Sunday, June 27, 2010

Once you get good at something, the stakes are raised. This is what they talk about when they talk about the universe granting your desires. If you think you want something, you'll most likely get it. But as the sages probably say, you have to be ready. Because what the universe obviously wants is not for us to remain happy and comfortable the way we, in our narrow way, define those things, but for the scales to fall from our eyes and the way we we used to think of comfort and happiness to seem kind of pathetic, at best irrelevant.

Tallulah is a cheerful id. I fail to follow her lead at my psychic peril. She befriends stray cats and drunk men. One of the men pours out the dregs of his beer and climbs the tree where, he says, the best quenepas grow, tossing down bunches of this sweet, pale-peach-colored fruit that you pop open and suck on like candy.

Like an archaeologist walking a grid, she stops every yard or so to examine whatever might have fallen or grown there. She wanders into the shop of a man whose name, we learn, is Jorge. He's a drummer and his congas are lined up along the walls. She pounds on them, calling him out of the back room with a deep chord of memory that emanates from the stretched hide of the drumhead. We talk. Every culture sees time differently, he tells me.

My occasional frustration with the process of walking slowly, rapturously, around el pueblo--that must be my notion of time knocking up against a whole other way of seeing the world, which understands the valuable information contained in animal droppings, as a tracker does, which perceives possibility in every seedpod and bloom, in every discarded and broken thing.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

For me the most mind-bending thing about having a child is that everything I do has a witness. Nothing too small. Nothing lost.
It's taken me awhile to get used to living on a boat. In fact, though I suggested the idea in the first place, I promptly began to resist it. The basic stuff. Like how to tie knots. Adjust the sails. That sort of thing. I'm not sure why I had such a bad attitude. Actually, I am sure. It had to do with the fact that I'd walked straight out of my world, the familiar, well-loved confines of academia, into Adam's.
We have a nice rowing dinghy here in the Caribbean. And Adam's attempts to teach me how to row—I mean, properly—soon met with snarling and sulking. I never meant to act that way. But I did. And this is the result: In Tallulah's mind, I'm still trying to live down the time a couple of friendly cruisers gave us a tow back to the boat.
OK, that happened more than once.
So even though I looked down on a recent afternoon and realized that my biceps had reached an alarming size; and getting back from shore in 25 knots didn't faze me anymore; and I'd rowed the two of them plus 400 pounds of anchor chain a mile back to the boat in one-foot swells and a stiff breeze, as Tallulah and I would get in the dinghy and I'd take hold of the oars, I kept hearing, “We need somebody to tow us.” Or, “I wish daddy was here.”
After awhile it occurred to me that it was no use getting offended. Wasn't that the voice of my deepest subconscious?
“Daddy always knows what to do in the boat, doesn't he?, I said finally.
“He always seems so sure, doesn't he? And you know you're safe.”
“But mom is learning,” I said.
What I really learned is that I can't fake anything. I have to believe, to embody, to love it. For I have a witness who sees only the truth. And whatever impression I make now—well, it's going to last the rest of my life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It seemed like an ordinary, well-intentioned act. Something responsible people would do, good for
everyone. Because even two of us can't do it alone. She hasn't played with other children in months. She can learn Spanish, how many times have I heard that kids this age are like sponges? I did the research and found a preschool approved by adults. But I can see it now, sort of—the way you see a gyrating disco lit by a strobe. There are women in hairnets issuing mysterious commands. The kids are speaking in tongues. And no one to love her, not really.
I finally understand why theater director Richard Schechner defined performance as “twice-behaved behavior.” Tallulah watches and then she acts. And acts out. She plays again on her little stage the dramas she has witnessed and been subject to. No, don't do that, she says to the kitten. Sientate. Eat. You can't go outside. And, later, I know it's hard. But you can do it.
I keep trying to write about the things that work beautifully about the way we live now—the unhurried ride to school in the dinghy, flowers and fruit and lizards, the symphony of language. Rainwater to wash dishes, a refrigerator running on sun. But the best part is that I can say I won't leave my child screaming in the arms of a stranger again, and mean it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Going Places

any information


I read recently that travel can cause people to lose the core of themselves, to become disoriented and unsure, depressed. And I remember strange hotel rooms in my past--as a college student, for example, spending a few weeks in Mexico, not knowing the language, soon to be struck by monumental gastric illness but for now clutching a paperback, lying on a hard, flat bed covered by a thin wool blanket. Trying to think of something to do. And it occurred to me that over the past few years I have become what might be called seasoned. I have some technique for getting into things. A walk around, attuned to the sensuality of a new place. Its smells, the food, the heat or cool of it, the look of people, their expressions as we smile, knowing we are strangers. We are at a sort of loss here, but not a disadvantage. We look, wonderingly, to find the local culture. Knowing that we must begin with its most obvious and perhaps deceptive forms. A lacuna has opened in us and nature abhors a vacuum. Information pours in. Who knows what details will appear as the blur resolves into focus? And who knows how we will have changed after a month in this place? Four weeks--that seems to be the period which must elapse before a place will begin to reveal itself. During this time you will become a character in the play into which you have wandered, in medias res. You appear in a particular guise for its purposes: white, in our case, with apparently unplaceable North American accents, tanned and dressed in faded clothes. Arrived by boat. Carrying a small child. And you smile, with feeling, and offer money.