Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.
-from the Omega Point by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
My sister has a shower curtain with the map of the world on it. I always stay at her house when I do the Georgia marathon and I deeply enjoy the luxury of that post race shower at her house. I love, freshly spent from my contrived urban journey, standing in her shower with midday light filtering through the glass tiles, the warm water massaging my tired, sore and now stiff body. I will trace my fingers over the continents, the mountains, the oceans and all the tiny islands and cities I will never see. I marvel at the broken puzzle of the earth; seeing how it might have all once fit together as I revel in that last bit of post-race glow. I traveled miles by foot but really, I have gone nowhere--as I finished precisely where I began. Nevertheless, there was a three and half hour journey where my mind, whilst my body was occupied, traveled the world, seeing its history, my history, all the places, spaces and corners of my mind. I connected dots. I solved a mystery. And for a singular moment, I put all the pieces of the puzzle and the world back together.
But, then, I rinse the conditioner out of my hair, dry myself off and forget about the world. Forget her mysteries and how the puzzle fit together as I slip into make-up, fancy hair, and clean, fresh clothes.
Weeks later I am in Birmingham and I go out for a run during a break between my daughter's lacrosse games. As I explore the new landscape, I recall the world before my sister was born. I remember, randomly, that when I was five my family lived in an apartment in Sandy Springs called Rolling Woods. We had the basement apartment. The whole back side of the apartment was windows that looked out to the trees. We had a patio with a stained wooden swing and there was dirt off the corner of the concrete pad that I liked to dig in. Beyond the trees was a creek and another apartment complex, where I was told, children were not welcome.
Above us lived a little girl with thick, beautiful black hair named Ceclia. She was younger than me by a year or two. She was an only child. I adored her; for her hair and her name- because of the Simon and Garfunkel song- of course, but also, because she was the only girl that would play with me. There was another girl in the building. She lived on the top floor, or rather her dad did. Her parents were divorced, so she was only there some of the time. Her name was Dagney. She was a little older, definitely taller and she did not like me. I think it was because one day I told her I thought she looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I wasn't being mean, in fact in my mind I still see her as Shaggy- lime green shirt and a mess of sandy blond hair. I could tell though, after I said it-- said "you look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo," --that she did not like it.
But I couldn't undo it.
I could only learn to not do it again.
Cecilia, even though I adored her, I was terrible to her too. I guess, I was never very good at being friends with girls. When my mother would take my brother and I to Hammond Park, I would always beg her to bring Cecilia with us. And she would, but then once at the park, with its change of scenery and shiny new people, I would ignore Cecilia and make new, temporary friends on the play ground. Cecilia would cry and my mother would say later, I am never bringing her again. But she would, because my mother was pregnant and I would obnoxiously beg her to let me bring Cecilia until she gave in. So Cecilia would always come with us to the park and I was always terrible to her.
Most of the time though I played with Cecilia in her apartment as she didn't really like to play outside. She liked dolls and indoor games. Her parents had an extra bedroom or maybe it was just an extra room. Either way, that room did not have bedroom furniture. It had toys, a lazy-boy chair in the corner, an ugly couch pressed against the wall as an after thought and a card table in the center of the room. I think it was Cecilia's playroom because I remember us always playing there. On the table was always a jigsaw puzzle in some stage of almost completion. I would always look at the puzzle and its progress and the piles of pieces scattered around the table. One time, while Cecilia and I were playing in that room, I slipped a piece of the puzzle into the pocket of my green and white gingham shorts. I don't know what ever happened to the puzzle piece but I know I never put it back on that table. Maybe it fell out while I was on the playground swing-set when I was trying to make my swing go the highest of them all and it was lost in the thick of the grass, its existence dependent on the mercy of feet.
Or maybe I lost it when I laid in the dirt, my shoulders and hips flush in a line with the other kids in the complex who volunteered for the older boys on bikes with dare-devil intentions. Mini Evil Knievels on mongooses. They would line us up, flat on our backs, next to their homemade ramp and jump their bikes over us. I was a reliable volunteer, but I always insisted on being near the ramp, either first or second. I was never one of the brave ones on at the end of the line, willing to risk getting landed on.
I played it safe.
Most likely though, the puzzle piece lingered in my pocket; going through wash after wash in the laundry until it could no longer stand the rigors of water and soap. Its compounds broken down fiber by fiber until finally only tiny pieces of atoms remained that were silently absorbed back into the universe.
Really, the only thing I know for sure, is that Cecilia's parents were never able to finish that puzzle.
In Birmingham, I lose my puzzle reverie and I realize how much I am struggling in the heat and the humidity running up the hills in the affluent suburb of Mountain Brook.
Hills are good for you.
I tell myself this always and while in the throes of my misery I try to frame my struggle with all the gifts the hills will give me:
But the positive thinking never works very well nor does it last very long. I am left to employ a different tried and true technique. It is called what you can't see does not exist. I trick myself into believing there is no hill, only a slow painful period that will be over eventually.
Of course, I will still want to know when it will end.
I will stare at the sidewalk and count to 20, sometimes 30 and then allow myself to look at the hill. I will measure the distance between myself and the relief I will meet at the top. I remain calm and patient, biding my time until I reach the crest of the hill that will allow for the release the downhill always promises my calves. Get ready, I tell my quads, it will be your turn soon.
I know. The counting is just another way I distract myself from the task at hand. Always trying to move things along as quickly as I can.
As I run up another hill and turn a corner it starts to rain. The rain is a welcomed relief from the thick humidity. The air releases its clamp and as I stare down at the sidewalk I lose count when I come upon a Luna moth. She is flat and perfect, her wings fresh from the Chrysalis.
Is she resting? Is she dead? Why is she here in the day time? Do moths sleep? The sidewalk is not the best place to rest, I think.
I do not stop to inspect her. The powder green color and that sheen on Luna moth wings make me uncomfortable. Slightly nauseous even. I cannot bring myself to truly look at the moth and her beautiful wings with those eyes that watch, but do not see and never blink.
This is the third Luna moth I have seen in my life and the second in the bright light of day. However, I fail in that moment to find any significance in the moment other my own fatigue. It is only later that I will recall the first time I saw a Luna moth.
It flew into the windshield of my jeep. I was nineteen, driving down Woodstock Road when it was a newly expanded four lane road. Now it is six lanes and officially a highway. Highway 92. It was late at night and I do not recall where I was coming from, probably driving home from college but possibly from a fun night out. I cannot remember which it was, if it was mundaneness or revelry. It is funny how the mundane will seem impossible to endure and the revelry very important to capture but both, you will think, are something you won't forget.
But forget, apparently you do.
But I remember the moth.
She came out of the dark and spread flat against the glass suddenly. Surprised, and never having seen a Luna moth before, I turned on the windshield wipers in a panic. Moth parts went everywhere. The body went one way and the wings, broken into pieces went everywhere. That powder green, luminescent in the dark, glowed in arcs over my windshield.
Of course I was out of wiper fluid so I had to drive home with moth pieces all over my windshield.
Of course I didn't wash the moth pieces off when I got home.
And, of course I left them there-- until weather, air and time cleared the glass of those moth pieces and the color and the luminosity faded away.
It was more than ten years until I saw a Luna moth again. This time I had a phone and I took a picture of one I found resting on the glass of a store front window. I suppose, I could search the archives of my computer to see if I still have the picture so I could investigate the totem moth's wings.
But is it the same thing to look at photographed moth wings?
Would the thrill be the same?
A photograph, I believe, tells the truth about a moment that happened. But the real truth is, that the moment might have been a lie. The camera, with all her tricks and unbiased lenses, can never really capture a moment precisely, truthfully.
And, who knows what hand the artist's eye had in manipulating the moment in that solidary attempt to outwit the transience of time.
So what is true?
What will I see, if I look back on those now 10-year-digitally-embalmed moth wings?
The moth is dead. She is hundreds of generations from where that moth began.
The answer comes too late.
I should have stopped.
I should have stopped there on the hill and not run on.
I should have paused to take a moment and see the pieces the world continues to lay out before me. Sometimes, grandly at my feet.
But I didn't.
I ran on.
I always run on, caught up in the revelry of the moment. Moments, except those painful ones, that I actively choose to divert my eyes from. In those instances I seek boring diversions, like counting to twenty over and over and over again- missing all the things.
I try to be Isis. I wander through the corridors of my mind looking for the lost, dropped and forgotten pieces. Pieces, I realize, I may no longer remember correctly. Pieces, nevertheless, I will try to put together. This piece with that piece. Somehow, desperately they all must fit. I want it to all fit together.
But maybe these are not pieces from the same puzzle. Maybe they don't go together after all.
Is this my problem?
I want to believe the mystery is always presenting itself to me in small, dispersed revelations. Hoping, that while I do not see now, someday, if I pay attention, I might.
I want to believe that the myopia of the present is corrected by the lenses of time and distance.
And distance? Well, I cover that easily but sometimes I worry that there is not enough time left to fix my myopia.
It is though those damn Luna wing eyes that concern me the most.
Those eyes that do not blink or see.
Those eyes that miss the pieces, the puzzle.
Those eyes that can only catch passing glimpses at the mystery.
I keep thinking about them and why they make me so uncomfortable.
It might be because there really is nothing to see.