catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 19 :: 2008.10.24 — 2008.11.07


These things remain


There is something dense, united, settled in the depths,
repeating its number, its identical sign.
How it is noted that stones have touched time,
in their refined matter there is an odor of age,
of water brought by the sea, from salt and sleep.


I work quietly, wheeling over myself,
a crow over death, a crow in mourning.
I mediate, isolated in the spread of seasons

Pablo Neruda (trans. Clayton Eshleman)


The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

Madeleine L’Engle

As of twelve-oh-one a.m. on the morning of October 21, 2008, I am officially twenty-eight years of age. I happened to be up late writing a paper for class when the clock struck and the bells rang, announcing my passage through the metaphysical portal that stands between these two arbitrary signifiers of age. The first thing I did to mark the occasion? I flossed my teeth.

If this is as crazy as my twenty-eighth year gets, I’ll be sorry. Like a lot people, I have bought into the ridiculous notion that one’s life can be determined in accordance with how close one is (on either side) to age thirty. Because of this, I have become somewhat paranoid about losing the elements of my personality that I consider vestiges of my “youth”: spontaneity, amateurism, a mismatched wardrobe and an inherent understanding of myself as relatively “childlike” and open to new experiences. Yet even as I write this, I know that I don’t actually believe in the idea that one’s physical age determines one’s psychological or spiritual age. In fact, the seven most prominent older (than I, that is) women in my life whom I look up to most-my mother, mother-in-law and sisters-are most especially not defined by their age. All of them in their own ways defy the social conventions that attempt to reign in our natural inclinations and tell us what we are “supposed” to be like at any given age. All of them are as full of vim and vigor, piss and vinegar, grace and hope and creativity as they ever were. If they have changed at all over the passing of time, it is perhaps only in the sense that they have grown to accommodate the accumulation of so much wisdom and experience.

When I was eight, I used to pray to God to change the weather. I stood at the large window in our dining room and begged God to move the clouds so that the sun would shine or cease to shine through the thick branches of the Sugar Maple in our backyard. No, you’re right, it wasn’t about the weather. It was about whether or not I could direct God’s hand.

That same year-1988-an older woman in a bulky coat boarded the city bus and sat directly across from my mother and me. She gazed at me, smiling, for the entire twenty minutes of our ride. Her look was not a malignant one; rather, I felt like the recipient of a small fortune as this grandmotherly woman graced me with the attention of her warm eyes and comfortingly soft, wrinkled face. Upon departure, she handed me a matchbook-sized cherry-red edition of the gospel of John. A believer in mysticism and magic, I thought this mini tome a gift direct from God to me.

I can’t say why time and disorganization has not wielded its wily ways, but somehow, I still have that little red gospel. I haven’t read it since 1988, but it remains a symbol to me of God’s magical presence in our world. Time and wishing have turned the story of this book into a cosmic myth about the intimate nature of God onto which I cling. As when I was eight years old, I still want to believe that God is someone or something that can be accessed directly. Like a child, I want to believe that my wishing can change the course of the clouds, and that my need can cause God to enter into my world through an anonymous stranger on the city bus. What is most important to me is not whether or not I believe these things, but rather, that I want to believe them. This is enough.

So here I am, embarking on my twenty-eighth year. My best friend wrote to me on my birthday to assure me that, according to her, “Twenty eight is a good year of age.  I’ve been enjoying it myself.” There is something comforting about these words, as if “twenty eight” were an uncharted territory that I must enter into on my own, save for the reassuring words of my friend who has gone before to clear a way for me. Don’t worry. She says. It’s a good year to journey through.

If I were to ask my eight-year-old self what she thought I’d be like at twenty-eight, I’m not sure what she’d say. She’d probably wonder if her front tooth had finally grown in (it has, although it is a bit crooked). She’d probably hope that I was happy and fulfilled, and maybe even in love (although she would be too scared to say so). She’d probably ask if I still had a dog, if I still climbed trees and if I still talked to God about the weather. I think she’d smile to hear me say yes, yes and yes, these things remain.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus