at the same place. For example – lava fields, forests of Palo Verde trees, desert landscape where frigates nested among dry bark and cacti… all on Santa Cruz. And then there’s Isabella, where one half of the island is an expanse of miles and miles of uninhabited desolation, and the other half of the island is tourism central. Kitschy souvenir shops, cheap bars, untended trashcans and litter along the road… Really, the sense of complete separation of the two terrains speaks to how well the park officials and naturalists are doing at keeping the junk of human existence out of the National Park land. It’s not even a policy of “pack in, pack out” – because there are some items you just aren’t allowed to pack in to begin with. No gum, no liquids other than straight-up, plain-ol’ unflavored water, no food of any kind whatsoever, prepackaged or otherwise. Wrappers, foil, plastic – any chance to leave trash behind is almost completely eliminated.

Almost completely. Unfortunately, there was still the occasional stray chapstick cap or dropped pencil (yes, I did backtrack a quarter of a mile to retrieve a pen I’d lost; don’t worry, the pen is now safe and sound back in my apartment, not leaching chemicals into Galapagos soil or anything). Any time we did encounter an errant invader that we couldn’t reach to clean up ourselves (some trails are covered by a boardwalk), Ernesto, our naturalist, noted it so that he could inform the park officials that removal maintenance was required.

Trail maintenance! For the tortoises, of course.

Trail maintenance! For the tortoises, of course.

 

Honestly, the Galapagos is doing a damn good job of keeping human mess to a minimum, largely thanks to the efforts of naturalists like Ernesto. The man, he’s amazing. Having been a naturalist for over 20 years, he basically knows everything. Sure, it’s because he’s studied the material, but it’s more because he also sees the reality, week in and week out. Ernest knows what the papers in scientific journals say about the Galapagos, but he also knows what he sees for himself, in real time, on the ground. And he’s not afraid to explicitly point out when there’s a difference. (Like when he pointed out the carpenter bees that “don’t exist” on Isabela…) I don’t think I’ve ever seen so beautiful a combination of book-smart intelligence and real-life common sense in one man before.

And the winner of this season’s “Miceala’s Idol” is…

Ahem. Anyhoo. I’ve barely just started to tell you all of my adventures, but already I’ve rambled quite enough for one blog post. Sorry for the delay in this first report back, by the way. I honestly just hadn’t known where to start. There’s so much.

But no worries. I have started, and it’s like the floodgates have opened. There will be more.

You might just have to wait a bit for it.

Goodnight from Santa Cruz Island.

Goodnight from Santa Cruz Island.

The Last Day

24 Mar

Well, lovely readers, this is my last day in the US before I head out to the Galapagos. This time tomorrow, I’ll be on a plane to Quito. Or to Texas, where I think we might have a layover… In any case, I won’t be in California, and I won’t be in Missouri, and I won’t be in Florida (those other two places in the US I tend to frequent). I’ll be going some place entirely new.

Honestly, right now, I don’t have any profound words of wisdom about this last day before embarking on the most exciting stint of travel in my life to date. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet… I’ve just been sitting here, at the table, in a vague state of shock and awe which might in part be attributable to the Spotify station I’m listening to (which is basically the “here, let me play soft mellow Indie-ish music that will lull you into peace and then tear your emotions out through your soul” station).

Things haven’t really felt “settled” for a while now, anyway, so it’s kind of hard for me to be jolted out of normalcy right now. The past two weeks have been so much in flux, so strange on their own… I’m in school, I’m packing, I’m studying and taking finals and writing a thesis, I’m driving to Santa Monica and back every other day to move my stuff or hang out with Kim, I’m almost finished with school forever, I turn in my thesis, my boyfriend leaves for his visit to Miami, Kim leaves for San Francisco, it’s just me, shuttling back and forth between Caltech and the apartment in Santa Monica in some kind of waif existence, I hang out with new people, I’m at the beach for the first time in months, there are new streets everywhere, Kim’s back from San Francisco but now I’m living in the apartment too but I’m also leaving in two days and packing again for a different trip…

Everything has been strange for what feels like such a long time now. A weird mix of me moving on but also retaining connections from my life “before” and not quite having a new platform to step onto and a weird stasis time of exploring some islands on the other side of the equator to prepare for… There’s been so much difference lately. And those things I’ve clung to, trying to maintain some sense of solidity, of continuity in my life – they’ve mostly been those odd, transient connections made to people I know and people I don’t know over the internet. Chatting with people on facebook, reading the tweets headed by familiar names that I started following back when I still had a room in the dorms at Caltech, visiting the same sites like Tickld and the OhJoySexToy webcomic because it’s a voice, a community that’s cropped up like mist or smoke in my memory… I’ve been carrying the pillow from my boyfriend’s couch that he let me take eons ago around from room to room, clutching it between my chest and my knees while I clasp the first stuffed animal thing he ever gave me back when we first started dating in my hands, a physical proxy for his existence, a reminder that he is still connected to me, that this thing called “us” is still alive in the universe…

I’ve been lonely. There’s been a lot of strangeness – which in some ways I crave – but I haven’t had anyone, really, to share it with. I require another mind, another body there with me to turn the mere slipping by of seconds into experience. I think that’s why this trip to the Galapagos feels like a step back towards “realness” to me. I’m going with classmates I’ve interacted with all term, professors who have been to the Galapagos before and have a level of familiarity with the place they’ll bring. We’re not just being cast off on the sea to who knows where.There’s a structure – an itinerary – a tangibleness to this exploration, something to bring it out of the realm of ephemerality and wayfaring into the place of wanderlust, something I can hold onto more. There’s a someplace we’re going to. A something we’re going to do. It’s adventure. A real kind of magic. Not just… hand waving.

Well then. Maybe some of the words were profound. They were true, a lot of them, at least. So readers, if you don’t hear from me for a while, don’t fret – I’m just galavanting about with marine iguanas! Or sitting on a plane being bored. Either way, I’m still here. I’m still real. I haven’t gone away. I’m just going to be in a different realness for a while. I guess I’m leaving this blog behind, for you all, as the anchor to me, the thing of attachment or proxy or reminder or whatever that I’ve been searching for, for everybody else, for a while.

I’ll see you around the third of April, lovely readers.

Bon voyage.

Fantasy

23 Feb

A poem for Fantasy.

Fantasy

I would like a Tardis to fly away

or perhaps a Wardrobe to crawl through.

Some pixie dust or powdered Floo

might do in case of a pinch,

or perhaps a heated air balloon

might be just the cinch.

I’d like to jump a rattling train

to cross the city bounds,

or follow up a couple clues

chased down by the Hounds.

I’d take a sequence of bricks to tap

or an amulet that listens to runes,

the kind of ring that knows a place

hummed in fireside tunes.

And perhaps a ship or craft would do

to bring me Somewhere Else –

just put me anywhere, anywhere

they say exists in those dreams upon the shelf.

I Do Not Want Excitement

25 Nov

excitement post image

I am probably not your typical twenty-something. I do not want excitement. I do not long for the rush of the big city, the adrenaline of packed boxes and a newly signed lease for a shared apartment seven cities away. I do not yearn for the clunking whir of train tracks rushing beneath me or an airplane engine revving to life under the wings. I do not seek the fast-paced, the tight-scheduled, the not-enough-time-but-hey-it-was-worth it.

No, I do not want excitement. I want to be fulfilled.

Now, I don’t mean – oh god, no way in hell do I mean the little-house-on-the-prairie kind of life. I do not want monotony. I do not want the same plodding expectable, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. Dear lord, I would go bat shit crazy.

I think, more correctly, perhaps, I should say that I want roots. I want ties that are stable but are not limiting, that support without restricting. You see, I’ve done the whole tear-yourself-away-from-everything-and-throw-yourself-upon-the-world thing. And it sucked.

Perhaps I was just forced upon it with the wrong footing. You see, every time I’ve been forced into an unexpected journey, a total life reorganization, it’s because I was sick. I had to pluck myself out of where I was and ship myself off to treatment, often without parental support or any idea where I was going. I just had to leave. That was all.

And then, when I returned, chose to come back to where I had left rather than stay in treatment longer because I felt that I learned what the journey had to teach me and my heart was aching for the friends I left behind, I realized, finally, that it is not a what or a where, a something doing or somewhere being that really define my happiness. Because, you see, I grow my roots in people.

And then they all graduated. Or went away, for some reason and for some time or other. My roots were torn up, leaving me gasping for air and starving for the water that had been holding me up. It’s hard to enjoy adventure, when you can feel yourself withering through the whole thing.

Excitement becomes mere pain, new becomes a strangeness that rubs and chafes the heart. Adventure is no high, wild dream but a slowly executed torture.

I do not mind exploring. I just want a home base to come back to. I want to know that there is still a place – even if that place is not so much somewhere tangible – where I can still know that I belong. I would not mind the packed boxes, the newly signed lease, the road trip, the excitement, the strangeness – as long as through it all, there’s a hand holding mine.

Because then, home becomes a place that can be carried with you.

Because then, home is the place where you are not empty, but fulfilled.

Because then, home is the place where you are not alone.