When I Was Young

by Arden Wren Sawyer

When I was young the world wasn’t so fully formed as it is now. They say it’s better, safer now, with all the gaps filled in, and I suppose it is. It used to be dangerous just to walk down the street. The sidewalks and streets were often clear enough, though not so clear as the destination points they stretched between, and if you glanced to either side you would see the suggestion of grass, or what might be a shrub. If you looked at it, thinking perhaps it was a shrub, it would in time come to look indeed very much like a shrub; whereas, if you looked at it and thought it was a tree it would come to look like that instead. But if you happened to step off the path without thinking you might step onto what looked like ground but had never really been clearly determined to be firmament, and you might fall through it into a space that no one had ever thought about at all. I remember the signs everywhere, hung on a tree or phone pole in an otherwise sketchy landscape saying “Think about your surroundings – Help make our reality concrete”. Of course, that caused all sorts problems. People would read the sign, and think about reality being made of concrete, and then parts of reality would start to turn into concrete that weren’t supposed to be. The signs were reworded to say “Think about your surroundings – Help solidify our reality”, and after the obvious problems with that phrasing they were changed to “Think about your surroundings – Help define our reality”. It was hard to remember to think about the tangible all the time, with so many other things to worry about. I was many a time late for school, because there weren’t enough people at the bus stop all thinking about a bus pulling around the corner and opening it’s doors to us. The buses didn’t need drivers then, because no one had really considered what made them go. Before they made the legislation people thought all sorts of dangerous and absurd things were real – witches, dragons, hell, god. The indefinite form of the universe made it susceptible to any crazy theory that people came up with, until they invented the laws of nature and got everyone on board with them. Yes, it’s much better, the way things are now. But every now and then I remember how it felt when everything beyond my sight would fall into abstraction. When on a train hurtling through the unformed blackness between station stops, the tracks and the wheels would cease to exist, and the bright interior of the train would become nothing more than a comet in the dark, and sometimes as I peered down out of the windows like holes cut through construction paper into the inkiness below, I would see stars.

Arden Wren Sawyer is a genderless artist/writer living in Providence, RI. They are a student of the practice of glassblowing, as part of a family tradition. They grew up in Germantown, an old neighborhood on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and they were raised as a quaker and a pacifist.

Photo by: Ana Prundaru