Originally uploaded by brian_adams
Life is so strange and terrifyingly beautiful if only you take the time to look.
When I asked my sister, B, what her favorite thing about living in Alaska was, she said that it was "how quickly the seasons change." Now, as we're gaining 5 minutes of sunlight a day, I know what she means. Darkness is not the same as the lack of light, and light is not the same as the lack of darkness. I can't say that I would ever have understood this as fully had I not moved here. It is not the same thing to be "not unhappy" as it is to be truly joyfully alive.
Here, changes and polarities notch the spine of understanding.
Lately, BA and I have been up to all sorts of things, from snowshoeing in a quiet wood of freshly fallen snow to throwing a surprise birthday party for L and a baby shower for R to interviewing local tattoo artists and applying for grants for a book project established to bolster support for Native Alaskan communities. In a word, we are busy; if there is no work, we make some.
It is, of course, the wonderful people in my life like BA and B that keep me going even when the work runs dry (and, my friends, it has!).
It is indescribably affirming to wake and retire everyday with another artist; there are the times when the scream beneath the surface rages and frustrates before it creates, but BA and his love of his work is an endless source of inspiration to me. That we both harbor a deep interest in and love of this world is nothing if not an assurance that we will find ourselves all over the earth, always doing what we love.
Last week, BA and I had the privilege of briefly meeting acclaimed poet, essayist, and social activist Nikki Giovanni, a woman who, at 66, has been publishing poetry for over four decades while working to bring matters of social justice into the public eye through her prolific essays and lectures. Last week, Giovanni was on fire; I attended expecting a poetry reading but soon realized that she was prepared to lecture for the full 1 1/2 hours--without any notes--on current politics, social justice, and civil rights, while also paying a tribute to her friend and inspiration Rosa Parks, who, according to Giovanni, is the "most important person of the 20th century."
Nikki Giovanni, as you might expect, is not a closeted, stuffy, silver-spoon professor of English; she is a woman who says what she means (and means what she says) and an artist who has constantly pushed herself creatively throughout her life, creating works that make the world question itself. On Thursday, she proclaimed her support for gay marriage, claiming that one day we will look at the current laws and this struggle the way we now view miscegenation laws--with a kind of What the hell were they thinking? scowl.
This struggle, of course, is key; the struggle is the point of departure.
In a word, Nikki Giovanni is powerful--powerfully validated by her experience, wise, and compassionate. She harbors the sort of quiet intellect--the kind that truly has seen it all--that I hope to earn throughout my life.
Happiness and understanding, of course, do not come easily; these are fruits of a constant and effortful response to that creative drive within that spurs us on everyday to learn and create. It is a toil that is undertaken with a deep kind of gratitude--the kind that's hard to find sometimes--and a desire to see and feel and leave as much as we can before we die.
Before us, there was life. After us, what will there be?