Had things been normal, The Boy’s school year would have ended with field day. Each year, a new t-shirt is designed, and the school meets at Lincoln Park for a day of events that the parents and teachers plan, coordinate, and execute with varying degrees of aptitude. Living so close to the park, we have hosted, for the last few years, most of the students in one or both of our kids’ classes for pre-field day shenanigans and donuts. When the time comes we walk them down to the park
There was no field day this year, and I miss filling the street in front of the house with a dozen screaming grade schoolers at 7:30 in the morning. But at least the commemorative shirts were still made. They were handed out with a few other items at the final drive-thru this morning. When The Boy brought it in and showed me, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I have no idea if a parent drew this up, or if it’s some stock design, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to a poem I wrote years ago as The Boy, then just a baby, was falling asleep on my chest:
The boy adrift in outer space alone,
His hairless pate in a glassy dome.
The awe, the joy, the dreaming soul.
A six-tooth smile in a barrel roll.
While his hands still search and his toes still curl,
Half in, half out of his old man's world.
The half that's in heaves a sigh at me,
The half that's gone starts its reverie.
With that I guess he's in the stars,
Using them like monkey bars,
To swing amidst the giant rows
While the library of his dreaming grows.
And once it's up he'll float about
In no great hurry to be picking out
His stories or his nursery rhymes;
He knows his dreams aren't bound by time.
He bobs on past hoar-frosted shelves,
And a section with a copse of elves.
With a languid pull he moves along,
To the fantasy he'll settle on.
I've always imagined him like this,
Giggling through the stacks in bliss.
The length and breadth of an innocent's whim,
His snickers and kicks propelling him.
Now in my arms he's settled more,
But he shifts a bit one time before
His searching hand tugs on my nose -
He's grabbed a dream, and off he goes.
“A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense, doesn’t it?”
– The Elder Zosima, The Brothers K.
Here’s a reprint for a day that’s simply one too many:
Guard against the joylessness -
the sloganed cry.
Guard against the chanted curse
and truthful-seeming lie.
Guard against the joylessness -
against the sheepish fright.
Guard against the mirthless marches
that wilt without the light
(a truly righteous Army thrives
even out of sight).
Guard against the joylessness -
the blue bird’s noose.
Guard against the flashing placards
that turn a lynching loose.
Guard against the joylessness -
against the textbook heart.
Guard against the low momentum
of the classroom’s faded arts
(the ivory’s crumbling fastest
at the over-polished parts).
Guard against the joylessness
my girl child,
by suiting up in Mother’s grace
and by wielding Father’s smile
I came downstairs to assume my usual position, and found The Boy, asleep under a blanket in my chair. I don’t know when he got out of bed and headed down there. He’s been out of sorts – sudden bursts of sadness, lots of resistance to school and soccer. He’s a feeler, emotional, and as much as we may think that the heavy things of our big, grown-up world don’t penetrate their gleeful childish ignorance, we are wrong. He’s been, for instance, for weeks now finding ways to work the word “detain” into conversation. “I feel so detained today,” or, in the middle of doing chores or schoolwork, “this feels so detaining.” I don’t know that I use that word very often, but he picked it up somewhere and is feeling it. Of course if I said any of this to twitter I would be told that he needs to check his privilege; that he has no idea what it really means to be detained. Because everything is binary, zero-sum, and a 9 year-old saying he feels detained during the COVID-19 quarantine, while riots are burning the cities, is a slap in the face to 9 year-old immigrants in detention facilities at the border. It can only mean that.
Even Lileks is depressing this week. If you just got your internet this morning, and still don’t know James Lileks, here’s your chance. Click on “The Bleat” and you’re on your way. He’s always taking the angle that I wish I would have been insightful enough to take myself. There’s no one more level-headed and erudite, and this week he just sounds pissed off and tired and sad and well, not himself. Things have taken their toll. On all of us.
The first of several planned and announced demonstrations in West Seattle is at 10:00 this morning. I don’t anticipate problems. This is a gathering of people on a street corner outside of a senior care center. Another one is later this afternoon at a busy intersection, but there’s no retail to speak of out there. Hooliganism also not expected.
It’s tomorrow’s march through the heart of West Seattle that worries me. Someting about the idea of movement seems to excite the mobs, and there are lots of juicy targets for the brick-throwing anti-capitalists.
Let me just say something here that nobody else will (I also hate that I said that just now. As if I’m so special, so unique that I could possibly be the only person to say something. What a jerk). It ties directly to what I’ve said several times about people being exhilarated by tragedy. People taking a, perhaps unintentional and consciously unnoticed, thrill in being a part of something horrible. Like COVID-19 and the excitement that seemed to come out when people talked about how bad it might become. Like watching a grenade get lobbed into a public swimming pool and being a little disappointed, in spite of our better angels, when it turns out to be a dud.
We’re a fodder-fed society, and there’s no fodder in joy.
So what I’m saying is that I see it in me. Just admitting that right here, right now. A part of me wants to see West Seattle burning tomorrow. I want to be able to drive through on Sunday morning and see the broken windows and graffiti, take pictures, write about it, and commiserate with my neighbors about the sadness of it all while working in, every dozen sentences or so, the boilerplate “it’s a shame that they have to make the good protesters look bad like this.” It’s a small part of me that wants this, a part in no danger of becoming dominant. The part that longs to belong, to be able to say #metoo. The allure of locking horns with hell and boasting, later, of my survivability. Especially when I was never in any real danger because the devil doesn’t want me. It’s weak and petty. It’s the side of me that wants something for nothing; to take credit for resilience that I may not have shown in the face of anything more immediate than these approximate dangers that I see on the news. I don’t know if you feel that, too, but I know I’m not the only one who does.
Find something that sucks that you can admit about yourself today. Maybe it’s the part of you that hopes, when you’re reading an article about a murder, that the perpetrator turns out to be not of your race. Or the jolt of happiness you feel when you’re reading an article about a politician in a sex scandal, and they turn out to be not of your party. Drag that feeling out by its tail, give it a little shake, then put it back in and make sure you remember where you left it. I’d like to say that you should throw it away, but let’s be honest.
The boy woke, stirred, accidentally shook a sleeping cat from his lap, then slumped down onto the floor and fell asleep again on the rug, as he mumbled something indecipherable to me. This is not the sleep of bliss under the impenetrable dome of childhood. His is the sleep of emotional exhaustion. The exhaustion of the long-borne illusion, the impotence of childhood. and the weariness of trying to work out just what that thing is, slinking around behind all of these toys and games that seem so nice. That thing that worries you inexplicably and keeps full contentment at bay. The thing that no amount of otter pops and ice cream can sweeten enough to silence. That thing that feels so detaining.
He’ll know it one day as conscience, or Original Sin, or a grand moment of unchecked honesty. Maybe he’ll be careful enough, astute enough, mature enough, to drag it out by its tail, give it a little shake, and then set it free.
When we moved into our house, a little over two years ago, everything connected to our staircase up to the second floor was a solid half-wall. Except for the one side of it that had some kind of an almost Bavarian, gingerbread house-like vibe to it, with oddly carved slats serving as, presumably, statement-making balusters. It was a strange choice for a focal point, and ugly. The rest of the stairs from top to bottom were the aforementioned half-walls, bulky drywall constructions that must have been done because it was easier (and cheaper) for the builder, including two short sections that made for a kind of balcony where you could look down to the cramped entryway below (I don’t think it deserves to be called a foh-yay). Early on, we had it all replaced with a more traditional railing – balusters and newel posts and a handrail. It opened things up and improved the aesthetics drastically in the house.
It took no time at all for our 10 week old kitties to find the joy in weaving in and out of the balusters like border collies in an agility competition. Cats are such daredevils, of course, with that treacherous combination of extreme sure-footedness and disturbing insouciance that makes you wonder how they survive. Last night, Princess Wuhannah Rae and Madame Quarantina Maggie were in their ten minute gap between 3 hour naps, pouncing, kicking, biting, scratching, and rolling all over the place, just as the rest of us were quieting down for the night. My wife and The Boy had just laid back to watch Some Good News with John Krasinski, our daughter was in bed with a bottomless stream of dog videos lulling her to sleep from her phone, a few inches from her face, and I was steadily vanishing into my big leather chair in the living room.
Thinking about it now, I can’t remember if I heard the squeal before I heard the thud, or if it was the other way around. It hardly matters. I heard them both and I knew right away that the thing we joked about but didn’t believe could happen, happened. From my seat I was closest to her by far, and as soon as I stood up I could see little Rae laid out on the hardwood floor below the second story balcony. She fell ten and a half feet.
Over the past week we had seen them both close to that edge. We just figured that it was an obvious enough peril that even as kittens they would have the sense to keep clear of the drop. But they must have gotten to playing, and forgetting, and that’s how it happened. I ran to her. When I was within a few feet she managed to pick herself up and run awkwardly away from me. By now everyone else was downstairs, too. They had heard the scream, the yowl, the obvious cry for help. For a few minutes we couldn’t find her, then The Boy checked the thin space on top of the craft bin on the bottom shelf of our living room console, and there she was.
We got her out of there, held her gently, and let her down to watch her get around. It looked, sort of, off. But were we just seeing it through our fear and our shock? Was she doing fine but we couldn’t believe it?
No, no that was definitely a stumble. And her sister wanted to play with her, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. She wouldn’t climb onto anything, much less jump down, and she seemed entirely too willing to just lay down.
My wife dialed up an emergency vet. A technician heard her story and put her on hold for what turned out to be a very long time. I started googling things like “how high of a fall can a cat kitten survive.” Our daughter was pragmatic and observant, touching Rae here and there, checking her responses, and collecting data in her straightforward way. The Boy began by relating – “I know sometimes when I jump from somewhere high and then land, it hurts right around this part of my leg.” He points to a spot just above his ankle. “Maybe it’s the same for her.” Then, anticipating his sister’s reply, “I know she’s a cat and I’m not, but still…” Soon, though, he couldn’t stand thinking about it any longer, and his insuppressible empathy got the best of him. He started a hard, breathless cry that lasted for the next half hour.
My wife was still on hold with the emergency vet. I was getting surprisingly reassuring answers from the internet, which, as always, I took as gospel truth in spite of every bit of common sense telling me to do the opposite. One study was done that looked at cats that had survived five-story falls. Five stories! “How often does this happen,” I had to wonder. There were all manner of anecdotes about cats surviving drops from improbable heights, and walking away like nothing happened.
Eventually the vet got on the line and gave the practical guidance that none of us had the placidity to come up with on our own. “If she seems ok, monitor her tonight. Call your vet in the morning if there are any problems, or if you are still concerned.” Duh. Then also, “Keep an eye out for any signs of respiratory problems.”
That was good for a moment’s worry, but her breathing was normal, and she seemed ok. A little off, but wouldn’t you be? Sure, she seemed ok. I told The Boy, “she seems ok.” He told his mom, “I think she seems ok.” Our daughter told us all, “She’ll be ok.”
My wife carried Rae into the bedroom with her. The boy followed, and I tagged along, the four of us settling in to get back to watching Some (much needed) Good News with John Krasinski. Our Daughter and Maggie came in and joined us a minute later. Rae curled into my wife’s lap and slept, but we were all nervous because she wasn’t purring. She tends to purr when she’s falling asleep. The Boy pointed to a spot on her midsection. “Usually when she breathes, this part goes up and down.” He moved his finger half an inch. “Now this part is.” Nobody said anything. His heart had discovered the lure of minutiae within a deep worry.
Maggie found a nook behind our pillows and purred enough for the both of them. Enough for all of us.
It was past 11:00 now. The bed was far too crowded for me to sleep, but nobody else had any trouble. I took myself downstairs to sleep on the couch, telling myself all the while that Rae would be just fine. My daughter said so, and she’s never wrong.
At about 5:45 this morning I woke up. I heard my wife come down the stairs, turn on the coffee, and then head back up. I didn’t hear anything else. But I listened. I just laid there and listened and I don’t know how long it took but finally I heard it. Like the fingertips of a hundred hands frantically drumming a desktop, the sound of eight tiny little padded paws tearing all helter-skelter across the hardwood floor – two fully healthy cats enjoying another ten minute gap between three hour naps by pretending to be lions. One of them would say, if only you asked her, that just last night she was in the savanna, lying in wait for a passing water buffalo, when she somehow fell from the highest branch of a tree.
I’m just a guy with a pile of damp sand in the driveway.
There’s so much that goes on everyday, and yet so little happening. I think that’s where the paralysis comes from. Press conferences and new websites and dashboards and applications for this and that and collapsing bridges and closing streets…masked mayors and lines at the hardware store and yet the sun and rain, and yet the sun, and yet…
There’s a blog I used to read every day (it’s still going strong) that eventually led me to recognize something about the relationship between criticism and character. The author had outstanding, clever, brilliant insights into all the political happenings in the world. He saw the flaws in all of the more widely accepted and vociferously approved social movements, and was extremely adept at logically, sensibly, rationally deconstructing them to show them for the flawed propositions that they were (are) (as long as they were carried out by progressives). I almost invariably agreed with him. I have no doubt that he has an awful lot to say on a daily basis about the Wuhan Flu and all the turmoil surrounding it. But then I realized that after a year or so of reading and commenting on his essays, I was in the company of someone who spent a significant amount – probably a majority – of his mental and emotional energy, on complaining. Every. Single. Day. Often at great length. However much I agreed or believed him to be right, it was inexhaustible negativity. I thought and wrote:
I can’t imagine a life with my daughter if, even after these scant four years, she had a dour, bitter, angry father. Would she ever smile at anything other than someone else’s misfortune?
3 days later and I am still slowed by my wet sand, but little by little I am drying it out and making progress:
I actually got out of bed last night – minutes after climbing in – because I remembered that there was rain in the forecast. I threw on some clothes and swept up my drying sand so I could get a tarp over it. Fool me once…
I guess I know what to expect from my mornings for a while:
My daughter’s happiness is all simple, and all wonderful, and none of it is dependent upon her own perception of her cleverness among the throngs. There are only two people in the world who know how to smile like a four year old: A four year old, and the person holding her hand. It’s never long before she tells me I’m squeezing too hard.
The Girl woke early this morning. Last night she brought out her donut cookbook and arranged a sort of challenge (though let’s be honest here, everyone wins in a donut competition) between herself and her friend/neighbor on our not-so-dead end street. She started making them – raised chocolate cake rings – at about 5:30. Never mind the old man in the kitchen saying “I’m halfway done making your dinner.” She made the rookie mistake of creating the recipe step-by-step, without reading through to the end, whereby she would have learned about the combined hours of resting, rising, and proofing involved. To follow its minimums would have had her dropping the first rings into the oil at about 11:00 pm. Mom assured her the dough would be fine in the morning, or even after school if it came to that. It would not, I already knew because I know her well, come to that.
Her competitor’s dad (my neighbor/friend, if I’m being consistent) sent a picture of her entry into the fray. It’s an impressive offering:
So like I said: the Girl woke early this morning. Easily an hour before what’s normal. She’s already in there turning out, rolling, and cutting. Plus, climbing up onto the counter to get the jigger from the high liquor cabinet. The jigger cuts the perfect sized holes in the rings. She doesn’t mount the counters as much as she used to, nor anywhere near as much as The Boy, whose early acrobatics and death-defying shelf-scaling earned him the svelte nickname of the Domestic Urban House Monkey (DUHM). The Girl, with affected disdain (but still-apparent relish), bears the name of Sister of Domestic Urban House Monkey (So DUHM). She’s too tall now to climb around the kitchen with much grace, but anything for donuts.
“Have you turned on the oil yet?” “No, these still have to sit for another 30-45 minutes. I started them now so I could fry them after my first class.”
So, she can’t pick up a towel from the floor after she showers, but she can backwards plan to cook donuts between classes. I kinda want to flip her off for that. But the donuts will be too good for that kind of attitude. And you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow to see how they came out.
Now we’re cooking with Crisco!
I love the plate compactor. I’m calling it “the stone zamboni.” There’s a degree of awe that I have for ridiculously specialized tools that do their job beautifully and simply, without apparent complication. The friend who loaned it to me said “it’s finicky.” It is, and it clearly has an awful lot of miles on it, but a little subtle conducting of the choke and the throttle gets it roaring to a terrific, if somewhat irregular, frequency, and it skates around the gravel like something a tenth of its weight, needing only a slight suggestion to turn here and there. My mistake was in not anticiapting what to do with it at the end of each application. It demolishes anything that it runs over, and hitting the dirt makes a cloud that Pigpen would be frightened of. After the first time bucking and heaving it around outside of the patio area, I built a little gravel driveway into/out of the pit so that I could put it aside and turn it around easily enough. Often the bigger jobs require a measure of peripheral work that will never show up in the final product, but nonetheless can’t be done without.
I have plague fatigue. The weekend was brilliant with kids and hoses and dirt and sun. And color!
85 degrees. Let’s run that Summeryard inventory:
Star spangled paddles
Aluminum baseball bat (pink?)
Hose with selectable nozzle
One boxing glove
Tiny soccer ball (pink?)(and sparkly?)
Note: no children in sight, being so close to cleanup time.
They invented a game wherein they would heave the boxing glove down one end of the not-so-dead end street, then run past me to retrieve it. I was sitting in the camp chair, facing the street, about midway through their run to the glove, wielding the garden hose. They tried to go and get the glove, manufacturing a series of (let’s face it, pretty weak, if tremendously enjoyable) diversions, schemes, misdirections, and covering maneuvers, in an attempt to not be sprayed by the water. The paddles were shields, the baseball bat was used in an as yet inconclusive role (though it was generally menacingly pointed here and there), and a very pathetic, flimsy, plastic football helmet whose logo had long since worn off was passed from head to head. Each new wearer had high hopes for the helmet’s water repellency, but was ultimately disillusioned in turn. The cries were of the timeless variety:
“He got me!”
“You can’t run out of range!”
“No, split up!”
“Oh, who cares? Just spray me, I like it.”
You were wondering about the patio dig?
Not vastly different, but measured and marked off. I’m in a holding pattern until my gravel and sand get here Wednesday. Fine by me – I need the rest. Ran the final numbers today and will order the actual pavers and wall blocks tomorrow. Finalizing the materials – shapes, colors, etc. has been a somewhat fluid endeavor, depending a bit too much on my own personal considerations of what would make things easiest on the installer (you know, me). Christ, I hope I can pull this off.
There has been a smell of gasoline in the air all day. It’s 9:30 pm, finally dark. I’m on the porch, listening to a very still night being lacerated every ten minutes or so by the sound of the next someone dragging trash cans to the street. The fuel smell persists. I keep putting my fingers to my nose to see if it could be me, but it isn’t. I haven’t touched gas at all today. The wind changes, and it goes away. I haven’t heard a ferry.
There’s been a void since completing Moby Dick. Animal Farm was just too much like reading the internet, so I knocked it off after about half. Steinbeck’s been good – my God why did nobody ever tell me about The Red Pony? What madness! What guts! Alas, I need something bigger/longer. For two bucks I put The Woman in White on my Kindle. I read a Wilkie Collins book a few years back in college – The Law and the Lady. It was a good read in a class taught by a woman who was a total fangirl for the Victorian/gothic/mystery thing that Collins does. I understand it is a long book – 600 some pages. Just what I need. It may become unwieldy on the Kindle. I don’t like the electric format for anything long. It’s best, anyway, for airplane and night reading.
The Brothers Karamazov is also on the way. I want to do that one in paper.
I’ve always had a hard time writing to a specific theme. I could come home from a hockey game and write a better poem about baseball than hockey. All of this to say that I don’t think I have a specific Mother’s Day poem in the archives. I do have this, written in 2012, when the kids were still 1 and 3 years old. I was only just starting to get good at this dadding business, and their mother’s work travels left them very much longing, and I with my hands very full. I was still working full time then as well, so it was a whirlwind. We celebrated her returns:
Mama’s coming home today!
In anticipation, the pancakes fly
From the children’s plates
To the dog, through the sky.
Mama’s coming home today!
The sun makes noise to celebrate!
In obeisance, the butler rises
To quiet the household’s gears
With oils, and compromises.
The sun makes noise to celebrate!
Mama’s coming home today!
In preparation, a runner’s sent
To deliver the angels’ praise
For surviving, and keeping up the rent.
Mama’s coming home today!
She hasn’t traveled for months now, and that is what we celebrate. Here’s to a world waking itself up to travel, and a love that never leaves home.
They’re reporting things a little differently now, releasing the data only on MWF. But the data dashboard is still populating. I’ll keep links to my go-to pages at the top. Saturday saw 7 new deaths, and Sunday just 8. These are more comfortable numbers. We’ll see if it’s a trend.
My only bold prediction about the end of this whole ordeal is this: pick any government figure across the globe – governor, mayor, president, chief – and that person will receive roughly equal measures of condemnation and praise for actions taken to minimize the damage. Each one will be either a hero or a horror, depending on who you ask (and they won’t wait to be asked).
This week we Spring break under quarantine for the first time ever. This’ll be a challenge. Anyone knows you can sit a kid in front of a screen and not be bothered all day, but that’s obviously not the solution we’re looking for. Our daughter will gladly watch dog videos on her phone for a week straight, but again: nope. The prime directive of parenting when the kids are still very young (at 12 my daughter’s pretty much out of that category) is this: Remember you are a parent first. And also second through fifth. And this isn’t because of noble notions of self-sacrifice for the all-important children of the world. It’s just because the quickest way to become frustrated, angry, and miserable, and to have a very bad time of things, is to expect that those high priority personal things that you want to do, can actually get done. You’ll be able to visit them throughout the day, sure. But if your disposition isn’t given over to the fact that at least one kid is going to come to you at every moment you least want them to, then you and they both are in for a very bad day.
The weather will be good, but we can’t go far. The 7 kids on our dead-end street will be tired of each other and getting rather catty by Tuesday, I think. But kids have memories shorter than their attention spans, so it’ll be a roller coaster.
Speaking of cats, this is for all you cat lovers out there:
Ask the things you shouldn’t miss Tape-hiss and the Modern Man The Cold War and Card Catalogs To come and join us if they can
My son has been wanting to venture out a little farther on his bike, being tired of doing small loops in front of our houses. Everything around us is a hill, though, and without directly saying it he only wants to ride on the flat stuff. So we shoot straight out of our little block, past the speed bumps that mark the boundary for all of the kids (beyond those it’s ‘here there be monsters’ territory, actual cars driving, no sidewalks, blind curves – the nightmares of the urban mom) and ride until we hit the curve in 45th Ave SW where things turn eastward and uphill very quickly. He stops there and turns back, afraid of the effort in that slope, and we cruise back to our driveway. It’s maybe a couple hundred yards each way. Now he’s asking if he can do it alone. Of course, yes, be careful and all that. Never forget where you are, etc. It’s easy and he’s fine, of course, but there’s the neighborhood politics of jealous children to think about. Because now even the 5 year old is asking why she can’t ride her bike out there, too. All I know is that I’d rather be under-protective than over, which is a nice and pretty thing to say when all I really want, as a parent, is to get everything exactly right the first time, every time. That can happen, right?
I actually worry sometimes that I’m too close with my Boy, but I also often feel like I’m his only advocate in the world.
…the brutes, the boys,
the noise-born boys
whose shouts we shush –
stamp right out –
He’s gonna be the one who throws the stone in the water right next to your bobber, the one who punches the neighbor, the one who swears at the grown up. He’s taught me that it’s harder for some kids to learn the niceties, and they aren’t necessarily to be blamed for that. More importantly, neither am I. My God, he tries so hard. He knows there’s so many things he’s getting wrong, and he already feels separate from the other kids on the street, because he’s the one who’s always in trouble – the one the other kids get tired of. He’s too much for them. Too much for himself, for now. Too much even for me sometimes, but there’s no way in hell that I’m going to squash or suppress any of it that I don’t absolutely have to. There are bad parents, yes, but most bad kids have good enough parents who are trying all the right things, and simply have some rockier soil to till than others. And most bad kids aren’t bad kids, they’re just behaving badly for the moment. I remember, when I can, that bad behavior is fleeting – good souls are forever. I try to teach to the soul.
So here we roll into our COVID-19 Spring Break. I’ll be having leftover Easter breakfast this morning, because it looks like this (well, it did yesterday):
Your “Homeless in Coronafornia on Easter” update is a little dull. I asked him if he found any Easter eggs:
I did not I almost forgot it was easter Did you?
I did. Well, I always do. My whole life is an Easter egg. Sometimes the candy inside isn’t my favorite – maybe it’s malted milk balls or something butterscotch – but everything’s somebody’s favorite, so sharing is easy.
On March 11th I wrote a semi-prophetic first post about the plague. I remember that I wrote it while sitting in my favorite bakery for what would be one of the very last times until we don’t know when. For its title I took a line from the song in the post that says “I’m not sick, but I’m not well.” Yesterday I found it prophesied early in the pages of Moby Dick, as Captain Peleg says of Ahab that “In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he isn’t well either.” I like it when life shows persistence like that. It makes sense on Easter Sunday. Ahab also “lay like dead for three days and nights.” This according to Elijah — sometimes authors don’t make you work too hard for the meaning.
This is Easter. I would love to sound my soul for something beautiful and reverent, and to turn it out here for you. But I know where I am just now, and it is not there. I also know that I am not religious. I trust God and am respectful of holy things, but I am not religious. I don’t say this as a boast, neither as a confession. It is simply information, meaning to support me when I say that Easter doesn’t excite me for the devotion, or for the story, or for the faith. Though in many ways I wish it did. I wish Sunday mornings saw me in suits, and I wish the darkness above my bed was haunted by peace. It would be something, in the place of nothing.
I say too little when I try to mean too much.
The Pequod has only just got underway in my reading. The two erstwhile captains, Bildad and Peleg, have stayed on board as long as they could stand it. Readying the ship (perhaps more than is their duty) out of fealty to their investments in both money and history. With some reluctance they have sailed back to port, leaving her in the hands of the as yet unseen Ahab. Green Ishmael boards with a cartload of philosophy; black Queequeg skips from capstan to capstan with his great harpoon and a small wooden idol.
I like to think that at a fresh 45 years old, my Pequod is similarly still in sight of land, though with a grand, blasted adventure still ahead. I have a mighty crew about me, indeed, and I don’t mind not knowing yet who among us steers, who commands, who merely toils, and who’ll be heaving the harpoons when we find us under siege. Who might give a leg, and more, and all, to the whale. Let’s make it me.
It’s Easter, and maybe the song below isn’t full of rejoicing and light. But it seems full of worry and respect and self-doubt, and the self-awareness to know that what we do wrong we do mostly out of fear. Out of confusion. It’s a good day to ask for help seeing a little more clearly.
My wife, who worries (understandably but incorrectly) that her job takes too much of her and that she isn’t mother enough, manged to cobble some goodies together for Easter baskets. She is always the one, not me, to cover the details: the Easter baskets and the Christmas stockings, the birthday cards and thank you’s. She manages, and she does it with the magic of the Good Woman – the magic that respects you far too much to trick you, but leaves you awed just the same. Every day she resurrects me. She spent much of last night with our daughter, preparing a French toast casserole for this morning’s breakfast. We will eat today, and expect a lot of sun, and I will cook with charcoal and woodsmoke, and, God willing, we will rest.