Last night I was revisited by old memories from my childhood self and I feel like I am being exposed to something I have either forgotten or I have not yet learned. Reconnecting with this memory compels me to write lists and write down all of the forgotten details. First, a list for myself: The colours of childhood:
Dark brown, paneled wood lining the living room
Light brown chiming/echoing wood of the grandfather clock pressed up against the wall
Forest green furniture lounging in the middle of the living room
A downy blue throw blanket draped across my young clumsy sleeping body (a small black labrador curled up next to me)
Burgundy fragments / curdled burnt orange sprinkled throughout
Fireplace stone, fireplace firewood, fireplace fire
Candlelight illuminating just fractures of childhood-home-framework
The light from the frosted sunroof pouring down onto one specific spot (the slanted roof that always felt immense)
Peering into the kitchen and seeing white counters and painted wood
I keep questioning my memory and I am not sure exactly what I am seeing when I close my eyes and look at the once well known blueprint. I feel like I am not remembering anything clearly and so I am trying to write everything I remember, but it still isn’t enough because I cannot verify the image. I once thought that I lived in a world of memory (and I do), but some memories are too far away from me now. The memories that have at least a decade’s worth of time separating us are fragile and I have not cared enough for them. I feel like meditating has helped me reach back into my memory and awkwardly grasp at the person that I once was (and still am in many ways). However, I am still living in a world with one eye closed and the other eye only squinting at everything around me (too bright). The recognition of my own loss of self/loss of past has made me more cognizant of the colours and the others around me. I am trying to be better about recording the seemingly mundane because I do not want to lose these details anymore -I do not want to question whether my memories are truly mine or inventions of mine. In the midst of this, sometimes I find myself either writing too much or writing too little (I want to always be the former and never again the latter). The details that I write are not always the things I should be paying attention to, however.
Writing down my memories has been like recording dreams. I am amazed by the sense-making-capabilities that we have as people in the world, and when I look out of this coffeehouse window I see the structures and the They [das man], as Heidegger would say, and I am amazed. I am amazed. I am amazed. Humans are meaning-making-machines when we try to construct a reality that we are comfortable with. Now I find myself trying to extract meaning from my wilting memories in an attempt to help reconstruct my past so that I have more timber for my future. I do not want to lose and I do not want to be lost. Help me find my way and maybe I can help you find your way. What am I always missing ?
I am currently in the mess of research and it is a beautiful place to be, but because of this I have not been writing for my blog. Initially I was going to wait until my research was done and post the finished product, but now I think this is a ridiculous idea since it is taking me longer to finish than I originally thought. At the same time I want to always be thoughtful about what I write about and now I am facing the question of, “what do I want to write about now ?” I am hesitant to post my fiction, and I also do not want to talk about nonsense. What do I want to write about ?
It was just the other day that I met up with a friend of mine at the library and we spent the afternoon talking about Husserl, Heidegger, and Being and Time. Towards the end of the day we stopped by a bookstore that is in the center of town -a grand and beautiful old building that is a faded shade of purple. I told myself repeatedly before we went that I would not buy a book, my mantra: “I will not buy a book. I will not buy a book. I have no need for a new book right now. I will not buy a book.” But it couldn’t be helped. I bought two books.
They are both books that I have never heard of before by authors I have never heard of before, and they were both nestled together on the bottom shelf in the fiction section. One of them is by an Ecuadorian writer, Abdon Udibia, and the other is by a man known as J. A. Tyler along the spine of the thin white novella. Tyler’s book is the one I want to write about briefly now.
Tyler writes one long prose love-lost poem in his thin volume, A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed. I find myself unable to start on the first page and instead I am flipping the book open at random and allowing the words find me. It is like reading something by Clarice Lispector almost –it is the type of book that has something important and profound to say on every page. I feel that I am fixated on the idea of love and love-lost because it is full of so many intense emotions, and that is why I am drawn to this book. Tyler pays close attention to both the feeling and the loss of feeling (even, the fear of losing the feeling and chasing it down a dark alley). But even when enmeshed in the intensity of feeling it seems impossible to articulate what is happening inside of the victim of love, and Tyler draws attention to this fact constantly. This inability to express the self is what I find fascinating. He writes:
“Words, all these words he says with with emphasis and with bragging.
I am all these words he says.
I did not invent these words he says.
We are not this language he says.
There is a whining. There is a critique. There is a womb. There is an emptiness. There are people shaking hands and being bored with their conversations and transcribing the sun down into words.
Words he says.
I will write a book he says.
We can come back together if we have come apart he says.
Then a wind. Then a leaf. Then a drop of rain or a flake of snow or the intent of living.
Until he made the mistake of letting the sun get into him, the embers so charged that his fingernails were orbs and no one could look at him. They shielded their faces, he was a star. They covered their faces, the horror.
You see now what you have done to me he says, How you have made me so different I can’t even exist anymore.
It wasn’t me he says, It wasn’t my fault.”
Often times I feel like my fixation on the idea of love harms me in some way, but I think I understand now that it isn’t so much love that I am paying attention to so much as it is feeling, and how alteration of the self can happen through feeling. Love seems to be one of the few things that most people can “understand” even when they do not understand it. When I say “understand” in this context I mean to imply more something that is “known” widely among the masses. There is a quality to love that can be seen when two lovers are witnessed exchanging their look of love. This look and the loved object gives a tangible quality to love and to “understanding.” But there are many things, many intense feelings, that are not easily “understood,” and it is not always the lack of something physical that alienates many from feeling. Many times it is the lack of something physical and the fault of language:
“She will not talk to him. She does not speak. She feels empty.
I said sun not son he says but knows it is too late for these kinds of mistakes. There has been a collision. Collide.”
Many people do not know how to use language, let alone feel language. It is a mistake on how we are taught to read and how to understand and how to be. The emptiness that the woman who the narrator loves feels is a symptom of our age (maybe every age). The slip of miscommunication and ignoring the subtleties of language can stifle feeling. How can we “understand” something, how can something be known to us, if we are unable to communicate the intangible ? One of the only ways to become closer to the intangible is through introspection, and many people are not taught to seek internally and externally. Since we have not arrived at a time where language is capable of communicating the incommunicable (inherently), feeling (and by this I refer to the intensity of feeling that is also felt outside of love) remains alien to many people. This is why, again, I fall back into exploring love. It is easier to explore something that can be discussed widely versus trying to explain to someone the transcendental sensation of standing in the woods late at night by yourself and looking up between the barren trees and seeing the moon and the stars glowing above you. Language fails me, and it fails you.
But even still, I want to try. I want to try to find a way to reach as many people as possible and to overcome miscommunication, or no communication. J. A. Tyler in his book finds a way to beautifully illustrate the pain that many of us have felt (in love or out of love), and how some of us have an excess of feeling whilst others are silent. He draws attention to what I am ultimately interested in (more than just love or feeling) however, and that is how futile language is when we try to reach for the intangible. That is what I am seeking, a way to grasp beyond me, beyond you, and bring back for both of us what we believe to be inaccessible (but what is always felt when we are ~still~ for a moment).
Pardon my tangent. There is still so much more to discuss, and I have neglected certain aspects of this whole affair. I hope you forgive me, but I do not have the time to go on. I hope you are well,
I have this distinct feeling of being part of the life of another without being part of my own life. It is as if I have taken a secondary role and now someone else shines brighter than I because I am not going down the path of the individual but the path of another. It is an interesting sensation because the ego has shrunk and my desires take a secondary role. I am not in Colorado to further the expanse of my own life (it is as if my life has been put on hold in order to help build someone else’s world with them). I am in Colorado, I have joined my brother on this road trip, so that I can be part of my brother’s life and world as his new beginnings are being built. I remember sitting on an isolated nook of land jutting out onto lake Scott in Kansas and across from us we could see the lights of life whilst we were in the quiet darkness. The lives that were separate from us across the lake were laid out before me as if I was looking through the window of a two-story home. My brother alternated between sitting next to me, looking across the water, to standing in front of me pacing and rocking. This was a point in his life that was entirely focused on him, as if he was the sun. It was as if I was not there and instead I had taken a step away from all form of Being. The world that I was building for myself was not present and instead I was in a place of non-being. The experiences that I would collect would be part of something that was separate from myself, as if I was empty of identity -the self that usually occupies this vessel was left back in Texas. This is not a source of discomfort, it actually makes me feel very content to be somewhere without also being there, without building something for myself and instead helping build something for someone else. It is right now, in this moment, that I feel like I am part of the collective and not the ownmost sense of Being.
In Kansas whilst we were camping I also looked up at the dark sky many times and felt that I was dancing with this beautiful blue light -it was a sense of being present with someone far away and the silence of the single self. I feel this great sense of being bonded to many things and many people in this moment because my world is absent. Being thrown out of the world that I have invested so much in seems to only emphasize the collective Being and the destruction of the single ego. This could be connected to travel and being in a foreign place where you are an outsider and where you are always confronted with the image of the other and the strange. It is almost like the double consciousness that DuBois writes about, but it is the recognition that you are both the individual as well as a piece of another person’s world.
By abandoning the self I find that I am able to be closer to those around me since my focus is not on building my own world, but in helping others create something for themselves. This bond with others in the end also helps me find a world of my own to belong to because by feeding back into the collective I am feeding into myself -it is an exchange. After this trip with my brother I feel like I can see this even more clearly and I am grateful for that. I want to be focused on and value the other more than myself because this care is ultimately a care for the individual inside of the collective. My brother keeps bringing up how the self is a lie, and whilst at one time I may not have understood the implication and the power in this idea, it has become clearer to me.
When I return back to Texas and to the life that I know very well, I want to rediscover the world and those around me. I am always afraid of building walls and not welcoming the fluidity of everything -I do not want to maintain an isolated self and instead I want to be part of the collective. To do this I need to continue asking questions and to keep track of the various expressions and gestures of Being -to listen. Perhaps there is naivety nestled in my ideas, but I only know what resonates and what does not. I feel happier as I am now, rather than what I was before -less “out in the world,” and instead “part of the world.”
My life as it currently is : waking up at four (4) in the morning; putting away my bed (folding bed sheets and storing pillows); going for a run in the dark; always almost running into a spider’s web, the spider in the middle of the web (a large spider); running across a bridge and feeling like the world somehow looks different along the bridge and on the other side; yoga and meditation; cutting up little ginger slices and boiling hot water to make ginger tea; taking a shower and putting myself together; French and reading and sometimes : writing; packing lunch or making lunch; taking the train to campus; walking to campus, always seeing something new along the way (watching as the world changes); classes and studies and coffee and walking around, looking at all of the people; the inside of the library and between the stacks; the inside of the language building underneath the stairwell; the inside of the BLB and my reflection in the bathroom mirror; my professors speaking, me listening; sometimes seeing others and others seeing me; sitting in the coffeehouse just off of campus and being recognized (“Jessica, right?”); catching the train back home; shopping for groceries or straight home (usually groceries); making dinner with jazz playing in the back; using as many vegetables as possible; wine; Downton Abbey (two seasons left); reading and homework and notetaking; washing my face and brushing my teeth; sleep. Sometimes : climbing. Sometimes : speaking. Sometimes : knitting. Sometimes : wanting to be alone.
A proper post being written up soon. I am very preoccupied with classes and so some things slip my mind (too often). I hope all is well. We will speak soon,
I write now not sheltered by a tent in the middle of France, but from my brother’s apartment back in the United States. I flew home two days ago and have put an end to my pilgrimage until next summer. The reason for my early departure is related to my ankle (amongst other things), but sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision.
I have no desire to get caught in the details because everything feels divided. The life that I am now inside of is nothing like the life that I enmeshed myself in for about three weeks, and I feel that I prefer the world of struggle rather than this. I feel that there is a numbness that settles in when caught in constant comfort and I do not like this numbness. My body in constant movement and seeing new faces and new places everyday expanded my interior world so now I have become pregnant with so many new possibilities. I want to stay like this, I want to remain as I am because I do not want to forget so easily everything that I have learned whilst away.
This is just a passing note with more to follow: there is much I must do now that I am “home.”
Walking away from Péronne, the path took us down a way that felt familiar. There is a nature preserve close to where my family is and close to where I spent a large portion of my life, and the Via Francigena took us somewhere that felt the same as the nature preserve. It had rained (thunderstorms) the day before and so the path was a sea of mud. There were puddles everywhere and you could not easily gauge the depth of the water until your foot had sunk down to the top of the boot. I thought of the time I went with friends from high school to the nature preserve after a hard rain, and in my nice school shoes I made a point to walk through all of the puddles. My feet were frozen and wet and after that adventure I threw the muddy black flats away. It was time to retire those shoes, but I wanted to make sure that they did not have anymore life in them– no more possiblities left.
We did not make it to Seraucourt-le-Grand the other day because of my ankle, so instead we stopped at this very intimate and beautiful campground in a small town. When we got to the campsite a woman, who we believe owns the campsite, rushed out and welcomed us. She could hardly speak English and we can hardly speak French, but even still we were able to comminucate well enough. She offered us food and pointed us towards where we could put up our tent. It felt very peaceful (peace to always follow). I put on my only nice clothes, laid out in the sun, and read Nin (House of Incest) for a bit. The campground is close to a small airport, and so all afternoon I watched different planes take off. Eventually I fell asleep to the sounds of the airplanes flying overhead. Taking the moment to just be there I felt more like a person and I was grateful for that. I have a nasty habit to rush through some things, and so I am trying to learn how to sit still.
Yesterday we made it to Seraucourt-le-Grand, this morning we leave Seraucourt-le-Grand, and that is simply the state of my life right now (arriving and departing…always so soon– usually never enough time to appreciate a place entirely).
A list of desires from the road :
a bubble bath
a nice warm dinner with jazz music
time to read more
to see the people I love most and to hold their faces in my hands
for my ankle to be better
for the rain to stop (just stop long enough to pack up)
to be in Reims
to have the answers to specific questions I am afraid to ask
After walking through the same countryside for over a week everything begins to look the same and you cannot help but become disillusioned. It seems that there are stages to a pilgrimage just as there are stages to grief. I want to preserve the precious moments so that these difficult times are held in comparison to the beauty and the awe that I know also follows around hardship (or is it hardship that follows around beauty and awe– which eclipses which?).
I am in Péronne at a campsite just south of the city. My ankle is swollen and is in numb pain and we are staying here for another night in the hope that all will be better tomorrow. Regardless of how it fairs, we leave tomorrow for Seraucourt-le-Grand.
I do not think I have missed home so much before in my life, but not just home but also everyone I love deeply. This morning I was looking at the calendar and October (the month we hope to reach Rome) feels so far away. I fear that by the time I get home everyone I love and who once loved me will have slipped away and forgotten that I move through this world. Here I am, unable to forget and yet I am being forgotten. This is not a holiday and I do not feel carefree. Anyone who is reading this and thinks that I am having a ball, I would like to inform you that most of the time I am caught in an endless loop of reflection. I walk for hours each day and I walk in silence usually. I have so much time to think about the things that I would usually rather ignore. I am detached from the ‘reality’ of the world I once belonged to, but now I am more attached to my own self (maybe a spiritual self, or an energy).
I feel heavy today and I want to spend sometime alone with Borges. “Today we play at separating[..].” I hope that we may meet again– and I hope that we recognize each other.