Walking with Milo

It is, finally, the night of his birth. We’re listing the things we’ll do with Milo. Take him to the beach. The tides and the forest. The names of birds and animals. Mushrooms and crabs and jellyfish and nettles and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps. The kingfisher calling its shots. An eagle. He’ll understand his world in terms of vertical gradients. An unflat world, where the earth and the water and the sky are all in continuous motion. Look over there, child. The sound’s as deep as the mountains are high. An auspicious geography: he will be born halfway between the Mountain and the beach. Now, the beach is a confluence of features, as fragile as life. Height, motion, and gravity. These ladies have taken their appointed places around the operating room. One to measure, one to spin, and another to cut. On a wall clock, the minutes tick past. Nine. Ten. Midnight. I’m looking only at Liana. Green of her eyes rather than the blue and white of that theater, and the other colors beyond its little curtains and drapes. When human beings moved inland, that was, maybe, our first big mistake.

Twelve hours later, the doctor said: “He only sees a blur.” This child and I are alike. Embroiled in waves and radiation, a mindless tide of spectra and vibrations from which the two of us, gasping, can only perceive the tiniest slivers — so what if he gets a little bit less than I do? and so what if I have a self to drown out the infinite and take credit for this colossal ignorance, and he doesn’t (yet)? — we will both live our days, think our thoughts, make our decisions, and walk down our long miles based on essentially no information.

Twelve days later, Liana and Milo and I have been going for walks. Short walks, around the neighborhood. I love walking with this child. I’d walk with him to the end of the earth, if we weren’t already more or less there. Sure, it’s work to take care of him. But my rewards are those moments when some little fire is burning in him; moments when something is changing in his environment and he aspirates with tiny breaths, he waiting as much as any other observer to discover how he’ll react; moments of some protean, synaptic fury that prefigure the deeper aspirations, hopes, and disappointments he’ll have. The blood-sucking relentless call-and-response of the human body. The long walk he’s taking to get from whatever unknowable godless unities he is experiencing today to something we’d recognize as object permanence, or hope, or love. Even though we’re all with him, he’ll be alone on that walk.

What I saw

On Hood Canal this weekend I saw the perfect thing in a cloudy blue hour’s sky, at the tail end of a deep blue day, before the fireworks started; at the moment when there was just a little light left, as much from the water as from the sky.

When I looked towards the sunset, way out there past the Brothers, which were completely black, along with everything else across the canal: hills, mountains, houses, bridges, forests and the clear-cuts, all uniform black except for the minutest contrast in the snowcaps; twilight on the water and in the fading sky, with a ragged black stripe of the world across the middle —

When I looked towards the sunset I saw the crescent moon, tiny and low, a faint white on the faintest blue-gold twilight and not more than a degree or two higher than the Brothers. Distances compressed along a line of sight: two miles across the canal, another ten or so to the Brothers, two hundred thousand and some to the moon, and somewhere in between an ocean, a planet, the scrambling futility of life on earth. The perfect thing, and then the blue hour ended and I went back to my own life.