Happy holidays! Today, I would like to share a journal entry with you. This passage has not been edited since it was written four years ago, so please pardon the missing commas.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Eyes have always intrigued me. “Windows to the soul.” I love to draw them, to photograph them, to study the colors in bright light with generous exposure. Perhaps that’s why one of the first details of each character I create is eye color.
Lately I have been obsessing over masks. Yes, I know, how cliché, the proverbial mask everyone wears. And yet the description is so accurate I can think of none better. I feel everyone owns a mask, some wear it more often than others, but mine is too heavy. It’s suffocating me.
Reality is a world of masks and boundaries and limits. I do not dismiss it, for it cannot be dismissed. It has its wonders, brief and fleeting though they may be. I know this; I am a photographer and I revel in capturing these moments. I can appreciate the simple beauty of the world. And yet I’m so saddened as I witness life drain the mystery and the wonder from the eyes of the aging. Is there anything more cruel than having your ability to imagine stripped slowly from your heart? I cling to mine with such wild desperation I can’t bear the thought of losing it. My little sister grew up faster than I did. The day came when she told me she didn’t want to play pretend anymore while I sat on my knees with a toy in hand, waiting. I suppose writing has become an “acceptable” sort of pretend, different from reading a book or watching a movie or playing a video game because I control what happens. It’s my world, limitless. But eventually I must always return to the real world with its troubles. The message I brought to SR was that there is magic all around but most people have lost the ability to see it. By this I mean imagination. What a sad day when you won’t skip across stepping stones because you’ve forgotten you’re allowed to leave the sidewalk. I watch children play and I envy and pity them, knowing they aren’t bound yet by the rules of reality. But they will be. Angels lose their wings and fasten a mask over their faces and slowly, the light will leave their eyes.
One of my greatest fears is losing my ability to escape into my imagination. I paused while shoveling the driveway and leaned against my shovel, thinking about how much I used to love the snow. The whoosh of a sled skating down the hill at Kesling Park, the glee of a snow day, the crunch of my boots breaking through the frozen crush as I explored the backyard with my camera in hand, even waking up and crawling across the mattress to lift the blinds and peek out the frosted window, my breath fogging the glass. Adults cursed the snow and watched the gray skies for a sign of spring while they sprinkled salt on sidewalks. I swore I’d never grow up to hate the snow.
And here I was, bundled in multiple layers with frozen fingers, shoveling in the dark, trying to remember winter’s bliss from a child’s memory.
I finished shoveling and stuck my shovel in the snow pile. Back stiff, cheeks numb, I walked to the edge of the driveway. I fell backward.
I laid still for a moment, and then I moved my arms and legs. And then, I stilled again in the outline of my snow angel. I watched my breath rise into the night sky, the gossamer clouds drifting over the starfield, the naked maples twisting labyrinth silhouettes above me. I thought of Christmas lights and remembered the simple innocence of believing in Santa Claus. One year, my little sister and I even found reindeer prints in the snow, the affirmation I needed when the first seeds of doubt started to spread their poisonous roots.
I invite you to close your eyes. Push away the panic-laden thoughts about money, bills, presents, work, deadlines. Remember the magic you once experienced at Christmastime.
Make a snow angel.