In the Dark Brightly

​When I was a kid, the snowmachines would plow the roads in my neighborhood and leave the snow in a large pile in the middle of a cul-de-sac. The neighborhood boys would go out and mess with it and turn it into half a fortress and half a King of the Hill battleground.
The winters in Alaska are long and deep and often clear, and I was lucky in that my grandmother would often give me a little more time to spend outside after the street lights came on.
I’d find myself out on that snow hill alone a lot. In my snow pants and my snow jacket and my gloves and thick hat, I would lay down on top and stare up at the pearls that sat atop a clean black silk blanket. I must have been ten, twelve years old.
I didn’t think about love then, or at least not in the same way I do now. I didn’t think about death, or success, or what it meant to be happy. I was a troubled kid. I grew up in a healthy household but parental addiction and strife were always in the periphery and I was bullied a lot.  So a lot of who I am now was there then. Maybe even the purest, most enduring part: I just wanted to be. I wanted to… I don’t know, experience. Something. Anything of value. I was a kid staring into the cosmos, for a brief moment away from my loving but sometimes overbearing grandparents, away from my dad smelling like sweat and cheap beer, away from my mom asking me for cab money on my birthday. I didn’t know what happy was supposed to be, or sad, or normal. I was just a kid looking out into a deepness I couldn’t quantify and wanting to step out from where I was into somewhere autumn, somewhere with street musicians, somewhere paupers got to share a short conversation with princesses.
I read a lot then, as I’ve written about, in order to escape. And with a mind full of stories and an open sky above me, a quiet night holding me and with the straw colored glow haunting the snow around me… it was still. It was all so still. My wild mind could find a moment of peace to just hope for something different down the line. I didn’t know what I wanted then, and what I’ve actually wanted has changed over the years, but I knew I wasn’t fulfilled. Something in the night sky, this unfathomable depth beyond the stars, spoke to me of fulfillment. That it would be there somewhere.
I’m much older now. I view the same sky with more critical eyes, and more tired ones, and eyes more prone to tearing up for no reason. But that stillness still steps beside me. That calm still takes the coat from my shoulders and the hat from my head. I see the same stars I ever did, and they still tell me that they’re waiting for me to join them out on the patio with a decent beer, but not a fancy one. That high-end, blue-collar shit.
Nearly two decades later, I’m still that kid on the hill. A little more bruised. A little more scared. As home as ever in the dark brightly.

The Best Medicine

So the new place I live in isn’t far from downtown, where I work. The neighborhood is nice and quiet, if a little worn down. There’s a liquor store/gas station to the left of my house and an excellent Vietnamese restaurant to the right. And a Subway that looks sketchy.

To get to and from work, I cross a bridge. It’s a walk that takes anywhere from a half an hour to forty – five minutes, dependent entirely upon my mood. On one side is the downtown area, full of bars and restaurants. On the other end, the bridge splits. One direction leads to my home and some government buildings. The other leads to the port and an inlet that looks incredible under the sun.

A couple days ago, I was heading home from work and I looked up from a Living Dead story anthology I was reading. The sun was descending upon the water in crimsons and amethysts. People were standing in a river far below in hip waders, fishing. Downtown Anchorage looked vintage in its own way, there, from the center of the bridge. It wasn’t even that loud, with only the occasional passing car sending a tremor under my feet.

I stopped and leaned against the railing for a few minutes, just…looking. I wasn’t even terribly thoughtful. I just took it in and thought about how beautiful my state could be. There were some abandoned warehouses below me, too. Not so beautiful.  All the same, I kind of wanted to break in, just to look, just to check out the dusty insides of a factory workplace that had long been abandoned to dust and days.

It was nice, taking a moment to just stop and let things be around me. Let the world turn around me while I just observed.

Yesterday, a great man who spread joy and laughter to millions of people lost his battle with himself. He was someone many people, myself included,  grew up on. As a child,  he made me laugh. As an adult, he made me laugh harder once I found his stand-up routines. As an actor and writer,  his serious turns and intelligent writings were something to look up to and be inspired by.

As someone who has lost many to depression and who has wrestled with the disease, I was gut-wrenched by the news. For someone who has been so iconic and influential and almost universally beloved to have succumbed…it hurts and it’s scary and it is so monumentally sad.

I wish he had more quiet bridge moments, where the pressures fell away for a few moments. Maybe that would have helped. Maybe not. We’ll never know.

I know that more than ever I want to pursue my art to reach others. I want to bring people an escape. I also want to bring attention to depression and suicide and do what I can for those afflicted by and struggling with it.

May your sunsets be deep. May your sunrises be eternal.

Rooftop Music

It’s a quarter after three in the morning as I write this, so I’ll probably post this in a few more hours. I’m exhausted, as per usual, but I find myself having trouble falling asleep.

Outside and above, I can hear the rain pattering steadily against the building. It has been like this most of the day, with a brief peek of daylight around 10PM because I live in Alaska and the sun is a psychopath.

The rain is a good thing. The Funny River wildfire has consumed close to 200,000 acres so far and anything that helps the brave men and women fighting it is welcome at this point. The rain is a helpful thing.

Truth be told, I’ve always liked the rain. Sunny days are good and golden. Snowy days can be bright but cold. Cloudy days are gloomy and foggy days are somber but rainy days are clean. They get the dirt off your car and breathe life into the flora. It’s like a little reset button to freshen things up. Some places rain a lot, maybe even too much. I lived in Seattle for a time. I’ve been to England. Even so, the concept is the same: rain is a clean thing. Rain is a healing thing.

I tend to be more introspective on rainy days. Not creatively, mind you, which struck me as weird. I just tend to think a lot more about life. About myself. I’m not as critical of myself on rainy days, which also strikes me as weird. Instead, I’m able to remove me from myself and accept things. I see where I am at life. I tend to have a better grasp of who I am, what I want to be, to do, to turn my life into.

I love those days you can curl up somewhere with a glass of hot chocolate or what-have-you and look out the window at the street or the neighborhood or the city. The world is so much clearer on rainy days. The people around me are in focus. I consider my relationships with people and my relationship with myself. On rainy days, I don’t judge. I take account and accept. I do this because rain is a thinking thing.

There is something liberating about it. I remember being a kid and going outside while it was pouring, running around gleefully. It was cold. It made the world smell incredible. I remember warm rain in Montana and Texas. I remember stepping out as a teenager and an adult. I recall moonsooning rain in Venice, Italy, sweeping sideways by the will of winds so strong they broke my umbrella. It was frightening; I felt I was in battle and that feeling was invigorating.

There is something about brushing wet hair back from your face while your clothes stick heavily to your frame. Something about the soft drops massaging your skin as you close your eyes and tilt your head back to the skies. Something about pulling someone close to you, one arm around their waist, one hand at their neck and jawline, holding them steady while passion pulses between the lips of both people, the clouds weeping happily upon you.

Rain is a romantic thing.

That pitter-patter. That ratatatatat. The thrum of the window pane and the weather vane and the thud thud thud against the porch. The steadiness of it. The reliability.

I have taken much more security and comfort from the sound of falling rain than I ever have from the stillness of night. The rooftop music it makes is a far more pleasant sound than any windchimes I have ever heard. I don’t need bird songs. I don’t need quiet. I only need to lay here and listen to the taptaptaptaptap and I know I’ll soon be asleep.

After all, rain is a soothing, beautiful thing.