My mother once asked us kids if we’d rather spend our February vacation at Disney World or spend a week at a camp in the middle of Maine. It was unanimous. Vacation would be in sub-zero temperatures. We’d jump off the A-frame cabin roof into fifteen-foot snow drifts. Walk across a frozen Ironbound Pond. Invent card games. Watch bad movies. Eat pancakes. Use an outhouse.
In late July, just as the lawns on my street were properly scorched and my small garden gave up its last stunted tomato, my daughter, Ellie, and I boarded a plane for upstate New York. We ate chocolate chip granola bars and chewed the gum we stuffed in our backpacks the night before. In flight, I jittered on Starbucks espresso, and Ellie drew pictures of clouds with the fresh blue notebook and green pen we bought just for the trip. And when we found our luggage on the carousel and headed toward the entrance where my best friend was waiting to pick us up, I suddenly had the strangest desire. For the first time in weeks, I felt compelled to sit down and write.
The painting on the left is The Ascension of Christ by Salvador Dali. It was completed in 1958 and it is part of the Pérez Simón Collection. I like it. In fact, I like it a lot. I like the crazy yellow “sunflower” shape in the center. I like the depiction of the angel gazing out from behind the glowing red clouds. I like the subtle reference to the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. I especially like the way Dali positions Christ’s body. In many ways it is the counterpart to Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross painted a few years before. In Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Jesus is portrayed from the viewpoint of the Father. In The Ascension of Christ, Jesus is portrayed from the viewpoint of the disciples. One is a portrait of humiliation. The other painting is a portrait of exaltation. Both are crucial to redemption.
On August 30, Kanye West won an award for being a brilliant artist of some sort. During his acceptance speech he claimed that awards shows were ridiculous, called himself an artist’s messiah, confessed to smoking pot, and announced that he would be running for president. A year ago, maybe even a month ago, I might have sighed and muttered, “Oh, Kanye,” but this time, with the nagging realization that I probably have more deadlines than talent, all I could do was think about how I will never be able to write like that and have people support it. Everything felt so meaningless.
During the winter of 2014, I was 18 and doing the same thing every other college student was: scrambling for a summer internship. Unlike most other college students, I didn’t have a lot of options. Editing internships for English majors in NYC are lovely, except for when they’re unpaid and super competitive.