We’re driving home as dusk comes up out of the air over the flattish land and turns it all inwards. Over the hills slight as breathing, from within the ground, creeping slowly but sure, grey and mauve and deeper darkness come – turning things over like a mouse turning in a burrow. A field mouse, a sweet mouse, a sad and tiny mouse, under the grass-roots.
Up the long plain road through what passes for a town – strip malls, achieving softness now almost, blending backwards into the forgiving grey. Bright lights at the BullsEye Gas Station, at the car-wash, hopeful and assertive these things proclaim their readiness. Left turn onto Nicholas Road. Chris sits at my left with his slitty-eyed driver’s look, of course silent; calm. His legs are muscledy in his jeans, planted apart to man the brake and accelerator. The wheel turns as if by itself.
I’m looking at the world outside as I often do these days: astonished at the narrow, narrow margin life inhabits – between the asphalt below and the air, and then non-air, above. This skinny little horizontal ribbon of passion and noise. One thing: earth-wide – (borders barely register) – one thing, wrapping the sphere.
I begin to speak, as I really ought not to do; not just bare like this, uninvited or announced. But the muse is with me, the earth herself is riding in me like I’m the car…my voice takes its time, saying a thing only when it has arisen, like something out of a swampy moor in twilight, something discrete from its mulchy bed. A word, whole and shy and loving, like the night.
“This Earth is just a turning pebble in the sky… just a pebble. Covered with so many things – preposterous, unbelievable, things – Super-Size drinks. MacDonald’s. MacDonald’s! Preposterous… and lights that change colors…”
(My knees are up, arms clasped about them, head back on the seatback, skirt around my legs -)
“ And on this pebble – the only pebble like it, anywhere – there really aren’t any borders. We just act as if there are… and all these amazing things – cars, and signs that say – BullsEye. What’s that? What’s a church? So much is implied in each sign – Great Southwestern Bank. So many things we take as given in that….
“Just a wee pebble. And even this is seventy percent water… So amazing, all of this… and we take it so very much for granted. How amazing that is….
“And we are just here for as long as we’re allowed to be… amazing, we have bodies, and they work –
“And this pebble belongs to all of us… we can roam, and roam all over it, from one side to the other. It’s ours.”
Silence…. I’m resting, rapt, in touch with the strange marvel, it doesn’t leave me. Lately it has been here more and more as other preoccupations, of my younger-womanhood, space-hogging as tall hills, have left. … Then –
“And we live on the surface of this pebble – we could just as well be mites, and live inside it …
“And we pay so little attention to the stars, and yet there are so many more of them than there are of us….”
All of this aches at me poignantly. Soft…. “The amazingness, the sweetness of this small world. Our radiant and special time here, with the day shifting to night again and the warm soft dusk gathering us up like a woman gathers berries in her skirts…. And most of all the way we live here day after day, year after year, without seeing how simply unbelievably incredible it all is – meaning, not to be given credit. Not to be believed. Unbelievable. Yet we yawn and sigh and search for things to say, and our eyes glaze as if we were zoo animals caged, instead of free…. But we are so free.
“So free we were turned loose on this world –“Just turned loose, like prisoners suddenly walking.
“All we need to do is look around us – look – not with effort but – amazement. Soft.”
C: “ – “
There is something else half-hiding which I can’t try to find words for yet. Perhaps I fear just slightly C.’s making a moral thing out of it, from his own repressed wild-hippie within, stood on its head. Perhaps he’d mean that responsibility is a fiercely great and moral thing, and we all ought to do more of it. But that’s not what I mean at all, so I don’t hazard a word, nor even make this thought-sequence conscious. Though maybe I wrong him – and he would know just what I mean; has known and felt it all along. Alpha that he is, maybe he’s a grownup on this earth, of just the sort I mean:
It’s something like: We are all grownups here. Even I! A thing I’ve never felt until recently – that each of us is a contemporary, we are all contributors, I as much as anyone – everything I am and do is a viable part of the whole place, the whole world-being. We all walk this world equal and naked and I am in it too. I can write, speak, love, cook – and I am a viable grownup because I am here. (Glad I have no temptation to wrong a thing in this place, not a hair on its head, this turning pate.) There are no bosses, no authorities, no-one older than I. We each contribute wholly and nobody is more entitled than anyone else. We are innocent and puzzled and foolish and we endeavor and … it is for all of us, this place, and we for it – no matter what we do with this. It all goes in the pot.
I had never felt I was in place on this earth amongst the grownups – just as I am. But now it’s happened, somehow. I never, ever tried. And by grownups I don’t mean – anything tedious. I mean … participation – such as it is, is as much mine as anyone’s. I can be here too, and nobody can say a thing against me, take me back to teenagehood or womanhood when there were many people older than I. Or something like that….
I fuzz up my normal self and gaze … both keenly and mellowly, receptively kind of, because I’m off at a distance, looking at this fine, funny, peculiar place, agog. And it isn’t a big place, but small, small – turned as if on a lathe, turned and turned down to nearly nothing – way off there in space, going sedately, inchingly around… traversed by a zillion species, all milling about like commuters waiting for a stalled train, under the shade of the trees. Small and undivided place –
And the strange things that people here come up with to do, computers and iron horses, congresses and parliaments, bicycles and tea-cozies – none of this is official – there are no officials – and not really grownups either, just a neighborhood of children, inventing things and placing their offerings in the pot. There is no governing body, just experiments, done by us all in our waking or our sleep, but all – hopeful. Valid. Optimistic.
To see this distant aquatic arboreal sky-dot I have to narrow my eyes a bit too… I’m looking for me on that place, my hermiting self, and I see my contribution as equal. Strange but nobody’s is bigger than anyone else’s because we all come in on a beam and we all take up approximately the same amount of under-tree space…. My contribution is to be me and it’s just as valid as anyone’s, just as official or not-official. To be separate, self-absorbed, releasing caught words to freedom, making my hermit-self beautiful for company – living under trees. I do this and the world swivels slowly on its axis and it is my place to do this. What I put into the pot with the other kids, or adolescents, or grownups, each with two or so feet on the ground – whatever we are.
We all have equal responsibility – to be ourselves. Exactly what we are, foolish or bereft, unmoving or restless, mechanically-minded, ept or inept. Giving to the world – and this is how we are responsible, and a grownup – and no duty is implied in it. None at all – the being-here is the case; and it all happens under the trees.
Something like that. It’s a feeling, in my arms, in my level body, even as it sits half upright.
We come up Inman Road which swoops like a roller coaster in the first small hills of the Ozarks. Turn left again, into the dark driveway past the dogwood tree, curving towards the house; then left again to the white free-standing garage, the front of which opens magically as we come. Get out into the warm night. He unloads the trunk and we go in darkness, under the massed tree-roof, here only a star or two creeps about amongst the leaves; up the three wooden steps to the deck; a short right turn to the door, where he curses at how the key is difficult. And into the close-held, multi-spaced, tall-ceilinged air-cooled hive of the house, each chamber a cell, in a world of cells, on a humid or crackly crust, under a sky of night.