"How to Grow Up"
In order for something to grow up you must feed it nutrients; vitamins, proteins, or maybe thoughts and ideas.
Did you know flamingos are pink because of the shrimp and algae they eat? Did you know there are ants whose abdomens are semitransparent causing the colors of what they’ve just consumed to show through? Gives a new meaning to you are what you eat.
In order to grow up we must move up. We must take a forward motion. A child learns to walk while a flower sprouts slowly. It stretches all its leaves and branches out upward towards the sun. It opens up and bears all it has as that warm heated glow rains down to be drank like the sweet nectar of life.
A flower might live for only a summer, but oh, if only we lived as flowers live.
If you look around you may notice that some humans don’t grow so tall.
In order to grow up they say you must leave things behind.
I always took this as leaving childhood behind, as leaving your family like sailing away from that small familiar island in search of the Promised Land.
Well it’s not, at least not exactly. That part of growing up is all about learning to stand on your own without any support to fall back on.
I’m sorry to tell you it’s harder for some than others. Life isn’t fair and learning that is yet another step in growing up.
For some people they leaned on their mother while learning to walk just a little too much for a little too long. Others were perhaps tossed into the ocean too soon to swim.
It’s ok if your legs are weak because another step in growing up is to learn to lean on someone new, to feed them as they feed you. If you are ever so lucky your stems may twist together as upward as you both entwine climbing forward towards that brilliant sun.
Nobody tells you the final steps of growing up, but I will.
You see eventually growth stops and all things die.
There is no solution, but I can offer you a suggestion.
Keep your leaves pointed out and your blossom open facing up. Soak in the beams of light and rays of solar beauty as long as you can and keep on growing until your last second on this earth.
Never ever settle for being full grown.
"Did You Notice?"
Have you ever noticed how the computer within your skull manages to store memory without any direct user input? But with so much stimulation and information constantly streaming through all five senses? Why do certain things stay while others don’t?
Someone I know once told me: human vision is nothing more than a series of images burned into the back of our eyes via light. It’s more like photographs and movie stills than anything else. So I wonder why my brain, different from yours, chooses to notice faces, places, and room arrangements. But I might know you for three years and still not be able to locate your car in the parking lot.
There are moments like words that pass as a breeze unnoticed. In one ear and right out the other. It’s like how our heart beats without being told to do so. Or how our lungs breathe, no thought necessary.
I noticed; in second grade as I walked across the sidewalk the sound of the wagon rattling on its rusty hinges. It was loud like cooking pans clanking together set to a perfect foot paced rhythm. This was the second time I had attempted to run away from home. I soon brought with me my best friend to move away, his little brother, my two years older sister, and a wagon which contained two or three cans of food and a freshly stolen birds nest containing three small pink baby birds because we wanted to raise them to be our loyal pets.
I led the way and we took turns pulling the wagon. It was a very hot summer day. We crossed two streets, we passed Pizza Hut and managed to reach the opposite corner of a busy intersection. We went down the street, passed the gas station, hair salon, and a generic electronics store. Shirts soaked in sweat we were thirsty but no one brought water. No one brought a can opener or even a tent. We got half way to the Dollar Tree before we gave up. We left the wagon at the first bus stop we saw. We walked home. Just like the first time I’d ever tried to run away from home, not a soul had noticed we’d gone missing.
I noticed; the uneven sidewalk, grass so dry in the hot summer sun it turned a sickly yellow, the fear of the others as we reached the first stop light, the feeling of a single bead of sweat as it races down my spine. I remember the baby birds; pink, blind, moving less, crying out less, dying as the sunlight beat down upon them, trapped in their own nest home, trapped within a strange loud metal wagon, trapped to die on the side of busy road before any human being might take notice.
I noticed; in fourth grade the taste of chocolate melting in the hot summer sun, the sweat of it mixing with the salt of my skin as I lick a muddy drip that had spilt on my hand. I was in fourth grade and I’d gone with my brother, bigger by ten years, to walk the dog. This was just after the school had called my mother, they were concerned, having noticed my increasing anti-social behavior. As we walked my brother talked to me about dealing with shyness. He told me most people are scared inside, he told me people will come and go so don’t worry what they think. He told me that the worst thing you could do in life is not try. He even gave me some conversation tips. Before I knew it we’d reached the gas station and this is where he bought me the chocolate bar. It melted as I walked home but I’d noticed then that melted chocolate tastes much better.
I noticed; the dog’s tail constantly moving, my brother telling me that drugs are dangerous because people lace things with rat poison all the time, and the distant tune of an ice cream truck, maybe a block away, hoping to catch someone’s notice.
I did not notice; the path we took during this walk, any particular place where the dog stopped to pee, or what buildings we had passed. And the chocolate had dripped all the way down the front of my shirt, that too went unnoticed.
Catacombs de Paris is an underground tunnel. It feels cold like a shady spot in a late summer morning. It is an absence of sun, not necessarily a presence of chill. It has a smooth and yet uneven rock floor with the occasional puddle of moisture.
Catacombs de Paris stretches out for miles. Both sides of the wall seem to be covered in little dots, little specks of off-white which create a sort of pointillism that maybe if not faded to varying hues of nothing may have once been beautiful. Everything inside there is a washed out completely. It’s a faded colorless land of death.
Catacombs de Paris is to this day the home of roughly six million dead human beings.
The walls are stacked with bones not so much as a library is stacked with books but more like how a log cabin contains logs. Human bones and skulls are arranged here in odd patterns that twist and bend and stack up to touch the low rock ceiling. And this goes on for some time.
It took from 1786 to 1788 to complete the Catacombs de Paris. Imagine handling and stacking six million people into neat little rows.
A young American girl enters the Catacombs de Paris alone. She waited in line, she paid for her ticket, and she went inside.
She looks into the bare eye sockets of a human skull and it is maybe a deeper connection than regular eye contact, or maybe she’s simply projecting her own thoughts, into a hallow empty head.
The dead bodies had been collected throughout the years long before they built the Catacombs themselves.
The American girl sees some examples of this. Glossy photographs preserved behind glass where dead human beings lie exposed, this ultimately necked all around as far as the eye can see. The photo shows a molting skeleton in a dress. What once had been a flowing gown now looks like doll's clothes on a sick stick puppet. Half slumped over the dead woman sits alone in a corner. Her mouth is hanging open. Was she singing or screaming, the girl wonders because it’s really quite hard to tell.
It was a tradition, they explain, that when a loved one died you kept them in this certain area and came back every so often to visit. They would change their clothes, do their hair, and leave them little gifts on a semi regular basis, that is, every so often.
In 1793 Philibert Aspairt, a doorman, got lost in the Catacombs. His body was found 11 years later.
For those who were left to sit out and rot like life-sized dress up dolls, it was only a matter of time.
Eventually somewhere between children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we all end up forgotten.
After long enough time has passed with no visitors the skeleton is collected and taken apart.
The dead human beings are broken down and reassembled as something new within the sculpture that is the Catacombs de Paris.
There are graves dating from the 1800s in almost every city across America. Who visits these graves? For that matter, when was the last time you visited your great, great-Grandfathers grave?
In the Catacombs de Paris human bodies were pulled apart. Femurs, fibula, tibia, skull and ribs.
The average human bodies contains 214 bones. Now multiply that by six million.
The young American girl steps around the corner and she sees this immense wall before her flowing and curving like the waves of a lake. Dull in color yet full in shape it is an architecture made of human building blocks.
Human femurs, fibula, tibia are all weaved together in a tight masterful pattern. Skulls are all together looking out as one and leading the way to the focal point of this artwork, which is a single standing fountain. It is walking inside a beautiful sculpture. It is a room made out of dead human beings.
Human bones all mingled together. The people here have no individual identity. There is no black no white, no male or female, no upper or lower class, no shame no pride. There are no lonely forgotten graves or skeletons slumped and forgotten in corners. Here six million people work together as one in this artwork that is itself an expression of death. And yet it is as beautiful as life in all its simple glory and these six million people are still visited and marveled at by human eyes nearly every day.
The American girl takes a lungful of air and stands transfixed. She is thinking maybe Philibert Aspairt knew exactly what he was doing.
No separation between these stacked, sculpted, dried out six million. They are luckier than most of us. They, in the end, are never alone.
Kate E. Lore is a resident of Columbus, Ohio and a recent graduate of Ohio State University. Kate has been a paid freelance writer for several papers based out of Dayton, Ohio, has been featured in literary magazines for both fiction and nonfiction, and is active in the Columbus comics scene.
For more info, see KateELore.com!