The Journey

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #40 (The “String of Lights” Version)


As I’ve often fully admitted, my mind boomerangs. I see one thing, and I’m reminded of another thing, which leads to even more things and, before I can stop the pinball, my mind-stream has taken me to a tropical island far distant from the one upon which I landed. The coconuts smell different here, this place I now find myself, but they still have the same basic shape and purpose of all the other coconuts I whizzed by on my synaptic journey, echoing but fading travel markers.

This is how it works for me, always has. My mind never shuts off, whirring and clicking, even (especially?) during those regular attempts at nocturnal rejuvenation. Proper slumber is not a viable option for me, as I constantly jerk myself awake, vibrating with the answer to a question I had pondered earlier that day or a new story idea or simply realizing that my current dream is speaking to me in a way I should capture. By morning, there are different-smelling coconuts, far and wide. So, I collect them, reviewing each before determining its worthiness of placement in my Inspirational Bag of Whatnots. Each day, rinse and repeat. I never get enough sleep, but that bag is always full. Silver lining, in a way. Reap what you can.

All of which leads to the vague point of this post: I stumbled across a photo the other day, one that walloped me, for perhaps some very personal reasons, but still, impact. I knew that I needed to share this image, yet I wasn’t sure just how to package that image in a manner that captures the intensity of something speaking directly to you, instantly. I needed to wait for the right coconut. And one fell today.

I found the photo on the “SONGNGUTAITRAM” blog, wherein the writer, Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, is apparently working in collaboration with the poet Lê Vĩnh Tài. I’m not sure of the extent of the collaboration, but the site is enticing nonetheless, with beautiful words that resonate. None of that matters, really, in the long run. All those coconuts to shake, as I always do. And that shaking led to this final island…

In 1985, the film “Desert Hearts” was released, with the plot involving an unexpected but growing romantic relationship between two women in the turgid heat of Reno, Nevada. In that time frame of the mid-80s, and certainly all time-frames before that, gay-positive films were a rare commodity, usually produced independently, rolling the dice, fingers crossed. If any film of that nature appeared anywhere on my always-pinging radar, I instantly sought out any movie theater that dared to present such an option, even if it meant traveling for miles in my little raggedy-ass, broke-down mess of a vehicle. That’s just how Oklahoma rolled at the time, and it still does, in many ways.

Luckily, the movie was being shown at what was then known as “The Williams Center Forum”, in downtown Tulsa, located in what was a not-so-good part of town, back then. (Fair disclosure: I may be off a bit on the name, time fades everything.) Somebody, somewhere with some degree of respect for the arts had decreed that said cinema would show “art films” on weekend nights, naysayers be damned, in a risky gamble that was short-lived but was a soul-nourishing oasis of cultural hope in a vast desert of opposite-thinking.

So, I went to the opening of “Desert Hearts”, along with roughly 30 other kindred souls in a city of half a million, with most of us mildly concerned that the Vice Police would arrest us all, because that’s what they did in those days. But we didn’t care. You get a thick skin when you grow tired of the hate and demand something more.

The movie was a revelation, for a variety of reasons, with the important one being the honesty. I don’t know how the movie plays now (I haven’t seen it since) but there is one standout scene that has never left my boomerang mind. In said scene, the character played by Audra Lindley (the actress who had the role of “Mrs. Roper” in “Three’s Company”, trivia alert) utters this line in a discussion about finding your true love and how she knew she had found hers:

“He reached in and put a string of lights around my heart.”

That line packed a punch for me, and it has stayed with me forever. It’s a perfect example of how one single thing, one image, one bit of dialogue, one happenstance, can wrap your heart.

So, all the coconuts and all the hop-scotching in this post have taken us back to that first island, where we first landed, with the original photo shared on a blog that helps me dream, even when I can’t. There is so much hope in this image, even though it has nothing to do with what I’ve said up to this point. It’s all relative. And that, if nothing else, keeps me going.

Cheers.




Final Note: I’ve been unable to properly source this photo. If you have any details, please let me know and I’ll make an update.


30 replies »

  1. It’s an amazing photo. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend the ad the British made to promote the Paralypmics in Rio. I watch it whenever I need to remind myself how much good there is in the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The photo that I “borrowed” from the site I mentioned DID have some wording as a lead-in, but I could tell that it had been memed and used for various purposes. So I cropped that part out. The image alone is powerful enough…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So that’s some pretty honest sharing there. Not hidden in metaphors or anything. Great post. I loved the honesty. My brain used to be that way. Not so anymore because My last job before retirement pretty well burnt it out. I do sleep a lot better these days and occasionally get a burst of creativity to remind me of previous times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. There are many times when I wish my brain would simply stop constantly-firing like it does, giving me some degree of respite. At the same time, I relish the fact that there is still firing in my brain, at all. You take what you’re given and you make the best of it…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought all minds bounced from idea to thought to possibility to coconuts to brilliance. Like, I have so many questions about the art work of the crowd around the lake, like why does the sleeveless guy seem out of place? There is a monkey. Is that a ball of some sort with a scarf wrapped around it sitting on a rock? But now the photo in the pool is incredibly powerful. Have I had enough, or too much coffee already this morning?

    Liked by 1 person

    • This comment warms me, immensely, in that we seem to have the same circuitry. (Why IS the monkey there? And why is the scarf on the ball on the rock blue?) I’d love to sleep more soundly, but I never want to lose my imagination….

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am so glad, because I hesitated before posting. My thought processes tend to frighten the uninitiated. Ah sleep, how I do remember thee. My sleep hasn’t been the same since the death of my husband. I often wake up in the night in conversation with? I’ve awakened singing. I’ve awakened in the middle of an amazing story line. So yes, the imagination does seem to feed on insomnia.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I always say I’ve got a brain like a car crash–things just flying all over the place and never any peace. But that photo does still the noise in a wonderful way, and that video is awesome:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What you’re describing used to happen to me more when I was younger. It doesn’t happen as often now, so maybe my brain is just getting old and tired. I love the photo, but have never seen it before. Great post, Brian. Thanks for sharing yourself like that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lynette. I must admit to being a tad jealous that your boomeranging has settled somewhat. Whilst I do appreciate the constant stream of (hopefully) creative ideas that are always on tap, it would be nice to just… sleep. I do have some prescription pills that will knock me out and minimize the dreams, but then I have a “hangover” the entire next day, and it’s not worth it, to me. I only use them when I’m desperate. Life is a continual act of balancing the options, yes?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve tried explaining about jerking myself out of dreams to Daughter, but she doesn’t get it. Reading that you also do it tells me everything I need to know.
    And that picture… I don’t have the words. Just YES!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear ya. The folks who don’t grasp what we’re talking about have a hard time understanding just what we go through. Not implying that they don’t care, they just don’t get it.

      And yes, the photo is wonderful, so I’m sure you also understand why I had to write an entire post around it, somehow…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Right? The movie quote and the photo are perfect examples of the power of somebody doing the right thing at just the right moment. I fully admit that I’m a dreamer, and I’m happy that I’m not the only one…

      Liked by 1 person

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