We have to make myths of our lives; it is the only way to live them without despair.
This is not to dramatize so much as to look for and come to understand the metaphor
that reality always hold in it. May Sarton
I’ll admit it - I've made a myth of my life. And just like May Sarton says, it’s so I don't lose hope. It’s also because maybe - just maybe I’ll start to understand what’s behind it all.
In that spirit allow me to tell you a story of my life as a child.
When you're small you're short. I spent a lot of my time outside playing in the dirt. I enjoyed making roads. Maybe it’s because my dad was always getting in the car and driving away. Inside the house I was very familiar with rug patterns, being close to the floor with my toys.
Of course I also looked up a lot, at my loving parents and the bustling adult world. I was surrounded by grownups and other large people. Generally these advanced beings were kind to me. But early on I began to notice a disconnect.
Adults seemed heavy, weighed down by life's concerns. Often when I spoke to them they would not respond. They were (and I’ll use terminology which was foreign to me at the time) preoccupied with responsibilities. From my lower vantage point I gazed up and wondered what was going on and felt a vague sadness.
Now I’d like to share with you an event which profoundly changed my life.
When I was five, I saw the movie "Peter Pan". The vision of flying and the strangely compelling idea of never growing up - these things had an immense impact on me. I was moved especially by the flying scenes. Children taking off from their room, soaring out the window over London and to the stars beyond.
Peter Pan said that if you came away with him, you would never grow up. Why did this touch me so deeply? I was only five! Perhaps I could still remember a very different sort of existence.
Wordsworth wrote that our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.
In the dark theater as I watched the children fly to Neverland I think I remembered a freedom I was beginning to forget. That must’ve been it. It's common for us to forget these things, and yet Wordsworth says - not in entire forgetfulness.
Nevertheless, to my heart at the time, all I knew was that I wanted to fly. And if growing up made you heavy and oblivious to these wonders, I didn't want to grow up.
After this I began fly in my dreams. The dreams often started with me on the ground or in my room. Then, I would just lift up and take off over the trees, houses and hills.
There was no doubt in my heart about the normalcy of this wonder. It was an obviously real and absolutely necessary event. The heaviness of adulthood was not inevitable. Gravity did not have to be an encumbrance. One just took off over the encroaching world, and soared above and beyond everything that seemed inextricably linked with growing up.
For a number of years I continued to have flying dreams but gradually they became infrequent. Now they are rare. But I do still have them, and privately yearn for their reoccurrence. This yearning, the intense desire to experience freedom while still in my body, has never left.
Again, if growing up meant you didn't fly anymore, I most definitely did not want to grow up.
But, alas, it kept happening to me.
When I was still small flying was very close at hand, like a second skin I almost effortlessly slipped into. Freedom was that close. I could just lightly lift off the ground, gently fly up and over the world beneath. But with each passing day I got bigger and, of course, heavier. I was increasingly weighed down with seemingly unavoidable necessities.
Before I knew it I wasn’t flying much anymore.
Notes on the vicissitudes of the creative life.