Day Three

Posted on Jan 3, 2011 in Blog

Day 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

Since this is Reverb 10, The Delayed Version, I am of course using this prompt to describe a moment in 2010.  Hmm, hmm.  A moment when I felt most alive …

It’s a hard question.  When I think of last year, I think mostly of work.  Work at the office, work on the novel, work and work and work and not having any money.  That has a kind of “alive” quality to it, in the sense that I was aware, each and every day, of how thinly I was scraping by in my existence.  George Orwell, in Down and Out in Paris and London, speaks of this sensation, and of poverty in general, as having been quite the freeing experience — when all you can think about is how to get food for the day, all of those grand existential questions that we wrestle with tend to lose their immediate power.  Poverty didn’t quite work that way for me, however.  Going through the months and having gradually less and less money, coupled with student and credit card debt that just wasn’t going anywhere — there was nothing freeing about that.  Sometimes every hour felt like another unshakeable weight on my soul.  More obligations, more things to pay, more things to think about.  Shopping for groceries was an exercise in frugality gymnastics.  It was exhausting.  Everything was exhausting.

Yet even now I’m hard pressed to call it poverty.  I had a lovely house, and I always just managed to pay my bills, and it wasn’t until September that I ran out of money to eat.  True, I gradually became unable to make even the minimum payments on all of my loans, and had it not been for the fact that I walked my neighbour’s dog every day, I would have run out of money for food long before September.  But still — in the grand scheme of things, I feel strange calling myself poor.  I had so much, even in the midst of the difficulties.

Anyway.  A moment when I felt most alive.  One does, after reflection, come to mind.  It was a day in late February, or possibly a day in March.  It was an unusually warm day for Edinburgh, and I had come home from work during my lunch hour in order to walk the above-mentioned dog.  At this point, I was still working the contract job for the church (in addition to the office job and the freelance proofreading and the freelance editing and the revising of the novel), so I still had enough money to feed myself and do small things in and around the city.  I was still excited from the recent trip to Amsterdam, and the talks with the woman who would eventually become my agent, and I was on fire with enthusiasm for the novel.  (The enthusiasm eventually went away, but right then, it was delicious.)  So it was lovely to come home for a rest from my office job and feel the fresh sea air on my face, have the dog jump all over me in paroxysms of excitement, and go for a run along the sand.  It had just rained prior to my arriving home and the beach smelled wonderful — that sharp, clean smell of sea and water and wind that somehow managed even then to smell of solitude.  (I think it’s a particularly Scottish smell, but then perhaps that was just my experience of the country at the time.)

Anyway, so we ran on the sand and the dog went in the water for a wee bit.  Not for long, because the North Sea is damn cold at the best of times.  And as we were trudging back up to the promenade, kicking our feet through the sand in front of The Espy, there was a sun shower.  Just a small one — I didn’t even get wet.  But I turned around to face the water — we all know what sun showers mean! — and there it was:  the most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen in my entire life, stretching right across the ocean.  You could even see its double, clear as day.  I remember bending down to hug Jake and feeling perfectly, incandescently happy.

It went away, as happiness tends to do.  And eventually the rest of the year came along, with its struggles and its exhaustion and its hardship.  But every now and then I’d think back to that moment, when the air was soft and the sun shone and it felt like God had painted a rainbow just for me.

It didn’t solve anything, and of course it’s the cheesiest of things to remember — a rainbow, for heaven’s sake! — but there you are.  There are worse things to remember.