Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning

Soil for legs
Axe for hands
Flower for eyes
Bird for ears
Mushroom for nose
Smile for mouth
Songs for lungs
Sweat for skin
Wind for mind
Just Enough by Nanao Sakaki
The days are strange. Their shape matches that of prior days, the responsibilities known and commonplace, but these days are marked by an unfamiliar waiting-but-not-waiting, and filled with an eagerness to meet the new person in Jenifer’s belly. They herald the end of one era and the beginning of another. I will not be the same.

The day job has been intense, unremitting, and there I am told repeatedly to enjoy all the sleep I’m supposedly enjoying at the moment; my take is that I’ve been training for the sleeplessness that is to come. Dreams of editing newsletters three days in the past week are not encouraging, especially when there is no possibility of a holiday. The evening job has been no less intense, unremitting, and there I tell myself repeatedly not to be so hard on myself as I head into the second half of the current draft.

The real work, of course, is taking place in the ever-growing Pod that houses the nascent visitor soon to join the party. But not too soon. As Wing Commander of the Mobile Pod Defense Forces, my mission objective demands that I deflect all well-meaning but misguided attacks (such as the classic “How is she?” — the special intonation and accompanying hand-wringing reserved for the infirm and those perishing of consumption), wherever possible establishing a high-energy perimeter and employing whatever verbal throws and locks are required to squeeze the well-wishers from “Any day now!” to “When the baby’s ready.”

On my end, at numerous points along the axis I’ve been asked whether it’s hit me yet that I’m going to be a father, as if I were about to be struck by a baseball knocked over the hedge by a gangly urchin. To date the answer to that question has been an assertion of my readiness, my preparation, my active choosing. Now, however, as Jenifer and I approach the end of our time as Two, and I realize that our future travels will include a Third companion, I can offer a revised edition: the image of a an alarmed Wall-E scurrying from the massive dreadnought that’s now blotting out the sun, and whose landing is stirring up gale-force winds and the resulting dust storms. Of course, that could also be the result of our housecleaning campaign.

Going through books is a perilous task. In clearing out our old office, converting it to a guest room, I end up reading E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake,” triggered by a friend’s annual summer retreat to his Vermont summer home, and James Baldwin’s account of his time in a remote Swiss village, when I’m supposed to be reading manuals on parenting and childcare.

Amid these preparations, I receive news that an early script, Disaster Man, landed in the top 15 percent at the Nicholl Fellowships. It doesn’t advance, but nonetheless it’s encouraging to get a note from program director Greg Beal, who writes the nicest rejection letter you’ll ever get. I’ll have to catch up with him at the Austin Film Festival this fall (one of many reasons to make the pilgrimage). I find myself looking forward to this conference more than ever, in part because it will require the first significant travel in a year.

Last week Tom and I met to discuss future projects, things to pitch at the festival. He picked me up from the gym and we rode to his place in his convertible Skye. With the wind in my hair and Billy Corgan sneering on the “radio” (or whatever sort of satellite contraption Tom has set up), I was instantly whisked back in time to an earlier season, riding with Jenifer through the Stockholm archipelago the day after Midsummer. And then earlier: on the Autobahn with my old friend Thorsten, feeling very European with a scarf lashed around my neck because of a sore throat brought on by nightclub carousing. I was traveling through time, and the years held no meaning.

This spell held its power as, several days later, I found myself sifting through yet more books, more memories, stored in my parents’ garage. Here we reorganized space and time, and old books were not the only unwanted things discarded. Perhaps awareness that the Podnaut would soon be cleared to initiate its landing sequence is what helped us begin to dissolve the awkwardness that had passed between us for the whole of my adult life. All of us would soon take on new roles and there was no longer time for inherited and worn-out patterns of judgment and avoidance.

Afterwards my father and I threw the football for the first time in a decade. The motion came right back, as if no time had passed, and we dropped into an effortless harmony. I recalled the pang Mr. White felt, the chill of death, as he watched his son duplicate the actions of his youth, and I knew that I was stronger now, and my father knew it too.

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Anonymous Eric said...

Full circles of birth,
and life, and the unknowing
glimmer of toil.

7:16 PM  

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