1. Our Javelinas
I went with my friend to look for sandhill cranes and there they were in the field, big and brown and beautiful, and close enough to mosey out and strike up a visit with. My friend said they might not be brown at all, but just covered with mud. This is her part of the country, where land and sky open out to an expanse of grass and cloud, and where I can’t ever fathom why I live, as I do, in a distant, sprawling city far away from her. Later, my friend turned out to be right, when a group of gray cranes appeared out of nowhere, swooping low overhead and honking in the bright winter sky.
Another time, the two of us surprised a herd of collared peccaries, also known as javelinas...
Let us consider a life in whose course there is anabundance of repetitions: mine, for example. ---- Jorge Luis Borges
1. THE EVILS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Do you remember when time, once the slow tormenter of us all, went from expansive to fleeting? Did it happen in a season or come upon you all at once? Perhaps, like me, you were dimly aware of some creeping alteration of perception ---- it’s the first day of school already again, the holidays are so suddenly
upon us ---- but in truth, nothing can prepare us for what’s coming.
For myself, I must first have taken notice back when the children were small...
There wasn’t anything outwardly wrong with the child who appeared in our room that day. Well, except for the fact that we couldn’t quite tell if it was a boy or a girl. Her teeth and nails were shiny and clean, his jacket pressed, if snug. This was before he, or she, was removed from the jacket, like all of us once were from ours. They let us see it first, though, along with the way, poking out from the ends of the sleeves, were all ten fingers, just like at the ends of the feet, the same number of toes. Everything seemed fine as a fiddle, right at the first, if you didn’t count the boy/girl thing, which none of us did. There was lots of ambiguity by then, and because we were known by our numbers, it didn’t much matter, one way or another, although I certainly knew my which from my what. I was clear as could be about that. About the new child, though, ok, we might have noticed an unusual odor. Not already living and bathing with us, using our soap and wearing our smocks, this child did not quite smell like us yet, or I should say of us. That would have been a sign – looking back, there were plenty of signs. But of course it is exciting, someone new like that. We weren’t looking for signs at the start.
West Branch Wired
Despite our better judgment we were watching the television news when the event occurred, and so we nearly missed it altogether. Although we knew we shouldn’t, we couldn’t stop ourselves. All around the world, on the television news, people were proving themselves to be both savage and heroic, and while we did not see ourselves in them, neither could we tear our eyes away, even as our children ran about unsupervised, without shoes and their homework undone.
Later, we’d remember everything differently, one of us saying it started with a color, another, a sound, and so forth.
1. It Being Forbidden
A child came into the world missing one part, though in other respects she was perfect, and the curve of the nub where her part should have been, serene as the arc of an egg or a moon, would prove, in the end, to be functional, if clumsy. But that wasn’t why people loved her; people loved her, despite her deficiency, because she was gentle and she was kind and she was good.
We knew the rules of course, it being forbidden to harbor anomalies, and while some (like this child’s) were inbred, others took time to develop and were subtle, or they came on later with no warning.
One winter when the boys were young we visited a friend of my sister who lives in the mountains near a small pond where we skated. In the absence of neighbors my sister’s friend rescues wild animals, especially birds of prey, and at the time we visited had one owl permanently living in her home and two hawks still mending before their release. All the birds had yellow eyes.
Because Clayton grew up on the banks of a river, which sometimes would flood, and sometimes dry out, but mostly just washed a bit languidly by at the end of their lawn in back of his parent’s low-roofed ranch house, with sliding glass doors and a spacious concrete patio for barbecues and late night dance parties for teens; and because his infant sister died when he was four years old and sleeping right beside her in the nursery they shared during that brief span of time their two lives were crossing—her a tiny clump of blankets in his old crib, snuffly and squirmy, then not, him a watchful brooder across the darkened room, his face gathered into itself with furious intensity; and because there were years and years of aimless wandering between when he went out into the world on his own and when he fell in love with his young son’s kindergarten teacher; and because, after that, it was all even further and faster downhill, he found himself—now—living alone in a two-room shack in the desert miles and miles away from the nearest population center and without either running water or electric power. Clayton missed his son, he really did. But he missed the kindergarten teacher even more.
When Mt. St. Helens erupted, it went off with the force of 27,000 atomic bombs and tore away the entire north face of the mountain—the largest avalanche in recorded history. It was May 18, 1982, 8:32 in the morning. The mountain had been black with ash for week.
For a long time now I have been thinking about numbers.