Whenever I think of something waning, I think of Gertrude by Hermann Hesse. The last line of the book reads, “…I hear my youth like a wonderful song which now sounds more harmonious than it did in reality, and even sweeter.” And here we are now, summer slipping away on the soft sounds of lost daylight. And perhaps the months past seem sweeter, more perfect than they actually were. They undoubtedly will when we find ourselves again in the standstill of winter because summers in the Midwest are units of time onto themselves; years within years. They are seasons bigger than seasons, their importance measured in the negative, the degrees that flank them. As this one ends, I have begun to reflect on all I’ve done.
I’ve had an itch this summer, a drive.
Maybe it’s because I knew at its close I’d be 29.
So, I made a conscious decision: to live like so.
Heart as sail,ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess (Italicized portion from “Loose Woman” by Sandra
I traveled to Eau Claire, Menomonie, Madison, New York (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island), Colorado via South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Iowa. I, an agnostic feminist, became ordained. In Eau Claire, I married a dear friend to the boy she loves most. And there was power in that, the words “I now pronounce you…” coming from my little red mouth, an appropriation of religious power to a female, ex-Jehovah Witness, unbeliever. I attended the annual Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison and drank delicious microbrews. Afterwards, at the Sirloin Strip, I sang karaoke, specifically “Fist City,” with my best friend. I ate free pizzas with purchased pints, and then drank whiskey at the Buttermilk in New York. I rode the Staten Island ferry while drinking a 40 oz bottle of Blanca Carta. Then, on Staten Island, I ate a delicious onion bagel in the rain. In Colorado, I lost my breath. I crossed the Continental Divide and touched a glacier. I went to the Bar Bar and saw the People of the city, the ones whose stories are verses of wrinkle and missing teeth. I cried. I ate too much, drank too much, thought too much, loved too much, walked too much, rode bike too much, slept too much. In short, I lived and lived and lived until I was exhausted. And it was worth it, all of it, the money spent, the time spent, everything.
I repeatedly think of something my dear friend Mark told me long ago. He said that the people we sometimes think of as “loose” are the people who milk life for all it’s worth. Would I classify myself, as Cisneros did in her perfect poem, a “loose woman,” because I made a decision to live this way? No, that would not be the appropriate term. Something deeper, something hungrier, something where the coordinates of fear and beauty meet, a word for living that constitutes courage, if only recently found.
Or perhaps there is no word: perhaps that’s just milking summer for all its worth.