this one goes out to the lovers: a column about songs that get stuck in ur heart,
published on v-day each month.
sometimes a flash stamps itself under my eyelids, ricochets gold. that i blink, blink, i can’t blink out. for a little while, anyway. like the hesitant strobe of a listening mouth, or a leaf-turned-flare somehow landing, perfectly centred, on a child’s gleaming head. in september, i couldn’t stop seeing a chapter called sanctuary from lydia yuknavitch’s memoir “the chronology of water.”
after hurting and hurtling for so long, riding right on the edge-edge, yuknavitch — daughter, survivor, dropout, alcoholic, addict, convict, wife, wife, wife — arrives at a house in the oregon woods. 25 minutes from the university where she will teach and 45 minutes from portland. she, her third husband andy, their infant. iridescence. hummingbirds and dragonflies. “days that ran into nights that ran back into days.”
to be clear, i wasn’t seduced by a paradise; there are gnawed cores all over the grass. by which i mean this chapter’s idyll isn’t a return to some nostalgic mirage or a past obliviousness; negative spaces inhabit the hallways. yuknavitch fills them out with indignant joy, but the outlines are there. like couch legs, imprinted on carpet.
nor does it claim the finality of some kind of heaven. in the following chapter, trauma still shouts from their throats. but because they can safely be their whole-hurt selves together, they “give it a form.” they let it move through them. just like how, son to chest in the bath, she feels a “life force bigger than the night sky.” just like how this new world — the river, the elk — runs through their bodies, broken and trying.
what i’m saying is this alcove’s preciousness is amplified by the knowledge of its stakes. this house, this warm wood in spite of.
andy, “making the impossible sound ordinary,” calls it “what’s next.” lidia calls it a “green world,” a term Northrop Frye attributed to the bewitched middle-places in shakespeare’s plays. the frenzy of “a midsummer night’s dream” or the foliage of romeo and juliet’s desire. dark green delirium. spring fever outside of reason/season. the green world: not a beginning or an end but a forgiveness. vertical line, redrawn horizontal. horizon. in another word, home.
maybe this is the wrong comfort for me, a person who used to jump from island to green island (shell to turtle shell), but i think this is different. this a graspable endlessness. it doesn’t escape into a speculative vanishing point; it runs on a loop of a sungreen day. “what’s next.” a fresh day to keep waking to.
it’s not that i want the details of this life for myself; the magic, the clue, is in how this specific world replaces yuknavitch’s shadows, so meticulously, with light. the “thunder coming through” the bathing bodies of her and her child is the “exact opposite of the heart implosion” she felt for her first lost baby. and instead of the cruel “smoke and anger pouring out” from her father’s office, her house smells like “douglas fir and glee.” it smells like unfurling, like the marimbas their landlord makes in the workshop that she says “smell like life.” a life that smells like wood that smells like music.
that last sentence is a chiasmus, tiny green “world within a world where transformation is possible,” where “first meanings are undone and remade,” a switchback sentence structure that yuknavitch holds in her mind as she rocks her green child in the middle of the night. “thunderhearted.” jolted by his enormity. maybe a rocking from the same source as the “older than me” feeling that she smells in her landlord’s workshop. the urge to make, transmuted into holding your own creation to your chest and inhaling. giving the green a form.
what i’m holding onto is how momentary a world characterized by leaving can be. how it truly can just be you, attempting to whistle, culling a green smile from someone; you, closing your eyes to look into a darkness 25-minutes-from-here and 45-minutes-from-anywhere, here. as the world hums through you, as you hum through the world.
P.S. bonus feature! i don’t know why my brain did this, but imagining little green worlds reminded me of some of the only video games i have ever played. the gameboy sims’ magic lamp for taking naps in, and the tenuous green orb princess peach uses to heal herself (her three other powers are screenshotted on the game’s wiki, but green, like its worlds, is elusive to sight). something about video games + restoring vitality in a private way. bye!
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emilie kneifel is your secret admirer. find 'em at emiliekneifel.com. this month, em recommends: covering your zinc spots with fruit stickers.