When I was teaching I had a post it note on the base of my desk lamp with a Vincent Van Gogh quote on it: "The best way to know life is to love many things."
He's not someone who made it far in his own lifetime but the art that he's created has gone forward and gone forward and gone forward even up until now. And I think to myself, sometimes, about how he could have said that and then crumbled his life away over two days into the great silence of death after an afternoon in the gold summer wheat fields.
The mind is a funny thing. Some of us, maybe Van Gogh, too, can't control whether or not the world is bathed in gold light or drowning in darkness. And there are points of time that overwhelm us and push us and it is up to us to figure out how we make it through, alone, together, or not at all.
One of the loveliest things I've done is go surfing at night under the light of a full moon. The coast was dark and there were fires on the beach, tiny far away moving points of light there to guide us in and warm us up. We paddled out as far as we could go - the ocean that night was inky blue washed with grey surf - and just past the break I sat with everyone else, backs to the expanse of the ocean and faces towards the city.
It was a strange feeling - I didn't know anyone in that group since I had gone alone and met them there - but I was a strong swimmer and very determined and could hold my own just fine that night. Before we all rode in we stopped for a short minute and sat on our boards, bodies above, legs dangling in the water below and I felt like I was eyeing the world I was living in from a place not on Earth but very, very close by.
The waves wanted us to go in towards the beach and the push of them was getting stronger and stronger but we were not done being in the dark, warm ocean yet even though it seemed as if it was pushing us home, closing up shop for the night. We all kicked and paddled to resist it, trying to stay out to watch the fires on the beach and the stars above, wanting to stay suspended there in the darkness and the motion of the waves rocking me back and forth. Regardless of how strong a swimmer I was in the Midwest I couldn't compete with the waves as long as the company I had paddled out with. I was having a harder and harder time staying with the group.
So those strangers who had paddled out with me took my hand and linked their arms with mine. "If you want to stay we'll help you. If you want to go back in let us know. You're very stupid and brave to come out here at night," they told me. My hair was very long that summer, all the way down my back and almost to the surfboard I was balanced on, and I pushed it, salty and stringy, over my shoulders.
And then, a few minutes later, in the washing machine tumble roar of the ocean and the quiet of a nearly empty beach, we all got onto our boards, caught the break, and surfed in. Together.
Shirt: Self Made
Necklace and Earrings: Michael Michaud