Monthly Archives: July 2011

From the Archives – Noir

Why do we fear the dark?

As the shadows lengthen across the yards and the light begins to melt away from the sky, the darkness slithers like a serpent of the night beneath our doorways, through our slatted blinds and underneath our beds.
The mind becomes a master of disguise, shrinking our courage and enlarging all our fears, even those we had no idea that we had.

In the darkest watches, we fear the dark. We freeze inside of it, inside a noise or a draft or a mere feeling, and remain stiff and cold in the paralyzing blackness rather than run towards the light.

Once we’ve snuffed the candles out, once we’ve said goodnight and closed our doors, we should feel safer.
But why instead do we feel alone?
Why instead do we surrender to fear?

What lurks alone in every passing shadow that reminds us of ourselves? Of what we could be? Of what is lurking behind our own facades?

We are born into darkness, we embrace darkness to hide our faces. In the late hours, we hide our secrets in the folds of night, and tip toe down the passages that we have abandoned for so long, cobwebs spiraling across arched ceilings, drifting as a sticky vapor along the crown moldings and down the peeling, faded wallpaper.

Though these sights and sensations are what we know, we surrender to our fear

yet it seems we are too afraid to leave the dark.

That which we fear has held us captive,
and we know not our own selves

we forget the feeling of the light breaking through the dusk, the warmth of a sunrise on clammy flesh, remaining from the terrors that the darkness brings.

The mind is weak at night, fearing that which it cannot see and dying at the sight of the most familiar things that are veiled in ebony folds of evening, set and gone.

We are different creatures in the dark,
all of our emotions rolling forth in a tide,

a mirror
Blackness, like a forest pool, is our mirror into the deepest reaches of ourselves
for even rain can reach the seed deep under the ground, though the human eye does not know of its existence.

we see ourselves in the night,
and fearing ourselves, we run in the dark
but not towards the light
for even though we fear it,

the darkness is familiar
and we run towards what we know

And if only knowing fear,
then wrap ourselves in a blanket of the dark

and drift to sleep
before we forget
the racing of our own hearts

muffled by the sound
of rustling leaves,
a branch against the windows

and one owl,
asking us,
reminding us of who we are
before we forget
who we are in the sun.

Night Crawls In

Growing Up with Harry Potter

– a reflection of my childhood –

Fiery spells, dragons, witches, wizards, one Dark Lord. The Boy Who Lived. Castles crafted from magic and stone, creatures kept secret from the Muggle world. All of these elements held us captive as we stepped, one foot at a time, through a literary portal into the world of Harry Potter.

I remember the first time I held one of the books in my hand. It was fourth grade and the first two books were out on shelves. I brought it home because it fascinated me, all my friends were reading them and I flew through good books like the Concorde. My parents met my interest in the books with uncertainty. The Christian reviewing world had not done the books any favors by panning them completely without giving them a fair chance. One example lies in this review from World Magazine of the first three books – even though you can’t view the whole article, the first paragraph is laughable; bad things happening for no reason, wrongly marked as the modern successors to Chronicles of Narnia… The same issue of inherent evil lies in both works. The bad is brought by greed, lust for power and no concern for the sanctity of life and love. According to the Christian community, these books were pure evil, bent on driving children to Wicca or some other such cult. Somehow, what Dungeons and Dragons hadn’t succeeded at for decades was suddenly deemed possible by a few innocent children’s books.

Despite all the warnings against these “monstrosities”, my mother read the first one before me and was completely entranced. Enchanted, you might say. The spell of Harry Potter had been cast.

I began to read through the books with my parent’s permission and encouragement. When I first set my fingers to opening these books, it was 2001. I was eleven and was walking hand in hand with children my age, I in this non-magical, non-textual world. They were learning at Hogwarts and  I in Solon Schools. I felt no draw to the Dark Arts, but walked in step with my magical friends Harry, Ron and Hermione. Because of their shining and unmistakable fight for good, I looked to the light.

I watched as they learned their lessons and battled the difficulties in their young lives, and I in turn battled mine. We were both uncovering the most important lessons in life at the same pace – the importance of true friendship, the weight of unconditional love, and that revenge does not solve our problems. We fell in love together, we had heartbreak. We struggled through classes, they in Potions and me in math. As literary characters, they were written to be on a whole different plane of existence while still being able to relate to – and oh, how they were.

I finished and started new years in school and saw new birthdays, and Hogwart’s Key Three continued to grow and fight the impending evil in their fantastical world. When the Dark Lord returned, I felt the weight of darkness that Harry must be facing and an unavoidable sadness at the characters who were lost. I knew that this was not the purely feel-good series that I had known at first, but I kept reading. In a sense, I was growing up with these kids. I knew their pains, I knew their joys. It was experiencing a different culture – we have different expectations, gifts and experiences, but at the root of it, we understand each other. A child in Australia and a child in Solon, Ohio can both understand the frustration and awkwardness of puberty – Muggles and the Wizarding World are no different. J.K Rowling gave these characters, all of them, such spirit and such clarity in their emotions and their development. I knew their teenage angst, I felt their awkward social slips. Especially being a Christian who is always fighting against sin in her life, I could even relate to their struggle to ward off Evil. We shared all of this, and we shared sleepless nights as they pondered their quest and I read on.

My favorite pastime was preparing for and attending the new book releases with my friends like Adrianne and Rachel. It was like the fluttering anticipation of a new school year. I was going to be reunited with my friends, my heroes, and I was going to follow them on their continuing journey. They needed me and I needed them. We needed each other. We fell in love and bonded with new characters one at a time: Sirius Black, Lupin, Alistair Moody, Tonks. We even fell in love with some bad guys, but the bad guys I loved were not so bad in the end.

Cracking open the brand-new book on the night of its release, I would always enthusiastically dive into the prologue, catching up with Harry at Privet Drive, sharing his hatred of how poorly Dudley treated him, silently singing him Happy Birthday. But all was not well – darkness crept closer, and I stood by Harry as he faced it full on, making foolish mistakes in passion that I would have done as well. Run by his emotions and confused as to his purpose, he and I were linked in this lack of understanding ourselves, and we both figured through it. Piece by piece, our lives came together. I would never be in the position that Harry would face, but I could at least cheer him on and try to understand his ordeal.

Harry’s sixth year was the middle of my time in high school. Love was in the air and I suffered my first heartbreak. Hermione and I shared furious tears and when Ginny and Harry finally figured out their feelings, I rejoiced.  Amid the haze of love was a continuing pressing dark as Voldemort became stronger, and Harry and I began to learn together that life is not fair and that adulthood can spring on us far faster than we think we’re ready for it. But we learned that we have to grow into it, sometimes quickly. We learned that maturity must be understood before it can be implemented in our lives. We learned that people die, almost never when we expect and often too soon. We learned that the plan is much bigger than our understanding but that we all have some part to play. We learned that little tasks must be accomplished to get closer to achieving the grand goal. We learned that hardship does not let up to give us reprieve. It is not always present, but it does not run on our schedule.  We learned that people, our heroes, are not above the grasp of death or failure or sin. Magic does not mean immortal.

Finally, we reached the final chapter of our time together. I was at camp and my magical friends were also about to embark for the wilderness. They were forbidden to be seen in the magical world and I had to put them away at camp. They were to remain in hiding in both worlds.  Hunted by Voldemort and determined to crush him, the trio ran through the woods, forsaking their final year at Hogwarts. I ran through the woods chasing eleven year olds and prepared for my senior year of high school. It was a time of parting, sacrifice and sadness. But, over all of the shadows, it was also a time of happiness, of completion, of closure. So many truths came to light in their lives and mine. We said goodbye to friends and loved ones, some erased from our lives and others left behind. We felt physical and emotional pains and were crippled by the unexpected. I read by flashlight on a hill and raced with them through their adventure and felt the sting of loss and the global sigh of relief at their victory. We cried and we laughed and we missed the lost. We said much we didn’t mean. We buried the dead and clarified the mysteries and forgave the mistakes of the past.

And even when it was all over, we still had the upcoming movies to finish us out.

I grew up with those versions of our characters too. We all grew together and now we all have to part. Watching the final movie with my mother, a part of me felt my heart break as I watched this whole decade come to life on screen. I watched and followed these kids as they grew up, embodying the souls I’d come to bond with and love over the years. Christopher Columbus made no mistake in those casting choices – it is him that I thank for his wonderful casting. He gave Harry Potter life. He gave them heart. And when it all came to a close, I cried. I sobbed at the unrealized love of Severus Snape, at the falling of so many beloved people, at how far we all had come, at the realization that this was it. A chapter of my life has been closed, and now it is time, in a sense, to move on.

It takes a great author to write great characters. It takes great readers to love these characters as their own friends. It also takes a great reader to be able to know when something has come to and end. Rather than mourn the ending of one of the best adolescent series to ever be written, I rejoice that I got to be a part of this Harry Potter generation. I aged and matured and learned with these characters, one step at a time. I watched as Neville blossomed from awkward, ridiculed, bumbling child to a brave and fearless man, destroyer of the final Horcrux. I hated and pitied Draco Malfoy as he fought himself and the true state of his heart to decide whether he was to follow duty or morality. I mourned the deaths of Dumbledore, of Snape, of Lupin and Tonks and George and Dobby and Hedwig and Moody and Sirius. I rejoiced at the death of the Dark Lord.  As I said, it takes a great author to craft such wonderful,believable characters, good and evil, who will remain immortal in those pages. J.K Rowling, thank you.

Thank you for allowing me to grow up with these characters – my friends.
Thank you for helping me discover who I was through them.
Thank you for a childhood filled with joy, fear and magical wonder.
Thank you for giving me a world that I can and will pass on to my children in the years to come.

And to my friends in the world of Harry Potter,
to Harry and Hermione and Ron and all the rest,

I will not grieve the end of a childhood and the end of your adventure. I am starting and continuing my own life adventures, many of which I started while spending time with you. I am gazing at the horizon of my life and I can’t wait to reach it like you have.

I will not grieve the end. In a sense, this will never be the end.

Every time I read those books, we shall meet again.

The Average Working Woman

Every day that I go to my place of employment, I wake up as early as 7:30 a.m and as late at 8:25. I shower, I get dressed, I pack my lunch and I eat breakfast. I make sure my car has gas and I make sure my cellphone is charged. I get in my car and I turn on the radio.

If I leave early enough, I run into town and swing by Caribou Coffee to pick up a small dark roast of the day – if I’m lucky, Obsidian. The baristas start to recognize my face as the daily twenty seconds I spend in the store start to accumulate. Coffee hot and black and change now jingling in my pocket, I get back in my car.

I slide my little Honda onto the freeway, grumbling about traffic and the man in front of me who has had his right signal on since we left the side streets. I nudge the volume knob up on my radio and allow the chattering of talk shows to crackle my speakers and turn into white noise. My foot plays the gas pedal like a mad organ, edging up past the speed limit to try and beat the clock. Some days I slow for traffic, some days the freeway is clear. I tap my hand on the wheel to the occasional song that breaks the mundane broadcast gossip.

I know the way to the office with my eyes closed, and make my lane changes and exits accordingly. I avoid the j-walkers and mind the stop lights as I barrel down Euclid Avenue in attempt to make it before 9:30. I know my boss doesn’t mind a few minutes off schedule, but I don’t want to make a bad impression. I want to get the day started.

I’ve scalded my tongue on the hot coffee, put my lunchbox in the fridge, settled into my squeaky rolling chair and watched the wasps wriggle their way into the third floor screen. My computer flickers to life and I sort out my to-do list. We choose and discuss a character quality of the day – zeal, forbearance, appreciation. The day has begun for this average working woman.

I fit the description, but I am far from average.

I can be a working American woman without digging for equality and rallying for acclaim and standing on a feminist soapbox.

I love my job.

I perform basic tasks like printing shipping labels, packaging books and forwarding an article for editing. I play with my gifts by designing a cover for a new marriage module in Photoshop. I learn how to advertise an entire conference in 140 characters or less. I configure the FTP settings of Dreamweaver. I understand the base differences between the Baha’i faith and my own Christian belief. I can pinpoint my character strengths and acknowledge my weaknesses.  I think of my significant other.

I love my work. I go to the office every day anticipating what I might accomplish without ever expecting recognition or excessive praise or wishing for an early day. I work hard and do my best without any incentive, except for the thought that I’m doing a good job for someone who needs me. Yes, I’m being paid, but it’s not the first thing that occurs to me. I’m here to do what I set out to do, and the payment is just a happy plus. I’m doing what I love, and even when I’m called upon to sludge through mundane or frustrating or complicated tasks, I perceive them as challenges and I jump in with both feet. My boss is just another passionate citizen with a brilliant idea for how to make lives better. We are not necessary for survival, but we need each other.

We break for lunch and discuss faith, relationships, silly stories from the weekend and philosophical questions to mull over while munching on a turkey-and-ranch spring salad.  We comment on the wildlife and try and catch a glimpse of Lake Erie through lush maple trees. We share thoughts about life, love and the business. We comment on the weather. Afterwards, we banter back and forth between the offices. We laugh about our compulsive editing wars and the absurdities of some assignments. We cut each other slack. We focus on character.

Every day, I finish my work. Even if I didn’t complete all the tasks on my list, I know that there will be tomorrow. I know I did accomplish much, even if that “much” only covered one or two things. I leave the office just as enthusiastically as I came, because I know I did my work well and I enjoyed it all. I back out of the drive, turn up the radio and sing along at the top of my lungs to the afternoon commercial free hours. I maneuver through lazy drivers on their way home from a hundred different places. I’m one of them, just trying to find my way to my exit.

My coffee is finished and the last drops are cold. My lunchbox is empty. My car needs more gas.

The average working person (and woman) focuses on these things. These things and her paycheck.

These are the least of my worries as I cruise along the highway home.

I have the opportunity to experience, for the first real time in my life, what it means to be the average working woman.
In a sense, I’m a corporate chameleon, putting on the mental suit of a frenzied businesswoman while just happily blending in to a crowd that’s lost the purpose of this trek. For them it’s survival, it’s the norm, it’s what needs to be done.

There has always been the idea of the average working woman.

The difference, however, is that I strive to make this so much more than average.
I make this my own.