Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A New Kind of Unknown

I. San Jose, California
Nimi sits on the yoga mat next to me cross legged, hands resting on her knees in Gyan Mudra, eyes squeezed closed, still. I peer at her out of the corner of my right eye in amazement. Sat Nam, she says at the end of class and bows forward. 

Nimi is 3-years-old. Her brother, not yet a year old, never cries. Does he ever cry? I ask. Very little, Maria says. That's incredible, I say. I sat in silent meditation for 10 days at a Vipassana retreat when I was 8 months pregnant with him, Maria tells me. Children absorb everything.

II. Kelseyville, California
I stand in the center of the small classroom as the kind, grey-haired astronomer unlocks the dome room. When I emailed the observatory, I hadn't expected a private tour. But here I am. I was last here 6 or maybe 7 years ago--sitting in this room, listening to a lecture on the Keplar Mission, anxiously awaiting for the sky viewing to begin. And it was here in this room that my four characters began to take a more defined shape. I saw them in this very room--all for different reasons, their lives revolving around each other, gravitating slowing toward a common center where all logic breaks down much like how a black hole slowly pulls everything into its gravitational field toward the inevitable.

I drive up Konocti Road and look down on Kelseyville nestled at the base of Mount Konocti, separating it from Clear Lake. Vineyards stretch out in the opposite direction beyond the town. The small dome of the observatory sits inconspicuously in a field--the elementary school on one edge, the high school on another.

Mount Konocti looms over Clear Lake--volcano, mostly inaccessible, full of secrets. I think of my characters and the secrets they carry. I couldn't have picked a more perfect setting for this story.

III. Santa Cruz, California 
Everything will fall into place as it is meant, I rationalize. Nothing about going back to Santa Cruz is rational.

I lie on the floor, my eyes transfixed on the watery colors dancing across the ceiling and the over-sized house plants. Sofia reaches down and picks up my ankles and pulls hard nearly dragging me. Voices float around the room. Conversations lost in the dark, swirling chaos.

I stand in the lobby of the rustic, candlelit room. The familiarity astounds me--the mesh of lavender, eucalyptus, and every tea made that day, the watercolor paintings, the old wooden benches, the soft music, the sound of water, the serenity, nothing has changed.

The stories these walls could tell--life altering and life shattering stories, stories told over and over until they become urban myths, stories only spoken in hushed whispers between certain people--the violence, the secrets, the betrayals, my lost trust in security, in friends, in most everything--unless you were there living them as each unfolded, you'd never believe any of them to be true.

Giant bubbles float through the air and all the kids go nuts chasing them. I stand in the backyard as cold rain begins to pelt down on us, and I think of all the things I would have never done or become or written if it weren't for my connection to these people, this family. Some of the bubbles escape the children and float up over the roof of the house and disappear. We laugh at what the neighbors and folks driving by must think--the giant bubbles, a mystery floating through the sky on a cold, rainy evening.

I don't see the girl enter the venue until it's too late. She approaches us without as much of a bit of apprehension. My two companions leave the table, the other two are on stage, and I'm all alone. I am so sorry, she says and takes my hands into hers. Of the five of us, I'm the last one she should be apologizing to, but I'm the only one there to accept it. I haven't spoken to her in over six years, and now she's in my present talking and talking. But it's in the past she stands--forever living in a distant memory, fictionalized in a short story I once read to her just after I finished writing it. She had listened to the story with fierce intensity then fell to pieces in giggles. 

The past will haunt you this month, I had read in a horoscope article just before I left Chiang Mai. Funny how it did in the most unexpected and fulfilling ways--seeing all this past sneak up on me through a distorted rear-view mirror.

IV. The Plains of San Agustin, New Mexico
I walk along the upper deck of the Very Large Array's control room and see one of those big, green inflatable aliens sitting in a window. A hand written sign around its neck reads: Who's yo daddy? I'm yo daddy. I lean in closer almost pressing my face into the window when I notice a guy sitting at the desk where the alien is perched. He is staring at me over a computer monitor with a bemused look. I smile and back away quickly. I live for moments like these.

An array of 27 massive radio telescopes stretch out across the desert plains of central New Mexico. Every few minutes the dishes all shift slightly in a synchronized movement that is both exciting and chilling--collecting invisible information about our universe and transforming it into the visible, uncovering pieces of a fragmented story of our past spread out across time and space.

How do you process your past that brushes up again your present? How have you been able to see your past as something unknown and new to you? 


Maitland said...

Nice to see ya! Maybe i come visit in Thailand. When is the best time of year? Did my friend Rachel every look you up in Thailand?

Sarah Seymour said...

I'm glad you were able to make it to SC while I was there--even if it meant playing a show with Chas ;) But fun crazy dancing around Ron Record's house--just like old times, haha!

Yeah, visit Thailand--November, December, January, and February is the best weather--dry, and not too hot. March and April are unbearably hot, and May--Oct is monsoon season, so lots of rain.

No, I wrote her a couple times, but she never wrote me back. Have you talked to her since she got back to LA? Did she make it back?

Alison George said...

Sarah! Maitland! How I miss you both. Sarah I WILL come to Thailand and see you. Incredible written work as always. And I love you dearly and think of you so often and so fondly.

Sarah Seymour said...

Yes! I have a school break in October, and I will be finished with the school year next March. But of course, you can visit anytime! Best time of year weather wise is Nov--Feb. There is a really awesome festival is November. I do have a small break around New Years--I'm thinking of heading to an island. That would be a good time too!

And thank you! I look forward to seeing you again :D