I took my sons to the Little Farm in Berkeley’s Tilden Park this afternoon. We’ve been taking them to a lot of memorials without knowing what, if anything, to say to them. They are, after all, only 25-months and 21-months, just getting the hang of having been born. How would we explain death to them? So we just pull our their khakis and button-down shirts and let them play in the side yards of the memorials.
On our way out of the the Little Farm, we crossed a wooden slated bridge, and through the railings, we saw a turtle floating in the water, its head straining up the the surface while the rest of it relaxed in the murk of the pond. We often walk a ways down along Jewel Lake in search of turtles; last time we had seen not a one, so we were excited by this guy floating there. We watched him and talked about him for a while until suddenly he tucked his head, flipped over and dove down far under the surface. Gone.
“More turtle,” said Leo.
“More turtle,” Charlie echoed.
Angie and I are getting used to these kinds of demands–more fire engine, more excavator–which is to say, demands which we cannot willfully meet. And it occurred to me that my boys are inevitably learning about impermanence, about the lack of control we all face repeatedly, whether we accept it or not.
I am not much more evolved than they are when it comes to what I want. More Aunt Lesley, for example. What do you mean, she is gone and there is nothing you can do about it? That makes no sense. There is so much you have control over. How can you not have control over this simple desire of mine?
So tucked at the bottom of this little koan is a writer’s confession. I have begun a new draft today. I have written 1000 words plus a few more to top it off. I have made plans and promises to myself; I have set goals. Now I am going public. It’s a risk, but since part of my life’s work is writing and part of my life’s work is helping other people to write, it seemed “in integrity” to admit this to you.
There is undoubtedly a link here–something about what we cannot control. Sure, I can only say, This is what I want. This day has been given to me and this is what I will do, this is what I have done. But that effort of will seems qualitatively different than fighting the gods. Most of the time it seems different enough to be worth the sweat. We do what we can.
Care to tell me what commitments you have made–and kept–today? I’d love to hear.