It’s strawberry season in New England. Fat, juicy strawberries—not those bland, watered-down versions that we’ve been trying to pass off as fruit all winter—are now ours for the taking. They are sweet, luscious, full of life, full of intensity. We must savor them while we can. Their season is short.
We don’t think of ourselves as having a season. We go along with our ups and downs, with our ins and outs, with our personal little dramas. If we are lucky and if we choose it, we grow up and have children. We hug those children, feed them, watch them grow. They bring us immeasurable joy and sometimes pain. Then, if we are very, very lucky, if we are careful not to interfere too much, if we guide them lightly without burdening them with our own expectations and unfulfilled dreams, our children become passionate, engaged and joyful human beings. They have an appetite for life.
I want to discover the doubters in the shadows of the Taj, learn from the pilgrims pious only to mankind. I want to eat mangos with the orphans at the Kurukshetra Humanist School and tunnel the atheist transcripts in the ancient libraries of Delhi. I want to trace India’s rivers and railways for non-theist seeds – seeds planted by Gora and Roy and the authors of Hindi tradition. I want to go to India because I’m curious. Curious about the country and curious about myself. Curious about the crescendo of a secular movement for social change that’s setting a global precedent; a precedent with potential to alter the future of the nation and the world.
These are the words that my son’s close friend Marina wrote two years ago in her grant application to fund a study of Humanism in India for the summer. She got the grant; and she invited Luke along to travel with her. They shared a perfect set of qualities that engender good travel and enduring friendship: one part adventurer, one part intellectual seeker, one part fun-lover, one part possessor of humor and wit, all dashed together with a healthy measure of ebb and flow that make travel enjoyable for two people in close, often crazy, but never boring circumstances.
Her words recall to me a life before. Do you remember? That time before the trappings of adulthood started to close in and make us forget the limitless sense of possibility that Marina had? The trappings that, if we are not watchful, will very subtly dull our appetite for living. With a few more years on us, the weight of our anxieties, problems, and past experiences start to accumulate, and we forget. We forget to take a bite out of every day. We forget to wake up and look around and say: Wow. Look at this. Look at all this.
“This” is absolutely wonderful. “This” is absolutely horrendous. “This” is everything and nothing all at once. Wow.
Marina Keegan died in a car accident just five days after her graduation from Yale. She was about to move to Brooklyn to share an apartment with Luke and some college friends. She was already exceptionally accomplished as a writer, but it was just the beginning. She intended to start a job at the New Yorker in a few weeks. Her play will be produced in Central Park this summer. And much, much more.
Like the strawberries in season right now, Marina was intense, juicy, sweet. One of her professors, Deb Margolin, described her:
Marina Keegan and Death are two incompatible concepts for me. It is a parallax vast and unbridgeable. This was a young woman of outrageous intellect, probity, humor, hope. Her brilliance had a restive and relentless quality. She was all legs, all brains.
She was also immensely kind. She agonized over so many issues: “How can I eat at Taco Bell if it can save a child in Africa?” Marina saw the mess of our world yet still remained hopeful, still wished to make it a better place. Above all, Marina knew how to be a friend.
Marina’s last essay, The Opposite of Loneliness, has reverberated around the internet, as have so many of the words she left behind. You can read them here. I hope you will. I hope they will change you, wake you up. I hope you will take a bite out of life today and relish it, and say to yourself, Wow. I hope, as Marina so fervently wished, you will “do something to this world.” I hope, as she implores, you will BEGIN from wherever you are now.
We don’t know the length of the season that is allotted us. I hope we can all be more like Marina.
She had an appetite for life.