What I mean is this.
It was five am at the latest, the first day of the new year. Minutes earlier, I’d been deliriously tired with my eyelids glued down and the need for sleep draping over my body like the tattered old blanket that rested there. Curled next to a girl from the party on the small couch, all of us drained from the endless night, when I turned and saw the bright white glow of the day peeking from behind a half closed curtain. Suddenly I was awake.
I didn’t want to spend any more time in the uncomfortable dark room where my friends were already drifting off to sleep. I fumbled by that little streak of light to find my pen and notebook from the desk and made my way outside. The living room was nearly deserted, a stark contrast from the flashing colored lights and loud music that spilled from it not so long before. There was someone curled up half asleep on a loveseat, and the faint sounds of footsteps and door creaks from upstairs and elsewhere in the house.
I walked to the dining table and found a cigarette and a lighter among the small pieces peppered across the table. The painted glow of the sunrise and new day beckoned from the patio. I slid open the door to the yard and slipped outside, taking in a deep breath of the morning air. It was cold, a sharp chill that my thin cardigan hardly protected from (I didn’t want to go searching for my warmer jacket in the mess of the rooms and couches and sleeping friends inside). I was alone, blissfully and wonderfully alone with the kiss of the sun and its melting colors dipping across the open sky, with the last few stars still sparkling and the moon still a visible pastel slice. It was silent except for the chirping of the birds, a light symphony I could appreciate.
I found a seat on a chair that overlooked the yard and opened my little notebook to write. It was integral that I had it, then, not that it ever left my side, the thin blue tipped ink and the fresh press of the paper. I smoked the lone cigarette (the playful wind kept blowing it in my face) and watched the lights of the sky and clutched my sweater ever so closer, and wrote.
I guess that was when I understood it. Maybe even the transcendental writers I so hate have a point about nature. You know, that one moment where the pure beauty of the world rushed to you, filling up your throat and mouth and caressing your lips, glazing over your amazed eyes, where the world, the moment, the cold and the light and the colors and the cigarette fused the most beautiful, tender, wonderful thing. Awe, maybe. Inspiration in the truest sense of the word. That was poetry.
In the settling breath of sunset at sometimes past five pm, I went for a walk in the park near my house that I’d frequented endless times before. Years ago I walked the same paths and listened to “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” dreaming of an escape from San Diego. Today I walked the same route and let my mind drift to a hundred other preoccupations and fantasies. It wasn’t the same wretched need for change that enslaved me before, but it was still a sense of restless anxiousness about something that would not resolve itself.
After a while, the night settled over the park and the big field, with its corners of baseball fields and vast center of grass hadn’t turned on its bright lights. I no longer felt like walking, and going over the same painful indecision and obsessions in my head. Instead I found a seat on a stone cold bench and looked towards the nearly empty park, and listened to an old favorite, sad Bon Iver song. Maybe it was the song. Maybe it was the moment, as I looked towards the apartment building with one room of a flashing orange light, wondering if it was a broken lamp or if its inhabitants toyed with something, and watched the steady pulse of a distant plane travel closer to its destination, the empty steps of the metal bleachers, the silhouettes of the masked trees in the dark.
I remembered that, not like New York, San Diego had visible stars at night. I watched them, pinpricks of light amist the dark sky, and the perfect cool evening air around me ever such a delight. And that was poetry.
A new year’s resolution, though it seems silly, and I hardly believe in new year’s resolutions, is to spend less of my time online. Perhaps, solely, because of this. Because I so rarely feel the beauty of the stars, the air, the silence, the solitude when I sit in front of my laptop. Sometimes, in bits of what I read or moments of conversations that stop my heart and freeze my breath inside my throat, but those are rare. And this, it’s so much better, and fills me with hope, and gratitude, and a smile that hangs so naturally on my lips. Poetry.
Poetry in a girl who feels so much more at ease on a crowded subway train or the dirty Manhattan sidewalks than any desolate forest, poetry in a girl who despite all optimism carries the seed of a bitter realistic, a harsh cynic. Poetry in a decade meant for it.