“What am I really good at?” I ask myself this, as a result of a writing prompt last week.
“Nothing,” I answer me frankly. What I mean is; that I really excel at doing nothing. Oh, I can carry a tune in a bucket, but it splashes and makes a mess. I can sketch a landscape nobody will buy, and it amuses me.
I can sidestroke through cold waters, impressing only the silent jellyfish. I could play from John Thompsons third grade piano book, if someone turns the pages for me, but was not asked to a recital. I can train a dog but not to show, compete or title.
I was a PRETTY good nurse, the last doctor I worked with said I was his best, but that was entirely situational; I couldn’t even finish chemistry to upgrade my LPN to an RN. I was a PRETTY good mom except when I smoked in the car and moved almost every year and let the boys climb very tall trees or climb out windows onto the roof to be pointed out fearfully by frowning neighbors. Enough to make you smoke in the car.
I was born being good at doing nothing and I aim to stick with it.
It requires doodling when you are supposed to be listening to the third grade teacher.
It requires tremendous vascillation of desire. Unapologetic indecision. I played almost every instrument in junior high band for one day. Base drum to xylophone. Then joined choir.
It also requires aimless rambling. Getting lost almost on purpose. Almost getting somewhere then turning around.
A social scientist, Emily Balcetist says that our perception has much to do with our vision, including what we see in our minds eye. She explained that what we actually can focus on WELL comprises about the space your thumb does at the end of your extended arm. Try it. That’s not much, is it? She said the rest is kind of vague and that is where the aptly named “minds eye”comes in, making its own interpretations. All that vague space around the thumb? Thats where I live.
I was paddling around the popping mangrove islands of the lagoon admiring the skys perfect reflection and saw the suns’ mirror image uncovered by a cloud, then TWO SUNS! I thought I must have been transported to another watery planet, or had fallen into the liquid sky. It was distressing, disturbing. I focused more closely, maybe with that thumb part of the visual field. Two white golf balls three feet down glowed mischievously up at me from the murk.
I walked my dog around the pool table green of the golf course, admiring the sinking ebony mergansers, the immaculate white herons, the vermillion warbler. Then on the ground, a big black raven, eating at something…no! a “Zipolote” a vulture, tearing flesh under a big sign advertising Paradise. We drew near slowly, not wanting to interfere with the meal, however bloody and revolting it might be. We got within a few yards. The plastic black bag moving its “wings”in the wind carried on despite our proximity.
And Lovely Loreto readers, did you see the Cubed pelican as you were paddling your kayaks out towards the North end of Carmen? It bobbed sleepily on the water with its wings folded and head curved down the way they do then….became a dirty white plastic bouy as I paddled my board by, on my way to nowhere in particular.
I look at the starfish and think about sex. Did you know that nobody knows really how we got from parthogenesis ( literally, virgin birth) to beings that needed each other to reproduce? The starfish, it can grow a new arm, a gecko, a new tail, but SOME lizards, a Moniter, for example, and even a few sharks can reproduce asexually. It was all so practical in the beginning, they cant figure out “the sex problem” of evolution. How can we ever know what’s what when reality is so unexpected?
Annie Dillard wrote from the Galapagos, and the Sea of Cortez has often been likened to that brew of impossible life. She said it wasn’t just pages of stories, she said it was “her work” to go out and check on things, to see how she fit in. She had a tremendous curiosity. I can see her crouching over a slippery tidepool like Steinbeck on the Sea of Cortez, or watching the hovering hummingbird, a singing jewel, then wandering back to her shack to learn about Darwins finches.
She instructs us: “Go into the gaps. If you find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock-more than a maple-a universe. This is how you spend the afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”
(Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)