My daughter is 16, and as we all know, the teenage years are often full of angst and self-doubt. They sure were for me, at least. Yet I have often remarked upon, and reveled in, her uncommon kindness and level-headedness. When I am feeling sad or low about something she is always there to cheer me up. Though she may demur in private, to me she’s always had a positive attitude. She is my sun and my rain.
It’s interesting to note, by the way, that it’s only when the sun is behind us, and there’s only rain ahead, it’s only then that we see the rainbow.
Last night my daughter wrote an essay for her high school english class. This morning she needed me to print it out in a hurry because she didn’t want to be late for a meeting with her friends before school at a cafe nearby. It was a bit hectic, but we did it fast then were out the door. Later, though, I opened my computer to find her essay still on my desktop. Then, feeling a bit guilty, I read it. While it does express some of the uncertainty of youth, still, I was taken by the sheer beauty of her writing. Leaving out the few bits, and with her permission, I want to share with you her words. I realize that, like any proud parent, I am looking through the glasses of personal bias, but perhaps vicariously, in it you can see your own child’s sense of wonder and revel too.
“For someone that often tells others not to worry about how they think they will appear in society’s eyes or how they will look to other people, I worry a lot about what other people think of me. I don’t worry as much about what those close to me think because I trust them and they know me well enough not to judge me, but even they have a different perception of me than I do of myself. I am the only one who always hears the thoughts going on in my head, sees what I see, feels what I feel, experiences what I experience, thinks the way I do. All of us humans are alike: we all eat and drink and sleep, we all breathe and grow, we all live on the same ground, and we all think and feel. But the innumerably different ways we do those things chalk up to define us and make each person worlds apart from the other.
“I, I am like the red tide. If you, reader, have ever walked along the beach at night, you may have seen some. When you lift your feet off the wet sand, your footprints flash in turquoise light and then turn invisible again as quickly as they appeared. And sometimes the waves light up, too. This is caused by tiny plankton* in the water glowing when agitated, a truly beautiful phenomenon of nature, this red tide. It is a rare thing to experience, though. Like it, I am invisible most of the time, but do my best to shine when touched by others. I can be in a room full of people and no one will see me, but if I talk to someone, I try to give off light, although dim, by making conversation and giving compliments and making them laugh. I like to think that my glow brightens someone’s day, but they are probably too busy warming themselves in the radiance of other suns that the subtle change in brightness is nothing to them.
“I have quite an adventurous spirit; there is a big part of me that longs to see the world in all its glory. I want to jump over waterfalls, wake up at the top of a mountain range on a crisp spring morning to see the first rays of light peeking over the ridge, swim in blissfully warm and blue tropical seas, quietly pad through shadowy redwood forests, and splash in cenotes with sunbeams shimmering down into the depths. I want to trek through lush, green jungles with flashing scarlet macaws and bright orange frogs. I want to be awed by the sheer power of a snowstorm, a looming cliff face while looking up from the bottom of a rocky canyon, or the pure silence of being in the middle of a desert at dusk – a silence that sucks one’s breath away and renders one motionless in a struggle to take in the full nothing of quiet.
“I dream of all these things because some part of my soul is deeply attuned to the breathing of the Earth, but I don’t know why it is more so than for some other people. It sounds cheesy, but maybe I just have a particularly large portion of the planet’s stardust in me. Whatever it is, something makes me more keen on animal and nature protection, things that, honestly, are looked upon in our modern human (or at least American) society as being rather taboo. Wanting to protect this precious jewel that gives us life that humans are consciously hurting makes me a “hippy,” an “eccentric,” and “brainwashed” and that makes me sad. Perhaps I’m just bad at seeing the opposing side’s point of view, but I just don’t understand why humans coexisting with the Earth is such a foreign concept. I am a people person too, and I guess that means that all I want is for everyone and everything to be happy.
“I am filled with wanderlust, which fuels my obsession with aesthetics and photography. I just love art, any type really, because I think it’s so amazing that very specific feelings, moods, and mental images can be captured with music, color combinations, and certain perspectives. When I was little, I never understood what people meant when they said that they made art to express themselves, but now I understand. Expressing oneself through art isn’t about conveying sentences, it’s about conveying emotions, or for a more specific example, conveying things like how being above a city with a warm wind rustling one’s hair and clothes at sundown might feel like.
“Photography does that, as well. Thomas Hart Benton, an American painter and muralist, once said that he thought part of the reason people take photos is because they’re afraid that moment will never happen again. I strongly agree with that; I love to capture rare moments or moments of happiness because I know that nothing in the world could ever recreate that exact instant, and if I don’t capture it, it will be gone forever. Obviously it might not be forgotten if its only record is in memory, and there is something sacred about leaving it that way, but taking a photo makes it easier to share that moment of ecstasy with the world.
“I am misunderstood, have kind of an inferiority complex, and wish that the world and everything in it could be at peace. I have an incredible desire to fill myself with beauty and pass it on, and I do my best with my little red tide light. It moves with the waves, like the inhale and exhale of the Earth. My presence in those waves is so small and insignificant when considered with the magnitude of the universe, but seen from up close, it makes a difference.”
Here are a couple of stunning videos. Enjoy.
*This bioluminescent plankton is the real deal (We’ve witnessed it ourselves). Though it can be toxic to fish in quantity, it’s also one of earth’s loveliest features. Google pictures of Noctiluca and “Lingulodinium polyedrum” .