Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Learning to Love Violet

Birthdays take on a whole other hue as more of them accumulate, going from the festive strawberry pink of childhood to a decidedly deeper, if not mournful, shade of violet--that l'heure bleu color that is pensive, melancholy and presages nightfall. When I entered the last year of my fifth decade a week or so ago, I found a different tinge to the darkness that a winter birthday carries, a brightening that isn't just a trick of the light.
There are terrible sorrows that come with increasing years. One of my brothers-in-law, a man of such vibrancy that often you wished that he came equipped with volume control, died this week at fifty-one. My mother is slipping into a haze of nightmares that give her sleep without rest and turn her waking hours into a half-life. When she dies, I will be the oldest in the family I was born into and the family I married into--and never divorced, even when a judge pronounced my marriage irretrievably broken.
But with the sadness comes a joyful freedom that I never had in my pre-wrinkled years. My sons are men who are delightful, funny and smart, whose company I love. My book, Tone Deaf in Bangkok, will be published by ThingsAsian Press within the coming year, and the money that I was given for it will take me back home to Bangkok next summer. These are all things that I could only dream of, and hope for, when I was young.
A friend, who is older than I by a whisper of time, recently returned from a year of volunteering her skills as a nurse in Africa and India. When she came to my door recently, I was stunned by her transformation. Always a striking woman, she has become beautiful--slender, sparkling, with life glowing in her eyes. This is what happens, I realize, when we refuse to falter, when we trade the gleaming pink of a sunrise for the violet depth of twilight without retreating to the safety of pulling the covers over our heads, when we step out into what appears to be darkness and find that it is illuminated by our own internal light.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Special Place in Hell

It's a peculiar little room that we all have created in the very darkest corner of our minds. Mine is accessorized with mildew and car alarms that only go off in the dead of night and the scent of cheap cologne and lots of chartreuse. The lighting is very bright and very bad and the roof leaks. It's a cold, ugly basement room with tiny windows. It's my personal vision of hell and it's where I enjoy mentally putting people who annoy me.
They of course change depending on what I'm doing and where I live. When I lived in Alaska they were women who felt that being seen in public wearing down parkas, caps made from handspun malemute hair, and moon boots was acceptable behavior. When I was in Bangkok they were security guards whose grip on life apparently depended upon constantly blowing their little tin whistles. As a bookseller, I sent to my little private hell everyone who told me, "But I can get it cheaper from Amazon."
But none of these people occupy my special place in hell anymore. They can't. There's no room for them there. That space is crowded with a new breed of transgressor, and I am one of them (although I'm trying hard to change.)
My hideous little private hell is now reserved for everybody who reads another person's blog post without commenting on it. There are few things worse than going to statcounter.com, discovering all of the new people on the map that have come to your blog, and then discovering that you'll never know what they thought or who they were because they didn't leave a comment.
It doesn't matter, I've discovered, what you say. I'd be grateful for "You suck" or "What the hell? I was trying to find out where to buy Glenn Close sunglasses." (For those who were searching for the movie about being deaf in Bangkok--it's the Pang Brothers' Bangkok Dangerous--great movie and I hope you can rent it from Netflix.) But now that I know how little it takes to make a blogger happy, I'm leaving comments all over the place. I have to. I need to
make room in my special place in hell for all of you who fail to leave comments on mine. I hope that you enjoy mildew and chartreuse.