With Abandon

On Tuesday morning someone pointed out a far corner of sky that wasn’t shrouded by muddy clouds. Just a small slice—delicate and brilliant. But by that afternoon the short glimpse of robin’s-egg blue had been consumed by the grayness that has managed to consume everything else.

It was raining in the mostly abandoned campus parking lot I had to cross to reach my room—solid, slow-falling raindrops smearing the lenses of my glasses, pecking their way under my sunflower umbrella, my green turned-up hood, cold and surprising on my neck. I tried to imagine myself a flower stalk, turning up my head to catch the water spilling onto my face, filling my pores, my very cells to bursting. But I only focus on the next step, shrink further into myself, block the impact.

The 6 o’ clock dusk dimming, walls of dark wooly cloud mass, the gray only becoming thicker, I couldn’t tell the depth of the water I was treading in, stepping awkwardly and lurching through on my toes, though my buckskin boots were already stained dark up to the ankles from the wet, my socks squelching under the steady and hollow rustle of water slapping blacktop. The drops hit like mini Saturns, rippling out into infinity while another instantly took its place. Street lamps ignited them like dying suns, burnt orange reflections smoldering and toppling in piercing fractures.

I walked fast and breathed shallow, the air damp and moldy like the patches of acid-yellow grass that refuses to green, the month that refuses to shed it’s winter skin, unfurl the light needed to make me open.

I wanted to force the rain into an excuse to feel alive again, wrestle it into metaphor for new beginnings. But maybe it’s just me that needs to be wrestled with.

When the girl with the pink polka-dot rain boots burrowed in her bag outside a dripping Honda civic, I thought about stealing the rubber boots off her feet so I could stomp flat-footed against the wet and watch it spray out from under me, kick the puddles into streaming arcs. Better yet, abandon shoes all together and surrender the careful confinement of it all. I should have left the umbrella in the lot, should have stood out there until the drops stopped feeling like an intrusion on my skin, shed the layers, felt my hair sting and plaster against excited cheeks, baptize myself out of submission, out of expectation.

But I didn’t.

And all week I’ve been thirsty for the child-like abandon that I lost somewhere in the seriousness of the adult world, that was smothered like a slice of blue in a season of gray. And I know that next time I’ll stare longer. I’ll get my feet wet. I’ll stand there until nothing else matters.

Wide Eyed

Growing up, I always remember being told to close your eyes. At bedtime, in games, in church. I also remember doing my best to defy such a command like I did with most other childhood rules.

When I was eight, my parents brought home a discounted Target trampoline, which nearly filled our entire backyard and was the envy of the whole South Minneapolis neighborhood block. Kids flocked to our house, and my siblings and I were adored for our summer birthday parties and sleepovers.

Our favorite game was “dead man,” and it consisted of one kid playing dead in the middle while the rest of us jumped around him chanting, “Dead man, dead man, come alive, when I count to the number five.” After we miraculously raised the blind, zombie kid to life, the first victim to get caught would take his place.

The problem was I always cheated. When I got to my feet, I’d slit my eyes open just enough to make out shapes, but not wide enough to be noticeable. I don’t think I ever got caught anyway. Though I was always overly competitive as a child (I made my siblings cry from foosball of all things), I don’t remember cheating just to win. I do remember absolutely hating not knowing what was going on. I still do. I hated being “it” because I wanted to be a part of things, and stumbling around blind just wasn’t doing it for me.

For me, seeing often means remembering, and remembering is something I’m dedicated to. I always got so mad because I rarely remembered my dreams at night. Right before I’d wake up, the whole scene would be so clear, but as my eyes opened, it all slipped away like the darkness. In tenth grade I read and memorized some of T. E. Lawrence, who claimed, “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

So I learned to daydream instead.

Car rides were/are a great opportunity to get lost in my own mind. Staring out the window, I zone out for hours and erect scenes and thoughts I could live in, hold onto, replay over and over. I could easily get lost in my mind, but I also know how to lose myself in the world. Bring myself nearer to it.

For similar reasons, I hardly ever close my eyes when I pray. I know that’s kind of seen as disrespectful or distracting, but I’ve learned to depend on sight. It keeps me grounded, connects me to the place and people around me, reminds me where I am and what I’m doing in that moment. I tend to watch people during that time. I want to see how their mouth moves and if they look like they know that they’re talking to God and if a person’s expression changes when someone pleads on their behalf. I want to see God in their faces.

I want to be a part of the world I’m in, not close my eyes to it. I want to notice things—everything. And I want to remember it. This is what this blog is about, really. Living with open eyes. I just happen to be looking through my own, and for the moment, so are you. And what I see is a world begging to be seen, whether it’s the person in the corner of Starbucks or a footprint in the snow.

So sometimes I think its ok to cheat the blindness. To go through life wide-eyed and observant of the things we’ve learned to look away from. It’s ok to be amazed at what we see.