Monday, August 21, 2017

Finding the Lost Generation: The Turnings of the Universe

The last eclipse to span the U.S. from one coast to the other happened in 1918 and, once again, Generation X has another cosmic connection to the Lost Generation as we live among the same turnings of history, and the the same turnings of the universe they once did. I picture people from that generation, the same age as myself an entire century ago doing just what I did today and feeling the same awe that I did. They looked through smoked glass, and we look through solar viewers, and our generations are not so different from each other.

The world is strangely similar in many ways in 2017 to the world a century ago. The Lost Generation looked up to the sky in June of 1918 and for just a moment they were able forget a war, and for just a moment, so did we. 

A few weeks ago, after a long, hot summer day, I was looking up tiredly among the swaying palm trees as dusk gave way to the light of the stars and it occurred to me that it is possible everyone we have ever loved and lost is only just beyond, just barely beyond us, which really isn't that far away.

I felt that again today.
Pinhole box with tiny moon shaped images made by a fellow Gen Xer

I saw the eclipse from Santa Clara, CA in a parking lot while standing among a bunch of amazing people, mainly Gen Xers.

I hope that when my time is over on this little planet that the moments that my shadow blocked the light were few and far between, I hope that I was a source of light much, much more than shadow.

When an eclipse happens, when the light between shadows and the bursting sun-flares become shaped like little moons, I get this feeling like anyone I've ever loved is truly just a short reach away, that anything I ever gave up on being possible once again becomes possible.

I want to breathe in that atmosphere, I want that electricity to fill my veins so that I  have strength to keep going. I spent as much time outside today as I could so that it did not slip away from me.

Moon-shaped sun flare shows up above the sun

Of all that constantly changes, I am grateful for certain patterns of the universe, even if it means waiting a century for those patterns to emerge.

Today in America, we stood on our side of this earth, this 'pale blue dot' and watched an eclipse unfold with the eyes of immortal souls. Meanwhile the eyes of  immortal souls, of other lost generations, watched over us.

Northern California sunset after the eclipse

(c) 2017 Writing and photos by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Finding the Lost Generation: To Walk Where They Walked

One of the strangest, most mystical things I have experienced in the places I have lived, worked, or visited, is the way a space is filled with the history of the people who were there before. People sometimes talk about this when they tour some place of historical significance - especially if people once suffered there. To walk through Flanders Fields, so I have heard, is a haunting experience. No doubt, the WWI soldiers of the Lost Generation were among those who suffered the most of their time. 

Walking through old city streets, well known for the generation that once lived there, you sometimes feel the weight of their everyday hopes and fears, even if you don't know what their specific stories were. Sometimes you experience the presence of their stories like you feel humidity - you can't see the dampness, but you can definitely feel it rising off the sidewalks.

The Lost Generation was raised in a world of shadowbox signs lit with Edison bulbs and made their way in the world as adults when neon lit up behind glass window panes. Similarly, Generation X was raised in an analog world and came of age as the digital age began taking over. We are also called a 'lost' generation. We are, as generations go, their kindred spirits.

When I go walking through a neighborhood once lived in by the Lost Generation, I think of the childhoods they had, some beautiful and idyllic, some dark. I picture some of them growing up on farms in small Midwestern towns and some working in cities in factories at a far too young age.

I picture those with good childhoods visiting candy stores like this one, filling up a brown paper bag and riding their little wooden scooter home.

I picture the conversations of the Lost Generation in alleys surrounded by red brick buildings on early summer evening nights. If their generation was also nomadic generation - a 'lost'generation - then what message did they have for Generation X? Since they already lived through a similar time in history, made it to the other side, and are collectively similar to us,

that's the question I keep asking on this one-year journey as I look for the Lost Generation.

What we don't realize as we move through time, as we quietly revolve with the Earth, is that we are leaving a legacy, not just with each passing day, but with each passing hour, in our thoughts, in our intentions, in the words we speak, in the words leave unspoken. We leave a legacy by what we survive, from what we break ourselves away from, by the way we overcome.

I have a few memories of those who were very old when I was very young, though there are too many Lost Generation people in my family that I never got a chance to meet.

The same way the tall flowers in yards once leaned toward turn-of-the-century kitchens to eavesdrop on dinner table conversations, is how I am searching for the words and wisdom of the Lost Generation. Sometimes, beyond the words of T.S. Eliott, or E.E. Cummings, I wonder about those who never were able to put their thoughts down on paper, those whose lives are now just documented by a couple of photographs, some passed on stories, or a digital copy of their 1920 census information.

I remember the fireflies that would dance in the humid summer air in the yard of my great-grandparents' house in Illinois. When the day would come to an end for the Lost Generation, night would fall quietly on their houses, and stories of their lives would lean in golden light against their window panes. That light would slowly make its way to the sidewalks, to the streets, hoping to make its way into the world, wanting to be heard. 

The streets still hold that glow, that golden light, the streets still hold the story of the Lost Generation. 

(c) 2017  Writing by Chloe Koffas all rights reserved, color photos by Chloe (c) 2016, Boise, Idaho