Awake in the throes of an existential recession (you know, like a depression but not as bad) and this little piece began spinning itself in my mind.
It’s a little less glittery than I’m known for, so proceed if you’d like but know you were warned.
The Sands of Borrowed Time
It’s a strange feeling,
Knowing you’re living
On borrowed time.
To know that if you had been born in a different place,
Or a different era,
Your story would already be completed.
You would be another dusty volume
stuffed in a library shelf.
A small imperfect piece of fiction with an inconclusive ending.
It makes one wonder
What to do
With all that borrowed time.
How to fill the hours and minutes
To make the best use of those extra chapters.
And yet I sit staring at blank pages
Ink dried on my pen tip,
Poised to write
But with nothing to say.
I roam through settings
adrift, floating with no other purpose
Than to observe the scene before me.
I try on new characters.
Feel what they feel and hope what they hope.
I have no answers for myself,
but maybe I have answers enough for them.
I prowl through moments.
Stalking my plot.
Ready to pounce on any purpose,
Pinning it down until it calms and becomes
A cloak I can wear about my shoulders.
Shelter from the harshness of
The worst is when I loose patience.
Frantically running down corridors.
Endless hallways lined with boxes
Boxes packed with my life before this borrowed time.
Each box a chapter in a story waiting to be continued.
But I rush past them all.
The contents feel alien and quaint.
I don’t know how they might relate
To the story I’m trying to write.
Instead I search,
frantically flipping through blank pages
Looking for some meaning.
But it remains elusive and buried
In the sands of borrowed time.
It has been a very crazy summer and there is so much I want to talk about! Where to begin? With Pennsic 42, the most epic two weeks of the year? With my discovery of the meaning of life? With a chance encounter and my new friend?
How about this. It will all make sense in the end, I promise, but getting there…well it’s always an adventure, right? I’m going to start with the fortune cookie I got on Day 2 of Pennsic Set-Up, when Janeen and I brought dinner back after our final town run. The fortune cookie said “Talk is cheap, barbers give it away free with haircuts.” And that cookie really made me sad.
I thought about my Granddad (a barber) and all the great talks and advice he gave to generations of customers over the years. When he passed away I made sure my email address was included in the obituary because I wanted to hear stories from strangers about what a great person he was. And man those stories poured in! I am pretty sure if you asked them, they would tell you that it was the talks more than the haircuts (though those were great too) that kept them coming back time after time. And in today’s technologically stifling “connected” world, the ability to have a decent conversation is a dying art. Talk isn’t cheap, its priceless!
The next two weeks at Pennsic really reinforced the priceless-ness of real communication. I’ll be honest it was a little sad this year because many faces in our guild were missing due to severe illness. We felt their absence. I had hoped the somber tone would result in more evenings spent together under the communal big top tent, as we all drew strength from our community. What a strange community it is. The guild, which was formed long before I ever showed up, is a collection of vendors who wanted to work together to make their part of the marketplace beautiful and engaging. The vendors became friends, some of whom see each other regularly, and some of whom only see each other for those two weeks each year. And yet despite the gaps in time, or maybe because of the quality of the visits, strong friendships were formed and kept. I know that I personally consider the girls, daughters of original vendors, some of my closest friends on the planet, any time of year.
But I digress. I do not want to make it seem that Pennsic 42 was a depressed or deflated Pennsic. There was much laughter and many happy memories made. I can’t begin to describe it. But there were lists. Sheets and sheets of silly things said and done. Late night talks held over jars of Apple Pie, and later night adventures had with Celts, Mercenaries, Sicilian Travelers, and other strange and interesting new friends. It was a refreshing and healing sense of connection and community after the crazy chaos of the previous month on the road (see Moccasisters Unite). I wish I had pictures to show you, but someone cough*cough**Amber* kept all the good prints.
Oh here’s a good one:
By the time I got back from Pennsic my Wanderlust was really starting to kick in. Like Pennsic, I’ve realized that traveling is a bit of an escape for me. I get to see amazing new things, and have some really wonderful moments with complete strangers. Right on time, a travel angel came into my life. I think this was my first American travel angel. I met this travel angel at the Best Buy in Liverpool, NY. I had taken the van in to finally get the radio replaced, and when the technician, lets call him Jack, was finished we realized that the van only had one working speaker! At least I have one I joked. But Jack, after chatting for a bit, offered me the gift of sound. He had extra speakers that would fit, he said, would I like him to put them in? Um, YES Please!
So the next day I found my self winding down Route 48 South towards Jack’s house where I spent the afternoon in his drive way handing in ratchets and wrenches and talking about everything from Vikings, to survivalists (Jack is a Prepper, which was an extremely interesting and eye opening discovery), to woodworking and gun-smithing, to travel, and to Zen and the art of Hula Hooping. That was my favorite I think. “Do you like the ying yang?” he asked me, referring to the Taijitu symbol hanging on a cord around my neck. “Yeah sure, of course. Balance of opposing forces is always good, right?” When he pressed further I had to really try hard to verbalize the way I felt, and I came up with “I like to dance with the hula hoop so balance is a good thing.”
When I dance with the hoop it is a sharing of energy. Sometimes I stand still and the hoop swirls around me. Sometimes I move and the hoop stands still, and sometimes we move together. It is the same with energy: sometimes it moves around me, sometimes it moves through me, and sometimes it moves with me. With the hoop sometimes I explore how long I can keep the hoop moving around me before I fall or drop it. With balance I can move many different ways for a long time. But without balance I just fall over and that’s no fun. So that is why we need opposing energy and balance in our lives. Because it is more fun to dance than to fall down.
The speakers took much longer than Jack anticipated to put in, so we pushed off our hike in the woods until the next day. His woods were great; good run through the trees like Pocahontas woods. We found cool mushrooms and talked more about life, the universe, and everything.
“You really are a traveling fairy.” Jack said at one point. I had to agree with him, at this point I can really say travel has made me who I am, and I like who I am so I’m going to keep with it. Which made it so interesting the next evening when I finished a book called Time by: Eva Hoffman. One of the last paragraphs of her book really took all this meaning of life stuff that had unintentionally been percolating all summer and brought it to a frothy boil. I’ll quote her now:
“We do not all have to be poets, but if we do not want to live meaninglessly, then we need to give ourselves over sometimes to the time of inwardness and contemplation, to empathy and aesthetic wonder. We need to mull and muse, to reflect on our experience and interpret it, to perform on the level of our life narratives those acts of autopoiesis which apparently happen outside our intention or ken inside the brain’s neurological pathways. We need occasionally to go with the flow.”
In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , Douglas Adams says that the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42. The problem is, no one thought to ask what the question was and so little was solved. But I’ve realized that for me the meaning of life IS that moment when one laughs and says “Well what is the question then?” The meaning of life is the conversation that ensues. And later, the time spent thinking about the new things learned or realized because of that conversation. And then later, the moments when you get to share those new realizations with other humans and the cycle continues. Life is a spiral. It is dancing with a hula hoop. It is shared energy and balance.
At least, that’s the best I’ve been able to come up with so far. What about you?
With love and curiosity, intensity and enthusiasm,