Whenever we experience something truly beautiful, it's as if someone is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to the place where we are fully known and fully loved. -Jonathan Martin
So much of Los Angeles remains a mystery to me, despite having lived 30 minutes outside of it for close to six years. Driving in and around the city of angels makes me nervous, and as a matter of principle, I take offense at being charged to park my car places. (Just think about it. You're paying money just so your car can temporarily occupy space. Ridiculous.)
But on Thursday night the girls and I drove to Art Share L.A., a warehouse in the center of the Arts District that houses rotating art exhibitions and events, the kind of joint where you can tell right away that everyone there, from the girl who marked our hands with a green crayola marker at the entrance, to the guy wearing a non-ironic Grateful Dead tee shirt running sound in the back, are the best of friends who wouldn't leave this community or place for all the money in the world.
There were only thirty or so chairs set up in the gallery, which meant finding a space to sit on the cement floor. We lined ourselves up against the wall to have something to lean against, talking about how we couldn't believe our luck in finding so many of our favorite poets reading at one event.
A scruffy guy in a jean jacket and a "Sioux Falls, South Dakota" tee shirt maneuvered his way through the growing crowd on the floor, approaching the couple to our right, hugging and thanking them for coming.
"I'm pretty sure that's him," I whispered to Natalie, pointing to jean jacket dude, who I suspected was the poet headlining that evening. She nodded, and we gawked for a moment before turning back to our other friends and resuming our conversation.
"Do you want this?" a man's voice suddenly asked, drawing our attention upward.
It was jean-jacket-poet-guy, except now he was holding his jacket and extending it towards us.
"For your butt," he clarified. "To sit on."
Natalie and I looked at each other with wide eyes before mumbling something like, "Sure, uh-huh," and daintily taking it from him like it was a fabriche egg. And then he was gone.
Wordlessly understanding that we were not going to put either of our butts on this man's jacket, we placed it between us as the show began, each gripping it with one hand like it was a life preserver, and we were lost at sea.
The evening was the kind of magic that makes you feel as if time has stopped, with nothing existing outside of the rhythm of each poet's voice—where you find yourself wishing you could defy the laws of matter to open your eyes just a little bit wider so as not to miss anything, or crack open your chest to make more space for your heart to take it all in.
When it was over and we got up to leave, Natalie and I laughed, realizing we had both been holding on to the jacket for the entirety of the show.
"If that's not a metaphor for how art saves us, I'm not sure what is," I said as we made our way out of the gallery.
(We considered leaving with the jacket, but thought better of it, and reluctantly returned it to scruffy poet dude.)
I've needed art—whether it be music or sculpture, paintings or poetry—these last few years, more than ever before. I've clung to it for dear life, with the same kind of ferocity with which Natalie and I held on to that jacket.
There's something about the right poem or song that reminds us of our capacity for wonder, for beauty, for goodness, for truth. Art awakens us to our ability to feel, and as someone in an extended season of not feeling a whole hell of a lot, I've needed that reminder like oxygen.
Because we're still alive, you and me. Some days it might be easy to believe that life has no more goodness or beauty left to offer us, or that if it did, we're too calloused and disjointed to receive it, but nights like this remind me that isn't true.
We've still got breath in our lungs and hearts in our chests, and beauty has the power to find us still.