Today is my birthday. I'm 23 years old.
It's also a Sunday, which means I have to go home for dinner. Well, I don't have to, but awkward tension develops (or, the already incredibly awkward atmosphere heightens) when I don't go home, and so I feel in many ways compelled. Plus, it's my birthday, and I want to see my family, just like they want to do something for me: make me a cake, sing me songs, write me cards--traditional birthday things.
I love my family, and my family loves me. But we're at a very strange place right now. Emails have been sent, tearful conversations have been had (many, many times), and nothing has been resolved. Sometimes (like tonight) when I'm feeling low, things they've said to me pop into my head, and I feel betrayed and hurt and lonely all over again.
I kind of want my blog post to be about my betrayal, and hurt, and the loneliness of feeling cut off from your family. Of feeling parentless, even though my parents live a mile away. Of feeling ostracized and judged, of going from the straight-A, perfect, glowing Mormon daughter to the depressed, bisexual, disappointing daughter who constantly embarrasses the family and whose cutting and suicidality and depression stem from shame and guilt at not "choosing the right," not hurt and anguish and loneliness and despair.
But it's my birthday. And it's a day before my favorite month of the whole year. And my wonderful extended family has taken me under their wing and let me be their pseudo-daughter, which I love, and they even gave me a nice birthday present. I love them. And, as terrified as I am to go home for dinner tomorrow night, I'd rather be happy than vitriolic right now.
Also, seeing as how it's my birthday, I'd love to spend the day hiking, but, alas, my foot is broken. But since the mountains are there and beautiful, and now is the perfect time for all us Utah-ites to go survey the changing leaves yourselves, here are some quotes from one of my favorite nature writers, Craig Childs, about one of my favorite animals, the porcupine. In this section of his book The Animal Dialogues, he's noticed that porcupines spend a lot of time in trees, and so has climbed an aspen to get a closer look at one. He says,
"I reach the porcupine's level, fifteen feet away. I call over to it, asking it about fear of heights...The porcupine does not move, so I keep talking. I have to yell because the wind has each leaf in full flutter and it sounds like a waterfall up here.
The wind comes in long pushes and the entire grove leans eastward. Then it lets off and the trees recoil. I have to hold tightly as the tree and I describe long, smooth arcs over the ground. For all this motion and these bursts of air, it is fluid up here. The tree never makes any sudden starts. It pivots above the earth and we swerve back and forth, the porcupine and I. Now the animal is lying there, perfectly cupped in a crotch of branches. Its right foreleg hangs lazily and drifts in tandem with the tree. I relax my grip and let my fingers loose, thinking like a porcupine. No meditation, no trances. Just keep still and quiet. For an hour I stay there.
The trees are flexing like cello strings. The porcupine moves now and then, scratches its left eye. It almost stretches, but not quite. The porcupine leans its chin around the other side of its branch. Birds come through, a pair of mountain bluebirds, one flicker, one Lewis's woodpecker, and one red-winged blackbird. Sunset comes. The wind is cold now and I've been watching an essentially immobile porcupine for too long. I almost shout something, but I don't. The porcupine continues to hang on. Not for dear life. It just hangs on, trusting that the tree won't drop it" (235).
There are lovely things in this world. Some of those things are porcupines.
Some are aspens.
And also, some are ships.
I wish I could accurately express my obsession with and intense love of ships on this blog. Maybe another day.
Anyway, things are hard and terrible sometimes. Some relationships fall apart and there's nothing you can do, right now, to fix them. But it's good to remember that there are naturalists in the world who climb trees and dangle there for hours just to watch porcupines. It's good to know that porcupines spend their lives hanging from trees, just swaying back and forth. It's good to know that you have a birthday, and I have a birthday, and that you're unique in this world, and that, as Tiffany says, you deserve to live your own truth.
Thus concludes this sappy post. And now, for the poem of the week.
Here I love you.
In the dark pines the wind disentangles itself.
The moon glows like phosphorous on the vagrant waters.
Days, all one kind, go chasing each other.
The snow unfurls in dancing figures.
A silver gull slips down from the west.
Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.
Oh the black cross of a ship.
Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.
Far away the sea sounds and resounds.
This is a port.
Here I love you.
Here I love you and the horizon hides you in vain.
I love you still among these cold things.
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
that cross the sea towards no arrival.
I see myself forgotten like those old anchors.
The piers sadden when the afternoon moors there.
My life grows tired, hungry to no purpose.
I love what I do not have. You are so far.
My loathing wrestles with the slow twilights.
But night comes and starts to sing to me.
The moon turns its clockwork dream.
The biggest stars look at me with your eyes.
And as I love you, the pines in the wind
want to sing your name with their leaves of wire.