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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sun and Moon

Last night there was a huge gibbous moon in the sky, as yellow as cheddar cheese. I sped towards it on Bonita Canyon Road, orange and white construction signs blinking every few yards in the headlights. Not long ago I bought binoculars and when I got home I peered at the moon and made a mental list of all the names it has been given, all the things it has been compared to. A wheel of cheese, a bowl of milk, a jewel in the sky -- all these cliches that I cringe at writing down but that my gut still responds to in an inexplicably powerful way. I had a sudden moment of panic about what it means to live in the twenty-first century, after so many words have been already spoken: how do you have a new experience in this much lived-in world, how do you find new ways to talk about this experience?

How do you find new ways to talk about looking at the sky that has been there for thousands of years, the same sky glittering with the same planets and the same stars? I happened to be near the beach yesterday when the sun set and I watched its disc sink into the ocean. It's such a loaded experience, watching the sunset, and there's such pressure to be exultant when you talk about it -- the explosion of color, the movement of the sun below the horizon -- to have a very specific experience of the sublime. I didn't have it. There was no explosion of color yesterday evening; I stood in a parking lot just off the Pacific Coast Highway, surrounded by the buzz and hum of the traffic, the smell of hot tarmac and salt stinging my nostrils, and watched an orange sun dip into a steel-grey ocean. It seemed very simple, very ordinary. I thought about the fact that it wasn't the sun that was moving but the earth I was standing on, that this planet I live on spins in space suspended from nothing, held up by immense forces I read about in physics books but didn't really grasp in a visceral way. I kept thinking, for the ten minutes that it took the sun to fall all the way below the horizon, I am moving, I am moving.

For sure, there's a lesson in all this. An important metaphor to dig up, that will put my life in a context I haven't seen before. But somehow I'm not interested in a lesson, in a satisfying conclusion about the meaning of my experience. I'm happy just having had the experience. Here I come again to words, to the question of what words do to an experience: do they diminish it or do they complete it? I don't know. Probably I never will. Why doesn't that stop me from writing? A hummingbird just flashed across my window. Maybe she's going to linger in the pommegranate tree in the neighbor's yard and I'll be able to watch her for a while.


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