Six Degrees of Alexander

8e89f63b6539b8e41703d12cf99e683bI’m wondering if I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Alexander Ebert. I want Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes to play at our wedding. Or Leonard Cohen, and Leonard, if you’re reading this, you are NOT my second choice. In fact, you and Alexander together would be a knock-out.

I’m wondering if I can take some space to write without feeling like I’m squeezing it in. I’m squeezing a rock. It’s heavy and dry in my hands. I just got home from work, and I’m brain-tired but longing to write. So I’m holding a rock, and it’s the kind of rock that looks dull until you get it wet, and then its colors and patterns emerge.

Since Thursday night, when we re-watched The Wizard of Oz, I’ve been thinking about Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, how she said, “You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!” And wondering who or what I’d say that to now, what bully or distraction I’d like to banish from my reality.

I’m wondering about my dreams, and where they go when I’m busy not dreaming them. About the unsurfaced ideas that tug at me, like children on pant legs if I’m not paying them mind. I’m wondering about possibilities, how I would like to spend all day sometimes studying again, being a student of something, immersed and absorbed. I’m wondering about that moment when sleep comes that you can never quite recall. It makes me think of a book title a former therapist once told me: Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love? And where do we fall when we fall asleep? And where do the days go when the sun goes down? And where does the wicked witch go when she melts away? Where do the questions live when I’m not asking them? What are the six degrees of Alexander?

All day, I talked to people and did my work. Work that buys groceries and piano lessons, work that helped a graduating student prepare for a job interview, a graduate student cut through jargon and get to the simple speech of what he really wanted to write, work that is intended to “move students forward.” Where do we go when we move forward? Always, a trajectory, a set of expectations. Where is the starting line and where the finish? I do not want to race through my life.

I put the rock down on a slab of wood. I fish a hammer out of the junk drawer and think of the amethyst geode Pearl likes, the one Aviva says she found by smashing it open. How she says it looked like nothing much. How she discovered its beauty herself, and how it doesn’t matter that I bought it as a gift at Spirit Dancer, the new age store in Burlington. What we tell ourselves becomes truth, images we shape ourselves into over time, memory and story blended until it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference.

Leonard Cohen, what are you having for dinner? Want to come over for scrambled eggs? We’re using up half an onion and the beet greens leftover from our magnificent borscht. I’m sorry you missed the borscht; it was delicious.

Some rocks are more beautiful wet, some songs brand themselves into my skin, ink melodies, lyrics that catch in my throat when I sing them. The candles burn low, and I’m wondering where we fall when we fall from grace. I think falling from grace may in fact have saved me, because grace is not an accomplishment or a place. It’s the fall itself, and the landing into life, recycling day and rent checks and dreams that will grow in mason jars lining the closet shelves, one choice at a time.

Alexander Ebert, if you’re reading this, you may be wondering who this woman is, rattling off a stream-of-consciousness and calling it a rock, calling it writing. I am a woman who loves your songs. I was the girl who wrote a letter to David Bowie when I was twelve, crying on his birthday that we could not be together. I am done with masks and mythologies and wish to invite you to strum something at my kitchen table while we eat the eggs for dinner and I harmonize with Jade. Let’s jam. Come play at my wedding. Meet my bride.

And you, reading this, too, you whose face I have seen at work or on the street, on a screen, a book jacket, a moving picture, a melting fear, a house fallen, a geode broken, a gem revealed–you may be wondering what this is all about. This, this stream of disparate notes leaking from my ears, old black-and-white photos in the margins of those who disappeared. It is a question I cannot answer. A moment I cannot recall. A bonfire someplace faraway from here. A dream I forgot the moment I woke and the place I saw when I woke, the face closest to mine, eyes that widen and narrow with love and heartbreak all at once.

A question, without an answer. A woman, with a rock in her hands. Nonsense, and the belief that somewhere, embedded in the words, there is something glistening, something meaningful, something musical, something magical. I can’t see it just yet, but will follow the hints in just this way, without thinking, without timelines or maps, only a day that has ended, a darkness that has fallen, a fall that has ended and turned to a winter that will give birth to the spring. Summer, fall again. I set the rock down, and wonder what slope would have it roll away. Then hum along, and follow it down.

4 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Alexander

  1. daniel says:

    This is very wonderful Jena–your coming wedding is exciting–Jane must be very special. Your questions are so fine. They point to the ineffable, the heart, the spirit, the place beyond words. And in the end, the rock which looks better with water on it. There is the true nature of us all


  2. Katalina4 says:

    So beautiful, the way your circle and circle around, a clutch, a handful of new thoughts and things on each pass outwards, coming back to the rock again and again. Lovely.
    And did you really write to David Bowie when you were 12?



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