If I can see a tree outside my bedroom window, blood flow to my brain will be different than if I was looking at a view without vegetation. Right now, I have a rectangular perspective of deciduous trees and evergreens making their home next to sidewalks and steep neighborhood staircases. The Italian restaurant across the street is shaded by bare-branched trees adorned in twinkle lights. I have lived in Seattle, Washington, for four years, the most urban place I have ever called home. Wildness and development exist as two tangled lovers, bound by each other’s bodies. I came from Arkansas, and there was a forest in my backyard. I went to the woods as often as I could.
He came into my office as he often does, or as I often do to him in return, to avoid actual work, to talk about the fun stuff—the difference in Raymond Carver after Gordon Lish, how the Pinckney Benedict story “Mercy” is perfect for our students—and/or complain about the unfun stuff, also fun in its way. We work in the same pod and his office is directly across from mine. We’re not rivals; he’s fiction and I’m creative non. Truly, we’re friends.
Amidst the poorly-veiled disgruntled mumblings and vigorously squirming behinds, the evening’s speaker announced the lecture was now concluded and it was time for questions: “This is a Q and R, not a Q and A. I will do my best to respond to all questions directed at me, but answers I will not promise,” she said. While this statement may have sounded quaint, perhaps even smug coming from a less candid presenter, her unpretentious approach dissembled my cynicism. Starkly shadowed by bright stage lights, the speaker traversed the stage’s width back and forth, back and forth. Her purpose for the evening was to invite our denominational tribes to a mediation concerning a hotly controversial topic.
The days that I write start like this: I drop my girls off at school, and as I drive away I turn on the song, “Time” by the Abstract Giants. I know a few of the guys in band. I grew up with them. I know Andy Lempera, the drummer, from junior high band where our director promised that if we worked hard, Andy could free style while we cleaned up our clarinets and oboes, trumpets and trombones during the last five minutes of the period. I never had so much fun cleaning the spit out of my flute than when Andy played.