Riddle

The to do list isn’t as long as it was before Ingrid was born. We have all the gear already. But it’s still a long list, and the weeks are going fast. And the biggest task—figuring out how to finally feel ready for this baby—is not one I’m sure how to accomplish at all. I plug away at it, quietly, inside, all the time.

And, in the meantime, I creep through the to do list, and take care of Ingrid, and work.

On Tuesday I interviewed a man who, the next day, would move into a new home, a group home for people with mental illness. We met in the living room of his old house, an extraordinarily dim and, dare I say it, depressing place, with sagging furniture and grayish walls and still air. While we talked he didn’t move his body at all. His face showed less emotion than any face I can remember seeing. I took several photos of him, and they all came out blurred, as if there were no sharp edges to his body.

When I asked him how he felt about the upcoming move, he hesitated. Mixed, he said. I like the room I have here. I can hear the traffic going by at night, and it calms my thoughts. I said, like the ocean. After a second he said, Yeah, like the ocean.

It was ninety degrees outside, humid and clear. I drove home along a highway I rarely drive on, and the suburban landscape—one I usually think of as sort of a wasteland—felt peaceful, full of green and air.

As I drove, I heard on the radio a story about a hundred-year-old collection of flowers made of glass. They interviewed the novelist Jamaica Kincaid, who said of seeing the glass replicas for the first time, I began immediately to think that real flowers were the imitation…that the flowers I saw before me in my garden were an imitation of things that were in glass. And they recorded Mark Doty reading part of the poem he wrote about the collection:

He’s built a perfection out of hunger
fused layer upon layer, swirled until
what can’t be swallowed, won’t yield
almost satisfies, an art
mouthed to the shape of how soft things are,
how good, before they disappear.

I ended the day feeling this all must add up to something, but I still don’t know what.

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