“Knowing is the responsible human struggle to rely on clues to focus on a coherent pattern and submit to its reality.” —Esther Lightcap Meek, Longing To Know
We were in the car going somewhere. Our children, Joseph and Jonathan were in the back seat with Bev and me up front. It was nearly Christmas and Joseph was challenging the veracity of our assertions about Santa Claus. It’s you guys, right? Bev and I weren’t ready to abet our seven-year-old’s descent into the murky realm of fact versus fantasy. It’s a yes or a no, he insisted. Stunned by his need for this knowledge, the best I could do was offer a pathetic, Um, well… yes and no.
It’s hard writing about the salty Gulf Coast without the taste of fried biscuits in Mendenhall, Mississippi, or the hypnotic curves of rice paddies in southeast Arkansas, the lonely cotton gins and weathered Baptist churches that survive calamitous storms year after year.
Read Part I
“The Dry Salvages,” the third poem in Eliot’s Four Quartets, thinks about time from the wilderness of rivers and oceans, drawing parallels to the cycles of life and to eternity. Rhythmically, this poem feels like water lapping at the shore: “Where is an end of it, the soundless wailing”; “where is there an end to the drifting wreckage”; “where is the end of them, the fishermen sailing”; “there is no end, but addition.”
Illustration for John Milton’s Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré, (1886)
Last night I dreamt that I got lost again. It’s a frequent dream for me: I can’t find my car or my way home. While that type of dream may have metaphorical meaning for some people, I think it is most likely pretty literal for me. When I was a kid, sometimes I had to ask my friends at sleepovers to remind me where their bathroom was because I couldn’t quite remember their house layout and I was scared of opening the wrong door. Before smart phones and GPSs, using public transit was a complete nightmare. In addition to having the tendency of getting lost, I am also pretty good at remaining unseen. It was not that uncommon for me to be the last one sitting on the bus patiently awaiting my destination when the driver would turn around, and, with a start say, “I had no idea there was still a passenger on here!” Sometimes, I had gotten on the right bus, but on the wrong side of the street and so ended up at the other side of the city.
This fall, I plan to take my twelve-year old pheasant hunting for the first time, as my father took me. Last fall, when he was eleven, I took Micah out to shoot in a gravel pit outside of town, after which time I had one question:
What was my dad thinking?