The Field

In a field strewn with rocks at the corner of two streets across from a middle school, a single drop of impossibly bright white descended from the moonlit sky.

An old man was walking up the hill and holding his leg, which had just started to cramp. “This is it, this is the big one,” he thought, rubbing the back of his thigh. He saw the white droplet out of the corner of his eye, and he turned to watch it with mouth agape. A shimmering pearl, lowered slowly as if at the end of a great fishing line, growing more piercingly bright as it approached the ground. The early morning was quiet but for the occasional dog barking and the fuzzy rumble of far-off traffic, and into the quiet the brightness seemed to sing a single pure glassine note. Warmth swept over the old man as he watched.

The droplet was within feet of the ground now, directly in the center of the shaggy field. The old man wanted to run toward it but found himself silently commanded to stand still and watch. It reached the long grasses and shone brightly through the blades, making them thin and black with its brightness. Then it settled on the earth and as the man strained to see, it pierced the surface and pushed soft dirt up around itself and burrowed down until the last bright beams shot into the sky and were extinguished, safely planted in the belly of the land.

The old man waited, his hand frozen on his thigh. He wanted to walk toward where the light had disappeared but a hand held him back and so he just stood and watched, and didn’t notice as the sky grew first gray and then deep blue and then bright blue and yellow as the sun crept up. Two women walking by looked at the old man strangely, standing there watching the empty field, and murmured to each other. And much later a police cruiser pulled over and woke the old man, and he tried to explain but the officer kindly guided him to the back seat and returned him home, the old man still muttering and rubbing his thigh and remembering the warmth of the light.


At first, the changes were too small for anyone to notice. Dogs and cats stopped walking through the field, and no birds landed there. If the people had been more attentive, they would have noticed that when you walked that block at night, there were no crickets chirping in that field. Indeed it seemed that all of the dumb living things held their breath around it. And too, the houses on its edges began to lean imperceptibly inward. Had you measured the water in your glass—and no one ever did—you would have found that it was bunched up against whatever side was nearest the field, sloped impossibly down away from it. People making fires and lighting grills found that matches didn’t want to stay lit, and if they did finally succeed in getting a fire burning, they had to tend it incessantly and seemingly against its will to stay alive. And at night, especially when the moon shone full and white in the sky, the people heard a ringing in their ears, a murmured note they each dismissed as an oncoming headache or the echo of a long day, and didn’t think to associate it with the soft warmth that always accompanied it.


The first real sign was the pregnancy of a young couple who lived at the edge of the field. They had been married for four years and trying for a baby the whole time, and had been told six months ago that it was impossible. They had cried and gone on many walks where the wife tried not to touch the strollers passing by and the husband tried not to hate them. And so when she failed to bleed, they did not think to hope, but when other signs showed themselves she angrily took a test to quiet her mind. Then she took another, and another, and finally presented them all to him. They marveled and called the doctor who skeptically tested and then also marveled. But of course, none knew of the seed in the field, and none would have thought of it if they did.

The second sign was felt much farther off, at a university where seismologists read bouncing lines and discussed their meaning. Here one morning a scientist with a tight ponytail noticed a regular irregularity, a repeated pattern that shaped the graph more like a heart rate than the groaning of the earth. She deduced reasonably that the machinery was faulty and scheduled a diagnosis. But when the sensors passed all tests and yet the pattern remained, the department grew frantically alive. Meetings were held. Data were exported and emailed High Priority to specialists around the world. Incredulous experts flew in to debunk the results, and were unable to do so. The earth, it seemed, had awoken.


The old man who had seen it all begin walked often past the field in the early mornings, hoping to see another pearl drop from the sky. The disappointment of not seeing one almost overpowered the warm stillness he felt standing at the field’s edge. Each time he told himself that he would walk into the grass and find the spot where the light had disappeared and dig to find it, but each time he stopped at the curb and took no further steps, and felt it would be wrong to do so, and simply watched and listened. His leg did not cramp, and he forgot to notice.

In the little house at the edge of the field the young man lay with his head on the lightly bulging stomach of the young woman, and he sang to them both a new song he had never heard before but seemed to hang ringing in the air and he harmonized with it. And as he sang, the world outside went quiet and listened hard to every word and the woman breathed as gently as she could to not miss a note, and inside her the baby’s heart beat and the beat was drawn as a bouncing line on a scrolling paper miles away in front of marveling scientists.

How To Wake A Child

Children are human, which means they have at least five senses and don’t like to be bossed about. Wake them with the gentleness and respect you wish them to exhibit as adults. You are about to disillusion them from cuddled dreamscapes into a waking life of oatmeal and active shooter drills; give them a moment to grieve the loss of night and anticipate the possibilities of day.

Wake the senses

  1. Enter the room quietly.
  2. Crack the blinds to let in the morning light—enough to bring a curiosity of shape and color to the world but not so much their eyes squeeze tight against it.
  3. If weather and location coöperate, open the window to let in the sounds of morning.
  4. If you use oils or aromatics, diffuse a citrus scent.
  5. Make the air comfortable. If they fell asleep with a fan but now it’s a chilly morning, turn it off. Children aren’t ascetics, they don’t grow to know God through discomfort. Create an environment they want to rise into instead of burrow away from.
  6. Leave the room and go about your day. Grind your coffee, sizzle your bacon, walk sure-footed down the hall. Don’t be an obnoxious roommate, but add your patina to the waking world. Their room is still a sanctuary, but the world is turning without them. Waking is an opportunity—not an edict—to join it.

Sometimes, this is all you need to do. Within minutes, they come trundling out of the room, book and blanket in hand. These are the best days, but they aren’t the most days.

Wake the mind

  1. After no less than 15 minutes, quietly re-enter the room.
  2. Sit by them on the bed. If they’re not yet too old to hate it, stroke their forehead or curl up next to them. A minute or two of your silent physical presence will engage their mind in ways you don’t see.
  3. Finally, quietly greet them with the first words anyone should hear: “Good morning, love.”

Lastly, remember

You, too, are a human in process and should wake gently. Work with the grain: make your room dark at night; sleep with a window cracked so the sounds of morning precede you; leave your phone outside your room; use a dedicated alarm clock with dim illumination.

The oncoming day is hard but boundless. Prepare accordingly.

The Tourism Board Invites You To Never Leave Sunny Carmel-by-the-Sea

Justin

Two other things about Carmel: no overhead power lines, and my gas pump stopped automatically at $27.00 even. The place has a magical spell.

So you’re saying there is a power and oil shortage.

“Naturally sourced!” you croon as the hungry mob descends upon the farmer’s house.

“No matter your politics you can truly #deleteuber here!” you tap as the National Guard shoves you into a reinforced bus.

“The sun and the wind compete for your love like bickering parents, one showering you with warmth and the other with its caresses.” You put the phone down and mop your brow with an arm clothed in rough cotton. Your hand is trembling slightly. You rewrap the cloth around your blisters and reach again for the pickaxe.

“just watch out you married men! Vows have a way of getting lost on the 101 ;)”

The guard taps you on the shoulder and you quickly slide the phone back into your pocket. He continues down the aisle and you return your attention back to the dais. Three young women, hooded and seated. Their ropes swing idly in front of them, each like an ambivalent concierge. “IMMORALITY,” the head nun begins her screeching, preemptive eulogy.

“Family trouble? Everyone finds their happy at the beach!”

You finish wrapping the satchel in tar paper and shove it hurriedly into Ethan’s arms. He stares at you, catches of moonlight betraying the occasional shimmer of a tear. “Stay close to the rocks until you’re around the point.” You force your whispers through a throat quickly closing with emotion. “Let Ash paddle once you’re past the breakers, tell him stories, keep him occupied. He cannot make a noise. He. Cannot. Make. A. Noise.” Ethan nods. Ash is on the makeshift craft, still asleep, still wrapped in his issued blanket. Searchlights cut through the sky.

And Then November

How young and dumb I was in June.

I snapped this photo from my hotel room at the New Orleans Marriott at around 6 A.M. You can’t tell if the clouds are coming or going, but I can tell you: they were going. This foreboding apocalyptic hell-scape was rolling on past and I happened to snap it at the perfect time, with the sun just peeking on out from underneath the oppressive (and strangely, deeply blue) cloud-bank. I hunted for a good quote to accompany it, and was gutted by the absolutely perfect line from Dave Eggers’ novel about Hurricane Katrina, Zeitoun:

Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.

Great, right? Not only did it fit the image perfectly, and not only was it literally about the city captured in the photograph, but this was June of 2016. Trump had, inexplicably, survived the primary and was the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States of America, but nobody – nobody – expected him to win. We had seen an incredibly ugly past year of politicking. The dark clouds of racism, sexism, transphobia, and xenophobia – battles long fought and often lost but ever so slowly marching toward light – had rolled back over our sunshine, but we thought this was merely a hiccup on the way forward.

And then November happened.

Well, of course, and then so many other things happened first, culminating in Comey’s absurd and probably election-defining letter to Congress. And Donald J. Trump, con-artist playboy misogynist imbecile, was elected to the highest office in the land and the most powerful position in the world.

And now my picture looks pretty damn naive. Or worse, like it’s celebrating exactly the opposite of what it is. As if I might be suggesting that the previous eight years of a dignified, intelligent, diplomatic executive were actually an oppression, and the orange glow of populism was finally cracking through the bleak to save us.

That is certainly not the case.

So anyway. Here’s to the next four years, or however long this craven unqualified pop-tart dismantles the country with his pendulum-swing between incompetence and unbelievable malevolence.

This is a dark time, but soon there will be something like light, again.

Something Like Light

Sunrise peeks out from under a foreboding cloudbank above the Mississippi River in New Orleans, seen from the 19th floor of the Marriott Hotel on Canal St.

Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.

– Dave Eggers, “Zeitoun”