A long time ago I read a passage somewhere, in some smart book, that said you can find enlightenment by chopping an onion. I'm embarrassed to say I chopped a lot of onions around that time, and never once did I feel very enlightened. Sometimes I would wonder if I couldn't see the THING.. you know, THE THING TO ENLIGHTENMENT because I was too busy crying (I was chopping onions…). I had bad breath and red eyes, but no deeper understanding that I so craved.
So I get to my real story.
You see, a little over a year ago, John and I were walking on a path in the woods, and I found a moth wing on the ground. I picked it up, looked at it, and right then knew I wanted a permanent tattoo of this thing on my body. I had no idea why, and I'm still not sure. I have it on the inside of my right wrist. I literally took the wing that week to a tattoo parlor and asked to have it imprinted on me forever.
I would like to submit the following evidence to the jury: I am one to stay up nights pondering if I should buy a small couch or not, for fear of making a commitment to a piece of furniture larger than me. So to go on such a whim and get something permanent is a bit of a fluke for me.
If any of you have a tattoo, you will understand the following sentiment. People say, "oh, cool tattoo, what does it mean?" ..
"Er, um, well, I was walking in the woods, and well, um, it just kind of hit me. I think it's something meaningful, but I'm not sure what it is yet". I begin sweating while I'm saying this, and feel like I'm quoting something out of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". (Was that the one with the mashed potato mountain??) The person then gives me a small smile, and moves along, away from mash potato girl.
So tonight I am sitting in the tub. In our little red house we have these tiny moths that make itty bitty nests in the ceiling, and I imagine they watch us while we sleep and laugh their heads off. They then proceed to munch on all of our sweaters and favorite coats.
These little moths are all over our house, and they drive me nuts. To not feel bad in the mass genocide of them with the vacuum cleaner, I imagine them to look more like the head mother in "Aliens". I feel very Sigourney-esque at times with my Hoover.
Well tonight I was sitting in the tub, feeling pretty exhausted from the day. One of these damn moths landed on the side of the tub and just sat there for a little while. Instead of smashing it and savoring the weird dust left from the corpse, I just watched it.
And that's when the moth turned into a bridge. That tiny moth, as I sat watching it, noticing its spastic antennae, its funny moving and waiting and moving, its little body covered by wings, was a moment when I just sat looking and sharing a space with another life. A tiny life. A life nothing like mine. And yet, here we are, the two of us, just chilling in the bath together. I mean, how many living things do I share a bath with? To my knowledge not many. Or maybe too many… I don't know. I try not to think about the microscopic bugs in my eyebrows and such..
BUT. But here I am watching this little moth. Totally fascinated. And that tiny creature turns into this big, wonderful bridge between me and everything else. I'm not going to use the term "connected", since it's so annoying, but well, you know, that's what it felt like.
And so I have to wonder, if I felt such a connection with an insect, surely there are these bridges with everything else, right? An accountant is a lot closer to where I come from than a moth, for crying out loud.
I kind of think of life and our experiences as looking slightly like the 187 little islands that make up the city of Venice (in Italy).
So you have all these tiny islands, and there are just a ton of bridges everywhere. Some islands will have several bridges leading off of them. The great thing about Venice is the fact that to truly enjoy it, you just have to stop trying to find your way. You embrace getting lost and just moving between the islands, smelling the sea, feeling the steps of the bridges, noticing the white wash on the candy-coloured buildings. Sometimes you make circles, but often you just make worm trails. If someone was to draw a line behind you on a map, you would look drunk. That's whats so great about Venice to me. All these little bridges leading you to all these different places. Every bridge has been stepped on billions of times. There is someone behind you following in your steps. There is someone in front of you that you can still smell. You walk, lost, but knowing that you are on one of the 187 islands, not floating out adrift in the sea alone.
So if I think about all the little things around me every day, all those little and big things I never notice, and then I think of the moments like my moth, I have to think that that is the bridge I chose at that moment to cross. The tiny life in the bathtub connected me to all the other experiences, all the other islands and their bridges, for that moment as I walked up its few paved steps. How many islands do we never visit, how many bridges do we miss each day?
Sometimes I am grateful for exhaustion. It feels like the sober person's way of getting drunk. Sometimes I'm so tired the inner monologue dies down, and I'm left with moths and bathtubs and blogs and tattoos.
I often worry about if I live in the right place, if I'm doing what I'm supposed to, if I'm living my life to its fullest. It's a very similar anxiety to the one I had the first hour I visited Venice that initial time. I kept looking at the CRAZY map of the city thinking "Jeez, why the hell would mankind decide to make a city HERE??". But eventually I put the map away, started looking up instead of down, and just took it in. I wish I could do that in life more. There's art, FREAKIN ART everywhere, talking all the time. And sometimes I want to ask it "Jeez, why the hell did you pick THIS place??". But it's here, and "I think it's something meaningful, but I'm not sure what it is yet".