Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Place

So... we have this UNH MFA blog for school that I post to on occasion. Our professor asked us to talk about a favorite place (or maybe just any place) of ours. I like what I wrote there so I'm posting it here so I'll have it in the future. I think it's inspired me to write the prologue of a novel for my next workshop class.

"A Ruined Place"

I have just realized, somewhat sadly, that I don’t have a special place of my own. No special childhood camp grounds or vacation spots, no monumental places from adolescence, and nothing that tugs at my heart from the start of adulthood. And I have had no place that feels like home—although New Hampshire is sort of growing on me at this point—so I can’t write about that. All of the places I’ve lived have been have been decided by someone else (with the exception of Dover)—I was born in Nebraska (had no say in the matter) and then was uprooted from familiarity and shoved into the foyer of hell (aka Texas) as a teenager (definitely had no say in the matter).

So, I fully intended not to post on this subject, but then I started daydreaming about all the places that I will get to once I’m rich and famous (next year sometime, I’m sure): China, England, Japan, Russia, Italy, and Africa to name a few. And I’m sure I could write about any of those places in great detail, but I’d rather talk about a place that often pops up when I daydream.

I’ve always been a daydreamer. I think it started sometime after I learned to read (see my comment in Kristina’s post about children’s books), but I can’t be certain. I might have been born daydreaming—maybe it started as I was kicking my little brown legs, staring up at bright florescent lights of the hospital nursery while I waited for someone—anyone—to claim me as their own. Now, I find myself daydreaming whenever I am bored or overwhelmed and need to escape. It only takes an instant to switch over to this dream state—either a lull in a conversation, a topic that’s completely over my head, or one of my father’s lectures, anything can set off my subconscious into imaging crazy scenarios.

Sometimes I’m so lost that I don’t even realize when I’m daydreaming. My little sister, Jennifer, is one of the few people who knows when I’ve been overtaken by thoughts. She sort of looks at me funny and asks me why I’m smiling (fun, exciting, or scandalous daydreams make me smile). I hardly ever explain my daydreams because they’re so fragmented and jumpy or just too damn personal. Jen doesn’t pester me for details either, which I like. And while these daydreams are somewhat automatic and aren’t really sparked by any one thing, there are others that are guided by an image.

Whenever I see pictures (or watch movies) with castle ruins, I am instantly lost in my head. I imagine what it would be like if I stumbled across the ruins of a castle, fortress or old home buried deep in the woods or positioned high upon a cliff. I feel my pace slowing to a crawl and see my sneakers stopping before a stone path that leads up to the shell of a crumbled fortress where plant life has conquered the stones. I feel this heavy push of adrenaline charging through my chest and a cold shivering wash of goose bumps as they rush over my skin. I see devastation of what must have been a powerful structure and somehow I feel safe, as if this is the one and only place that I can let my own walls down.

I see myself moving slowly up the path, stepping deep into the ruins where the walls shoot upward and stop suddenly as if cut off by the sky. Here, in the center of the ruins, I find a rock hugged by moss and other crawling, creeping plant life, and I sit on it. I press my cold hands between my knees and stare at what has become of this place. I imagine how it must have looked hundreds of years ago when these crumbling walls were in their prime. Soon, if I stare hard enough and if my sister isn’t there to ask me what I’m thinking, the walls rebuild, transforming back to their smooth, young surfaces, and I see the people—not their faces or what they’re wearing, just people.

One day after a particularly vivid daydream like this—one that began when I was driving along Highway 510, the back road to our house down in Texas, and saw this little abandoned shed with a sagging roof and aluminum siding rusted through to make gaping holes—Jen asked me what I was thinking and I told her. I reconfirmed my deep desire to go to England or Scotland or Ireland (wherever castles may be) to see them for myself, to find ruins to investigate. She immediately jumped into the dream with me and we talked about what it would be like to be of the nobility—to be princesses, in a sense, walking around in castles. We spent fifteen minutes of our commute discussing what life would be like “way back then.”

Soon, as with all of our discussions, we fell into a silence. I started daydreaming about other places and maybe she thought about rational and smart things—probably something regarding international affairs. And as I drove blindly along the old highway road, somehow managing to avoid massive potholes, dead armadillos, and skunks, Jen turned to me with a sudden thought.

“You know,” she began with a smirk, “if we were to really go back to that time we’d pprrrroooobably be slaves.”

I smiled and glanced away from the road to see her grinning face and laughing eyes. We’d talked about this before, but then we transplanted ourselves into the pages of Pride and Prejudice, twirling and whirling in pretty dresses in some over-stuffed ballroom. That particular time we talked about how fun and romantic it would be—you know, the whole Mr. Darcy thing. Then Ms. Killjoy had to remind me that we’d likely be slaves serving food and dumping pee bowls.

We laughed good and hard at that.

“Yeah,” I nodded, “you’re probably right.”

“Yeah,” She said as she turned her eyes to peer through the bug-laden windshield, “that would suck.”

Soon we were driving in silence again, lost in our respective thoughts. Jen probably thought about terrorism (she was an international studies student at the time) while my mind was still consumed with castle ruins and thoughts of just what type of slave I could be and whether or not I'd be owned by a knight. And, as new thoughts and scenarios filled my mind, I started smiling.


angie said...

wow..... loved that! brilliant! i have an enormous smile on my face from your post. now i know where you escaped to during some of those lunch time conversations... ha ha! you are such a beautiful writer. seriously.

Jen (From NE) said...

I loved this! This totally proves why we get along so well. You can write things, the way I see them, or think. I am drawn in, and dancing right beside you in Pemberley. Good Job.


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