The Tree Outside the Window

It’s funny how memories work. My emotional state seems to have more to do with triggering a memory than circumstances, though similar circumstances trigger similar emotional reactions. Eating a madeleine might trigger an involuntary memory, but so might feeling a particular blend of happiness.

Recently, I’ve been comforted by memories from childhood. They are there, ready to be remembered, which makes me think that my new apartment is as comforting as the childhood home I left almost ten years ago. In large part, this has to do with the tree outside my balcony.

Growing up, I would wake from my bed (or, on a school day, be woken by my mother) and open the curtains (or, for most of my childhood, blinds) and see a beautiful tree outside my double windows. Past the tree would be the yard, then the woods, and — past that — the field, which I stopped playing in around the time that I left childhood behind.

I see this tree reflected in the tree outside the balcony. Like the one that grew past my bedroom window, one might see a bird land on this one, or a squirrel scurry through its branches — though I have yet to see the latter.

Sunlight brings more memories.  Perhaps it has to do with the direction and height of the windows in my new place, or the way the light filters through the leaves. Whatever the cause, I’m reminded of sun streaming through autumnal leaves from decades ago, and the memories I made under them. And if I open the slider during a storm, I can hear the rain, which must be one of the most soothing sounds in the universe.

The tree outside my childhood home no longer exists. It lost its life for the sin of growing too close to the house, after a surprise October ice storm made my parents extra-cautious about anything that could fall on their home. I only have the memory of it, and the emotions from long ago reflected in the emotions of today, and that is enough.

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Conquering Time

In one hour, Ebenezer Conkfeld would be dead.

He didn’t know this, and so had no opportunity to change. He lived that last hour like he lived his first — except without the screams and gasps for air, or the sense of being ripped from a familiar world into a foreign space. And yet, one has to wonder: even if he’d known, was he the type of man who would’ve changed?

All his life, Ebenezer perfected the art of being boring. He gave boring speeches, imparted boring advice, and threw boring parties. Even his silences were boring. With his death, one less boring person would exist on the earth, and yet, in a unique paradox, his death would be the most interesting part of his life.

Only one person thought differently: his niece, Beatrix.

Whenever she was over the house, this girl of six loved nothing better than to play with her Uncle Ebbie. While the adults around her fell asleep over his speeches or pretended to be interested as they hid yawns through fake sneezes, Beatrix sat on her uncle’s lap and listened, eyes wide, as he recounted stories from his childhood in the most unimaginative way possible.

For his part, Ebenezer adored his niece. While he could not help but be boring, he recognized that his niece was interesting, and while he kept the rest of his life dull, he never refused the excitement she brought him. Had she known he would die in an hour, she would’ve refused to leave his house that day, if only to spend the rest of that hour with her uncle.

And yet, when that hour was up, he didn’t die a sudden, violent death, nor a prolonged, slow death. That is what makes his death so interesting, for Ebenezer died of nothing at all.

A Plan for Writing

Last week, I read that Richard Williams, in order to teach his daughters how to play tennis (and to understand it, himself), wrote out a 78-page plan. Someone commented that writing out a plan is the best way to show you’re serious about something.

I wonder if that’s why I’ve felt adrift over the past few years. I’ve never written out a plan, either for writing, voice acting, learning Japanese, or adulting. I have a daily planner, so I’m great at short-term planning and dealing with things that need to be dealt with immediately, but I’ve only created the barest of outlines as pertains to mid and long-term planning.

How to solve this problem?

Earlier this week, I bought a notebook. I have plenty of notebooks stored away (I’m in the middle of a move), but none on hand. This notebook is going to be my planning notebook (monthly and yearly, as opposed to daily and weekly). Richard Williams changed the game of tennis with his plan, and while I don’t claim that I’ll be changing the world of literature with mine, I’ll at least have a plan in place for improving my writing, along with a written philosophy of what that writing should be.