Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin


 I read somewhere that most people only use the top of their lungs to breathe, and that the bottom 1/3 just hangs around, growing decrepit. When I try to breathe deep, I can feel the pain of each lung lobe unsticking, like scraps of paper off a mis-glued art project. I emerged from Fuqua on an evening, a week ago, into air resonant with the scent of yellow blossoms and the sharper musk of pine. The night was all sweetness; I remember elation from a life where nothing could go wrong. That has faded now, given way to a wild wind that shakes trees hard - they send their branches clattering onto the roof of our house and our cars.

I haven't quite known how to write for many weeks now. Even today, these words emerge uncertainly onto the page, and all I can do is trust that perhaps their honesty will carry them. After a week so full of warmth that even the trees began to bloom, the days became suddenly laced with sorrow. Death changes us, and the closer its shadow passes to us, the more changed we become. Christopher Beauvais, so many hearts are aching with your passing. Your scout master today said that God wanted another angel with him, and so he took you. And the Lord's Prayer says that God's kingdom is the glory, and we wished that in that kingdom of heaven you were climbing on everything without fear of falling, that you were surfing the best waves, and that you were kayaking the best white water. This seemed right, to me.

Today, sitting in Duke Chapel, I felt that great vaulted space become thick with sadness. So many of us crowded into the footprint, separately very small, inconsequential almost. And yet, despite the smallness, the massed gathering radiated strength. That, and deep, undeniable love. All that feeling drifted into the nave, sang out of the organ pipes, shimmered like a spotlight through the blue of the chapel's stained glass. I kept turning my face upwards toward it . All I wanted to do was gather my family and loved ones near me. Do nothing but hold their hands. My mother, father, brother, and Julia. I had to resist the urge to hold the hands of both the girls sitting next to me. 

Yesterday, Hap and I went to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre - a show that we've had tickets to since the end of August. It was amazing. Their first piece was entitled "Anointed." I wept openly - there was so much aliveness in the touch of these dancers with each other, the woman dancers threw themselves into the air, and they were always caught. Yes, they were technically stunning, but they each had a raw edge, through which each abandoned the self to the movement of the dance. The other pieces, too, were beautiful - from a frenetic all-female piece, to the hair-raising all-male "Hunt" to the legacy piece "Revelations." But it was "Anointed" that electrified me.

I've been wondering how to be changed by death. A dear classmate of mine told me about the death of her friend - how death made some of those she knew sink into depression from what they saw as the meaninglessness of life, and how others she knew held on to it more strongly. Chris made those around him want to be better - more giving, living more in the Now, finishing the things he put his mind to, and being easy to love because he himself loved so quickly. This week, I've wanted to be near my Nicholas School classmates, but also to hear the voices of those loved ones whom I hadn't spoken with in a while. Still, I couldn't call my parents until tonight. I've become acutely aware of my shortcomings, in the places that Chris was strong. The more I think about how I want to touch the people around me, the further I seem from any conclusion.

I do know that I'm desperate for contact. This week I've hated the solitude of the nights, refused to hang up the phone with Clay even when he'd gone to sleep long ago. I've hated the solitude of my Fuqua classes, where too many moments are laced with a "just get it done" attitude. I keep thinking of a dancer, limbs strong and movements bold, flinging herself to be caught. I keep thinking about the abandonment to a single moment of connection, where only a melody and movement exists. In this place, my ribs expand to fill my lungs and memory brings us to mutual tenderness. There's no questioning. No self-doubt. There's just this, and us, and love.
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