Forgotten Art: Meadow – Watergate 4

A reply to: A letter from Mr. Watergate

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Dear Chance,

I must have read your letter five times! I have almost a photographic memory, so to reread something is sort of silly for me, since I can just remember it. But still, there’s something about casting my eyes over your words that makes me feel warm inside.

Where do you work? I suddenly realize I know hardly anything about you!

I don’t work for a company–or even for money, actually. Well, I paint. And I earn a small profit from selling my paintings to galleries and at art fairs in the city. But I don’t have to work for money.  I’m really fortunate in that my father’s business was very successful. I inherited the family home, and along with it, a nice stipend that covers all my expenses, and then some.

I’m a folklorist. Did I mention that? Yeah, I guess it’s not really a high-paying career! In my junior year at the university, I had doubts about my future as a folklorist. This was right before my dad passed on. I told him I thought maybe I should switch majors to finance or business or even education. Something practical.

He said, “Are you nuts, Greenie?” My dad called me “Greenie,” his nickname for Meadow, since, you know, meadows are green. “Do you know how many accountants there are in this world? How many business majors? How many teachers? The world is overrun. But how many folklorists are there?”

He said vocation isn’t about money or even earning a living. “I’ve got you covered, Greenie,” he told me. “So that means it’s your responsibility to make a contribution in the way that only you can.”

So, that’s what I’m doing with my life. I guess that’s why I adopted Jena, too, so I could share some of my good fortune and so that, maybe, when Jena grows up, she can make a contribution, too.

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What do you feel your contribution is, Chance? You wrote that you had unfinished business. Does that tie into your contribution?

I think it’s wonderful that you’re considering writing. You have so much to share with the world.

I know you made a big difference in my life, through writing to me, and you also made a difference to Jena’s life. Maybe your contribution to the world will be to be a writer!

Think of all the people you can inspire!

Writing is interesting. My uncle Jasper is a literature professor–well, he’s retired, but really, once a lit professor, always a lit professor. And he is always talking about how “words change us.”

I have to admit, that’s true. So, if you become a writer, you’ll be able to change people for the better through your writing! You’re so wise, and you’ve learned so much through experience and even mistakes, so facing up to those, writing about what you’ve learned, that’s bound to change everyone who reads your stories, essays, or poems.

Thanks for asking about Jena! She’s doing so great. Each day, she seems to learn a hundred new things, and as she gains confidence, she becomes happier.

Congratulations to your sister on her upcoming wedding! I’m so happy for her! Will you wear a tux?  And yes! I’d LOVE to see wedding pictures! I can’t wait to see pics of all your family.

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You said you wanted to know about my life. It’ so boring.

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I mean, it’s not boring to me. To me, it’s fascinating and very fun.

But when I think about writing about it… would you be interested in hearing about the wild blueberries I picked for my yogurt parfait, and the cow who lives around the corner whose milk went into the yogurt?

I could tell you about the old woman who raises the cows and makes the yogurt and the stories she’s told me about her grandmother, but those interesting stories are someone else’s life, not mine.

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I could tell you a story from my childhood.

My dad was a big name in the alternative energy field. He’s the one who introduced wind power to Windenburg. He used to have to travel to the city often for conferences and to meet with partners, and he often took my brother Norman and me with him.

“Meet me back here at six o’clock,” he’d say, as he’d leave us at the entrance to the park. Then off he’d go to the conference or meeting, and Norman and I would have free run of the park. For adventurous kids like us, it was bliss!

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One summer, we were hooked on collecting stuff. I wanted to get as many different snow globes as I could. They fascinated me! Each one seemed to hold its own world, and I invented stories about the people who lived there.

My brother collected rock concert posters. He sold them at auctions and made a lot of money! He’s always had keen sense of entrepreneurship!

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One day, we had such great luck! I found a snow globe in an old box, and it was one I’d been looking for forever, with a little diorama of a dinosaur, and it was so weird to see the snow falling on the brontosaurus, like the Ice Age.

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Norman found about ten posters for a Flaming Lips concert. We ran from block to block to block, picking up his posters from telephone poles and bus stop shelters and cement walls.

When we stopped, we didn’t know where we were.

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“Are we lost, Norman?” I asked him.

“Of course not!” he said. “We’re in the city! You can’t get lost in the city!”

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But we were lost. We had no idea how to get back to the park.

Finally, Norman said we had to split up. He told me to stay where I was, in this central square-type park, and he’d go exploring, and when he found his way back to the main park, he’d bring Dad back here to the square to pick me up.

At first it was fun to be there by myself.

I found more snow globes.

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I watched this woman who pretended she was an astronaut statue. That was really fun.

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Everyone I met was really interesting!

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I made a really good friend with another kid. We played together on the bars, and even though I never saw her again, I’ve always thought of her as one of my best friends!

It’s funny how we can have “friends-for-a-day” and they somehow stay with us forever.

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When my friend found out that I was waiting for my brother, she told me that I’d have to wait forever and that he might not even ever come back.

“You can’t get to the park from here,” she said. “It’s way far. It’s Forbidden. So, you’ll have to stay here. I’ll bring you snacks, like cookies and stuff, because I live in that building there, and you can sleep under the cardboard.”

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I didn’t want to do that.

So, I decided that, even if it was Forbidden, I’d find my own way back to the park.

I ran in the direction of the sun, for I had a pretty good idea of east and west, and I knew the park was to the west, and when I got too tired to run, I walked, and I must have run-walked all afternoon.

When it was just starting to get dark, I found another outdoor square, all lit up with beautiful paper lanterns, and there, walking through the square was my uncle Jasper!

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I was never so happy to see anybody ever before in my whole life! Seeing him meant I wouldn’t have to sleep under cardboard that night!

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“What are you doing here, all by yourself, Meadow?” he asked.

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I told him all about the big adventure and about getting lost and about Norman heading off to get found while I waited in Lost-land for him to return and how he never did.

“We’d better get you to the park,” he said. “We don’t want anybody worrying over you!”

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We made it back just as Norman was reaching the park entrance and my dad was walking out of the conference, so nobody even had a chance to be worried!

It seems scary when I think about it now, but at the time, I had so much fun exploring, and I had this amazing trust that everything would always work out right.

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Sometimes, I think that trust in life, or in the universe, or in the Rightness-of-Whatever, was misplaced, just a naive childish belief in goodness.

I mean, there is so much badness in the world.

I think about Jena, and what her mom experienced, and about all the terrible things that happened in the world that landed her mom in that refugee camp in the first place.

And then, I think about Jena sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I think about all the beauty that surrounds me everyday. And there’s Mozart!

And, I guess I just have an unshakeable trust in goodness.

After all, I’ve got you for a pen pal!

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I hope I didn’t bore you forever, Chance.

Enjoy your sister’s wedding!

And good luck with the writing!

Much love,

Meadow

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Aimless: Purple 2016

December 1 is Purple Day, when we celebrate the digital lives of all those Sims we’ve known and loved who have made the great transition after being reaped by the Grim Reaper.

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Last year, on Purple Day, I’d just finished Goofy Love, and that long row of thirty-one tombstones at the edge of Cradle Rock cut a line across my heart.

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Last year, Purple Day, for me, represented loss and coming to terms with mortality.

This year, with aging off in the New World save where the Boughs live with all the SimSelves who came to help celebrate the legacy’s completion, my heart turns not towards loss but towards what remains.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I visited the garden center, for in late fall and winter we can grow petunias, pansies, snap dragons, and calendulas in the desert where I live.

I came back with purple flowers; purple and yellow flowers always thrive in my garden. These are the favored colors of the fairies that tend this garden while I’m inside playing video games, writing, and practicing the cello.

This Purple Day morning, as I removed the frost cloths so the flowers could greet the warming sun, the scent of purple petunias floated through the air.

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This is something I will remember. The scent activates the brain deep within “limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion” (Fox). I was thinking about Purple Day when that scent reached me–and now, the scent of petunias will always be entangled with my thoughts about Sims and the traces their digital lives leave within our neural pathways.

Essayist Lauren Gravitz writes about connected memories: “But memories aren’t isolated in these different areas – they overlap and intertwine and connect and diverge like the tangled branches of an old lilac tree” (Gravitz).

My perception of scent, my thoughts about Sims, both happening in the same moment, hook up within me. Purple Day lives on with every scent of the petunia.

Kate Fox, Director of Social Issues Research Centre, explains scent’s emotional and cognitive intertwining in this way:

 Smell sensations are relayed to the cortex, where ‘cognitive’ recognition occurs, only after the deepest parts of our brains have been stimulated. Thus, by the time we correctly name a particular scent as, for example, ‘vanilla’ , the scent has already activated the limbic system, triggering more deep-seated emotional responses.

By the time my cognition registered “purple petunia,” while simultaneously reflecting on the flashing digits of Sims who’ve passed and what of them still remains, my emotions were triggered, too. But it wasn’t grief that was triggered or even sadness: it was awe.

I was reflecting on what continues in our Sims: how Cedar Bough can still be seen in Cypress. How Thymeless’s  Lissa carries on in Lor. How friendsfan’s Elsa lives on in Brandon. I was thinking of the traces these Sims have left in me.

Beryl and Mae Cups are ghosts in the Wonder save. But inside me, I can feel the vast networks of synapses that felt joy through the digital lives of these Sims.

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While I don’t feel lingering sadness this year over the passing of Sims in my games or stories, feeling instead only gratitude at what each of these contributed to their stories and lineages, I do feel sadness over the relatively recent passing of one Sim who figured largely in one of my favorite works of SimLit, Eight Cicadas. Trip’s Sinbad Rotter played a central role in her story, growing into a father that was kind and supportive. His passing leaves a hole in the lives of the characters–and I know I’m not the only reader who still feels sadness around this.

Today, my usual schedule was interrupted: my car wouldn’t start and I spent much of the afternoon with it at the shop, instead of sitting behind my computer in the office. I took a long walk while waiting for the mechanic’s estimate. It was a beautiful afternoon, with the mountains cupping a blue sky speckled with fish-scale clouds. My path led me along the Rillito River, which is wide and dry this time of year. Verdins darted along the mesquites, hunting for insects under the bark. And all of this, ephemeral as it seems, leaves traces. When I swing back tomorrow to pick up the car, I’ll remember this afternoon walk. Next year, or the year after that, or the year after that, when I bring my car in for servicing, I’ll remember this walk and the flash of red of the vermilion flycatcher against the blue sky.

This temporary experience–it becomes part of my existence.

And what of our Sims? I still sometimes remember TS2 Sims that made me smile. The stories I read of other Sims, these become part of me, too.

Gravitz writes, “Even when a factual memory fades it can leave an emotional trace behind, much the way that the lilac flower still knows how to open once it’s been snipped from the tree. Much the way the flower’s scent instantly transports you to a particular place and time, even if you can’t remember what you were doing or why you were there.”

On Purple Day, when we remember our Sims, it’s not just a temporary experience that we remember: it is something that has changed us, restructuring our very brains.

When we say of someone who’s passed, “They are a part of me,” that is true in a very real sense, for who we are is altered through our interactions with everyone we’ve known. And in that same way, our interactions, through games, writing, and reading, with these digital beings we call “Sims” alters us, too.

There is no fixed self: we are always being changed and altered by our experiences. And, for Simmers and SimLit writers and readers, our Sims, past and current, are a significant part of our experience.

When we say, “Remember our Sims who’ve passed,” we are also saying, “Remember how we’ve been changed. Notice who we are now.” We are more than who we were before we experienced these Sims.

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Works Cited

Fox, Kate. “The Smell Report.” SIRC. Web. 1 Dec. 2016

Gravitz, Lauren. “My Spotless Mind.” Aeon. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.