It’s 5 am and I can’t sleep. I don’t have to be up until 7:30. I should be sleeping. I should be writing. I have to write. This thought, these thoughts want me to write.
Many thoughts. Is there one thought beneath it all? What is it? How do I find it?
Usually, I would get my knife out. My scalpel. My sharp knife of discernment, my sharp knife of ratiocination. The sharp knife that focuses a few inches in front of my face, between my eyes. Pointing at you.
And with this knife, I would peel and slice and hack and … maybe mutilate.
This morning, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to try to let this thought speak for itself. I’m going to try to open up a space here for it to come out. Instead of digging for it. Instead of digging through the wet sand and pulling it up by its dark roots. Instead, I am going to try to wait for it, to wait for it to push its own way to the surface.
This thought I’m waiting for, it has something to do with words, with how I write, with how I use language. With how I use that sharp knife.
Is that the thought?
Don’t dig. Just wait.
I want to dig. I’m sitting here, kneeling on the beach waiting, and I don’t know what to do with my hands. I’m going to put them palms up on my knees and wait.
“The letter killeth. But the spirit giveth life.”
“The word is not the thing.” “Writing about experience is not experience.”
But not all words kill. Some words give life. My wife spoke those words a couple days ago in Muir Woods among the ancient redwoods. “God was in the wind,” she said. And we breathed in the cool, rich breath of the trees, and felt alive. “God was in the wind,” she said. Some words give life.
These are the words I would speak now. These are the words I am waiting for, the words that I hope will push their way up through the wet sand.
Wait. Listen to the ocean while you wait.
Control. I am afraid. I am afraid of chaos. Of … mother. You know her by many names. She is chaos. She was chaos. She is chaos. I am afraid.
I know she is life too. I know she is creation and vitality. But I hate her. She hurt me and I don’t want to be hurt again.
And so I get out my knife. My scalpel. I focus it between my eyes. Pointing it at you. Pointing it at her. And I peel and slice and chop. I hack away the loose limbs. I chop off the messy parts. And soon I have something I can hold. Something neat and clean. A box. Six squares. Eight sharp corners. Twelve bright lines. And I can hold it and show it to you. Aren’t I clever. Don’t you admire my artifice. I have made the messy clean. I have drawn straight lines through the disorder. I have brought order to the universe. Is this not creation? It is the creation of my father. You know him by many names. He taught me. To bring order to chaos. To tame the wild. And so I hack and chop and slice and peel until it is perfect. And pure. And it fits in my hand. And I offer it to you for your approval.
“Mutilation!” you scream. “You killed it!” you say.
I can see that, of course. “Of course, it had to die,” I think, “How else to fit it into the palm of my hand?” And I have this knife, after all. What else am I to do with it? Am I not born to cut and slide and peel? Am I not my father’s son?
Pruning. That’s something else I could do with my little knife. Wait. Wait. Wait. Not yet.
Am I not my father’s son?
“But thou art my child also.”
I’m 40 years old, almost. Forty years of cutting and slicing and chopping. Forty years of making boxes. Forty years of stacking them. Of making walls. Four walls. Six walls. A box. A box for me. No sky. No sand. No wind. No sun. Am I to tear down the work of 40 years? Surely it would take another 40 years.
But it wasn’t 40 years was it? There was a time before I made boxes. Before I had my knife. Long before I built these walls. What did I do with my hands then?
I made castles in the sand. I dug holes in the sand that were filled by the waves. I picked up sea shells and put them in my pockets. I held hands. Her hand.
Before she hurt me. Before I got my knife. My knife to stab her. To cut her. To make her small. Like me.
Tears fall from my cheeks. Emptying me a little. Making a little space. For something green. Something living. Something without sharp edges or bright lines. Something vulnerable. Something I can’t name yet. Something too small to name yet. It’s not even very pretty. But it’s mine.
“Mommy issues.” That’s what you’re going to say. This is humiliating.
That’s ok. I’m going to cup my hands around my little green life and protect it from your harsh breath. I’m going to wait for it to grow. Wait. Wait. Maybe one day, I will breathe in its breath, like the breath of those redwoods. Maybe one day I will breath in its exhalations, and live.