Friday, July 10, 2009

Come listen, gather 'round

Flowers are not a cliche

On the boat, I kept a little notebook of blog ideas. I've abandoned the practice here, partly because my life ashore seems so gosh-darned boring, but mainly because it's hard work to be constantly alert to those twinges of conscience that say: ah. Here's a story. Follow it.

I'm looking through that little notebook now, remembering how and where my twinges happened, remembering a different life that felt not just sensually rich but also ideologically rich. I know there are as many ideas floating through the air here, but my receptors feel deadened, asleep. Maybe that's why my late posts have been so bombastic and dictatorial. Even though I believe them, I'm annoyed at their tone. Get off your high horse, Melissa, I want to say. Get over yourself. Geez.

So I've been asking myself how I can build that spirit of receptivity into my life here, how can I begin to put out my antennae again. Taking pictures makes me feel alive. Playing Bob Dylan songs on the piano that I couldn't have on the boat. Cooking pad Thai. Growing basil.

Here I am, though, a person who allegedly thrives on adventure, cringing from the thought of it here, even though I know the more adventurous I allow myself to be, the more rich my life feels. David Wilcox, one of my favorite contemporary folk artists is performing tonight here in Chattanooga, of all places, and I'd love to go, but I'm not going to. Why? Because it's too expensive. Because guys assume that girls alone at bars only want one thing. Because I don't have anyone to accompany me.

During the childhood and on the boat, it was my cross-cultural interactions that made me feel alive. In the Bahamas, especially, I came into the culture as an equal. I encountered the middle class, not exclusively the poor, as development workers and missionaries do, or the rich, as we find immigrants in this country to be. I worked alongside Bahamians who had just about as much money as we did, some slightly less, some more. Nappy is still the best non-American friend I've made since boarding school.

Seeing things through other people's eyes makes me feel awake. Here I can get that perspective only through stories, and songs, and art. Maybe I can also begin to find it through adventure again, in small ways. By spending the day at the park or the beach or the library. Which I'm discovering about adventure, though, is that the hard part is doing it alone. The hard part is being alone. That's what's scary.


Anonymous said...

It is said that character is what one does when one is alone. It takes great courage to walk out into a new situation completely by oneself. But it also can be a great thrill. Don't push yourself to do something alone you are hesitant about, but if something sounds exciting, it is definitely worth the risk! -Robin

Melissa said...

Thanks so much, Robin. You're *great* at this, I know. It makes me want to be more like you.