Imagination and Self-Quarantine
Updated: Apr 18
A few weeks ago, when the world felt very different, I was in a conversation about language and writing. The other person told me, “I bet if we opened up your brain we’d find a geode of words.” I smiled. I thought of glittering and surprise. I like the idea of my mind being polished inside. Now that I have much more time alone with my thoughts as we all live separate but linked worries about health and security and family, I keep turning that phrase over and over. A geode of words. My brain is a geode of words. It’s like I’m smoothing the idea until it makes sense.
I remember learning about rocks in first grade—how they’re formed from heat and pressure and time. I remember the afternoon a dozen of us at the neighborhood school searched the ground for stones and learned the names for what filled our small hands. We learned the simpler ones first—granite, slate, quartz, mica. Then our teacher gave us the big words and let us hold them until they were ours—sedimentary, volcanic, igneous. Another day she filled a long table with rocks. She showed us how each one had a different history, kept a different secret inside. I remember when she opened one. I didn’t understand yet that she had broken it earlier. All she had to do now in front of us was pull the rock into halves at its central fault and show us the galaxy of crystals hidden in that gray roundish lump.
That hidden world in the rock was a mouth with impossible teeth. The shine on those tiny surfaces kept angling differently, showing me new visions of light. Maybe that’s what my friend was getting at, or what I hope she was getting at. It’s not the crystals in the geode that generate a feeling of wonder, just like it’s not really words that build a poem; both are built from possibilities, the reflections and refractions that result from opening into greater awareness. This opening can have many names—hope, potential, imagination, trust. It can be difficult to hold these.
It is acutely difficult to hold these right now. We live in a time right now when very little feels solid. Every day I have to re-teach myself how to be in this world, how to witness, how to know what stories I have room for and when to close back into myself so there’s something left of me for my own mind. If my brain is a geode of words, it means I’m always carrying this secret inside. It means it’s readying for the right moment, the right light to show its colors again, for the afternoon to pick up all this glittering and send jagged rainbows across the room. I have to keep looking, keep remembering.