My name is Brie. I am another non-Kelsey wanderer through the universe—though funnily enough, it’s the wandering I want to touch on, today. Writing this with snow enveloping my red-brick home, I, like you reading this, am the product of a thousand forks in the road taken, an impossible amalgamation of choice and something else—luck? fate? nonsensical, pure chance?
Raised in a tradition of faith, I press back on inherent design, preset destinies like railroad tracks, and yet--
I have always felt that the universe is playing tricks on me. Tricks of timing, perfect or absolutely, comically abysmal. tricks of the light; tricks of paths and crossings and leavings and song.
Kelsey had been to my hometown before she met me. Mere miles apart, and we didn’t know each other yet. She’s showed me an entry from that night, where, with her toes in the sand, she speaks of waiting for something.
I go to college a thousand miles away, and there are still pine trees outside my window. I speak in unison with people I barely know; a well-timed ‘good evening’ at work ends up with adoptive host-parents; our families trading Christmas cards. My short haircut coincides pretty much exactly with some personal revelations (ironically, one not preceding the other).
I catch the eyes of someone from my dream in crowds, convince myself they’re an assassin from an alternate dimension, (that, or my one true love). The morning before I leave my home, I bob like a cork on the sunrise waves, and my laughter is a living thing, because the storm on the western horizon is cut wide open by the stretch of a rainbow.
Three friends scattered up and down the eastern seaboard, the unquantifiable vacuum of the US postal system, and somehow, three letters arriving on the exact same day.
My grandmother would call these miracles. Me? I simply extol in all-caps texts to my best friends: THE UNIVERSE IS MESSING WITH ME.
And then of course to wonder: for what?
For me? all that trouble, a finger brushed over three stamps, a postman feeling oddly industrious, a yellow envelope sliding to the top of a pile, just so I could feel my breath catch in my chest as I turned the dial of my old-fashioned college mailbox and saw it there?
On the bad days, it feels ludicrous— the audacity to think we could matter like that.
But I do not have a monopoly on miracles. And let’s apply the same logic to a flower in some unwalked Maine woods in midwinter. For what? All that trouble, each curling leaf, whistling hair, a frost not a moment too soon, a thaw not a moment too late, something guiding each foot elsewhere, just so it could breathe its soft color onto the morning snow once, and fry when next things drop below zero?
The whole of human history turns on a dime. If Alexander the Great had eaten a bad date as a gangly preteen, perhaps there never would have been such a thing as Sputnik. If a girl from the blue ridge mountains had never introduced herself in verse, the novel I’ve just finished would stay an idea, in some unopened journal, gathering dust.
So which tricks of the light matter? Which miracles ought to be made mountains, what do we do with all this impossibility?
Mary Oliver, who’s been on my mind since her passing, says it best:
“It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.”
All this impossible chance, one story. And it all matters, even when it doesn’t. A pianist I interviewed a few days ago told me, ‘everything is everything’, and he’s right. it’s all this.
It’s all here, alone in pre-dawn light or tangled up with strangers, stumble and coincidence, as I laugh, laugh, laugh, at the staggering, ridiculous, blessed ways the universe is messing with me.
Okay, I say, throwing my hands in the air. you win. I’m listening.
How lucky we are, to exist, we say to one another, and I think that’s the truest way I’ve found to say it. I am here, in all the strange and awkward and unpoetic ways and all the divine, eternal ones too.
I am here, and again, Mary Oliver asks it just right:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
So, trickster universe, I’m listening. I take my impossible chance with both my hands, with the audacity to call it mine, to claim this accident of light for my own.
And some naïve part of me sings out, ‘see? it’s listening back’, when the letter comes.
Hello, everyone! I’m Megan, one of Kelsey’s friends. Like Seward in the previous post, I’m taking over the blog this week because Kelsey is working on Super Exciting Writer Things, and she asked me to help out with the blog while she takes over the world. So, happily, I’m aiding and abetting the world domination.
Today, I’m going to share with you guys a bit about Kelsey, in the form of a memory. You should recognize some of the main characters: the dashing heroine (yours truly), Kelsey Day, and our friend Brie, who Kelsey has mentioned before. But, in any case, here’s the story:
It was the kind of cold that helped me breathe, that slapped life into my skin, made me draw my coat in closer, grin into a thick scarf. We were in Kelsey’s mountains, where everything is blue—blue as my glasses, as my bedroom walls, as blue as the university that I call home. Kelsey led us down a narrow, winding trail, Brie close behind her, and I followed in the back.
Confession: I am terrible at hiking. I think too much about where I put my feet, consider the most efficient path that will avoid getting mud on my boots. I’m painfully slow as I try to keep up with Kelsey and Brie, who trod forward with thoughtless ease, as if they couldn’t imagine anything simpler. But that’s just how they are—the world seems to unfold beneath their feet, throwing arms open in welcome. Impossible things happen to these two, my friends, my favorite writers. I’m not quite like Brie and Kelsey in that way, not brimming with soul, but it doesn’t bother me. I’m all brain; I drip with pragmatism and puns, and as we walk, I watch where I tread.
We stop at a creek, one of Kelsey’s favorite places. She bends down to pick up a rock from within the icy trickle of water. Something to remember this moment by, she says, for when the three of us are sprawled across different states, thousands of miles apart. Brie lets out a low hum, searches for a pebble, a kind of magic in the ritual. I’m a writer; I know the power of repetition. Three girls, two rocks stolen from a secret place, and--
And I can feel it, the weight, the author’s pen lingering in the air: Pick up a rock, too, Megan.
But I can’t. Don’t. Agonize over it for about thirty seconds. It’s the stupidest thing in the world, but—when Kelsey and Brie picked up that rock, it meant something to them. It was important, infused with memory. For me, who never thinks about quirky-lovely things like picking up rocks from riverbeds, I would just be gathering the pebble because I felt like I should. An action born of obligation. And that ruined the repetition, didn’t it? A narrative should be chosen, not forced.
So I shove my hands in my pockets and scan the trees like I’m not thinking anything at all, like I’m not jagged and irreverent and too stuck in my mind for my own good.
We walk back through the trail, winding back to the car, and my brain, which absolutely sucks at letting things go, is still asking: Should you have picked up a rock? Will you regret this? And Brie and Kelsey are talking, and I’m a few steps behind them, and in that moment I feel a little bit sideways, and then suddenly--
Kelsey falters in the middle of the path; Brie jolts to a stop beside her. I slow wary steps, uncertain. Kelsey bends down into the dusty trail below us, picks up a small rock in thin, long fingers, and hands it to me. I blink, closing my palm around it. The piece is dark and gutted, teardrop-shaped with a sharp edge.
I look from the rock back to Kelsey, shooting her an inquisitive glance. She shrugs, starts walking again.
“I don’t know,” she says, “It just reminded me of you.”
Kelsey and Brie are moving again, and I remember to pick my way along the path behind them, even as my eyes turn back toward the rock in my hand. Somehow, it’s exactly the right shape for me to run my thumb over the wide edge, the movement calming, repetitive, thoughtful.
I tuck it into my pocket, and I don’t say anything. But I smile, where no one can see me. Because now there are three girls, three rocks, and three different stories. And each of our narratives are chosen.
It is a new month and I am wild with winter.
Outside, a new kind of cold has possessed my city. It is the kind of cold that takes from you – a cold that is starving, a cold that is entire, a cold that is exhausting. I never thought I was a cold weather person, but tonight I am in love with the wickedness. Brie, I have to tell you – I have to say something: this is the happiest I have ever been. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so good, feel so alive, feel so free, for so many days at a time. But I do.
The other night I hopped a train to the other side of the city. I crept into a bookstore that sold coffee and spring rolls, killed time and wandered between leaning shelves. At 7 o’clock I settled into a foldable chair and listened to the poet who inspired me when I was thirteen. I stood in line and I met him, this poet who made me realize words don’t have to stay on the page. And I took a picture and our faces shared the same light for a second and when I stepped outside it was snowing.
The train home shuttled across the Charles river, dark as glass, and snow stuck to the windows and lights laughed softly over the water. The walk out of the station was blistering, full of wind and snow and hair caught on lipstick. I walked past my dorm to the garden. I stood under the hollowed auburn light of a streetlamp. Looked up at how the wind swirled snow under the light. Breathed, and breathed, and breathed.
I don’t know. I just feel so good again. Don’t let me forget this.
yours in haste,
kelsey day is a young award winning poet who grew up in the blue mountains of north carolina. she has received recognition for a collection of short stories, as well as two novels she published at the ages of 11 and 13. today she is studying creative writing in boston, massachusetts.