The Red Pool

I stop in the middle of the crosswalk because I want to write about this scene later. I linger for as long as I can, eyes scanning the sky, the ground, the trees. Time is a tyrannical taskmaster, but not incapable of warmth, not incapable of largesse. Today, it shows its capacity for generosity by slowing the movement of the cars cresting the hills that lead to this road, rewarding my devotion with a handful of extra seconds to absorb the setting.

I try to read the day like a poem—which means I nurture the expectation of finding, at the day’s end, a measure of grace. I expect the pleasure of discovery, the joy of meaning. The sensations are all here—the richness of daylight, the tenderness of the breeze, the impossibility of the sky—but the words to fully describe them haven’t yet completed their pilgrimage from a distant, rock-cut cave-by-the-sea into my waiting arms. Standing in the crosswalk, I try to ease their journey here by turning down the static of my mind. I quiet the persistently critical voice that is trying, not entirely successfully, to be helpful. I close the saddest pages of my diary. I turn my eyes, instead, to the runes that are inlaid in the sky in the manner of gemstones spanning a crown. Following forty-eight hours of gray humidity and drowsy rain, bright, puffy clouds have reemerged across the firmament, in huge and cliff-like incarnations. A mountain range of baby blue, each peak gilded in fantastical light. They are saying something to me that I’ll spend my whole life trying to understand.

Writing is scrying with a red pool contained in a rocky, barnacle-crusted bowl. Writing is digging up gnarled roots and inspecting their calloused rinds, tracing the greenish veins that jut out and transform into the pulpy legs of reedy stems and then metamorphosize again into the many gold-ochre eyes of a field of daisies, encountering, in this way, the passage of life from infancy to flowering, and thinking that, though human life has no such parallel, no such clarity in purpose and form, writing is finding that passage. Writing is feeling your way through the tunnel. Writing is flying through the canyon. Writing is feeling empty, then full, then empty, again. Collecting every huge feeling and experiencing it anew—every shred of painful, tedious feeling—but with hope, this time, not because these things could change, but because they won’t, and the wound they leave behind, while so distressing I will stumble and fall, can always be taken to the red pool in the middle of a crosswalk on a stunningly bright day and be lowered into the cooling waters where, if the wound cannot be repaired, then it will, at least, be consoled, soothed, cherished, pacified, and I’ll emerge, if not strong, then strong enough to rise and stagger forward.

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