Up the Creek

Going Upriver, the documentary about John Kerry's experiences both in and after Vietnam, is intriguing and engrossing for a number of reasons: it presents an interesting picture of the time (which I know little about, though I'd like to learn more), draws some parallels (perhaps somewhat unintentionally) between Vietnam and Iraq, and offers a fascinating portrait of both Kerry himself and the Vietnam Veterans against the War movement.

What struck me the hardest, though, was the sense of being thrown back to last summer and early last fall, when it still seemed like the voting populace of the U.S. might do the right thing and oust Bush, when the vibe from the Kerry campaign (and MoveOn, and the DNC) was full of promise and possibility, when I was still able to summon something akin to hope about the state of political affairs in this country.

Granted, the film presents Kerry in an unabashedly positive and unblemished light, and doesn't touch on his life and career after the 70s; it was intended as (and is) a somewhat heroic portrait of a somewhat heroic (though also somewhat flawed) man. But still.

Though it's refreshing to remember what I felt last year at this time--a fairly even blend of hope and doom, perhaps tilted slightly in favor of the former--there's no overlooking the fact that these days, much of the hope is gone. I need to stick more religiously than ever to my media diet: no more than headlines when reading anything about Bush, Iraq, the Republican-led Congress, and a bevy of other blood-boiling topics, and no radio or TV news that might feature any sort of sound clip involving Dubya's voice. Because not only do these stories remind me daily, endlessly, of how misguided the country seems these days, they also serve as unwelcome reminders of what might have been. If only.


Her Hardest Hue to Hold

After exceedingly foofy and delicious cocktails and nibbles at No. 9 Park, Otis and I tripped happily out into the evening (still--to my tastes, at least--wonderfully warm) as my phone rang. It was DaveG, calling from my flat in San Francisco, where he was staying for the weekend while here for a wedding.

So the three of us strolled through the Common and into the Gardens, past the swan boats and the impossibly lush flowers and the grass an otherworldly shade of green, all of it bathed in a Golden Hour light so perfect it almost seemed fake.

Later in the evening, after picking up dinner and wine and consuming both on the roof of the boys' apartment, Otes and I watched the city sink into night (the moon full, the air humid) and had an extended, Pinot-fuelled discussion about memory and forgetting, about Buddhism's dictum that life is suffering and Emism's dictum that it can't possibly be (at least not always), about the way I stack my favorite memories and moments from the past so they're a solid force beneath and behind me when everything else seems to crumble. About how something as simple as the recollection of sitting at the hotel bar in Vancouver with Dave and Otes, drinking Cosmos with floating cranberries and eating far too many spiced almonds and talking about politics--about how this simple moment can be so many things at once: gone, ever-present, treasured, impossible to return to.

At length, when our livers cried uncle and my legs started to sport a lattice of mosquito bites and we couldn't reach any of the west coast friends we'd tried placing tipsy phone calls to, we went downstairs and to bed, another moment--a day full of moments--gone.

But then there was the next day, spent traipsing around the city in search of NPS Passport stamps. There was the sweetness of picking blueberries with Isabella at Twin Chimneys, of laughingly watch her eat two ripe berries for every half-green one she put in the basket. There was dinner on the river in Westerly with Mom, Dad, and Greg, and meeting baby Joseph for the first time, and sitting on the patio at Crispo with Ry and Amy while the city sky went dark and the lights came on around us. There was--as there always is--moment after moment after moment.

Robert Frost, in "Nothing Gold Can Stay," gets it half right:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
The leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

But long after the golds and flowers and dawns are gone, there's something about them that sticks around. On my summer vacation, I let dozens of moments come and go. I can't ever have them back just as they were, but that isn't (never is) the point. I know where to find them when I need them.