turning off! Every Friday morning I get an email with that one word. I open it somewhat tense, to instantly scroll down with curiosity. There is a new drawing by Ian Grets. Always an amazing search picture, as I see through her eyes, wandering about my private life. I can write five hundred words, but “yankee” says more than that.
I have captured scenes that will always be with me. Charlotte’s daughter’s girlfriend, Ice Hockey, sleeps in bed exhausted. Our son’s grim friend who brings life back to a dull plant. My hairdresser who Trump is a saint. “Because if you have such wonderful children, you must be a good person.” Baby Born on HomeFront, the nearby organization, that gives a future to people who have lost everything. Gary, who fulfilled the American dream alone behind the white gate of his comfortable home. He describes his life as a series of golden retrievers. Their photos are on his mantel. He stands next to each dog by himself – as a toddler, a teen, a student, a toddler, and a middle-aged man with a belly. Now retired, he walks with what will likely be his last dog.
And, of course, the vicissitudes of our children, whose lives have been inspired in abundance. When we got here, our youngest was 11 years old, boys 13 and 15 years old. And they were brave and courageous, and they embarked on an American adventure. New language, middle school, high school, first love, driver’s license, prom, their studies. I am amazed at the sight of every teacher. They are now three adults, two of them talking about America in the past. In this largest and loudest country in the world, I went looking for the smallest events. To what will barely reach the front page and the back page. The woman whispered in the pharmacy, who could not afford her medication. The man behind her in line, without saying a word, puts his credit card in the machine for her. Sometimes I think that’s the reason we are on Earth. To see each other’s humanity in those little things.
In her poem of the same name, Polish poet Weslaa Chemborska asks, “Maybe everything will happen,” “In the laboratory?” It paints a picture of our life on Earth as microbes in test tubes, observed through the eyes of higher beings. Only when something interesting happens do the control screens turn on. “Only when it is war and preferably big.”
But she wonders, it might just be the opposite. Is it exactly about “small accidents”. Contact me, back page of news. It ends like this (in Gerard Rush’s translation):
“A little girl sews on the big screen / A button on the sleeve. / The sensors start to whistle, / The staff are crowded. / Well, what a creature / With such a beating heart inside! / What graceful seriousness / And she does the thread! / Someone screams with delight: / Go and tell the boss, / He should come and see for himself!
This is the last episode of the column Message in a bottle.
A copy of this article also appeared on nrc.next on December 28, 2020