There’s only so much you can say after awhile about being a parent because what I want to say, what most wants to be said is sealed off by a brick wall of unsayable presence. See. I’m not so much interested in humorous little anecdotes about kid wackiness or the powerful life lessons they teach via their wise childishness. I’m obsessed with something prior to what a good parent is or the things kids do. It’s really hard to talk about. I guess I’m just perpetually shocked by the incomprehensible fact that there was a time when my kids—they were no one—and the way that contrasts with the original fact of their suddenly being these things we call people. Over and over. They just exist exist exist and I’m like what? Who are? How did? And these dumbstruck unformulated questions ultimately dissolve into what I can only assume is love.
Do this. Go in the bathroom and turn off the light. Count to 10 and flick it on. That. That’s what I’m talking about. The way nothing erupts into something. How in the?
Sometimes I see my daughter dancing or skipping rope or drawing a big dinosaur with chalk on the driveway and I become intensely aware that she’s made of bones. I mean, there’s lots of other parts too but beneath it all there’s a bunch of bones that will outlast all our activities and reveries. It occurs to me then that I will die, that she will die too, and everything we ever shared will exist forever as a story scribbled somewhere on the soul of the world. And then I think something like How can such a pretty girl dance upon the tooth of death? and I don’t know what that means, but I write it down and leave it on my desk until it one day finds a partner to dance with in some poem or story.
Presence is differential, spit from and swallowed by absence. No future and past without contrast. The night sky is never the night sky until it’s salty with stars.
I’m coming at this two ways here and both ways are crooked because that’s how paths meander through the woods. I mean, first, there’s the day before my daughter was born and she wasn’t—you know—she just wasn’t. And let’s not get bogged down by the issue of when life begins; of course she was alive the day before she was born but I’m reasonably sure that she hadn’t encountered enough distinctions to erect a very sophisticated consciousness. Now transitioning from inside the womb out into the world? There’s a contrast upon which to begin building some pretty sound notions of this and that. However, if you insist that life begins at conception, that doesn’t negate the straight up weirdness I’m trying to convey. There was a day when my daughter was no one and then she was someone. I remember holding her in my arms in the hospital and viewing her from an oddly different perspective from all my relatives and their (spot on) assessments that she was beautiful. Stunned, I couldn’t even make it to the sophistication of assessing beauty. Someone, I kept thinking. How are you so suddenly someone? Where were you just yesterday? I bet you know secrets. I bet you understand everything more clearly than all the mystics. For you, so newly someone, have just made the longest voyage.
But the second path is harder to grasp because it moves from understanding being and not being in terms of a lifespan to the more subtle seamless and constant birth and death that flows like a river now now now. From this perspective, death is not something that comes at the end of your life. It’s the very stuff from which our lives constantly shine forth. Beneath her, above her, behind her, snaking in between all of my daughter’s little ribs, death is the just then and in a second, between which, against which, from which, my daughter appears, eating an ice cream cone. And that’s what I struggle to comprehend: the mere fact that my daughter is. Surrounded by, engulfed by, and nearly always snuffed out by darkness, she tenaciously illumines the moment with the light of appearance and being. So happy and blissfully unaware that she’s dancing on the tooth of death, she plays with a kitten, brushes her hair, laughs and eats candy. And I, dumbstruck by the way she comes and goes, dissolve into what I can only assume is love.