We walked down to the lake; it was so dark I had to trust my feet knew the way. We arrived at a silver platter of water. As the stars grew brighter, our eyes grew wider and the stars reflected in the lake like trembling diamonds. We laid down on the cement dock to watch the meteor shower.
In 1962 the Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet, sat on the Prague-Berlin train and wrote, “I just remembered the stars…my heart was in my mouth looking at them. They are our endless desire to grasp things.” He wrote the poem, “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved,” after leaving prison. He watched the stars and the rain and the roads; passed trees, and rivers, and clouds, for the first time in twenty years.
For five days, my crew and I worked on Loon Lake Mountain building three bridges. It rained the whole time. We trudged up and down the trail carrying water-logged lumber in any way that hurt the least, until it didn’t matter because everything hurt. We slept on uneven ground full of roots that dug into our backs and kept us turning. In the mornings, my Carhartts felt like wet cardboard and my spongy boots and socks wiggled on in silent agony.
I’m not comparing trail crew to prison, of course. But it takes quite a bit of practice to be bound to discomfort and accept the lack of choice. Might as well forget about the things that make you want to scream and quit and blame. Search for ways to rediscover joy
around you. Laughter, for one, works like a thousand splintering suns. “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved” is not about prison anyway, but about discovery and appreciation.
Leaving the woods is met with a dozen reminders of everything I love that were momentarily forgotten. The sun, soft ice-cream, riding in a moving vehicle, blue sky, strong coffee, hot water, a beer. I don’t like admitting my love for technology (a fickle love at most) but when I turned on my cell phone and found a text from my sister that she and her husband are having a baby girl, I burst into a smile. Seeing her four month baby bump made me forget what cold and wet ever felt like.
Love won’t catch us by surprise unless we try it, see it, hear it, taste it for the first time, or like Hikmet, are reminded after time spent without. It could be as simple as eating fried pickles. Or much larger like a friend turning into someone more. Maybe you don’t notice something until it saves you.
The stars looked like blemishes in the sky. I don’t like comparing the stars to blemishes, but that’s what I thought. Of course, they are more abstract, more wondrous. Questions arose about the cosmos; an awareness of the unknown beyond my knowledge power. Lying on the cement, gravity was palpable. It didn’t make me angry thinking this is where I will always be. And by that, I mean Earth. There was no desire to get closer to the stars, but a desire to snuggle closer to those next to me. To grasp the things I want most in the world.