Monday, June 29, 2009

This weekend, I went into the woods.  In the company of old friends and new ones, I pitched a tent and cooked food over a fire.  I washed my dishes in a white plastic tub while the outdoor spigot splashed mud around my ankles.  My children climbed trees and rocks.  They stood on picnic tables and hooted at the sky.  My children ate perfectly toasted marshmallows and marshmallows that were burned to crisp black shadows.  There were crickets and stars in the black sky and the sound of wind in the trees.  

The first morning, I woke before the others and went out of my tent into the clearing.  On the cement tables there was scanty evidence of the night before -- a few tin cups bearing the sticky residue of red wine, a sticky smear of melted chocolate, some silverware that had not made it into the wash bucket.  The sky was light, but pale, sheltered from the sun the way a face can be light but pale under a parasol.  I stood and let my ears open to the silence.  On a day to day basis, I feel like my hearing tightens against the city noises and even to the sounds of my own children.  When I find myself in the company of silence I need to relax myself into it the way I might sink down into a hot bath.  Staying still and letting my ears open, I heard birds, the rustle of leaves above my head and then a louder sound.  Immediately I looked to the sky for helicopters, up the hill to the road for a car, but found nothing.  The more I listened, the louder the buzz became.  I stood under the largest tree at the edge of the clearing and the buzz grew louder.  Bees.  So many bees they roared like an engine.  So many bees I half expected to see the pale morning go dark, blotted out by their small velvety bodies.  It was a little frightening.  

But the sun continued to rise and people emerged from their tents.   Our children spilled out into the clearing, billowing dust into the air and the buzz was lost beneath all the human sounds of breakfast and teeth brushing and ball kicking.  The bees appeared in groups of two or three to lap at the syrup on our plates or land with relish upon a strip of bacon.  The storm of bees never came.

I think of this storm now that I am home and the sound of traffic is keeping company with the tap of my fingers on the keyboard.  I hear the pages my husband turns in his book and the deep breathing that makes me almost completely certain that my daughter has fallen asleep.  We are safe here, safe in the noises of our life.  The click and whir of the dishwasher, the cat's claws against the wood floor, the creak of my knees as I cross and re-cross my legs.  These noises are familiar and comforting.  

The storm of bees never came, but there was something unsettling about the possibility of the storm.  This is true of a perfectly pale morning and, in the woods, I found it is true for people, too.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My son is worried about dying.  He doesn't want to miss anything.  He wonders if when you're dead you still see people.  He'd want to see his sister.  He doesn't want to stop seeing things.  He wants to know if there is a heaven and if there is will he go there?  He wants to know if when we die, we turn into something else.  What's a soul?  How does it feel to die?  Do you still sleep in heaven?  Do they have computers there?

Holy shit.  Tonight I handled all these questions solo while my husband was at a Dodger's game.  I held my sweet son and kissed his sweaty head and tried to come up with explanations or theories or at least a good yarn.  After a while I realized that pretty much every other sentence began with "well, some people believe..."  I started to think about what I believe.

I believe in the soul.  I believe that the when we lose people, they are still with us in some way that is bigger than memory.  I believe that my Dad looks in on me from time to time.  While I don't really know about a heaven full of angels, I do like to think of all the people I have lost together somewhere, strangers at first, but slowly discovering each in the other some common thread.  I like to think that in this place my Dad finally had a beer with John Wayne and Roy Rogers and Jimmy Stewart.  

I tried to explain death to Theo, but I couldn't say it won't happen.  We have a long, long time together, I said.  He wondered if his pediatrician could invent a medicine that would stop him from aging.  He'd like to stay six forever.  I promised him that seven would be just as good --that there would wonderful things in every year and then I curled up around him and let him fall asleep in my arms because in the end, my love is the only thing I know for sure.