…of my relationship with the best city in the whole world. Unfortunately, this means that my Amsterdam cultural baby is being delivered right around the time I have to leave. This baby is just metaphorical, I don’t have some great project to present or token of my time abroad. I’d say what was birthed may just be a new Lily; an older one (no avoiding that though…) and a more tolerant one but at the same time a more stubborn one. Stubborn in the sense that I, in no way, will settle for anything less than extraordinary after what I’ve had the opportunity to experience here. The world has big things in store for me and might have always had, but only now do I realize my purpose and the extent that I can take my capabilities.
I know I just said that I don’t have a token of my time here, but that was a lie. I did buy myself a ring from one of my favorite stores last week (unaware of this significant date, the anniversary was technically yesterday), engraved with “Lucky.” I do hold myself (and my family) as the prime reasons for pursuing the opportunities I’ve had in life, but those opportunities had to have come to me with a bit of luck. And the fact that I do get to pursue them makes me truly, truly lucky.
One of my most influencial English teachers at Hockaday, Kyle Vaughn, shared this poem with us and it has stuck with me for years after: Lucky Life, by Gerald Stern. The last two stanzas replay in my mind over and over again. Oh Lucky life, oh lucky, lucky life.
Lucky life isn’t one long string of horrors
and there are moments of peace, and pleasure, as I lie in between the blows.
Lucky I don’t have to wake up in Phillipsburg, New Jersey,
on the hill overlooking Union Square or the hill overlooking
Kuebler Brewery or the hill overlooking SS. Philip and James
but have my own hills and my own vistas to come back to.
Each year I go down to the island I add
one more year to the darkness;
and though I sit up with my dear friends
trying to separate the one year from the other,
this one from the last, that one from the former,
another from another,
after a while they all get lumped together,
the year we walked to Holgate,
the year our shoes got washed away,
the year it rained,
the year my tooth brought misery to us all.
This year was a crisis. I knew it when we pulled
the car onto the sand and looked for the key.
I knew it when we walked up the outside steps
and opened the hot icebox and began the struggle
with swollen drawers and I knew it when we laid out
the sheets and separated the clothes into piles
and I knew it when we made our first rush onto
the beach and I knew it when we finally sat
on the porch with coffee cups shaking in our hands.
My dream is I’m walking through Phillipsburg, New Jersey,
and I’m lost on South Main Street. I am trying to tell,
by memory, which statue of Christopher Columbus
I have to look for, the one with him slumped over
and lost in weariness or the one with him
vaguely guiding the way with a cross and globe in
one hand and a compass in the other.
My dream is I’m in the Eagle Hotel on Chamber Street
sitting at the oak bar, listening to two
obese veterans discussing Hawaii in 1942,
and reading the funny signs over the bottles.
My dream is I sleep upstairs over the honey locust
and sit on the side porch overlooking the stone culvert
with a whole new set of friends, mostly old and humorless.
Dear waves, what will you do for me this year?
Will you drown out my scream?
Will you let me rise through the fog?
Will you fill me with that old salt feeling?
Will you let me take my long steps in the cold sand?
Will you let me lie on the white bedspread and study
the black clouds with the blue holes in them?
Will you let me see the rusty trees and the old monoplanes one more year?
Will you still let me draw my sacred figures
and move the kites and the birds around with my dark mind?
Lucky life is like this. Lucky there is an ocean to come to.
Lucky you can judge yourself in this water.
Lucky you can be purified over and over again.
Lucky there is the same cleanliness for everyone.
Lucky life is like that. Lucky life. Oh lucky life.
Oh lucky lucky life. Lucky life.