Saturday, November 2, 2013

SEPT 8 13 12:39 PM

The smell of incense is overwhelming in this room. I lit it just minutes before I sat down to begin this. There’s something liberating about striking a match. I grew up using lighters. I thought that was the case for everyone. Matches were an icon of the eighties in my young, naïve little mind. They used them to light each other’s cigarettes in all of the movies. They always did it so cool, too. I never knew people used them for household purposes. I didn’t think they belonged in kitchen drawers; I sincerely thought they only belonged in leather jackets in the eighties. The first time I used a match to light a candle was my second year in college living in Hawai’i. My roommates had obviously different fire-upbringings than I. So, I went along as naturally as I could. For the first hundred times, I had to hold in all of the overwhelming feelings of empowerment I felt when I’d strike one. It was dangerous—and I have a knack for tiny dangers in life. How something could be so destructive is what really fascinated me for those first few times. I sometimes still find myself staring at one, hating it for all it’s done in the past. Like when it burnt my mother’s beautiful Rhode Island home down when she was in kindergarten. Despite all of it, I find it so appealing that I, on occasion, light one just to watch it burn away. The way it appears is just as riveting as it getting closer to your secretly frightened fingers. And that is just as riveting as the flame quietly disappearing somewhere we can’t see. A match is like a gun. We are only somewhat in control of the catastrophe held within it. Fully aware of this, in my last minutes of living on the island of O’ahu, I stood in my kitchen surrounded by friends, holding a box of matches. They were circled around me, sitting on various couches and chairs. I took every remaining match from the box in my right hand and stroke one with the edge of the box that was in my left. That one stroke the next, and that the next, and that the next, until they were all ignited. This wasn’t a ritual, nor was it anything sentimental. Some of my friends even made comments expressing how strange they thought it was that I was lighting matches all day in my kitchen rather than spending my morning in the ocean just across the street since it would never be so convenient again. Internally disagreeing, I watched the matches burn out, feeling every bit of joy in my heart, and that was the last thing I did in Hawai’i before leaving it permanently. After I lit my incense today, I watched it smoke for a few minutes. I normally would just walk away after blowing out the flame and later on appreciate the scent billowing in the room. But, today, I watched. My burner is on the window sill and catches an enormous amount of light mid-day. Smoke isn’t always easy to catch, but in front of today’s rare sun, it was perfectly visible. Every swirl and curve was outstanding. It rose directly upward, whirling around like the ribbon of a rhythmic gymnast just before getting pulled outside through the screen. 

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