Serotiny

© Sergey Yeliseev, 2013.

© Sergey Yeliseev, 2013.

Let’s scrap the whole thing.

The things we’ve been doing haven’t been working. Keeping us alive, yes. But just barely. We repeat it over and over again. Every winter looks the same and every spring gets harder to distinguish from the the previous season’s frost. After we built our lives upon tragedies and the assumption that nothing was ever going to actually get better—just varying degrees of less unpleasant—where could we possibly go? There was nothing left to say about it. Constantly trying to just keep our heads above water.

But I’m ready to find the shore now.

I don’t want to sit around waiting for the last threads to snap and for everything I always assumed would happen to finally transpire. It’s time to grab onto the the little pieces of belief I’ve managed to stuff away. The ones that whisper it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are little seeds that are released in response to wildfire. Serotiny. I want to plant them deep in the fertile ash of all those things that haven’t worked, that hurt more than helped, that we always figured were our only options, and I want to make sure they grow. Give my full attention to this new idea that we can do this all differently.

From now on I’ll be writing at RubyBrowne.com. I hope you’ll join me.

Jump

© Photography by Tanya De, 2007.

© Photography by Tanya De, 2007.

I choked. Those harsh reminders of the discontinuities between the person that I am and the person I’d like to be. The person I imagine I am when the state of things is neutral.

The wind whips rain against my cheeks and I keep my hood up, gaze down. Terrified of being seen. Heart pounding. Pink Floyd running around in my head, “…I’ve got that feeling once again. I can’t explain, you would not understand. This is not how I am.”

But it is, isn’t it?

We try. We work hard to grow and change and adapt. We make great strides to not repeat the same thoughts, the same processes, the same conclusions and catastrophes. We are desperate to avoid that ache in our bellies. That lost, helpless, out of control sickness. But right now, right here, I have it. And I catch myself wondering if I’ll ever shake it.

Shh, Shh, Shh

© Jack Amick, 2011.

© Jack Amick, 2011.

Cups of coffee to make up for the sleep I missed because I had too many cups of coffee. A mind running over my schedule for the term and all the things I want to get done in the next year so I can transfer smoothly into university. The sound of my husband sleeping next to me. I run my fingers down his back, roll over, and slide out of bed.

Wrapped up in Mason’s oversized hoodie I stare myself down in the mirror. Hair in every direction and the type of crazy eyes I thought I’d left with early-twenties cocaine binges. It’s late. Later than I’m used to. But I’m up.

We’re all up in the air now. A new season, a new set of math and science courses, new ideas, new plots. Everything I know is a transition and I keep finding myself restless and angry as I search for solid ground. For quiet. For something to connect to.

In the morning I go running and everyone keeps their eyes down. Intentionally not looking at each other as we pass shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk. Social media sites are filled with old friends and people I barely know all talking at once, but not to each other. I’m careening. So I shut down my Facebook account less than twenty-four hours after making it. I make motions to shut down other blogs and Twitter because mostly all they feel like are more eyes on sidewalks. More people near each other, but not together at all.

I’ll bury myself in textbooks and study halls. Long walks with Mason and lazy Sundays in bed. Paper and pens. Conversations over coffee. Texts to friends. Words posted up here to read, to absorb, to email me about, but not to comment on. Not to hit a “like” button that really only tells me you were here. The human digital equivalent of a dog pissing on a bush. I’ll keep locking eyes and smiling when I pass you on the sidewalk as you keep staring at your shoes.

Fifty-Third

Me, Rodney, and Prairie in Kansas City, 2004.

Me, Rodney, and Prairie in Kansas, 2004.

“You know, I just never really got into Bob Dylan.” Those were some of the first words I ever remember you speaking to me. It was late at night, pushing morning, and Prairie was driving. I was on the phone with you, getting directions to your apartment. I was sixteen that summer. You must have been close to your forty-third birthday.

Prairie and I had driven out to see Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson play in Kansas City. The result of a pact made while sitting on the floor of a Patti Smith concert. I said I’d love to see Dylan someday. She said, “Find a show and we’ll go.”

I’m sure we must have met before, but I definitely don’t remember. You were an enigma in my family. The uncle that stayed in the midwest that no one heard much from. But when my folks called to let you know your nieces would be in town, you were quick to open your home.

We slept on your apartment floor. You served us tomato juice in the morning. Showed us your pencil drawings. Told us about what it is you do out there in Kansas. Asked about our lives.

Scouring the apartment for some sort of parting gift you gave me a metal chain that I fastened around my wrist. I wore that chain for years. The years that we managed to grow a friendship. You started coming out to visit.

When I graduated from high school my parents had you out as a surprise. I got home from school and was walking up our back steps when you came to the door. I dropped my books and threw my arms around you. Always such a pleasure.

It wasn’t long after that you moved to Washington. Started coming out for Christmas. We’d sit around the campfire and share stories over whiskey. I catch myself wondering how things might have been different if we’d gotten sober together. You never did. I haven’t had a drink in 261 days. I think that’s a better birthday present than the Jim Beam I usually toast you with.

We were standing on our porch one night, smoking cigarettes. Talking about how glad we were to have reconnected. You said, “I don’t know if you’ll ever get married. I don’t think much of it myself. But if you do, I sure would like to be there.”

I said, “Of course you’ll be there. I can’t imagine doing something that important without you.” But you’d be in the ground less than a year after that conversation. Maybe that’s why our wedding ceremony didn’t have an invite list.

It’s hard to think about your life without thinking about your death. Without thinking about how I had the biggest mental breakdown of my life a month after you went missing. About the torturous two years of not knowing what happened to you. The way the discovery of your body hit me like a sledgehammer to the gut. I had to face the fact that I was right when I first heard you’d disappeared and knew you’d found a nice quiet place to end your life. It’s hard to separate out all those things. To remember how lucky we all were.

Lucky to have driven out to Kansas that year and forced you back into our lives. To have coaxed you out of the midwest and planted you on the west coast. I have those vivid memories of what a phenomenal and precious human you were. Those four years of Rodney. I will be forever grateful for that.

And as for the rest of it? You said, “You know, I just never really got into Bob Dylan.”

I said, “I won’t hold it against you.” And I didn’t. None of it.

Happy fifty-third birthday, Rodney. I love you. Always.

Germination

© Lamentables, 2009.

© Lamentables, 2009.

I described my game plan. It’s even better this year. It starts even earlier. I confessed how terrified I am of the approaching winter. How confident I was last year only to be struck down at the end of January and not able to gain traction again until the beginning of June.

“It hasn’t been that bad in years, man. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it out.”

We talked about what’s different this year. How it’s not like we’re just repeating the same cycles over and over. We’re growing. We’re new. Spiraling upward constantly. We do not line up at the same startline every season. We’ve never been here before.

He told me that he remembers. That he was there with me the whole time, but it never looked the same to him. Outside. Removed. Watching. “It’s like a seed in the cold, wet ground. A million things happening that we can’t see.” Then, seemingly overnight, sprouts. Tiny roots and tiny green leaves trusting that they know exactly what to do. “You weren’t shut down. You were just in germination.”

Focus

© OUCHCharley, 2009.

© OUCHCharley, 2009.

I collapsed into myself. At 5 AM I wake up, go running, shower, breakfast, school, lunch, homework, dinner, walk with Mason, homework, sleep. Wake up. Repeat. Wednesdays I meet with Leif, Fridays are for Alyssa, Sundays we go grocery shopping. My first term back at school in over three years slipped by before I even had time to notice. Midterms. Finals. A 4.0 report card. I pull my head up and look around only long enough to reevaluate my game plan, ask my math professor for work to do on vacation, and quickly fold back in again.

Before we know it the days are shorter. It’s time to pull back out the alarm clock that slowly gets brighter, the happy light, the vitamin D. This year is different. This year I get a head start. This year I stay busy. I devour more books and research papers about all the things I need to do to stay in the proper headspace. To not lose my momentum. I plan my training runs into my class schedule, I automate all my meals, I take my vitamins, I write, I talk, I cling to my routine.

Juggling. Constantly. I work hard to find the overlap between all the things I’m doing. When a stranger asks me what I do I have a list to rattle off and when they follow-up with “So what do you do for fun then?” I repeat the things I just said.

We’re pushing forward. We’re constantly improving in every aspect of ourselves. I get so caught up in learning all I can, in being as consistent as possible, in taking care of each detail that I forget to ask the big questions. The “but what is it that you really want?” questions, the “what’s the point in all this?” questions. I forget to ask, “Is there anything that could ever make you happy, I mean, really?”

I forget to ask them, but find them answered anyway.

Tracks

Image

© Andy Bothwell, 2014.

We love different
Think different
Live different
Our minds lay tracks different
Weave different
Find ways from A to B different
We play different hits reels
We listen to different to songs
Find meaning different
We spend time different
Classify waste different
We talk different
Laugh different
Make jokes and receive them different
Our brains connect different
Get stuck and fascinated different
We touch different
Connect different
Think, move, and cry different
We put stock in different things
Act on those things different
We classify and quantify and come to conclusions different
Feel different
Hurt different
Lose hope and regain it different

But we’ve never
done anything
wrong.