I walk the dog at dusk. No sunlight slants through the trees at this hour. Shadows cover the path. Gnats thicken the air and I can't see them until I'm within their cloud and one catches in the corner of my eye. A tear blurs my vision. I press the heel of my palm against my eyelid and stop still. I blink and blink and blink. When I brush my cheek the bug sticks to my finger, black and immobile, drowned in holy water. I wipe it on my sleeve and walk on.
I've been reading this book about writing, and it's making me almost as happy as actually writing something myself. Almost. The author's best advice is to just write because you might pour out six pages of crap before you find that one, glinting gem of a sentence that was the whole point of the thing and never would have bubbled to the surface if you didn't decant all that froth from the top first. So I woke up early this morning and felt awake and alive for once so I'm sitting here with my cup of coffee and the single pen that I keep chasing around the house and a wrinkled scrap of paper because my real notebook is lost, it's been so long since I opened it. I want to say something about a moment from yesterday before the days dilute it and its spreads out all over my memory, blended into one million other moments that look exactly the same.
I pause because I don't know how to start. It's so ordinary. How can I paint a picture that shivers with beauty the way it does behind my eyes? It was an unremarkable day, a deep breath after the crescendo of busy-ness that was last week. The two middle girls wanted to swing so that's what we did. They laughed big crazy belly laughs and the baby watched the back and forth with wide eyes. Wise eyes. She knew what was going on. The air was just the right temperature and the breeze moved only slightly and not a single bug landed on my skin. My hands pressed into the littler one's back and she moved away and back, away and back and I was part of that pendulum rhythm without even thinking about it. The older one said the swing was her broomstick and hers could fly higher. Her sister echoed her laughter, flying high too but not understanding that -er as a suffix meant she was being out done.
One hundred years from now, none of this will matter. This is a truth I've been telling myself in moments of crisis or chaos or frustration or fatigue and it helps. But this sentence in my hands right now cuts my skin and I bleed. I'm the only witness to this moment that matters only to me and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will bury it completely and I won't even remember the gold around its edges.
This makes my throat ache so that I think I might cry or scream or throw up and the only thing I can do is open my mouth wide and shove all of it down down down and try to remember the taste as it passes over my tongue. Maybe later I can dangle some fishing line past my teeth and hook some beautiful words like dappled and ephemeral and they will drip with holy water when I dangle them in front of my eyes. They'll reflect the light as if from within and line up in a perfect frame around something profound.
She takes off ahead of me, school bag bouncing against her back, bare
legs flying. She always gets the mail after school. I think she likes
that moment of anticipation when her fingers just touch the handle and
the door still hides the contents and there might be something inside
with her name on it. I am dear friends what that kind of hope.
huge pine in our yard points like a finger at the heavens and drapes a
skirt of shade across the grass. But I walk through a pleat of sun half a street behind. I balance the baby against my chest and she
blinks and squints at the world over my shoulder -- eyes in the back of
my head. A cloud of gnats hover in a strange, concentrated column just
next to the road and the sun glints off their individual bodies --
internally illuminated points of light traveling in crazy, unchartable
orbits, tethered by force or choice to an unseen center.
I see her drop half the mail so I hurry to help pick it up. It's all catalogs and advertisements. Junk. I toss it in the recycle bin as we walk inside and for a single second I wonder where it will be born again.