19 February 2009

I went to see a film the other night. It was a relatively unknown film, at a relatively late time, so the theater was unsurprisingly empty. This is something I relish and secretly hope for most every trip to the theater. I sprawl about as many chairs as possible and react to the film uninhibited. The course of the film’s story arc swirled through a myriad of feelings and thoughts, and I smiled, grimaced, and cried along with every turn. I clenched in agony during two terrible choices, writhing against my chair and myself. I pleaded to the screen “don’t” over and over again during a final, tragic choice.
My eyes glossed with tears when theirs did.
My muscles flinched when theirs did.

It didn’t matter that I was in a large, dark room with a pearlescent screen. I was there, but I wasn’t. I was in the plot, in the characters. In the church of singing children, in the thick courtroom. With every nerve-ending of my body, I was in the film. And it is the mere possibility of that experience that compels me to take part. Too often we discount those experiences because of their detachment from our physical world; but the emotional world in which we simultaneously reside gains sweet nourishment from each one. Whether the experience is borne of a physical interaction or participation in a work of art- it has emotional relevance. Our soul, like our brain, must process stimuli consistently regardless of the framing of that stimuli. All that is required is the lifting of an eyelid.

08 February 2009

White and ice

It rained ice from the sky the other day. Then, it showered the ground with sleet. Then, it finished off with a fresh layer of snow. These winter storms run through Oklahoma once a year, usually when most don’t expect it. After the storm was over, we had a nice layer of frozen precipitation covering the landscape. When I awoke on the third day, the storm had passed and the sky was filled with bright sunlight. Not wanting to miss a day of ice and snow, I went out for a walk.
I say walk, but what I really mean is I went out to run and slide across, down, and through sidewalks and streets. I have a certain path I rely on for my walks- alongside a nice little ditch, through a pleasant suburban neighborhood to a pleasant pond in the heart of a pleasantly small community. I followed this path with eyes wide and a smile even wider. Ice fell from a pine tree nearby, as though it was filled with bristling snakes shedding their crystal skin. There was hardly any crunch under my feet, because the ice and snow was as smooth as a brand new ice cube.
As I walked/skated along the path of the covered sidewalk, I came upon a group of three little girls, sledding garbage can lids down a slick incline into a run-off. They took turns on their refuse-vehicles, their buoyant giggles in tow. I tried to stay out of their way, but in doing so I started to slide down the ditch’s icy embankment. When I finally slid to a stop at the edge of the creek, I laughed to myself, (at myself) and continued alongside the creek. The sidewalk was a good 10 feet above me; it took me a moment to realize that escape was going to be tricky. The ice was so slick that to walk up the incline would have been impossible. I was dressed for a simple walk outside- treadles basketball shoes, ankle-high socks, and no gloves for my hands. Some blades of grass had poked their heads out of the snowdrift, offering me a semblance of traction. I used these small spots of grass to make my way, moving each foot forwards in short increments while the stationary foot slid backwards. It was a painstaking process, awkwardly flailing about as I progressed upwards inch by inch. That’s how I do things- whether on the ski slope, the basketball court, or the mountainside. It looks ungainly and I’m nearly falling out of control, but somehow I make it happen.
Yet this incline was proving impossible. I could make it to within reach of the summit, but I inevitably slipped into the long slide back to the creek. I would crouch low, claw at the ice with my bare fingers, but that couldn’t stop the inexorable slide. I eventually tried a new spot- a promising patch of grass with no ice. I used my long leg to secure a foothold and pulled the rest of my body up to meet it. At that point I was still a good 4 feet short of the sidewalk, and I had but one option: a young tree, supported by a rod and stakes in the ground, stood as my lone hope. I surveyed the distance, flexed my feet, and rolled my shoulders back and forth. Why my shoulders? I have no idea.
And then, without really planning it, I leaped.
And missed.
I hadn’t quite aimed properly, or gotten a decent amount of force in the leap. I reached out with my hands, but I knew I was off. So, I extended myself at a hard angle. Before the momentum of my mass could pull me back down I managed to ring my hands around the tree like a lasso. My body swung from side to side, but I held firm. With a final heave I mounted the tree and stood once more on the sidewalk. There I stood; sweat droplets on my face, a knee throbbing, hands bruised and slightly bloodied. The garbage lid girls and their giggles were pointed towards me. I laughed, waved, and continued on my way.
The pond was completely frozen over when I reached it. On it stood scores of geese and waterfowl, so accustomed to their home of fluidity. As I listened to the ducks clicking in disapproval, I couldn’t avoid the terribly cliché image of a huddled mass of grumpy, old men. They stood in the cold as curmudgeons, bitterly muttering. At the same instant, the laughter of more children like the little girls came bouncing across the pond like rays of light. I was confronted with the two disparate reactions to this simple phenomenon. In a place like Oklahoma, winter only really visits once or twice a year. When snow comes, it changes the very nature of the ground you stand on. For some this is the chance for adventure; anything you take for granted can become an entirely new experience. For some, all there is to do, it seems, is to stand your ground and mutter to the wind. As the change comes falling into our lives, each moment is white, blank: lying still in await of our imprint.