It’s always good to hear new work from Dorothy Ajayi, pictured with plant, and we have a new piece for you on Loreli this week. I’ve always been drawn to the science bent (a longer form piece metabolizes the lives of young VR developers into drama, bringing the same tone and attention to detail to work and relationships) but there’s a lot to offer.
Ajayi was born in Nigeria and grew up in Cleveland Ohio, near the shores of Lake Erie. She is a Wesleyan University graduate and double majored in sociology and Hispanic literatures and cultures. There, she was awarded High Honors for her undergraduate sociology thesis on virtual reality. Dorothy has a passion for creative writing and enjoys writing poetry and short stories. She has taught high school students at Columbia University in New York City while working as a summer administrative assistant and is currently an Education Consultant for the Elite Scholars of China. Before moving to Beijing, Dorothy spent 7 months in Oaxaca, Mexico where she lived on an organic farm and practiced various eco-technologies such as building wood-fueled stoves, compost bathrooms and experimental vegetable gardens. She also enjoys playing violin, writing music and improvising new styles!
An interview follows the work.
I left a smoky Hutong home on a brisk Sunday morning and stood before a tree. At first, it seemed ordinary but really, it spoke to me. I looked at its base – like the thousands of trees that populate Beijing’s city streets – its base was enclosed by four great walls. As I appreciated the tree under the baby blue skies, I marveled at the burnt-yellow leaves that clung to their branches and suddenly, I felt those that had fallen beneath my Steve Madden boots.
A gust of wind brought tears to my eyes and the crinkled leaves held on tight. Focusing on the trunk, I extended my hand, reaching to touch it. As I felt the rigid bark against my skin, I wondered if the tree touched me back.
I couldn’t move. Studying the unique formation of the leaves that seemed to effortlessly resist physics and time, I realized that perhaps we could learn from these trees – the art of release. Their leaves are wired to embrace the fall – their nature encourages it – a code so perfectly sewn into the very fabric of their DNA. Though I claim to be one with the trees – one’s even tattooed on my left side – they will never truly be like me, for I battle with the illusion of time. Yet, I would rather free fall with my eyes closed.
When I gathered the courage to part with the special being, a single orange-colored leaf from a nearby tree, glided through the air and accompanied me.
As the sun moves into my dear sign, Sagittarius, I am reminded of my “basic” personality traits: I’m an archer so I long to free myself from the chains of our human nature. I seek enlightenment and deep connections. I meditate and release my arrow just at the right moment – not too early, not too late. I catch my dreams, ideals and desires and cherish them, though these connections sometimes last just moments.
They say I’m a fire sign so I’m creative, spontaneous and larger than life, though I have a potential to burn out of control.
I am also a lover.
Ruled by the planet Jupiter, I make toasts to exploration and the abstract.
The earth’s 23.5 degree tilt is a constant reminder of who I am. The seasons change and I suddenly feel these strange yet comforting impulses to write, as if the feelings within me yearn to break form the servitude of my body and mind, to rejoin the spiritual realm that’s between – the space that separates you and me.
I choose to leave it all to gravity. Though it keeps us grounded, it also pulls, pushes and rearranges, and directs my gaze straight towards your dark, mystical and enticing eyes.
MB: What is it about astrology that interests you? (Or when did you first become interested in astrology?)
DA: On cool autumn evenings as a little girl my favorite thing in the world was chasing fireflies and staring up at the night sky with my brothers. There was something about those clear nights where you could catch five or six shooting stars that scared me and left my questioning our world - I always wondered where the stars came from and where they were going. In primary school in my hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio, students took monthly field trips to the high school planetarium and got to sit under the dome while listening to stories about super-massive black holes and the origins of the universe. By the time I learned how to recognize constellations, there was no turning back. I had fallen in love with astronomy and it's ability to connect people and cultures across space and time.
Astrology was always something different. In class, it was regarded as pseudoscience so in a way, I dismissed it for years. How on earth could a woman sitting in her apartment in New York City writing for The New Yorker predict my future?
When I got to college, I met an incredibly bold and talented man who opened up my world. As we mapped out my natal chart in the winter of 2014, I was astounded by how accurate my "personality traits" and "life path" were, according to my star chart. Moreover, I was stunned by the characteristics of people born between November 21 and December 21 - in the sign of Sagittarius, the constellation that shined in the zenith in the moment of my birth. Since then, I often find myself contemplating how the positioning of the sun, moon and planets influence our lives.
MB: Is this the first time you've written about astrology?
DA: I've been writing about galaxies and the universe for as long as I can remember!
MB: When did you start writing?
DA: I started writing short stories when I was 8 years old. I gravitated towards poetry around age 12.
MB: Don't you have a VR story somewhere? Can you talk a little about that?
DA: I do have a short story about virtual reality! It's a creative science-fiction piece that I wrote to accompany my undergraduate sociology thesis on virtual reality as an up and coming trend. My thesis is called, Eyes Closed: Diving Into the Virtual. I was really interested in feminist politics and discovered that the majority of theories, representations and applications of innovative technological advancements such as VR are dominated by male voices. I wanted to alter the narrative by providing feminine perspectives which complicate mainstream definitions and conceptions of virtual experiences. Essentially, Eyes Closed is a story that illuminates the fact that human beings spend more than one-third of our lives in some form of a virtual realm - that dreaming, too is an authentic, virtual experience.
MB: Working on anything now?
DA: I am currently working on new poems which feature some of my solo violin ~ sounds ~ It's pretty great.
MB: Read anything good recently? Or really bad.
DA: A good read - Spittoon's new literary magazine! As well as anything about the double edged sword of genetically modified plants and organisms. I get lost in scientific journals for fun.