Storytelling

In light of Meilin taking a bit of a break for the holiday season before kicking off the next Book, and in honor of her particular style I thought it would be interesting if the rest of us could do a bit of storytelling ourselves.

The History, as she writes it, is a very in depth depiction of some of the key human interactions that go on ‘behind the scenes’ in the official history of this rich world she’s created. The whole theme of history ,as it is written, leaving the vital things that truly drove it’s characters out, strikes a chord with me. I wonder how many of you have thought the same thing in regards to your own life experiences.

Can you recall a story, one you would be willing to share whether happy or sad, confusing or clarifying, warming or uncomfortable, that would flesh out your life history a bit? Do you remember a heartening detail at some point in your life, where if someone else wrote your story they might miss what really happened (or held the most meaning for you) unless you told that story yourself?

When I ask myself these questions I find I recall little details that no one else but myself could have recalled. Small things that made a moment special, or memorable at all,. even within normally memorable occasions. Like the birth of a child:

If someone wrote a story about my life they would say that on February 20th, a little less than two years ago, I went to the hospital to be with my best friend for the birth of her daughter. Needless to say, most people would agree this is a memorable moment in anyone’s life and would describe it thus, but the things that make it mean the most to me are small, special details…

I was given the opportunity to be the person who went into the surgery with my friend for her c-section. Before going into the room I was given hairnet, surgical mask and a large paper mesh jumpsuit of sorts to put over my clothes that was much too big for me as it was made for a man. I was surprised that it didn’t itch. And I was surprised I didn’t feel funny wearing it despite how funny I must have looked in it!

The nurse preparing me led me through confusing halls of the hospital, to a waiting room that was empty of people accept for me. I thought it was odd, but in the end I was glad of it since I was growing more and more nervous the more I thought about the fact I was getting ready to go into a room where my best friend would be cut open. Blood and I don’t mix, at least not in a state where I remain conscious for long. Someone telling my story of that twenty minutes while I waited would say just that. “She waited a nervous twenty minutes before being called to the surgery.” What I and I alone know is that I came to grips with the idea of blood and dealing with the momentous occasion of the birth of a little person we’d all been waiting for for months now…by acting like a complete dork.

There was a chair in the waiting room.

Now, it wasn’t just any chair, it was one with wheels. I’m sure you can see where this is going. On the cold, hard, sterile floor of that empty waiting room I had a hell of a time pushing myself back and forth across the room. Don’t ask me why, but what started as nervous fidgeting in a chair, an idle push from one side to the other, ended up in giddy giggling and flights across the room. So, I can tell my little ‘neice’ that Auntie spent the last twenty minutes before her birth playing with a rolling chair in the hospital waiting room! Something she would probably get in trouble for! I didn't tell her mother that any time soon.

The birth itself was so much faster than I’d ever dreamed it would be, and I spent most of that time hiding behind the sheet that blocked our view of the actual surgery. I held my friend’s hand and talked to her through her fuzzy medicated state as the doctor pushed her tummy this way and that to free her daughter.

Now she was completely numbed and didn’t feel it when the doctor was finally able to lift that baby into the air. So I got to be the first person who looked on this new little person. I remember that moment partly because I was thinking just that. And I remember telling myself not to cry since I didn’t want to have a runny nose to deal with! In the next few seconds, as the doctor turned the child to start cleaning her, and show her to her mother. I turned my friend’s head toward them and remember the emotion in the small word she uttered at the sight of her. All she said was “Oh.” Then, “look at her.” But that was enough to make me cry.

I watched as she was cleaned, weighed, and clothed for the first time, and then I was ushered out before they really finished sewing my friend back up. I knew before that day that I would be there for this birth, and that it would mean something to me forever, but I really couldn’t have dreamed up all the little details that made it mean so much.

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MeiLin's picture

Most High

Your story made me verklempt! No2 was c-section and No1 was a tough vaginal birth, and really, by the time you finish either, "Oh!" is about all you can manage. But there is a world of meaning in that little sound, isn't there?

Ladyshade's picture

Yes! Yes there is. And that is what sticks in your mind about it!

rdehwyll's picture

Devotee

Ladyshade wrote: "Can you recall a story, one you would be willing to share whether happy or sad, confusing or clarifying, warming or uncomfortable, that would flesh out your life history a bit? Do you remember a heartening detail at some point in your life, where if someone else wrote your story they might miss what really happened (or held the most meaning for you) unless you told that story yourself?"

So...

Long ago, and far away from where I now sit tapping on my keyboard, I found a very special place, called 'Bender's Woods', after the family that owned the property. It was about a quarter mile from my childhood home, down the road past the local supermarket and through a cornfield to where a small hill stood, covered with huge old trees. The woods proper was probably no more than two or three acres, but there were winding animal tracks to follow, some that eventually turned into pathways worn by the feet of the neighborhood children who played there.

For such a small area, there were many wonders to be found, especially by youngsters as yet untouched by the need to 'grow up' -- Trees that had trunks so large that eleven children could clasp hands and be unable to wrap themselves around them, Trees that formed perfect domes with downhanging branches that could be crawled into and imagined into houses, even a small swampy area where the bravest, outfitted with high boots, could wade and explore, finding 'treasures' beneath the waters like old bottles of unusual shapes and sizes, strangely shaped metal objects, and the occasional 'splash' that signified they had disturbed a frog or a muskrat.

One area held particular interest for myself, my brother, and our friends -- a series of mounds of earth buried under a number of fallen trees, leaving what we termed 'wooden caves'. We would spend long summer days 'improving' the 'caves' with the addition of sheets of bark, layers of branches and leaves, and even going so far as to bring in plastic sheets on which to store blankets, canned foods, and oil lamps, turning some of the chambers into our 'personal caves', where, on the rare occasion when our parents would allow it, we would 'camp out' overnight.

Then there was the night we heard the music...

At first, we thought someone had brought one of those newfangled 'transistor radios' (Which tells you just how long ago this was) and was playing it, but soon everyone camping out that night had been accounted for, and nope, no one had anything like that...

So we began to search through our 'caves', wondering where the music was coming from. Sometimes, we would think ir was coming from one direction, but would fade away when we crawled to where we thought it might be, only to sound from somewhere else. This went on for what seemed like hours, until we gave up and returned to our private chambers to try to finally get some sleep before the sun rose.

Five of us spent that night in our 'caves' -- Myself, my brother Richard, and our friends Chuck, Bobby, and David. And the funny thing is that each of us turned out to be 'special' in some way.

David went on to grow up and become an architect, designing some of the most beautiful structures. Chuck became a talented musician. Bobby was an Artist, painting some very hauntingly beautiful pictures before his untimely death at the age of 31. Richard and I -- well, we both managed to skip a few grades in school and graduate early. Richard went to law school, and now works as a successful Lawyer in Washington, DC (Which I jokingly say proves him to be the evil twin!).

Me? I went to college at the age of 13, graduated with my Bachelor's in Education in only three years, then went on to get my Master's in Medieval History before I turned 18... and I traveled -- first to Viet Nam, courtesy of the US military, who taught me how to blow things up; Then, on my own, through Western Europe and Great Britain, gathering information for my Doctorial Thesis (Which now sits gathering dust in my desk drawer) and instead finding the woman who would become my wife and make me very happy for the 20 years we were given to share together. I was given opportunities thoughout my lifetime to acquire interests and skills in many different things, to learn and experience new skills from others who, while not particularly well known in general, were/are Geniuses at what they do.

Am I famous? I think I can say I've had my '15 minutes', at least at local levels -- and somehow, I think that the five of us who spent that night trying to 'find the music' so long ago were touched by the denizens of Faerie to lead extraordinary lives.

A few years ago, I went back 'home', and had the opportunity to take a walk down the road and cut through the cornfield to Bender's Woods one last time. Some of the paths are still worn, some of the huge trees have been lost to storms, toppled to lie rotting and covered with moss and mushrooms and toadstools. A swath of the woods had been cut down at one point to extend a roadway, but it never happened, so it was growing up again. The swamp had been filled in when they cut the roadway, and was now a small clearing of grassy meadowland. The mounds and fallen trees are still there, though it looked as if the 'cave' system had long ago collapsed and rotted away.

As I stood there, I caught a glimpse of something laying atop one of the mounds, and made my way carefully to where it lay. Dirty and tarnished, I picked up a rusty tin flute, the fingerholes clogged with dirt -- and remembered the music we had heard so very long ago. It had been played on a flute...

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

that is all.

Paisleigh's picture

Devotee

0.0 'nough said 0.0 (college at 13?! I was in 8th grade at 13. and at 21 I'm only in my third year in college and my first in my major with at least three years left [after this one]) Wow- sounds like an exciting and interesting life you've lead.

Shinjinarenai's picture

Postulant

If a historian was to comment on my life (thus far, what little of it there is), they might briefly mention that while I was in Japan, I went to a sakura-viewing party. But there was so much more to it than that. I understood something very important that day, and when I got home I wrote about it. I went back in my writings and found it to share, just because both Ladyshade's story and rdehywll's story were so good. Here it is.

Kyou wa, watashi wa oshiro ni hanami ikimashita.

I went to a cherry blossom viewing party at the castle today.

A very simple sentence. Beginners, really. But today there was more to it than I realized.

First, my host mother, Mrs. Kuroda, 12 year old brother, Shuu-chan, 16 year old sister, Sakiko-chan, and I piled into Mr. Kuroda's blue car and he drove us to Himeji Castle. He battled traffic unlike any I had seen there before. When the street light said 'Walk' there was a mass exodus of people coming and going to the castle, Japanese and foreigners indistinguishable in the bright spring sunlight. It seemed that everyone and their neighbor had decided that today was the day to see the sakura- the delicate pink flowering cherry trees that are so important to the souls of the Japanese. I brought my digital camera with the batteries fully charged.

Just inside the castle grounds, my host mother found her friend, whose birthday it was. We fought the masses of people and eventually captured a space to eat. We had a bento box picnic under a flowering sakura tree, squeezed together on the small tarp Mrs. Kuroda had brought. In front of us there was a couple with their picnic, a foreign man with a ponytail and a beautiful Japanese woman. Next to us on all sides were families with small children who ran around and threatened to squash our lunch. The flowers dappled the strong sunlight and made it tolerable, and we made a toast with beer for the adults and tea for those of us who weren't of age. There were onigiri (rice balls) and lots of vegetables and chicken. The crowds flowed around us like the moat outside, so I alternately watched the sakura and the people.

After lunch we pulled out the sweets. I ate sakura mochi, a sort of sweet pink rice ball with the flavor of the flowers, particular to spring. I took pictures of myself eating it because I thought it would make a nice profile picture for my blog. It was delicious. Sakiko-chan found some friends of hers from school, one of whom was in my class. We spent some time gently arguing about what we wanted to do, in the Japanese fashion: Shuu-chan wanted to climb to the top of the castle, others wanted to go to the zoo or walk around. I wanted to be by myself, so after I was dragged through the zoo with Mrs. Kuroda and her friend, I was released and told to meet back at the bridge at 4. I had an hour.

I left the zoo and found myself at the moat of the castle, behind the Art Museum. It was much less crowded here. I walked at a good pace, and contentedly, happy to have some time to myself and to not have to worry about speaking Japanese for a while. Whenever something beautiful caught my eye, I stopped and took a picture. I stopped very often, but time didn't seem to be moving very quickly. I watched the koi swim in the moat, and wondered where they were going, and if they noticed the sakura up above. If they didn't, I understood- I didn't see what was so special about sakura, anyhow. They were just pretty flowers. I took a picture of the koi swimming alone in the water and the sunny moss covered moat wall and continued walking.

I went through a park that I knew well, having used it often as a shortcut to the library. There were children everywhere. A businessman in a dark suit on a cell phone politely said 'Konnichiwa' to me and bowed, and went on his way. I took pictures of everything because the camera had memory enough. The kids had started a game of tag when I left and continued further along the moat.

I came to the bridge that led to the park inside the moat. On the bridge an old man and his wife were throwing crumbs of bread to the koi. There must have been a couple hundred of the fish, all dark green except for the rare golden one. A white duck and a mallard were sleeping on a little island, but roused themselves and attempted to catch some bread for themselves. Pigeons also tried to snatch the bread from the air, with little success. With encouragement from the old man, I took many pictures and a video, then thanked him and went over the bridge.

Inside the bridge I found a staircase that lead to the top of the moat walls. I climbed it for fun and because I had time, and took a picture from the air of the koi and the elderly couple. I could see sakura everywhere. Upon climbing down, I found myself in the part of the park that was on my bike route to school. I was continuing along between the inner moat and the wall, taking picture of the sakura as I went, when I passed by a very small, very old Japanese woman taking pictures by herself. She was a part of a certain breed of Japanese people; the Obachan, or 'Grandmothers'. I took a picture of her too.

I went further along the path, and the Obachan continued along that way too. She was wearing a maroon coat and a hat, and she had clean-looking white hair. When I came to the place where the park ends but the path goes on between the moat and a garden wall, I stopped to take a picture, and was interupted by Obachan. She asked if I would like her to take a picture of me with my camera, and after I got over my surprise at being spoken to I agreed. I showed her how to work a digital camera (hers was of a much older date) and she took a picture of me smiling. I thanked her, even though it wasn't a very good picture, and we continued walking, together.

This part of the path was my favorite part of the moat, and it didn't disappoint. Sakura were everywhere, and it was heartachingly lovely. Between both of us taking pictures, Obachan and I talked together. I told her that it was my first time to see the sakura, and that they were very beautiful. 'Yes, isn't that so?' she agreed. 'I'm getting old, and forgetting things, so I'm here to take pictures for when I forget. ' We walked a little farther in silence. I stopped to take a picture, and then jogged a little to catch up to her. 'Isn't the weather perfect today?' she asked, and I agreed. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. We walked on.

Obachan gave me advice on what the best shots were, and I duly followed her instructions. 'I come from far out in the country.' she said. I told her I did too, and that I was from a small town in New York State, and she seemed to like this. 'You know,' she said between more shots, 'I've walked all the way around this moat today.' Having just done about the same, I knew the distance well. 'Wow! That's great!' I exclaimed. I told her that she must be very healthy, and she said, 'Perhaps, but you are very young. Ach, my legs are tired.' 'Ah, yes, you must be tired.' I said, pleased to be having such a polite and traditional conversation. We walked on, past some sakura in full bloom. 'I'm happy that we're walking together' said Obachan. 'Me too, ' I said, 'it's sad to walk alone.'. She bobbed her head in agreement and stopped to take a picture. I waited for her.

We walked a little farther, and started to enter the crowded area once again. We passed by some food vendors, and she asked me if I was hungry. I told her about my picnic, and she said she had had one too. We got to the bridge where I was supposed to meet Mrs. Kuroda, right at the dot of 4 o'clock, and I gave Obachan my card. 'Thank you very much,' she said, 'but I can't read it. Perhaps my daughter can.' 'That's alright.' I said.

There was no sign of my host mother, so I walked Obachan to where she wanted to go, on the inside of the bridge. 'I have to go find my host mother.' I said, and Obachan nodded. I bowed and said, 'Thank you very much, and goodbye.' 'Goodbye.' she said, and gave me a deep bow back. I turned to look for my host mother, and when I looked back, Obachan was lost in the crowd.

I called Mrs. Kuroda's cell phone and we met up. I told her about my new friend, Obachan, and she laughed and said that I was strange. I bought a sakura flavored ice cream and we stormed the car. On the drive home, I watched the wild sakura rolling by the car, licked my sakura ice cream and thought.

Sakura, one of the things nearest and dearest to the souls of the Japanese people. A friend had previously told me why. 'It's because, ' he said, 'sakura blossoms, as beautiful as they are, only last a few days before falling. The Japanese love the flowers for their beauty and for the reminder of our own mortality. For in the grand scheme of things, are we not unlike the sakura, glorious for a short time before passing on?' At the time, I had smacked him on the shoulder and told him to 'quit the poet crud', but there, in the blue car, I thought of the old man feeding the koi, of the children playing tag in the park, of Sakiko-chan and her schoolgirl friends giggling and gossiping together, of Mrs. Kuroda and her friend celebrating a birthday, and of myself and Obachan, unlikely friends at different stages of life; like the sakura, all. I felt like Japan had just given me a very precious gift, let me in on an important secret. Then my ice cream began to melt and I hurriedly slurped it up. I glanced at my camera, snug on my lap. I made a promise to myself to never forget today and the sakura. We drove on.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Thank you so much for sharing them. Smile

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

Let me tell you, rather, about a place I know.
A place where the Magic bubbles close to the surface of our world, and where, if you look closely, you can see deeper into yourself, and into the world, than you have seen.

The path is black as night, with just a hint of light coming from the end of the tunnel. Uneven asphalt deceives your feet, and, on the wrong night, an almost malevolent silence ripples through the trees about you. Even still, you walk on.

The light at the end opens up into a star-spangled sky, and a full moon pokes her head through clouds by trickery or force as they pass by her face.

The land before you slopes downward, interrupted by horizontal strips of concrete; it narrows, too, leading to a shadowed stage, with towers on either side. Two stand partway down this area, and two more front the stage. Behind the stage, beautiful black water winks the sky's stars back up, and reflect the surrounding trees.

On the left, a fallen tree stretches its fingers up from the water, its trunk part-submerged. Just right of center, logs leave seats, leading down the grassy incline into the water. An old, almost useless barbeque grill sits on the concrete stage.

This theater is a clearing in the forest, which means the lights of surrounding town are blotted out, and the only distant road sees only rare headlights. All is still and calm. Lurking beneath the murky water is an energy--a something--that only those who stand at its edge can fathom.

The magic of this place brings people close--to it, to one another. A band of friends reaches this place at midnight, sometimes, tying themselves together, and to the place. Others have before, and some may yet again. It launches adventure, absolution, clarity--the place is protean, reflecting back at its visitors what they bring, or what they need. It is an Archimedean point for the soul.

kalinka's picture

Postulant

Well, I would have to say that one of the most important experiences of my life thus far was living in Russia last semester. If a historian were writing about me it would definitely be mentioned. I learned a lot about myself while I was there, but one lesson in particular will stay with me forever (and it is ever so cleverly stated by Dostoevsky):
A fear of appearances is the first sign of impotence.
My addition: So sit back and stop worrying, because nothing is going to turn out the way you expect (especially in Russia).

This lesson served me well many, many times while I was in St. Petersburg. The most memorable of these is by far my visit(s) to the Russian banya, which doesn't sound all that special, but believe me - it is.

What is a banya, you ask? Well, it is literally a bath house, but in reality it is much, much more than that. For an average Russian, it is not just a place to wash--it is a place to nurture and cleanse your soul. The banya is a Russian cultural institution.

The first problem most people in our group had with the banya is the fact that everyone is naked. All of us being from the US, and mostly having some sort of concept of a personal bubble and prudish modesty, we were uncomfortable with this. But no one chickened out and in the end we were all very proud of ourselves for going through with it.

We were told that in order to experience the banya in the best possible way, we needed to bring a couple towels, regular toiletries, flip flops and a knit hat. Bathing suits were ok, but not really--they only attract the attention and derision of your Russian banya-mates.

With all of my required items in tow, I donned my ridiculously heavy winter clothing and headed for the metro and on to the stop where we were meeting. The group was a mixture of those who had been in Russia for a semester, and therefore had already experienced the banya, and those who had never been inside a bath house before in their lives, much less a Russian one. When we got there we purchased our necessary birch branches (explanation in a moment) and headed for the women's banya on the top floor.

Once we arrived, we all experienced a sort of adrenalin rush--it was time to become much, much closer than before, with girls we had only known for a month. But we all did it. It felt huge. We stripped, wrapped our towels momentarily around ourselves, and donned our knitted hats. We stepped into the banya.

First there is a locker room, which is next to a general shower area. In this shower area, there is a pool with the coldest water I have ever been in in my entire life. Imagine a lake in the winter up north, and then imagine something even colder than that. You're close. Next to this shower room is the steam room itself. Before you enter this room, you set your birch branches in little tubs to soak. Then you enter the Gates of Hell, and don't forget your hat! The heat in this room is indescribable. Russians begin attending the banya at a very early age--I saw pregnant women and women with newborns in the saunas. For us wimpy American girls, however, the steam room was almost unbearable. The shower shoes are a must, as the floor will burn your feet if you don't wear them. The hats, while they may make it seem like you'll never survive the heat, are actually very important. Without them it is very easy to pass out. We set down our towels and laid down on the wooden bleacher-like benches. It was refreshing for two reasons--one, you sweat like you have never sweat before and it feels like every toxin in your system is being leeched away, and two, it is completely un-embarrassing to be naked amongst friends in this moment. You're just a bunch of people trying to survive ridiculous heat together (usually made even more ridiculous by the Russian women who MUST HAVE HEAT and constantly poured more water on the coals).

The banya is meant to be done in cycles. What I mean by this is 7-8 minutes in the steam room, followed by a plunge into the pool of ice I mentioned earlier. It's a massive shock to the system, and possibly the most exhilarating thing I've ever done in my entire life. After your first plunge into the water so cold it takes your breath away (literally, I couldn't breathe) you take up your birch branches. Purpose: to beat each other with. Oh, I am so not kidding.

When you head back to the sauna for the second time, you are supposed to climb up on the wooden platform, the only area where the birch-beating is allowed. This is uncomfortable because as you go up the steps, it becomes harder and harder to breathe. We could only stay up there for a few moments without feeling like we were going to pass out. Now, as odd as this beating may sound, it is incredibly refreshing. The point is for the birch juice/essence to enter your skin and it's amazingly good for you. You just take turns whacking each other with these branches until you're covered all over. After the beatings (during which some Russian women became annoyed with us due to our hogging of the platform), you again take a swim in the frigid pool in the shower room.

You do this whole process one more time (for a total of 3, or 4 if you're really into it) before taking a shower. In that moment I felt the cleanest I have ever felt in my entire life. Everyone looked like they had run a mile, and we were all glowing. It was the most amazing feeling. I felt a deep connection to all of my new friends; I also felt like I had learned more about myself and my own limits in that moment than in any other in my life. It seemed that everything bad, all my homesickness, all my disgruntled-ness with Russia, (in short - everything) had sweated away. The Russians have it right--yes, the banya is for bathing, but that is really a secondary purpose. I went to take a bath, and I came away with my body feeling healthier and my soul feeling more whole than either had in ages. Russians have very set phrases for when you go to the banya-- when I left the apartment, my host mother wished me a "good steam." When I returned, she asked if it had gone well. I answered with a resounding, "da!"

I went back every two weeks for the rest of the semester. I just wish we had banyas here.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

But my cardiologist would kill me if the banya didn't...

kalinka's picture

Postulant

Oh you would enjoy it, I think. As Russia is slightly behind in medical advances (and really big on old wives' tales--ask me about why you should never sit on a cold rock), a Russian doctor would most likely advise you to go to the banya because if your soul is healthy, the rest of you must be too. Wink

MeiLin's picture

Most High

But I'm serious; I don't think my heart could take the shock. Or more to the point, I don't think I could avoid getting a shock from the ICD box inside my chest.

V's picture

Embodiment

Why should I never sit on a cold rock?

kalinka's picture

Postulant

Oh, I'm so glad you asked. ha

In winter, if a girl sits on something like a cold rock or a cold bench (which you're supposed to sit on, as it's a bench) anyone (babushkas, groups of teenage boys) in the immediate vicinity will yell at her. Until about March, I was the only person in sight who would sit down. You know why? Because if a girl sits on something cold, it will freeze her uterus. No, really.

This happened to a bunch of my friends (the reprimand, not the freezing). I even got a bad look when I sat on benches (no one else will even go near them, girls just don't sit on them). When one of my friends asked our (slightly insane) phonetics teacher why this was, and said she was from the north/midwest of the US and no one ever worried about sitting on the rocks there, the teacher said, «Well, the rocks in America aren't as cold as the rocks in Russia.»

We then decided to ask our young/hip director (23ish and Russian), and she responded that she had had personal problems with it and it wasn't something to joke about.

There you have it. Pure scientific Russian reasoning. Their rocks are just colder than ours, and they're so cold that if you aren't careful and you accidentally sit on one, you won't be able to have children.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

I hear great things about the banyas (and other steam bath/freezing alternation)...jealous.

kalinka's picture

Postulant

Do it if you ever have the chance. It's way worth it. I only wish I could go to one here.

Fun fact: in the colder areas of Russia in the winter, most people actually run out into snow banks for the cold part of the banya cycle.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

folks I know who've done the "winter camping" course our school offers actually run out into a frozen-over lake from the bathhouse.

Lis's picture

What I miss most about Korea is the Bathhouse. My body misses the feeling of cleanliness inside and outside, and I miss the intimate connection everyone has when they leave.

Thanks for the story.

Shinjinarenai's picture

Postulant

I miss the Japanese bathhouses so much, too, even if the water was simmering hot. There was one sulfur spring on volcanoside my host mother took me too, that was simultaneously the most smelly and most awesome bathing experience I've ever had. They provided their own pumice soaps there, too, and you just sat outside in the ridiculously hot stream bed, admiring the rocks and the trees and trying not to sit in a place that the men could see you from the other side of the fence. And then indoors, a peppermint steam room with a hot stone floor to lie on and just BREATHE. Heaven.

Stormy's picture

Supplicant

The day was overcast and rain was imminent. The air was heavy with moisture, but not oppressive; rather, it was charged with potential. I stepped outside--12 years old and gangly in jeans, a tank top, and battered cowboy boots--and inhaled deeply through my nose, feeling the promise of the coming storm and the tension of a deluge kept at bay. I felt cleansed and recharged even as my feet kicked up dust on the way to the barn with Bill, our shaggy brown and white mutt, at my heels. I grabbed a bridle and slipped it over Bud's head. I didn't want to have to mess with the saddle soap if the rain caught us out and my mare, Crescent, had no truck with bareback. Truth be told, the well-fleshed buckskin was more comfortable than my bony girl anyway.

Bud stood placidly as I pulled myself onto his broad back, and with a little urging....and then a little more, we were off. Sort of. We walked the "Back 40," warming up slowly. Bill ranged into the wooded areas, checking the far reaches of his demesne for unauthorized canine incursion. My body rocked with the familiar motion of the horse and my mind wandered, finding shapes and patterns in the shifting cloud cover. Eventually we found our way back to the front "yard" and I chivvied the horse into a trot, and then a canter which was actually slower but much smoother than the trot. I was no longer riding Bud through the grass between the house and the highway. I was Atreyu riding Artax across the plains of Fantasia with the Nothing on my heels and Falcor by my side. I leaned in close to the horse, burying my face in his mane and losing myself in his damp animal smell. I squeezed my legs and managed to coax a bit more speed from my reluctant mount (there's a reason he had such a broad back, after all) and Falcor--err, Bill--ran beside us, tongue lolling from a doggy grin.

After a few minutes, I released Bud to return to his grazing (one-sidedly reenacting the heartbreak in the Swamp of Sorrows, of course) and ran on with Bill. We continued our quest, searching the ground for clues and hiding under trees, through the mist and the drizzle and into the downpour. Our escape route led us finally to the garage, where we collapsed soaked and exhausted, yet exhilarated. I wrapped my arms around Bill and pulled him close, filling my nose with his wet dogginess. My heart swelled with happiness and I was at peace.

Though it has been nearly 20 years since that day and Bud and Bill are both long gone, I still feel a bit of that contentment each time I visit my father. And I still love to play in summer rains.

Ladyshade's picture

*claps all giggly!* I love these stories!

araharu's picture

This actually happened a few days ago, and it may not be THE most important even in my life, but dammit, I'm thinking of it and I'm gonna tell my story.

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It was on another cold Monday night that I found myself driving down to the church again. I was late, and I hadn't even bothered to clean out my car from the weekend's activities; running clothes from my daily runs with Ryan, and miscellaneous notebooks from our subsequent activities were scattered all throughout my car. My acoustic bass still rested in the trunk and over half of my backseat, and I felt a pang of guilt that the bridge might warp in the cold, but I pushed it from my mind. It's not like there was room for it inside the church, anyways.

There was only one spot in the car that was relatively clean, and that was the passenger's seat. There were only two items there: a Tupperware full of cookies, and a candle. The cookies were slowly dwindling in number as I made my way downtown, and I had to force myself to save some for everybody else. The candle was just a blob of wax, blue in color, stationed in a glass jar about the size of a small coffee mug. In retrospect, I should have picked out a better candle, but it was the only one I could grab on my way out the door.

When I got to the church, I glanced in the basement windows and saw that the lights were out. Shit, they already started. I parked, grabbed my candle and the cookies, and ran inside.

As I expected, the room was pitch dark, but I didn't need light to know what was happening in the room. I knew that they were all sitting in a circle, appreciating the silence. I let my eyes get accustomed to the darkness for a while before I joined the group. There were around twenty five to thirty kids there, all of varying ages in high school. No one there was over the age of eighteen except for Taffy, who looked about eighty. I knew she was sitting there, counting off the seconds in her head until the silence would end. I smiled without really knowing why, and I felt her look up and say "Okay." Immediately there was sort of a collective sigh from the group, but the silence remained. Instead of a calming silence, however, this was a silence of waiting, a silence of respect, and a silence of anticipation for the things to come.

My eyes were thoroughly adjusted to the light (or lack thereof), so I looked for a spot to sit. Right in front of me was a space next to Emily, so I jumped over the ring of folding chairs and joined her on the floor. As I sat down, she nudged me with her elbow, and I returned the gesture. That was all the 'hello' we needed.

As I sat down, I looked around the group to see who was there. I saw familiar faces in the crowd, and a few friends that I hung out with on a weekly basis. Leah was there as well, and she looked ready to drape herself all over her significant other, Dan, beside her. I tried to convince myself that the feeling that I had inside of me was only a side effect of my single status, but I knew that I was wrong.

Just as I was getting lost in thought, Taffy began.

"Good evening, cherubs. I hope that you're significantly calmed now." We all nodded in agreement.

"Okay," she continued, "then we can get this thingy started. This particular meeting is called the Light Meeting, and for the uninformed, I'll explain why." She paused.

"Light is one of most important aspects of human tradition and culture. In ancient times, people would light bonfires on the winter solstice in order to bring the sun back. And guess what? It worked. So they kept doing it. There are so many different traditions revolving around light, from Christianity, to Judaism, to Islam, Kwanzaa, and other religious traditions. We, as a culture, have saying that revolve around light, such as 'You are the light of my life.' Tonight, we are going to celebrate light in our own lives. Each one of you has brought a candle with you, and I want you to light that candle for whoever is the light of your life, or whomever you wish to bring light to their life right now. As the light is passed from one to another, our collective light will eventually fill this entire room, and bring the light back into our lives again, just like in ancient times. There is no particular set order, and remember: there is no wrong answer." She picked up a box of matches next to her, and lit her candle.

Taffy sat back and waited patiently for the first person to start. Eventually, someone piped up, "I'll go." Her name was Carlee, and although she was in my grade, I had only spoken to her maybe twice in my entire life. I knew that there were others there in the same boat as I, if not worse (at least I knew her name.) Yet, we all waited patiently for her to tell her story.

She told us about her best friend Mike, who also happened to be sitting in the circle that night. She told us all about how close they were, the bonds that they shared, and how he was there for her for every grandparent who died, every setback that she faced, and every time that she felt, in Taffy's words, "lower than a snake's bellybutton." When she finished, she lit her candle with a match, and rejoined the circle.

The next person to light a candle talked about her grandmother who had just died that month. She told us about how her father and his brothers were fighting over inheritance, and the tension this created for her Christmas. The next person to go lit his candle for an ex-girlfriend of his that was having trouble getting over the break-up, and he hoped that she would stop hurting soon so that they both could move on. The girl after him lit her candle for her mother, who left her family years ago, and only visits her daughter once or twice a year. She confessed to us that she was angry and mean to her mother when she comes to visit because she doesn't want to make it any harder to see her; she misses her mother too much already. She was the first person to cry that night.

And so it continued. Each story was as heartfelt as the last, and as each person lit their candle, the room grew brighter and brighter. Soon, I could see tear-stricken faces and beams of happiness. Some stories were sad, others funny, and even more happy. As I listened, I knew what I wanted to say. I tried to think of some way around it, something that wouldn't leave me so open to ridicule, something that would be easier to admit, even to myself. I couldn't do it.

Finally, I chose a moment to start. My hands were shaking, and I couldn't look anybody in the eye, but I managed to continue.

"I...I'm happy. I'm happy for the first time, in a very long time. I couldn't really say that with any...with any real degree of certainty for the past two years or so. And I just want to thank the people who dragged me out. Who brought me back."

"Emily," I said as I turned to her, "thank you for always being there for me. Whenever I just...couldn't do it, you were there to give me a hug, or just listen. I needed that."

"Leah, thank you for accepting...bringing me into your circle of friends. I really don't know how...just, thank you."

"And also, for my best friend Ryan. He's been there for me, always. He's...the Simon to my Garfunkel. The Lennon to my McCartney. Whatever I'm going through, I know that...I have a friend."

"So I'm lighting my candle for all of you. I honestly don't know where I would be without you all. Thank you."

I wanted to continue. I wanted to tell them all that without them, I severely depressed. That the years I spent playing video games were not because I really enjoyed them; they were my hollow replacement for friends. Playing a new game through the weekend meant less time knowing that nobody was going to call. I wanted to tell them that had it not been for those three, I'm not even sure if I would have taken my own life or not. I wanted to let everyone in the group know just how much those three people changed my life. How they brought me out from the darkness, and gave me hope. But I thought that telling them these things would cause more harm and worry than anything else. Instead, I lit my candle, with hands shaking, and sat back to wait for the next person to follow me.

As I sat back, Emily tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a hug. I started to cry. It was the best hug I've ever received.

The night continue on like this, with stories and light filling the darkness of the room, until it was almost like daylight. After everyone had gone, we sat for a while, lost in the beauty of it all. Then Taffy signaled the end, and we all blew out our candles.

Afterward, we all stuck around to eat the "miscellaneous foodstuffs" that people had brought. Nobody talked about what had just occurred. We all had shared a piece of our soul that night, and nothing more needed to be said to make it any more important. I was incapacitated by the warmth in the room.

As everybody was leaving, and I was packing up the last of my cookies, Mike came up to me, and stuck out his hand. He looked me straight in the eye, and said "I'm glad that you're happy." I smiled, shook his hand, and replied, "So am I."
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...I'm honestly scared to post this. I've never met any of you; I've never even formally introduced myself to this website. I just feel a sense of family here, not unlike the one I felt that night. Anyways, that's my story.

TheBoy's picture

Embodiment

I hope you can feel welcome here, at home.
We are an eclectic group, and (it seems to me) we take care of our own.

Welcome, and thank you for sharing.

I'm not a crier. Never have been--usually, I go for years without really crying. (6th grade, first year of College(2 nights, then)...maybe 6 years after that--don't recall...)

Even so, by the time I'd finished your stories, I had tears just starting to leak out the corners of my eyes. Maybe I'm getting to be a softie in my "old age," and maybe I see a little of my own circumstances in yours--however far ago.

Capriox's picture

Embodiment

:good welcome hug!:

V's picture

Embodiment

Welcome! You're right, we do seem to be building that family vibe pretty quickly, but there's always room for more Biggrin

p.s. if you register that nickname you'll get a "point" for every post you make, and at 50 you get to ask a IHGK question to be answered in a bonus story

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I have dealt with chronic major depression my entire life, and went undiagnosed until my early 30s. I would be minding my own business and wham! I'd be thrown into a major depression. I lost friends, I lost jobs, I became an alcoholic. I cannot tell you how close I came to ending it, not because I wanted to die, but because I couldn't go on like that any more.

But first I got sober. Then I ended a tragic early marriage. Then they invented Prozac. Then I met Sir, and then we had our children. Somewhere in there, I got better, though I still have to watch closely for depression and still have depressive episodes, but nothing like I used to. I am still on anti-depressants and probably always will be, and I have a counselor.

Anyway. The long way of saying I totally understand, and thank you for sharing your story.

Sara's picture

Thank you, everyone for sharing your stories, they are beautiful and I feel honored to be able to read them. I will try to write one myself in the coming days, I just have to pick which one to tell :)...Sara

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