March 08, 2013

Gentle Snows melt into swirling grey rivers

When I was a very young man, back in the 1970's, I used to love my home in Steamboat Springs Colorado. We had moved there from San Jose, CA in 1976 so my parents could run a small motel called Rainbow Cottages. For the first year in Steamboat we didn't have any snow, but the following few years, 1977, 78, and 79, we had more snow than many remembered in years. It snowed so much in 1978 that the banks of snow pushed up by the city plows lined the streets like villas in a medieval village. This snow created canyons, mysterious new roads burrowed into the mounds of frozen water. Lakes that rested on street tops that when the high mountain sun shone upon them, they glittered brilliantly white again the colbolt blue of the Colorado sky.

Even when I was a very young child I had dreams of being a great leader, and I used to play that the world of snow was my kingdom. There I could build fortresses, castles, homes in the snow, and upon my viewing of the pillowing, rolling blankets of snow around these snow mounds, I could pretend i ruled there alone. I suppose that this desire to control this kingdom, build those fortresses came from a feeling of lack of control in my own childhood world. At this time my father was controlling, temperamental, mean even, and we were instructed by my mother to be quiet when dad slugged in from the work at the hotel. We didn't rule our own little worlds, so when I could step outside in the snowy, mysterious world of white piled around me, my imagination transformed that bleak palletless world, into a place of vibrant life, color, magic.

I love putting on the snow clothes; the boots, hat, scarf, gloves, snow pants, and jacket. I would always pretend I was covering myself in armour, preparing to go into the kingdom to do battle, build a fortress, fight the trolls, win the princess (or the prince). I would wrap myself in my armament, and face a world that was mine to create, to build, to learn in, grow in and rule. Strange when I look back but I was always the king of my kingdom, the ruler of the hills, and even when I played with other children (usually my little sister and occasionally my cousins), I insisted on ruling. Such an ego, but I know now that this place, my imagination, was really the only place I could be free, the only place I could control my world. It is because of this world, I was able to form my values built around honor, hard work, justice, glory, and exaltation. These last two aren't such noble endeavors, but they are, they were there, all the same.

As I grew a bit older I discovered the dark side of the Batman, the one presented in the early 80's, who was much darker, more fierce, more damaged. The boots were my bat boots, gloves were my bat gloves, scarf was my cowl, and I would usually throw on my trusty cape for grand effect. My imagination wandered from the noble kingdoms of camelot, to the dark streets of gotham. I would stay out later in the winter, added by the short days, and play in the yard and on the property of the hotel under the dim zinc lights that glowed a pale yellow. I would rest upon the precipice of tall buildings (made of snow of course) and with drama, power, and righteous anger, swoop down upon the villains I created and battle them for revenge, for righteousness, for my own satisfaction. The snows allowed me to fall, to tremble, to smash huge (ice) boulders with my bare hands and feet, to be a hero. I loved those days. And when I think back to the childhood I waged war in, the childhood I made a home in, I remember day and nights of magic, heroes, villains and snow. I know I loved to escape in this world because I played like this much later than most children, almost until I was a teen, most certainly the oldest boy in my class to do so. But this just indicates to me that I escaped in this manner because I found myself there and I could not leave the fantasy.

I think my calling to the priesthood was likely a continuation of the childhood I loved in Steamboat. The world I entered ultimately turned out to be just as cold as the snow I fell into. The world I entered was just as false as my ice kingdoms, the hero that I became was the same as my childhood, fantastical. I think now back on this journey and I realize that my journey to seminary was really building the ice fortresses, castles, and walls. My priesthood was the late spring, and when the sun warmed me, all these fantasties feel away like slush. The beautiful white snow melted into dirty, dark grey waters that swirled at my feet and left me chilled. I stayed too long in the religious life, much like I played at boyhood fantasies too long as a child. I was left dripping, cold and wet, and alone. The world that had been created around me was false and never existed at all. But they were powered by my mind, my imagination, my hope for a better world.

Below is a poem I composed that sums up my childhood fantasies in the snow.

It was in the silent scream of snow
i realized
i was destined to build my kingdom
from the lonely coldness
warm enough to freeze
i surrounded the bland world of ice
with the color in my eyes
there i danced with the lords and ladies of that solstice
and saw i was destined
to be alone
in the glaciered world surrounding me
but be the master of color in mind
i was a king amongst kingdoms that do soften
a lord amongst none
but who are seen in my color alone
my world was frozen
and soon it relented
there in the spring
i was left holding
the dripping, wet remnants of my kingdom
destined again to be alone
yes, in the warmth of that dreaded spring time
i can turn, see past the color inside my own eyes
and find in the empty whites
of the globes of color
resting in my tired sockets
i am destined to be alone again
away from the world of that vernal equinox
to find the silent scream
to be warm enough
again to freeze

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