beauty

Beauty, Snow, and Trash

The first snowfall

in Brooklyn.

Blanketing the parked cars,

the few blades of grass,

and the trash,

I watched as

the snow whispered

to the ugly city streets:

“You, too, can be beautiful.”

Today, as the snow fell outside,

I watched a repairman

take his bad day out on those he was meant to service,

and I thought,

What would it take for this to be beautiful?

How does one level the playing field

of the human species,

as the undercurrents of animosity grow?

Why is this not beautiful?

What kind of pain grew in this man’s heart,

shaping the new way he breathed,

seeing everyone but himself as the enemy?

How, how do I make this better,

how do I lift the cloak of ugly and reveal beauty?

Because there is no question that it is there.

Because it’s always there.

My one-year-old nephew saw beauty

in the wet snowfall as it landed

on my arms

and his eyelashes,

as he giggled

at the novelty of it.

As he laughed,

I found beauty too,

in the heavy, wet, slush

that surrounded me,

remembering my first snowfalls,

before I realized the snow was something

that could ruin someone’s day

or cause an accident

or delay travel plans.

I was born the day before a snowstorm

that left thousands without power.

Today,

I felt the first scratch of a story fall into line in my mind,

about a man that was a repairman,

and what it means to find beauty

in bitter words and angry days,

and about how much more everything is then it seems.

Maybe one day I’ll write it.

I’m not sure it’s time just yet.

Because he was just a repairman,

and I’m

not

a therapist

just yet.

But when I am,

and I’m tasked with finding beauty

in pain, and ugly, and muddy tracks,

perhaps I’ll look at the snow

to remember

that beauty can be found

even on the city streets

that are

filled with old

thanksgiving

trash.

 

28/52.

 

 

Fear, Potential, and Everything Else

Two days ago, a friend and I sat shoulder to shoulder on a pier looking out from Brooklyn, facing the Manhattan skyline.

It was night, so it was dark, but the air was balmy and it felt more like mid-summer than mid-September. It was quiet, but not empty. The jangling sound of dog’s leashes and the low murmur of conversation across the pier could be heard consistently. And the skyline, well, coming straight out of the skyline were two lights shining, dramatic against the dark sky, reaching up and up, reflecting on the clouds above it.

I don’t remember 9/11.

Something about that unsettles me a lot. I was here, but I wasn’t. I was alive, on earth, probably playing with dolls or something similarly inconsequential, while the largest terrorist attack occurred on U.S ground.

As an adult living in New York now, every year at 9/11, I go through the same emotions.

Horror, shock, and in a weird twisted way – guilt, because I feel horrible that it’s taken me this long to understand the gravity of that day.

Yesterday, I found myself reading things about 9/11 – particularly transcribed phone calls and voicemails left for family members of those who lost their lives on Flights 11 and 175. I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t stop reading, as nausea grew inside me, as my mind was literally begging me to stop.

When I was a kid, for some reason we had a VHS in our home of a documentary about 9/11. It was graphic and detailed and scary, and my mom had kindly asked of my older siblings that it not be shown to the younger kids. I don’t know if I begged, or if my older brother was actually out to traumatize me, but I have clear memories of watching that VHS over and over in our basement, terrified beyond words. That is where my 9/11 memories begin, at 7 and 8 years old.

“Don’t worry, Dad, if we go down, it’ll happen quickly.”

Those words were said from a son on a plane, to a Dad on the ground, over a voicemail*.

When I read that, my heart exploded in anger. I suddenly wanted to punch G-d in the face. I wanted to yell and scream, and at that moment, I had no clue.

I had no clue how we all just kept walking around in a world that is so clearly so deeply flawed and messed up, I had no clue how anyone could ever bring more children into this planet.

I couldn’t believe that it took me 22 years to reach that point of absolute disgust.

And for ten minutes, I sat seething, and I wrote words like this:

“What exactly is the point?

Some days are overflowing with meaning and purpose and you can see it all written across the sky. You can smell it in the air – it’s called beauty and growth.

Some days are just dry. They’re regret-filled, and maybe tear filled, or maybe just tired. They’re hard to get through, and they feel hopeless and pointless.”

And then I stopped writing, because I didn’t even feel like putting words in the world. Which is why I’m writing the rest of this this today.

I don’t have any answers, not a one.

I know that when I sat on that pier, in the dark night, I saw what I thought were two low-flying planes right over the skyline. My stomach clenched and I said “what the heck are those planes doing?”

And my friend showed me that they were helicopters. And I remembered me that helicopters fly around the city every single day, and we had already seen a whole bunch of them.

I was comforted for a moment, before I realized that one day, not all that long ago, for real, people looked up and wondered “what the heck is that plane doing?” and in the next moment, everything was lost.

It was just a normal September day.

I was watching the recordings of the live CNN coverage from that day, and I was blown away by the way that the anchors continuously discussed the first plane crash as a horrific accident, a horrible mistake.

We live in a world today that a horrific mistake would be assumed to be a form of terrorism, and that makes my stomach sick.

I live in a world that my stomach clenches in fear all too often. I spend solo subway trips examining every face, trying to find the one who would be willing to murder us. I look at the world with fear cloaked glasses, and it’s not just because I’m paranoid, it’s because thousands of people in this country, in the last 18 years, have woken up assuming today was going to be normal, and never saw the end of that day.

And I’m learning that to get through life on this planet, you have to ride out the fear, ride out the pain, and hold on to the days that make life feel like potential and goodness can’t be contained.

Because something else that happened this week is that I began teaching creative writing and debate, and I met a whole bunch of teenagers that made me smile for the future.

And that is what this life is about.

Big ideas, and growth, and kindness.

And the real question is, why did I feel like I had to write about this this week, when I actually spent a good amount of my week in a space of happiness?

So, I share this post, because evil and pain are intertwined with our lives, and not allowing ourselves to feel that pain is a disservice to ourselves and an injustice to those who have been lost.

But I pray for this for you, and for all of us: for days that are overflowing with meaning and purpose, when you can see it all written across the sky. You can smell it in the air – it’s called beauty and growth.

 

*I don’t know if these transcribed messages are verified and true, but even if they are not, the emotions and meaning are 100% representative of the truth.


22/52.

Featured photo by me.

 

What is Beauty to Me?

In a world of beauty,
and a world
of ugly,
what
is
beauty
to me?
oooo
A heart ripped open
beating
pulsing
a heart worn
on one’s sleeve:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A plate filled
with warm flavors,
warm laughter,
a moment
together:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A handwritten letter,
a smeared edge,
thought
put into
each word:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A small face streaked
with leftover
dinner
sticky hands
a bright smile:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
The sound of the sea,
the silence,
and roar,
the stars above:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A tear on a face,
a whisper
of love,
a look
that says everything:
that is beauty
to me.

Blog Post: 38/52.

Featured Photo by STIL on Unsplash