Kevin (erf_) wrote,

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fire walk with me

This afternoon I was so preoccupied with work that I almost didn't notice how unfathomably gorgeous the day was. Thanks to Huzzah to the Shopkeep for piquing my curiosity in the commotion by the pagoda in Tappan Square, leading me to a space where a small group of students were bathing in a sea of yellow leaves and prompting me to look up and OH MY GOD. I've seen emerald hills and marble canyons and sapphire beaches; I've seen cherry blossoms in the spring; I've seen smog sunsets and mountain sunsets and ocean sunsets--and yet I don't think I've ever seen anything in nature that could raise a branch to the changing of the leaves in the American Midwest. Oranges and yellows and reds and greens splashed across fractal, spidering branches--a useless side effect of a chemical process, serendipitously tasteful. In three dimensions, here and there and everywhere, scaled perpendicular to three horizons. Would blow any human artist's mind. I picked up a handful of leaves and threw it in the air, experimentally, and the wind cascaded it across space in sparkling organic glitter. I picked up a single leaf, marbled red and gold with infinitely complex fractal veins, and said to myself, wryly, "Leaf."

You didn't have to make such beautiful things, God, but you did. And I won't pretend I know why, but I'm glad you did.

Which brings me to something I heartily encourage everyone to do more often: Look up. People spend so much time looking at eye level or at the ground that they forget that the world is much bigger than they are. There's so much beauty in second and third story windows (and fourth and fifth and fifty-eighth, if you live in the city), and in trees heavy with dying leaves, and in solemn overpasses and highway signs. If you live in a place that isn't overcast all the time, there are birds and helicopters and gorgeous cloudscapes, and waning suns, and enormous drunken 3 AM moons. Life is too short to live on the ground.

Speaking of Tappan Square, the storytelling bonfire tonight was amazing. The art of storytelling was born in the firepit, and the firepit is where it belongs--there's something ethereal about licking flames and spirals of smoke that accentuates the distinction between a mere lie and a near-spiritual experience. There's something inescapably mesmerizing about a crackling bonfire, and not just because it's never the same fire two seconds in a row--Anna tells me it's called reverie. And I was deep in the reverie tonight, lost in the magic of the sparks and the spiraling smoke--like the tiny paper-wrapped flames people put in their mouths, but with a bigger fire. One that stones your heart, not your mind, and evokes an awed, captivated emotional state that cannot easily be expressed in prose. The Writing Madness, but with no actual muse. And I had that experience with the one person on campus who would understand, and I could not find the words to tell her. I could not ask if it had been the same way for her. It was awful in a way I cannot explain.

So lost. So, so lost.

People have told me not to revel in the drama of life, but at one point it was the only joy I knew. So I cherish it.

I wandered around town for an hour and a half, still in the fire-reverie--at some point having a poignant adventure with a jar of grape preserves, the significance of which has been lost to sanity--and somehow ended up at the New Orleans volunteer party. (For the record, it was the second party I have ever been to ever.) I'm not sure how I got there, but I did. You ever have dreams with familiar people in strange settings? This was the opposite for me--it was such an ordinary place, this house, so real and concrete and consistent with my perception of the world--and yet it was filled with people I had met in extraordinary circumstances. It made Oberlin foreign for a while, like just another rest stop on our twenty-two hour highway march. I wasn't alone in this sentiment, apparently--a bunch of people started conversations about how everything familiar was strange again, how it felt odd to wake up and delight in the absence of broken glass or toxic mold on the floor, or to remember what it was like taking hot showers for granted. It was a little presumptuous, several of us admitted, how we had only been down there for a week and yet were talking about the experience as if we were veterans of some great war. But we were brought together by the experience we shared--an experience that many of us found it difficult to talk about with even longtime friends. I had my first can of Pabst and was almost disappointed at how tolerable it was. I was expecting horse piss and instead got something akin to watered-down Budweiser (which is more or less what it is).

Since Oberlin no longer felt familiar to me by the time I felt like leaving (and not because of intoxication, mind you--as always, I had exactly one beer), I felt it would be appropriate to get some food at the gas station. No one who is here for any extended period of time ever goes there because the prices are high and the selection is bad, but it was one in the morning and I felt I had a lot to gain by seeing Oberlin from the perspective of someone who would consider it just another place to pee on the Big Road. I got a Hot Pocket Chicken Pot Pie, which I am convinced is the best thing to happen to convenience store road food since sliced ham. Main Street looks funny at one in the morning on Saturday night--all the stores are long closed and most of the lights are out, but there are still a goodly number of people wandering about. To a traveller driving through in the dead of night, it must look like just another town. Just another place to get an energy bar and a burrito.

I sang "One Night in Beijing"--loudly, obnoxiously, and in Chinese--all the way back to Talcott.
Tags: new orleans
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