This Christmas, my daughter received her first diary. She did not expect or ask for it. But as I sat on the bookstore floor, figuring how many Amelia Bedelia books and candy canes would slide into her reindeer stocking, I saw it—a small diary, the cover bright with a single blue owl, its giant eyes wide open and jewel yellow. On Christmas morning when she dumped her stocking, two Amelia Bedelia books and one blue owl diary, replete with a lock and two tiny silver keys, tumbled into her growing pile of presents. I fumbled for my camera only to realize I had forgotten to change the batteries. The irony of the instant thickened; Ellie smiled at her diary, and I lost one of the morning’s moments I meant to keep.
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.