It’s the same driver, hard on the brake and acceleration. It’s the same short guy I stand in front of who spends the entire bus ride talking, and who shouts his thanks upon disembarking. The other faces on the bus are also The same, each one in a sullen state of half-awake. It’s the same route, same places, same direction. It’s the same every time, over and over.
The only thing that seems to change is the amount of sunlight outside. Or precipitation. Or temperature. Or the birds that are darting and swooping overhead. They accept the natural chaos of things. Why do we struggle with it?
“That’s the queer boy’s dynamic, simultaneously debase and elevated. Even if no one but you - especially when no one but you - is witness to your triumph, still, you can embrace your own difference. Inside the rejected boy, inside the unloved body, reigns the sissy triumphant, enraged, jeweled by an elegant crown of his own devising.”—Mark Doty Firebird
This morning, I was challenged to describe the sunrise in a thousand words. Now, as I sit on my lunch break at work, I accept that challenge.
Because it’s the first bus of the morning, I am forced to stand in the doorway of the rear entry, between two yellow bars and on a yellow rubber section, normally meant to remain clear when the bus is in motion. Behind me, I can hear the raspy breath of a gentleman who will be getting off soon. Like always, I scoot out of his way, and then take his seat for the remaining ten to fifteen minutes of the ride to work. Today was just like many others; the same faces, the same route, the same aggressive acceleration and braking by the driver, the same motion sickness developing whenever I look down at my phone. In the middle of this monotony, though, something broke out. Something was different than before. Looking up from my phone, the difference was clear.
The bus crested the hill near the end of the ride. Rising over the highway in a graceful arch, the road turned eastward, towards the Atlantic. Breaking through the clouds, the sun was on its upward march, greeting the morning like it has for a millennium. Today, though, as I swayed and lurched on board the angry bus, the morning light was something extraordinary. The familiar orb was slightly skewed by clouds racing off the coast towards some distant country or location over the sea. In this milky substance, the sun’s rays took on a crimson, a shade of ruby, with pulsing and throbbing spindles of light reaching out from the center. The white hot light was muted, and refracted across the thick morning atmosphere, and because of the angle, the sun appeared larger than life, closer to Earth, a mesmerizing fireball barely hanging over the horizon.
Those on the bus with me seemed unaffected. They sat there in their morning stupors, a foul stench of teeth and mouth unbrushed and unwashed filling the air inside the vehicle. I could also smell the stale cigarettes and cheap beer that their jackets and outerwear were steeped in. I could feel the gaze of these others, watching me as I stood in rapt attention at the sunrise before me. I didn’t falter, I held strong, but I knew I was being judged, measured, and queried. How is it, I thought, that these people had lost their sense of wonder with the world around them? When did they lose their sense of imagination, of excitement, of curiosity? Why was I the only one on this bus who was in awe of the sunrise? Surely, such a magnificent event couldn’t only be for me.
I looked at the sun, as directly as I dared, and could feel the energy, the vibrant vibrations coursing through my skin. This is the light, the energy, the power that the long, dark winter has drained from me. With the sun comes enlightenment. With the sun comes renewal, recommitment, refreshment, and a sense that things can begin again. I long to awaken from the slumber that has been cast over me this winter. I want my thoughts and actions to realign. I want to stand on the hilltop and feel the solar force make it’s way through my skin, pulsating inward, downward, connecting me to the ground beneath me. I had a glimpse of that this morning, as for a brief moment our central star held me in rapture. But like all things in Nature, it can only hold for a moment, and then it’s gone.
The bus arrived at my stop, and when I turned to see if the sunrise was still as gorgeous as it had been only a few short moments ago, it was gone. The sky was a shade of cerulean, puffy clouds continued their march eastward, and across the vast, barren parking lot of the mall, the magic of the sunrise settled and disappeared. I felt honored to have been witness to such a force, to such a display, and I knew I may never see the sunrise in that way again.
I made my way across the parking lot, with the lone call of a seagull circling high above, looking for any cast off crumbs I may be able to offer her. Before entering the mall, I turned, lit a cigarette, and watched the clouds race across the sky. I realized then how lucky I am that I had not lost my own sense of imagination, my own reverence for things beyond human control. I knew then that I was where I needed to be, at the right moment in time. Things, for the time being, were good.
I only hope they can continue to be.
(775 words - I’m a bit short, but I may edit this later)
Here I sit. Or, tread water, rather. I’m in the deep end of a dark pool in the middle of the night. Can I trust my abilities to plunge down, and risk hitting the bottom? Will I have enough oxygen in my lungs? Will the pressure burst vessels? And how do I find the safe surface again?
“…I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.”—Joan Didion from “On Keeping a Notebook,” found in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”
hi, it's Dana, from Goddard. Hope it's okay i found you here via facebook. I'm slow and can't figure out how to reply to your post about lifeless nonfiction. i don't have any wise words, i can only commiserate and say that this past week, i've had the same experience. I've written down something that needed to get on the page but it feels cold and well, as you said, lifeless. I'm trying to think of it as the bones that needed to be built and now, i will return to it and hopefully, flesh it out, adding meat. We have to start somewhere and you've come that far. Keep with it, little by little, and i think it will take shape, find a life of its own.
It’s absolutely fine you found me via FB :) That’s the beauty of social networking!!
Thanks for the insight. At least I know I’m not on my own with this. I’m attending AWP in DC this week, and there’s a specific talk on writing non-fiction that I hope to attend and get some insight from. In any regard, I hope you are well, and thanks for the message!
“The spectrum of infinity,
I’m choosing you, you’re choosing me
Just keep on pushin your way closer
The end wont get you what you want,
Keep on stepping and I’ll choke ya
I’m done with giving the entire lot”—
Composed and Produced by Amurai Lyrics written and performed by Rough Duchess (Sam Vitez) Flashover Recordings
He called me out for being on a social network while sitting in the most basic form of social gathering places known to humankind.
Then, after putting my phone away, we proceeded to have the most enjoyable conversation, with all the nuances that come from body language and intonation. The magic of verbal communication in the days of social networking to connect and ‘discuss’ is a dying art, in a way. Have all of these networks stripped us of our ability to speak out loud? Have they made us unable to come to grips with social phobias, perhaps even heightening them?
I’m on all of these networks too. I’m connected, in a way. Still, nothing can replace the quiet smirk of a compliment given, or the excitement in my face when I talk to someone about things important to us.
We must not forget how to actually talk to each other.
I’ve started my reading for school, having read about 40 pages tonight of an essay collection, “Loss Within Loss.”
I needed to pause.
Suddenly, this direction I’m taking with my school work is scaring me. It’s becoming a giant lump in my throat, and overwhelming me. I’m having a bit of a doubt crisis, but i know where it’s coming from.
This occurs every time I get close to the fire, the energy, the force that drives me to write in the first place. That doesn’t mean I’m not scared of it; it terrifies me.
I will need to pause, to take it slow, and really mull over what it is I’m reading, and what words I want to employ in my responses to these texts. This semester, my pace is deliberate, cautious. This is not something I’m used to.
But it will be better than anything I’ve done before. I hope.