Walking in the dusk, I see people in their lamplit rooms reading, doing the dishes, talking on the phone. Each one a pocket of a life lived in a larger garment of other lives. A single comb in the complex hive.
In the winter, I am comforted knowing that the bulbs I planted in November are alive under the earth, no matter how frozen the top layer. And that nearby the deep roots of the oak trees and lilac contain sap that carries energy, even if in slow motion, to and fro.
On nights that are quiet-bad, I take solace knowing that across the Atlantic, Kathryn is asleep, and on the shores of the Pacific, Kathy is getting read to go to a party; a few blocks away, Sarah might be licking a pot clean after a late dinner, Dan is heading out on a dog walk, and Kristin is kneeled at the bathtub in which one of her kids is splashing.
On nights that are quiet-good, I can’t suppress an inward Mona Lisa grin, knowing that me-sad is a night away, and me-content is a week away, and me-much-better is a year away, and we all live together in unison just waiting for the one to catch up with the other.
A few weeks ago, I read that a food writer I admired died, and I mourned that quiet, small mourning that so often happens with the obituaries: a sudden pang of loss for someone you didn’t know you might ever miss. It can happen even with someone you’ve never heard of before, so that in a single column of newsprint in which her invention of a transformative animation technique is pressed between birth in Cleveland and death from cancer, her presence suddenly feels urgently necessary and your heart is pinched at this unexpected gaping hole in the fabric of your known reality.
This moment, my daughter is on the cusp of waking under an equatorial sky in Tanzania. She is far away, and the ether stretches full around, a line of light and clouds and air that touches us both. Good morning, I whisper into the Iowa night, and though she cannot hear me, I sense a boomerang of response, a ping of reply.
It goes on. In tandem. To the horizon. Simultaneously. As we sit in our lamplit rooms, focused on clipping our nails, paying a bill, sweeping the floor. Living in this small pocket of now.