Formlessness and a first birthday

I talked with Kyo recently while ironing a pile of summery clothes that I wonder if I’ll ever have the occasion to wear. (T-shirts and ugly slippers rule the day.) We used FaceTime but both agreed that video calls were soul-crushing. As human animals, we are motivated to fill the grievous lack of in-person interaction with calls: calls for work, calls for friendship, calls, calls, and more calls. Our days fill up with scheduled conversations.

Kyo remarked that these conversations, as a consequence of quarantine, have become incredibly boring. We’re all doing more or less the same thing: There is nothing new to report. We don’t go out. We look around our house and wait for something to happen. We try to balance work and the other beings we have to care for. Why have these calls at all, then? Because we don’t have a better alternative. Because none of this is normal or natural. Because we are hungry for flesh-and-blood connection. Because the cheap substitute is all we have. We agreed on all of this and more. Even still, it was nice to “see” him.

. . .

For several nights in a row, gigantic European hornets congregated in our living room. The first night, when Guion trapped one, we considered it a fluke. He asked me if he should kill it, and I was all: No, the delicate ecosystem! Every blessed creature has its place, its sanctified role to play! Do not lay a hand upon this ungainly bug! But then the next night came, and three more hornets found their way inside, one after the other, and I changed my tune. Fear struck my heart. Was this how we were going to live out the rest of the pandemic? With these flying marauders? And he asked me what to do with them, and I said, Kill them now, fast, and be merciless. Hang their bodies from the lintels; send them all a message.

(We’re still not sure where they’re coming from or why, but Guion suspects there is a nest in the chimney. He blocked a small hole after a quick inspection, and we’ve been three days with no hornet invasions. Fingers crossed.)

. . .

Moses turned one this past weekend! It has been such a delightful year with him. He acquires new skills and interests every week. He wants us to know that he’s very busy and has a lot of important work on his plate: stacking wooden bowls, talking to babies in board books (his only friends! Sob!), caressing shrubs, and singing along with his favorite song by the Talking Heads (“Psycho Killer”: thanks, Guion).

01IMG_2746

Eating his cupcake:

He has been our little light in this gloomy time.

What you do not have you find everywhere

As a profoundly emotionally illiterate person, I have been rocked by how much my feelings have fluctuated during this time. (I have no emotional coping mechanisms! Someone help me!) One day, I feel bright and hopeful; we’re outside and Moses is crawling in the grass and the sun is warm and healing on our necks. The next day, I am in the pit of despair; a fragment of a grim news story repeats on an endless loop. I feel that life will never be normal again, that we’ll never be able to hug anyone without a stab of fear, that we might all be homeless. This is how it goes for me right now. Up and down, up and down.

We are presently healthy, which is a mercy, and we are learning how to both work full days while minding the boy. Every day has its own share of minor victories and minor struggles. And I enjoy Guion so, so much, which is also very helpful. He is a tremendously valuable partner, chef, problem-solver, and parent. I would surely perish without him.

. . .

Why Fish Don't Exist - By Lulu Miller (Hardcover) : Target

I have a book recommendation for you as well. It’s just the thing for this time of seclusion and meditation on the inherent chaos of life.

Lulu Miller’s new book Why Fish Don’t Exist is radiant. I read it ravenously, devouring most of it in a single sitting. Her winsome prose is addictive. The complicated story of scientist David Starr Jordan merges with Miller’s own life and years of grappling with Chaos. As anyone who has listened to her radio work knows, she is a reporter and writer with seemingly infinite stores of empathy and creativity, and all of her gifts are on display in this remarkable book. Highly recommended.

. . .

Provision

W.S. Merwin

All morning with dry instruments
The field repeats the sound
Of rain
From memory
And in the wall
The dead increase their invisible honey
It is August
The flocks are beginning to form
I will take with me the emptiness of my hands
What you do not have you find everywhere

. . .

moses-outside49762484286_3b1a449cd0_k

Here is a baby who is almost a boy who very much wants to be walking. He will stand and bounce from time to time, but he has not yet developed much interest in taking steps. He has been forced to content himself with crawling around in the grass and trying to sneak as many nibbles of grass, mulch, and flowers as he can. He is busy, curious, and solemnly observant of the natural world. His favorite plants are red Japanese maples and boxwoods, which he loves to reach out and grab. We tried to get him to play with privet and Japanese hollies, which very closely resemble boxwoods, but he can’t be fooled. He is only interested in boxwoods, like the true Virginia gentleman that he is.

. . .

Currently reading

  • The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie: Found a cheap copy; wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
  • John McPhee Reader: A selection from many books by one of the greatest essayists of our time.
  • Gulf Music, Robert Pinsky: Time to read through all of the poetry books we own but I have not yet touched.
  • The Immoralist, André Gide: I’m not very interested in this.