Tuesday, December 16, 2014

World Up High

After I went to college, my parents moved down the Peninsula and up the mountain. Today, I have been working at the window overlooking the slope, all the way down to the bay. As the day has gone on, the view has changed continuously, in surprising or beautiful ways.

The clouds come in layers. When you're looking at them from a fish-eye view, depth is hard to make out, and it's all just masses of lighter or darker grays and whites. From this perspective, they have depth and volume and presence, and are more than just thin filmy strips of monochrome.

The roofs go on and on and on. Suburbia is a country all its own, and has an almost tranquilizing effect. Look down and see sameness everywhere.

It is nighttime now, and all is darkness. Almost all: The lights of the cities below seem to shudder faintly, constantly, their pinpoints of orange marking the streetlights and homes. White and red flowing along indicates the main road, cars coming and going, the occasional howl of a siren.

The bridges are lit up by night, and glow white against the dark sky and dark water. If you have bad eyesight, it looks ghostly. If you have good eyesight, it still looks ghostly. Even up close, the bridge has always reminded you of the arched spine and ribs of a massive dinosaur, fallen asleep across the bay.

It has been a quiet, productive day. Emails and drafts of cover letters and tables with information about the companies and fellowships to which I seek to apply. Putting my life in more order than it has been. A lot of the work is a little tedious, or just difficult enough that it is easier to put off. Every time I've gotten distracted, I look out the window at whatever new face the sky wants to show me, and that helps. Some.

It is colder up here. I was not quite expecting that.

The last time I went to our old house, a condo in the downtown area of my hometown, I stood in my empty room for a minute and marveled. For some reason, it looked smaller without furniture in it, as if the walls contracted. Astonishing, I thought, that I had lived the four most productive years of my life to date in that little room.

Places change. The room in which I wrote Orsolya and the second draft of the Utopia Project, began planning and writing Ubermadchen, read Borges and Goss and Graham, daydreamed about who I wanted to be, listened to Rammstein and Evans Blue and Lorde, wrote the essays that got me into college...that room no longer exists.

The flow of traffic along the road has slowed; the undulating yellow-white-red snake has gone sluggish.

Places affect us. Why else would we travel? Why else would we take anything but the fastest, shortest route from one location to another? The world is path dependent. Where we have been matters. Where we are matters as well. And where we will go.

I wonder: do my friends who grew up on the hill have something in common that is different from me? Is part of the reason I haven't changed much in college because I've gone from one flat California suburb to another? Do I think differently now from the usual, now that I am looking at the world from up high?

The cars come slowly now, along the road. The constellation of houses and streetlights has gone dimmer. If there are clouds, they are masked in the darkness.

-


Satellite - Guster

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