Friday, April 09, 2010

Montana Sky

Edith has developed her first attachment to a pop song-- "Love Story," by Taylor Swift, of "she wears high heels, I wear sneakers" fame. If it's on the radio (and it's on the radio all the time), we have to turn it up. Edith only wears sneakers. She doesn't care about her hair as long as it can stay long. But she now likes her toenails painted red, with flowers.

I approve. If I didn't, what could I really do? But Ms. Swift has the pre-teen market hooked with these clean little ballads--"Love Story" uses the trope of Romeo and Juliet to drive the emotional dynamics of the song, although the music video is a little confused, somehow blending R + J with Pride and Prejudice. But then again, Romeo and Juliet commit suicide, while Darcy and Elizabeth live happily ever after.

And, really, how can I object to my 10-year-old's fascination with a song whose video's most compromised moment shows, very briefly and only once, Ms. Swift plucking a Queen Anne cherry (yes, the yellow ones with the pink blush) from a green bough. The lovers in the video are never shown kissing, however much it's heavily implied that they do.

Yup, the song has all the motifs of soft-focus romantic love down: we were both young when I first saw you, I close my eyes and the flashback starts, I'm standing there on balcony of summer air . . . Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone . . . Romeo save me

Yes, all this, along with a hard-driving rock-country upbeat tempo, as though all things are possible, as though girls were in charge of their own hearts.

When kids are little, all the moms remark that the boys are always drawn to the trucks. Which is generally true. But what's with girls and those little balloons of hopeful love that rise inside, unseen, swelling their little hearts before even a simple understanding of what love is really like? The expectation, the expectation. The waiting. Antici------pation.

It can't just be the modern media instilling this in my sweet Edith's head, because Juliet and Elizabeth Bennett surely felt that balloon rise inside the chest, that lift. Or, rather, Juliet and Elizabeth were the Taylor Swifts of their day--early modern and 18th century tweenie girls hearing their stories and saying, oh, mommy, isn't that romantic? Play it again.

So Edith will soon start to talk about the boys she's already thinking of, figure out how to kiss one of those strange gazelles who shy away at the slightest provocation, always ready to bolt. Well, maybe in a few years. And then, once she's got that figured out, on to all the mysteries of the other sex. Or maybe not, maybe the same sex. Who knows? We'll just have to wait and see how the story goes.

But, if it's boys in the end, then she and I will have something in common. I have to say, much as I might not want to admit it, that I find the song a little compelling. Just a little.

What can I say? I'm one of those people who doesn't want to let go of those charged moments from the past. All those little pieces of being alive should be ever-present in the psyche, I think. A kind of depth ensues into which I can escape in all the worst moments life brings. Lights brighten up my spine, that's the way it feels. Each of us composed of all those fractured moments of our lives, never just a static person floating in the pool of the present.

After the modernists, these dopey moments when love presents itself are supposed to be ironized, caricatured, devalued. But isn't it some kind of miracle to see whatever love really is suddenly appear, unfettered? Those moments when you recognize there's nothing to do but just grab hold--even if it's not for long? And, still, the mature realization that these moments are just that, moments, like light flashes in the dark, is nothing to dismiss, nothing to regret.

I find this to be as emotionally true as irony or disappointment or anger or regret--those supposedly more complex emotional valences. And, always, girls are dismissed for saying it.

That's why this blog has a photo of the Montana sky at the top--the Rockies from the eastern side. The side of my first approach. I wrote a poem about it (here) that I still like, even if it is macerated in a bit of sentimentality.

I once read, somewhere, about the way Willa Cather experienced the vast skies of the prairies and the mountain west--that the experience was breathless--her first experience with an unparalleled personal freedom. And elsewhere I read that this experience of the Western sky is more powerful for women than for men.

That's what that first real kiss is, whether it comes first or fifteenth in line, a flash of light in which everything truly is illuminated--possibility, personal freedom, that first sight of the self from the other side of the mountain range, you know, the ones you're always headed toward. It's not ever really about the boy. Even if he did, truly, make your knees weak.


Dale said...

It is a catchy little song. Jane Eyre redux :-)

No, the western skies aren't a more overwhelming experience for women than for this man, anyway. Not if you're still standing on two feet.

What I can't figure out, after all this time, is if the moments can exist outside the expectation that they will amount to something. I can't manage to hold them as moments, not really, not if I'm being truthful with myself. They're compelling because they seem like doors, or at least windows, into a world wholly unknown but desperately wanted.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, this does mean a lot to me -- this small essay bursting at the seams. "A kind of depth ensues into which I can escape in all the worst moments life brings." Makes me think of lying on my back at the chinese doctor with all the needles stuck into me -- I think of the same person each time, the same conversation, the same romance and it just somehow gets me through the rest. I'm so happy when I read your work, Jeneva, and part of that happiness is because you write so beautifully.

jeneva said...

Dale, I think you're right that the costumes are more early 19th than late 18th--but Heathcliff was a lout. There's still some spirit of P&P thrown in.

I understand what you're saying about the moments acting as gateways--maybe at the time I wanted for something more, but with the passage of time, I have no sense for that want anymore. Just the recollection of the charged moment, the sense that it is mine to keep.

And, Elizabeth, thanks--your writing is equally compelling and passionate.

jeneva said...

And I can't believe I just confused Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. It's late here on the east coast.

Dale said...

:-) Haven't seen the video. Just, you know, the sensible governess with hidden sensibility amongst the brassy fine ladies who don't really have the heart to understand a tortured soul.

Yours to keep? Really? Now that I need to turn over in my hands a few times & think about!