It’s the Journey

a destination, a question

He spreads out a map between them on the table of the diner, then smooths it with a flat palm. He hovers his pointer finger of the map, moving it around in circles, the gestural equivalent of a filler word. Finally, he presses his finger onto the paper. A destination. He raises an eyebrow. A question.

Staring at his eyes rather than the map, she sips her black coffee, just as bitter as she is inside.

Where on this map was he a year ago, a month ago, a week ago? He was with her yesterday, but even then, his mind was far away.

His eyes intensify. The question has remained unanswered for too long.

She drops her gaze and looks at the paper for the first time. At the tip of his nail is a tiny town a few hours’ trek away, just off the highway–a place she had never once considered going.

She has never been much of a follower, and she’s never been much of a risk-taker either, preferring to forge her own path exactly where she is. The oxymoron of that has never been lost on her, but she likes it that way. He was always a wrench in that oxymoron, one that was usually at a far enough distance that she could ignore it.

But not right now. Not while he is right here.

He is going to that destination at the end of his pointer finger no matter what she does. She knows that. Among all the choices she has, making him stay is not one of them. She’ll have to choose something else, make a compromise that she doesn’t want to make.

She raises her head so that her eyes meet his again as she gives a forced smile and nods.


Photo by Negative Space from Pexels

Free to Use Images and Inspiration: Pen Pal Letter #3

on beauty and happiness

To Whom It May Concern:

I don’t know if I have something to say so much as I just wanted an excuse to show that featured image.

The website Pexels has become my favorite free-to-use image site, possibly because of its front page. (Side note: I also like Pixabay and Unsplash if I can’t find what I’m looking for on Pexels.).

On that front page of Pexels, some number of curators have selected several images that users have uploaded to the site and ordered those pictures so that the page appears to be like a color gradient. As I scroll through, I admire that pretty gradient, and I save any of the pictures that really speak to me by clicking on the little heart icons. Which is to say that I save most of the pictures I see there because I am truly in awe of the job that they do curating as well as the level of talent of people who upload images to the site.

When I write, I usually start with an idea, then write the poem or piece of prose, and then choose a featured image based on that writing, but sometimes I am in a writing mood but find myself fresh out of ideas. In cases like those, I scroll through my collection of likes on Pexels to see if anything triggers my creativity. It was on one of those occasions that I saw the picture you can see at the top of this post for the second time, and by saw, I mean really saw.

On my first glance when I liked and saved the picture, I admired the aesthetic of it: the hues of brown, the way the sunlight falls across the objects in slats. It fit into that gradient of curated images beautifully.

On my second glance, I realized what the objects were. What is an egg doing on top of a brush? And what’s with the other egg beside the brush? Why is there also a flower and a thistle? In what world would this pile of objects just naturally occur?

I love the image more and not less after this realization. It’s such an odd collection of things, but it is still incredibly aesthetically appealing.

I care about aesthetics. I care about the arrangement of things. I care about the colors. I even care about the visual textures that things have.

There is a certain stigma to aesthetic for aesthetic’s sake. Some parts of society will say that a pursuit of beauty is vapid and silly (even while other parts of society demand it).

I don’t buy that argument. There is something so natural in craving to surround oneself in visual beauty. There is no wonder that humans started plucking flowers and bringing them into our own homes to gradually wilt in vases of water however long ago that started happening. And while it’s true that time spent seeking out pretty things can be allocated to other tasks, it is difficult to rank these tasks on value, especially when considering the delight that visually appealing things bring. Going out of our way to do something that makes us happy is itself beautiful and human.

More than all of that, I just like aesthetic visuals, okay. I like pretty dresses, I like shiny jewelry, and I like that random collection of beige items that are shown in the image.

There is almost no way that I will just happen to write something where that image is the perfect fit, so yes, as I said at the beginning, I wrote this letter to no one in particular just to have a place to feature it. I hope no one in particular likes it as much as I do.

Wishing you all the best.

Sincerely,

Joy


Photo by Valera Evane from Pexels

Impulse Purchases and Confusion: Pen Pal Letter #1

That’s not entirely true.

To Whom It May Concern:

So I impulse bought another plant. Two in fact.

That’s not entirely true. I bought grow kits for a thyme plant and a rosemary plant, so I essentially bought pre-plants. And dirt. Dirt that leaked out somehow and got on the jeans that I also impulse bought. What I’m trying to say is that I took a trip to Target.

I do kind of need the jeans, though. I promise that my impulse purchases are measured.

Well, most of them. I don’t need the pre-plants. I will use the pre-plants once they become plants, but I don’t need them. They are more to fulfill my dreams of homesteading, even while I live in this apartment, and also to fill in the gaps of my herb collection, which previously consisted only of basil and mint (if you don’t count the lavender that I killed through negligence before it even flowered). (I promise that I am not as terrible of a plant parent as that previous parenthetical might make it sound. Or maybe I am.)

The other day, I took a walk around my neighborhood. The times I had done it before, I stuck to my secluded little space, but this time I wanted to venture further. There is a crosswalk with traffic signals and everything out on the main road, so I had assumed this meant that there was plenty of sidewalk to be found beyond that point. This is not the case, not even close. It went on for maybe 30 feet and then ended. I walked those 30 feet because I knew that the other side was even worse. I found where the sidewalk ends. Maybe one day, I’ll write a poetry book about it, unless, of course, that has already been done.

After those 30 feet, I turned around. I had taken the dog with me on this little adventure, and he was very confused, as was I. Why put in those crosswalk signs before there is anywhere for them to take you? It would be one thing if they were clearly preparing for sidewalk construction, but that is clearly not true. Not knowing where else to go, I walked the dog through a bit more of the area on my side of the main road and then took him home.

Later, I took a drive down that part of the main road, the direction away from the highway, the direction that I almost never go in. I was looking for sidewalk, to see if it started again anywhere near that crosswalk. What I was really looking for was the hope that my sidewalk issue is a problem that the city would undertake in the near future. That there is just a gap that will be filled shortly.

The sidewalk didn’t start again for a long while. So long, in fact, that I had stopped looking and was surprised when I spotted it. I continued to drive not looking for anything at all, found nothing more, and returned home.

I’m not sure what I’m looking for in life in general; I’m not sure if I’ll ever know, but sometimes I do find it in caring for plants. Confusing dogs can also be fulfilling.

Anyway, wish you all the best!

Sincerly,

Joy


Photo by Blue Bird from Pexels

Barbie Girl

The car was really only meant for two dolls at a time, but that was unimportant.

I had a collection of dolls as a child: a baby doll, a couple of knock-off American Girl dolls that were sold at Target, some Polly Pockets (do those count as dolls?), and a number of Barbies. To go with these Barbies, I had some clothes, some shoes, a house, a Ken doll, and, most importantly, a hot pink Barbie-sized convertible.

One time when my cousin came over to play, we decided that Barbie needed to go on a trip with all of her fellow Barbie friends. We placed a Barbie in the driver’s seat of the convertible and proceeded to pack the other dolls in with her. We pressed and we shoved and we crammed and we scooted. The car was really only meant for two dolls at a time, but that was unimportant. We were going to Jenga our way into fitting more Barbies in than it looked like it could hold. It would be my Barbie-branded clown car convertible.

Continue reading “Barbie Girl”

Observations

Something about them seems profound.

This morning, I heated a mug full of water in the microwave, steeped a green tea bag in it for a few minutes, then added some lemon juice and a little bit of maple syrup. When I looked out the sliding glass doors at my balcony, I could see an orange mum and a tiny pumpkin that will be gifts for someone else. I also could see a yellow mum with burlap wrapped around its pot that will remain on the balcony for the foreseeable future. There’s a pink box that was once filled with cupcakes that were gifted to me but is now empty because all of its contents had been eaten. It balanced on top of a peanut butter jar on the dining room table.

These are imperfect sights, ones that I’m not sure I want to remember, but I am writing them anyway because something about them seems profound.

In many ways, I am my surroundings. I mean this both in the sense that the clutter level around me is usually an indicator of my mental state, and in the sense that I am an amalgamation of everything that I have ever seen or heard or touched or smelled or tasted.

I worry that I’m only truly present when I’m writing. That I just let life pass me by unless I go into the moments with the intention of recording them. I don’t know if that’s a problem or not.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Her Aching Thoughts

What do you know about flowers?

“Do you think that flowers know that they’re beautiful?” she asks, in the middle of folding laundry. The bleached white towels stand in contrast to the navy blue comforter on the bed. Her folds are crisp, even, perfect. Her eyes flick up from her work, meet mine, and hold there.

I stand stark still, like prey hoping that its predator will move on. Her eyes continue to pierce into my soul. She will not move on.

“Do you think roses know that they symbolize love or that daisies know that we count their petals to steel ourselves from potential heartbreak?”

The words cling to the air, then expand, filling the whole room with their stifling presence. There’s a moment’s pause as we stand there, eyes locked, surrounding by the agony of her inquiries.

Then she breaks her gaze, looks back down at the towels, and starts to fold once more. “Do you think that when flowers are cut from their plants they know that some of them will end up on top of graves, showing the dead that humans still care?”

“I don’t think so,” I mumble in reply, grabbing a nearby towel and starting to fold, albeit much less expertly than her. “I don’t think so.”

Photo by Tim Gouw from Pexels

Can Peonies Open Without Ants?

What is wonder?

As a child I believed that the continents floated above the ocean, like gigantic earthy boats on the surface of the water. I thought that if you swam far enough out into the ocean, you would eventually arrive at a dramatic drop off where the continental plate ended and you could find the water beneath. More than that, I thought that with a lot of effort, I could be the first human to swim all the way underneath the USA from the east coast to the west coast.

I am older and wiser now. I know that the US is not just floating on water, ready to be swum under. I also know that the tectonic plates are on top of a liquid, just not one that humans can breaststroke through. There is still a magic and an insight to my original understanding, even if it was ultimately wrong.

My world didn’t change dramatically when I learned about the layers of Earth. I didn’t lose my child-like wonder in that moment. If anything, I just had new things to wonder about.

What does the area where it shifts from mantle to crust look like? Will we ever be able to dig down to the core? How do we know about all of these layers if we can’t dissect the earth the way it’s depicted in the graphics that show these layers?

The world is a never-ending stream of questions, of misunderstandings, and of corrections.

I grew up hearing the old wive’s tale that peonies require ants to open their flowers. Until yesterday, I didn’t realize that this was a wive’s tale; I had assumed that it was a scientific fact that peonies require ants to nibble away at their buds in order to bloom. I am constantly being proven wrong. I am constantly learning and growing.

Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

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Schrodinger’s Pepper

What exists?

When I moved into my first apartment, there was a dried pepper in one of the drawers in the kitchen. I thought it was bizarre. It wasn’t like it was tucked way back in the drawer. It was up near the front, fully visible. So strange. I remember deciding to get rid of it before filling that drawer with silverware.

When I moved out of my first apartment, there was a dried pepper in that same drawer in the kitchen. I had never removed it. I don’t know what I was thinking leaving it in there for those two years, if I left it in for a profound reason or maybe as a prank on my later self. Perhaps I was just lazy or I simply forgot. My memory of tossing it was probably just wrong.

I did throw it out then before saying goodbye to that space. I didn’t want them to see it during our security deposit check (though obviously they had missed it before we moved in).

But now I have a new theory about the appearance of that pepper. Maybe, just maybe, I did throw it away when we first moved in. Maybe that particular drawer just generates dried peppers. And if that’s true, that means that the next people to live there had the same baffling experience that I did. I kind of like the idea of that space forcing people into a unifying discovery. I kind of like the idea that my memories may happen once again.

So cheers to Schrodinger’s pepper that may or may not be in that drawer. I’ve decided which option I want to believe in, and it’s the unlikely one, full of whimsy and universality.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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Voice and Reason

I still don’t know

In college, I had a summer where I taught English to some grad students and their families a few nights per week. The gig was done on a volunteer basis and was fairly informal overall, which is good because I did not have any experience teaching adults. Additionally, most of my students already spoke English with a fair amount of fluency; they were mostly there to brush up on some grammar, to be able to ask a teacher questions from their day-to-day experiences in English, and for social interaction.

I adored teaching in this context. Interacting with (and learning from) people all over the world led to some very deep, complex, and nuanced conversations, and it was really fulfilling to problem-solve and simplify the vocabulary within these really complex issues without watering down the topic itself.

Nonetheless, I had one situation where I was at a complete loss for what to tell my students. One student was asked by another where she was from. “Taiwan,” she responded, at which point the question asker turned to me and asked, “Where is Taiwan?”

I don’t remember who began to answer that question, whether it was me or the Taiwanese woman herself (she was more than capable of doing so, but the inquiry was directed at me and in my memory she and I locked eyes and it seemed like she wanted me to answer, though that portion of the memory may be false). Regardless of who did the speaking, all that was said was “Taiwan is a country that–“

“No, it not,” another lady chimed in. “Taiwan is not a country.” She was one of the three students from China seated at the far end of our longish table, listening the conversation that had been going on. She was very matter-of-fact about her statement, and I don’t think she truly realized the hurtfulness in her words.

The original question asker, unaware of the deep-rooted issues behind this disagreement, looked very confused. “Taiwan is not a country?”

“The US recognizes Taiwan as a country,” I hurriedly explained. “And it’s located in the Pacific Ocean near China.”

I left the topic there. The question asker was still clearly confused, all of the people from China were tense, the woman from Taiwan was upset, but I did not know as a 21-year-old college student how to mediate such a conflict. I didn’t know if it could be mediated at all. These places were their homes; I was not going to be able to change any of their minds.

I also knew that I had some biases when it came to this topic. Growing up, I had friends who lived just a few houses over from me who were Taiwanese, and I’m pretty sure that I had more Taiwanese classmates than Chinese classmates in school. It’s entirely possible that I was aware of Taiwan as a country before I became aware of China. I obviously take Taiwan’s side.

Now that I am no longer a child, I know that those childhood experiences influenced my thinking on the matter, but I also know more about the conflict now, and I am pretty sure that I would still stand with Taiwan. Those biases, though, as well as my dislike of conflict and my fear of losing respect from some of my students, made me doubt whether my voice was worth raising on the topic. So I just stuck to the facts and didn’t add my opinion. I still don’t know if that was the correct choice.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev from Pexels


I’d like to thank everyone for being so kind in response to my last post. I may have been a tad dramatic in some of my wording of it. I was sincerely just trying to gauge whether the people who read my poetry would be interested in reading other things, too. The great thing about writing as a hobby is that I get to write whatever I want. Whether (or at what point) I publish that writing to the internet is an entirely different consideration.

I know that back before I narrowed the focus of this blog, my poetry seemed to be preferred over anything else I published, which is how I found myself in the niche I’m in. I don’t regret that; in fact, I feel like having a narrow range of content has helped me to grow and find fellow bloggers with a similar interest.

With all that said, you can consider this post as part of a trial run of posting a greater variety of content to this platform. If it goes well, I’ll continue to post other things. If it doesn’t, I’ll either keep my prose in draft-form or make a new blog to contain it.

Thanks again, everyone! Peace out!

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The Sign: A Three Line Tale

We pause, look at each other, and notice the peaceful quiet that envelops us once we take the time to be still and listen.

We stumble through the forest, jabbering, laughing loudly, cracking branches underfoot, until we reach a sign labeled, “Danger. Do not enter.”

We pause, look at each other, and notice the peaceful quiet that envelops us once we take the time to be still and listen. Now, we have to wonder, Is the sign for our own safety…

or for theirs?


photo by Raúl Nájera via Unsplash

This was written in response to the photo prompt of Three Line Tales, Week 226 from Only 100 Words.