POV: Heights.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories. 

[NOTE: Though I'm posting this today, it was written last week, as I was traveling to Sri Lanka.] 

When I was in high school, my family lived in the hills off of Laurel Canyon in a house surrounded by trees. There was a hiking trail five minutes away, and on weekends, I’d walk its winding paths and look at the valley below. Among a sea of roofs and treetops and swimming pools, I’d try to pick out places I knew: the drugstore, my favorite newsstand, intersections I crossed daily on my way to school. 

At street level, I had to strain to grasp the wholeness of things. It was hard to see buildings as part of city blocks, city blocks as part of a sprawling metropolis. In the midst of pre-college chaos, it was calming to see the world from a height. It was disorienting, too, in pleasant and unpleasant ways, to suddenly feel so small.

Every Sunday for the past three weeks or so, I’ve had dinner with friends. We trade off hosting duties each week, and everyone contributes something. We haven’t ever done much in the way of planning, which means menu items are often mismatched. One night, for instance,  Luke, Lily, and I made a slow-cooked lasagna, which we ate alongside angel-hair pasta cooked by our friend Steve. Another night, there was roast chicken, a Thai peanut curry, buttery leek soup, and buckwheat crepes. And last week, we had grilled cheese at Megan’s, with paella and pasta primavera. 

They're patchwork parties. We’ve reached an age now where most of us live far from our families, but haven’t yet started ones of our own. And because many of us have known each other for years, because we’ve weathered our twenties together, because we do things like gather for hodgepodge dinners despite the frigid cold, we’re a sort of patchwork family.

Lily and I often joke that in New York, both nothing and absolutely everything happens in a week. Life hurtles at a pace that feels like flying. It’s forced me to wonder (when I have the time to stop and wonder): what, then, grounds me?  

The people I love. The experiences we create. The worlds we share, both past and present.


As I write this, I’m on an airplane, on my way to Sri Lanka. I’ve been in transit for twelve hours and have another fourteen ahead. I’ve lost track of time. 

Megan and I once talked about the experience of flying, of looking out at the world below and not feeling like a part of it. On airplanes, we’re inundated with an excess of time to think. On airplanes, we find, we cry easily.

A few hours ago, I woke up in my seat, startled to find myself on a plane. In a daze, I tried to check emails on my phone; when I couldn’t, I flipped through photos instead - there was my apartment, my nephew sitting poolside in Palm Springs, my friends at a party recently where everyone drank whiskey and wore ferns in their hair

Somehow, from up here, my entire life feels like a hard-to-place memory, like an out-of-body experience. A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about what it feels like to faint. It’s a little like that: half awake and half in another world. In a few hours, I’ll land and wander in an unfamiliar airport, attempting to decipher signs in another language. 

Now, though, I’m nowhere. I’m too high up to see a thing. No buildings. No trees. No ground beneath my feet. Nothing out my window but blinding light.

You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, here. Thank you so much, as always, for reading. Photo via my Instagram.


burntfeather said...

ahh such feelings you're able to articulate - lovely - I hope your journey on the other wise is amazing :)

--- said...

I feel like a record on repeat- I love your POV posts. I adore the idea of patchwork parties. And I really am beyond tickled you are on travels to Sri Lanka. Have an incredible, beautiful, inspiring time.

--- said...

I feel like a record on repeat- I love your POV posts. I adore the idea of patchwork parties. And I really am beyond tickled you are on travels to Sri Lanka. Have an incredible, beautiful, inspiring time.

Raquel R. said...

There is always something new to learn from all the ordinary experiences. Your POVs are beautiful reminders of that.

elle said...

beautiful beautiful.

Shoko said...

Thank you so much, everyone - I appreciate it! Can't wait to share about the trip when I'm back!

Rachel said...

I love flying, so so much. It makes me a little sad that there is any wifi availability at all now, because I love having the excuse to completely disconnect and be in transit, away from everyone else. No one has any expectations of me to answer calls or emails, and it's glorious.

I hope Sri Lanka is/was fantastic! Can't wait to hear more about your travels =]

Kristin said...

I've never commented before, but I've been reading your POVs for while. They're always so beautiful!

I completely understand that "pleasant and unpleasant" feeling of being small when seeing the world from a height. There's a certain section of the Appalachian Trail that I love to hike with my boyfriend when we're sick of city life. There are these beautiful rocks at the top, and we always just sit there and take in everything around us. You can see for miles and miles - highways, trails, houses. It makes me feel so small, but almost in a good way. It makes me realize that all those worries and stresses that swarm my mind on a typical busy day are so teensy and unimportant. Seeing the world that way always gives me such clarity.

Kathy said...

My friends in DC and I make a point of having Sunday Suppers every week, and coming from a very close knit family, it's been amazing to see how friends can become family. It terrifies me to think that there was a chance that I may have never met them! Also, I always cry on airplanes. Even when I'm most excited, I find myself tearing up.

As always, this was a beautiful articulation of so many things that I feel or have felt. I hope you had a wonderful time in Sri Lanka, and I can't wait to see photos and hear about your adventures!

dervla @ The Curator said...

that was truly gorgeous, Shoko! Blinding light indeed.

Shoko said...

Kristin, thanks so much for your comment and for your very kind words. I really appreciate your reading! And I totally know what you mean - seeing the world from a height puts a lot in perspective. It's a breath of fresh air. Such good medicine!

Diana said...

Wow. I'm speechless. What a beautiful post.

Tiffany said...

when i still lived in a place with roof access, i would lie down and stare at the night sky. the far away stars made my mind think of the vastness of the world which is really hard to fully concieve as you put it too. it just helped me realize how small my problems were compared to this vastness.
friends are the family we choose for ourselves, i like to call mine "my people". it is wonderful to be tied strongly with others. your patchwork dinners sound lovely!


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