Sunday, November 19, 2006

Minced Metaphors: The Phoenix Shouldn't Throw the Baby out with the Bathwater if it Hopes to Rise from its Own Ashes

I invited J-Dog to write a piece for my blog - seeing as he's watched it take over a chunk of my life, I thought it might be nice to add his voice to the mix. Besides, he's the true writer in the family anyways.

His creation is below.

I was 5 years old when my parents divorced. The divorce was a bitter affair, largely the fruit of an extramarital affair, and was in some frames of reference, mine in particular, utterly unfair to me. Given these were my adoptive parents, the abandonment double-whammy has owned my shadow ever since. But in the wake of my dad's moving out, he would occasionally visit me, and I remember one visit above the others.

Being the type of man who throws money at his problems, forever hoping that material indulgence might absolve others' pain & his guilt, my father took me to this castle-shaped palatial warehouse called Toy World (long since buried by Toys 'R Us), and told me that I could have any toy in the store I wanted. Being 5, I ate that shit up - hook, line, worm, & sinker - and I vividly remember feeling like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, or Dorothy maybe, at the moment she opens her tornado-torn, sepia-hued bedroom door to find a Technicolor land of Oz & opportunity . . . You mean, any toy I want? I asked. Yes, any toy you want. And so I carefully, thoughtfully, methodically combed the magnificent aisles of promise, piously hedging my good fortune against the burden of choice, and the choice I finally made might confuse you, as it did me for some 30 years.

I chose a small plastic toy ark. It was a sea-worthy vessel, bathtub-worthy for sure, replete with miniature figures of Noah, Naamah (Noah's wife, who's name I admittedly researched for my own sake, given the predominant readership of this blog), 2 giraffes, 2 elephants, 2 tigers, and so on.

Now I wasn't particularly religious before, during, or after the age of 5, and I have no clear memory of relating to the toy in a biblical sense, but I chose what I chose, a humble ark, despite having license to own any manner of toy - a toy perhaps, of some pomp & circumstance, or adventurous scope & scheme. Being too young to engage much self-reflection, I only remember my father & I excitedly taking the toy to a creek, placing the figurines of people & animals on the deck, setting the ark afloat, & taking a picture as craft & crew traveled merrily down-stream.

Years then passed without so much as a second-thought about either the toy or the event, and its memory may have been lost forever had I not one day during my early 20's found that photo. A simple photo maybe, but I was struck by complex & powerful feelings. Not only by the clarity with which I was able to revisit that day in my memory, but by the emotional charge of those times, and the nostalgia I felt for having shared such a moment with my now more-than-less estranged father.

The photo instantly became one of my prized possessions, one of the few things I never lost over the ensuing years, and one of those private mementos that became a secret unto myself; not because I consciously chose to hide its import from others, but because such opportunities rarely presented themselves (save for the occasion when a lover & I chose to plumb such depths). Still though, I didn't really get it. Why did the photo mean so much to me and, more importantly, why the hell did I choose an ark? Why would an un-indoctrinated 5 year-old boy voluntarily choose an ark for a toy? Especially in the face of such grand alternatives. Was there ever a time when arks were considered fun things to play with? What the . . . ?

Well, it's been 30 years now, and I believe I can finally address the enigma in a light that suits my nature. The ark is clearly a symbol for the container that safely transports one from the garden that was destroyed - across, over, & through the floods, dangers, darkness, & crises that envelope the former world - to an unforeseen, undiscovered, & unexplored place of safety, stability, illumination, and new life. The ark is the vessel that carries you through the times that don't kill you. The ark is the shelter through the storm. The ark offers safe passage between tragedy & triumph. And though the ark might be lost, ravaged by the elements, desperate for a sign, and challenged in its hope that stable ground might some day be found again, the ark always stays afloat. The ark survives.

Furthermore, the ark also contains the seeds of everything worth salvaging from the old world. When a safe harbor is finally anchored, these fertile seeds allow for a new world order to be cultivated & repopulated from the best of what the old world had to offer. While previously gained strengths are preserved, and wayward pursuits have been washed away, fresh perspectives emerge, novel approaches are employed, previous pitfalls are avoided, rebuilding begets awareness, mindfulness becomes practice, evolution becomes conscious, the gardener awakens and a new garden takes root. Like the seasons, the cyclical journey of the ark will persist throughout one's life. The ark transforms.

So, why did I buy an ark? Because an ark is precisely what I needed to survive my parents’ divorce & transform myself. Pretty smart for a 5 year old, but not all that surprising if you know any 5 year olds. And all these years later, I realize that I was and still am that ark. Populating the ark might be my friends, family, self-concept, dreams, faith, hope, passions, strength, love, un-deterrable destiny - whatever fertile seedling 'ark'-etypes I carry with me through the darkness - but I am, like you, forever the ark. And I am always reminded of this by that old photo that today lives on our refrigerator door.

So we must never forget, and need look no further than ourselves, for we are more powerful than we can imagine. Survival is instinctual, but choosing to engage the opportunity for transformation embedded within is paramount.

It is with gratitude that I have been allowed to share this story with you. The ark-I-am honors the ark-you-are. After all, were it not for the success of the arks-we-are, the paths of most-certain strangers would never have met here, and the opportunity to acknowledge our fundamental sameness, strength, & power may have passed unnoticed.


flutter said...

Isn't it amazing how you've become such an ark to your wife and daughter?

You are so cool, thank you so much for sharing a piece of your heart with us.

Penny said...

Wow! That was awesome and a beautiful insight into Jen's J-dog. ;)

Anonymous said...

Great story, J-Dog.. and I particularly appreciate this part:

Survival is instinctual, but choosing to engage the opportunity for transformation embedded within is paramount.

You are so right! And you know why. :)


~Chani (Thailand Gal)

mrs.incredible said...

WOW...when I scrolled down & saw the picture of the ark I almost lost it. Thanks for sharing J-Dog!

Anonymous said...

you and that lady of yours are very wise folks. thank you for writing this.

Momish said...

I will never have to doubt why you are Jen's significant other (not that I did doubt mind you, but all has been confirmed if you will). Wonderful story, which moved me along my sea of emotions much like the life pursuing ark you are. Thank you for sharing your wonderful you.

Anonymous said...

I admit to being absolutely consumed by tears at the end of this. This post speaks to so much in my life, and I am so glad that I came home to it today. J-dog, you write beautifully and I hope you get invited to participate more often. Jen, it is easy to see that the two of you are made for each other.

love & light, liv

crazymumma said...

That was beautiful J Dog, and that symbolic of hope and future and survival. Five year olds can be uncanny in their ability to see clearly without knowing how or why.
You and Jen are quite a pair. I for one am glad that the universe saw fit to put you two together.
This post is going to resonate with me for a long time.

s@bd said...

I love hope - thanks for giving me bunches of it with your words.

KC said...

Jen, if you didn't tell us in the beginning, I would have thought you had written another piercingly insightful, beautiful, inspiring post.

How perfect.

Little Miss said...

I needed to read a post like this today, and I plan to share it with my friends. Full of insight and reflection, I am honored to have read it.

Also, thanks for sharing the photo with us, I realize it's obviously very personal...and yet you shared.

Very touching.

meno said...

i cried when i saw the little ark at the end of this post. So little, so fragile, so strong, so brave.

i also need to take issue with jen saying that she is not the true writer in this family. You both are.

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful story! my parents divorced when I was 19. The years that have passed since have been difficult, now my father is not the man he was to me as a child. During the divorce, I witnessed things in my father I wish that I could erase from my memory. But I understand the feeling of needing to transform. Thank you for sharing this story. It is truly beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Excellent story, and so sensitively told.

Jenny said...

It's obvious that you two are related. Now you've both moved me to tears.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I am so completely blown away by this story, J-Dog. Your writing, insight, honesty - wow. Incredible.

We all need our arks, now don't we? (And with global warming progressing at this rate, we'll really need them even more.)

Great post. Thanks for sharing him, Jen!

Anonymous said...

Since I have had a full 24 hours to digest this post (blogger wouldn't let me comment)I want to say thanks to J-Dog. I am around many children with "absent fathers" in my life, and you have crystallized their feelings in a way that helps me understand.

Great writing, as per usual on droolstreet!

Deezee said...

I love how you speak to the subconscious of children.

Beautiful post.

What a trio you three are...(uh, that's in anticipation of the young one's post to come...)

Lillithmother said...

I think it's ironic that you found the photo, so many years later and finally was able to put words to an unconscious attraction to the ark.

Like others here, I too am touched by your insight and for sharing such an intimate part of yourself. Thank you J-Dog.

Peace of spirit,