Aimless: Purple 2017

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“What do you mean, it’s Purple Day?” I said into the phone. “How can it be Purple Day already? None of my Sims have died!”

If Sugar Maple hadn’t called me last night to wish me a meaningful Purple Day, I likely would have forgotten all about it.

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“Oh, my gosh, Sugar! I would have forgotten all about it!”

You see, I’ve been playing mostly aging-off games for the past few years, with a few exceptions, so, aside from coming for the Vatore siblings (who seem drawn to the Spice District festivals, held, of course, under the fatal sun) and a few side characters, the Grim Reaper’s been scarce.

Life is like that, too. I’m poised in a era where no one close to me has passed. My partner and I, our extended family, and our close friends are all, thank the blessings, in good health. I’ve healed from the decade-long grieving period for my dad, thanks, in part, to having written Goofy Love and all the goodbyes that legacy required. When life dances with you, it’s easy to forget what waits on the other side.

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With aging-off, my gen-10 legacy kid, Sempervirens is, like her name, ever green!

But, fortunately, Sugar called, and AdamsEve posted In Celebration of Purple Day: How the Sims Helped me Learn to Love Myself Again and Karilan posted Purple Memories, so I was reminded again how this day, though inspired by a game and the digital characters we love within that game, has its source in the feelings, insights, and love of physical people.

But maybe I would have remembered anyway…

This morning, in the chapter of one of my current favorite stories, Karilan’s How to Live With Grace, a Sim and character I love, Brooke, the gen-2 heir, met with Grim. As readers of generational stories, we know this is coming. As Simmers, we recognize that moment when an elder, often with a wistful look, stands and walks to an empty spot in the room.

Just a few chapters before, Brooke’s sister, Bethany, passed.

Both these characters, at this point in the story, had moved into the wings: Yet, for me as a reader, their passings felt significant.

Neither Bethany nor Brooke were perfect. Bethany had a mean streak and from her teen years was a kleptomaniac.  Her third trait was hot-head. Yet I found myself very fond of her. It’s in Karilan’s writing. Without apology, Karilan simply presented Bethany as she was. No judgment, no regret. And as a result, the reader sees past the traits to the person.

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Bethany expressed her softer side through music. Screenshot credit: Karilan

Karilan applied this same acceptance to Brooke, who was socially awkward, especially in her youth, and faced some mental health issues. The challenges don’t define her: Her strength, intelligence, and beautiful spirit do.

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I always think of Brooke with her nose in a book! Screenshot credit: Karilan

I’ve been thinking over the past several days, since reading about Bethany’s passing, about seeing beyond traits, beyond actions and behavior, and into the person. One of my favorite writers, Tara Mohr, wrote recently “There are no enemies.”

This is true. As Mohr points out, it may be an unpopular view, especially in frightening times when blaming seems to offer a mica of hope, but truth is seldom popular.

Acceptance without judgment, love without qualifications, that is grace. Karilan named her story well.

Literature, both the reading and the writing of it, nurtures compassion. For many of us, Simming does the same.

This is the heart of Purple Day: to look past the form, into the heart, and to discover that spark that, in the words of Sugar Maple, belongs to the patterns that do not fade.

And it’s those patterns that, for many of us, keep us writing, keep us reading, and keep us loving.

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Thank you, Sugar Maple, for having purple as your favorite color.

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.

Time’s Eyes: A Purple Day Post

Thirty-one tombstones line the border of Cradle Rock, and time’s eyes have seen the passing of all.

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We stand at the end, and we remember. It started with a rose.

Turn, and two tombstones wait, with Paris’s pony to stand guard.

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Grim leaves one to carry on the line, but takes a mother, to leave a son alone, and Paris remembers all the days.

You can flirt with death–it’s a way of making peace. When your name is called, laughter’s echoes ring.

Three tombstones, and a little girl, whose own thoughts quiet in the silence at the end of the line.

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Four tombstones, and a call to the sadness hotline. Time watches as love finds its way to solitary hearts. Sometimes, death will listen.

Time moves through us; we dance with new life.

The song repeats.

We can face it head on, as if alone…

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But in the space between the beats of each heart, we find the pulse of others–joy like confetti; death changes the remote: now we meet, now we hug our child, now we listen to mysteries we cannot comprehend.

Time carries in each moment the joy that we have felt.

We remember the child, the cousin, the caterer, the moment of surprise: Is this life?

And with us, always, are the spirits of those who have come before, as much a part of us as our own pulse of memory and thought.

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The confetti of joy, the dance of self–do I hear my name?

This moment holds all.

And still we run towards new. Two hands! Ten fingers. To hold, to draw, to cook, to write, to play an instrument. To count memories.

A sister’s smile. A fierce rage. The moment of love.

The line of tombstones grows, and still we dance.

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Make the music yours, as time moves through you.

Keep your heart in that still place, between the beats, between the laughter, in the look before the tears.

In every moment, it is all there. This is how time moves through us.

The purple light cannot be reaped.

It’s the part that goes on, untouched by form.

The energy in the look of love. The moment of memory. The still sigh. A morning’s smile.

The line of tombstones grows. We dance. We remember.

Take this moment. Take it inside of you.

When next you look, this moment remains.

There in a look, in a dance, in the space between the pulsing of your heart. In the silence behind the laughter, that’s where it’s to be found.

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Death isn’t fooled. Life carries in each moment all that’s come before, and all that waits ahead.

We stand at the head of the line, remembering all that has come after.

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Where does music go when the song is no longer heard?

Something lasts, and that’s what I remember.

We walk in the spaces of the line, and we remember.

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They live in our stories. They live in our hearts. There must be something of them that is not lost.

Still we dance.

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Still we remember…

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…what is lost and all that lasts.