• Aarik Danielsen

First-draft Wish List

Guitars stride through the wilds, toward a promised horizon. With each footfall, the clearing comes into relief one square of sky at a time. And Eddie Vedder makes his next wish.


“I wish I was a messenger—and all the news was good,” the Pearl Jam singer croons.


At what age do we stop penning wishlists? In his Jesus year, 33, Vedder sent his spiritual requests echoing through the atmosphere. After 40, the exercise seems to matter more. For lack of vision, the people perish; as each day passes, my eyes cloud and my soul withers a little.


So I make a very specific tally. Not practical goals—to run a second marathon, to write this or that—though I keep some in mind. Not ambitious strokes, some planned landing for the next decade.


 
I write down feelings I long to experience, scratch out moments that hold enough potential to change me inside-out; knowing that, out of the heart’s overflow, our minor worlds tend to right themselves.
 

Instead, I write down feelings I long to experience, scratch out moments that hold enough potential to change me inside-out; knowing that, out of the heart’s overflow, our minor worlds tend to right themselves. This only represents a first draft, but I wish:


To see the Pacific Northwest before the lack of their green and gray kills something in me.


To break endless chains of comparison, feeling others’ satisfaction undistilled, without the creeping sense I’m losing something.


For a friend who only talks to me about the weather—reads me poems about weather, recalls the weather on this date, marvels over storms blowing up over the other side of the world.


To sit for one perfect photo, maybe something in black-and-white, composed by a talented friend like Savannah or Alysa. One photo which captures my murmuring soul, casting it back through my gaze, in the creases beneath my eyes, and the way my smile sets. Then I would never allow anyone to take my photo again.


For one sublime night of sleep, and a series of dreams which all come to pass. But not all at once.


To spend a year living out the best of Lyle Lovett’s lyrics, especially the ones about plates “of enchiladas with lots of cheese and onions” and the ones about forgiveness.


To prepare the way of the Lord, that is to till hard rows into softness and surprise people with grace.


For each of my reckless desires not to dissipate, but discover its truer and better.

To absorb the stillness of 100 more snows until what’s inside me matches what envelops me.


 
Not to end each night with a performance review, cursing my own name or the day’s mistakes until I give into sleep.
 

For someone to invent a machine that projects the present picture of a person’s soul onto a screen just beyond them. Knowing they resembled green poking through concrete, an animal taking shelter, or the upper notes of a piano, I would never speak falsely or fail to give whatever care the day required.


To release my words with the purpose of weather patterns, offering only what’s needed. Nothing more, nothing less. Writing rain to baptize; snow to hush the noise; fog to complicate what needs reimagining.


For each day’s kisses to grow hotter and more tender until the world’s aglow, supple and malleable like steel.


Not to end each night with a performance review, cursing my own name or the day’s mistakes until I give into sleep.


To write just one sentence the caliber of Niall Williams’ “Beneath the pinholed heaven, the night was God-dimensioned and monumental before electric light.” Or this, from Haruki Murakami: “Washed clean of summer’s dust by days of gentle rain, the mountains wore a deep, brilliant green.” Such elemental sentences never stay confined to the realm of earth and sky, but clasp a reader’s soul, leaving them forever different.


To tattoo my skin with images deserving a permanent place. Despite my recent protests, pictures are coming into focus. Perhaps a string of Ralph Ellison light bulbs on one forearm, a star or satellite shooting across the other.


For the world to expand and contract, staying the size of my son’s perception of any given moment.


 
But never writing out our wish lists means forfeiting certain hopes; it means surrendering vision when sometimes vision is all that’s keeping us alive.
 

To discover and explore some place shaped like redemption, already taking its New Earth state. Perhaps the same Tetons Ansel Adams witnessed 80 years ago or some quiet grove that found its final form just five minutes prior.


And yes, I wish to become the sort of messenger who only delivers good news. Or, at least, to sing those words along with Eddie Vedder in real-time. Perhaps beneath some northwestern canopy, the sound of our voices rising overhead to form a pillar of cloud and promise.


What would make your list? Truth is: real, fleshy life happens below the stars we wish upon, between the moments we pray and labor into being. But never writing out our wish lists means forfeiting certain hopes; it means surrendering vision when sometimes vision is all that’s keeping us alive.



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