April 27, 2015

by Patrick Dubuque


Dear Sylvie,

This afternoon we sat in the grass in the warm sunshine. You helped me water the strawberries, raking the moist earth with your little plastic shovel, flecking your clothes with mud, stepping on the tender leaves with your boots. We collected rocks and you commented on each one, placing them in my palm and taking them out again, organizing them in some inconceivable, shifting pattern. You were fascinated by these rocks: all basically round, all basically beige, some small and some large. I wanted to extract that excitement out of you, distill it into some elixir.

A blue jay flew and landed on the dead tree growing out of our deck. You won’t remember that tree, because it’ll be gone soon: a beautiful cherry that flowered when we bought the house, six years ago, amid one of those random April two-inch snowstorms. It struggled through one more season and then died, branches crumbling in every windstorm, moss shedding onto the deck like the remains of a cemetery bouquet. The blue jay sat trembling on a weak, thick branch, and you cried out to it, “Hello, bird!” For a moment I couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t answer.

We watched birds for twenty, thirty minutes. At first you ran toward them, and they disappeared behind the trees or onto roofs. But you heard the songs with your cupped, little ear; you knew that the birds were never really gone, and that was the thing I wanted to make sure you understood. There were two jays and the shadow of a hummingbird high in the sky. You pointed at them each time and called out, “there it is!” until your mother came home and we had to go to dinner.

It would have been fitting if the Mariners had played the Blue Jays tonight, but they didn’t; instead, it was the last place Rangers. The games are quick these days, and even with a rain delay, I only caught the last half inning as the Rangers attempted one last comeback against Mariners closer Fernando Rodney.  We listened to it while I gave you your bath. Rodney is known for being climactic, in the good and the bad way, of testing the edge of one’s nerves. But this particular story had no climax. The Mariners won easily, 3-1.

We put you to bed, and then I went to bed as well and read Montaigne. Montaigne wrote a little like the way I’m writing now, wrote self-indulgent and personal and pointless recollections that he hoped people might read. They did, and it’s good that they did. The book’s first essay is about idleness, and how the free time of his retirement unleashed rather than calmed his mind. “[It] …creates in me so many chimeras and fantastic monsters, one upon another, without order or design, that, the better at leisure to contemplate their strangeness and absurdity, I have begun to commit them to writing, hoping in time to make it ashamed of itself.” It’s a fancy way of saying that he was a writer, and that he needed to write. It’s an unconscious element of drama, a glimpse of turmoil.

I don’t know if you’ll be a writer, if you’ll feel that same pang of guilt that comes with writing, and not writing. It’s strange that we all feel the need to justify it, as if it’s an element to a story, a character motivation. But even though I’m writing about it, today was no story, had no rising or falling action. Today was just existence, just pinecones and bibimbap and a win expectancy chart that looked like a straight line. You will have your own drama someday, your own Fernando Rodney Experiences.  But never feel guilty for the days that are easy wins.