Feb 27, 2010 | Santa Fe, NM
Feb 27, 2010

The tsunami spared Hawaii, and I was sleeping when they said it would hit. I'm often sleeping at that time of day, when I've done so much work that my head is screaming and my mind feels thick and I can't do another single thing except groan, and all I can do to get back my sanity is to go to bed for an hour and hope that my body will be able to get back to work when I wake up.

When the radio comes on and I open my eyes after this kind of sleep, some days it feels like I was just born, but born with 30 years of memories. With the sun on my face — groggy and blinking — memories are all I have, and it's hard to think of anything else.

The work feels distant and like a charade, the books on the shelf don't feel like mine, the clothes on my body feel funny, and no matter where I'm sleeping, I feel the terrible urge to redirect all my energy into reviving the memories that are rushing through me so vividly like pure happiness.

Each time I wake up like this I am somewhere, but there are certain places I come back to a lot. I go slowly through the chapters of my life and it's easy to feel which ones were happy and which ones were blank. When I come to a happy one, it feels insane to think that I left it.

Many of the chapters feel happy for reasons you never could have known when you were living them. Just weird banal things you did every day — sitting on a stoop in the shade and eating a sandwich at lunchtime, walking on cut grass with bare feet at night and hearing the bull frogs down at the pond, waking up to bird songs and thinking what to paint before breakfast, smelling wood smoke in the snow just before Christmas, holding a bag of groceries and waiting for the light to change, with the person you love about to come over for dinner.

These are the moments that pass without notice, noted only for their existence on the path to something else. But with time, they sneakily become your own private legends, and come to symbolize whole eras in your life. If you knew the future significance of these moments when they were happening, then you could slow down and really look at them.

But time makes sure the precious things only seem precious once they've been annihilated or drowned, and even when you dive down deep to see them, you know you can only hold your breath for so long.