Excerpt from road trip

[June 15, 2015 Part of Our road­trip to coastal North Car­oli­na]

June 8th, 2015: On NC-99 between Ply­mouth and Pan­tego, NC Some­how we’ve end­ed up in Indi­ana.

We’ve come upon com­mer­cial­ized farm­land which I haven’t seen since Indiana—flat, seam­less­ly plant­ed fields that run to the hori­zon. The roads drop away plumb-line straight and like infin­i­ty, tend to hyp­no­tize. Any sense of speed is sus­pend­ed. We aren’t dri­ving so much as float­ing while the land­scape sluices by. There is no point of ref­er­ence to com­pare our motion to oth­er bod­ies. It’s like being, I would imag­ine, on a vast calm ocean or an inter­stel­lar voyage–everything is far away, your rel­a­tive motion all but imper­cep­ti­ble. The road and the fields are unbro­ken, unde­mar­cat­ed lines that make it hard to judge speed in the same way judg­ing a mile-long train’s speed: they seem sta­tion­ary until they go blar­ing by like tor­na­does. With­out land­marks, I can see how some­one can eas­i­ly break 80, 90 miles an hour and not be aware of it

I yell at the kids in the back to look out their win­dows at the view and they do look up from their ipads and won­der what I am try­ing to show them. They are used to hills and trees and hous­es and here they only see geo­met­ric planes of browns and greens; I might as well be show­ing them a gray-laden, blank sky. To me it speaks of where I grew up and reminds me of my long trips between Chica­go and south­ern Indi­ana dur­ing col­lege breaks, hours of rid­ing a road through unbro­ken corn­fields that numbed friends mad from lack of scenery. But you dri­ve it long enough and you learn to appreciate—what I lat­er learned is called—the “neg­a­tive space” of the scenery, which is the space around and between things, sort of like Indi­ana; it’s a space between oth­er states in the Midwest—which I learned some peo­ple think includes all the states until the Rock­ies, which real­ly are called the Great Plains—and like­wise the way the Mid­west is, to some peo­ple, all that space between New York and say, San Diego [hmm, Leslie.] Need­less to say, they don’t bring the need­ed bag­gage to under­stand or appre­ci­ate indus­tri­al-grade farm­ing for its aus­tere and glacial­ly-paced beau­ty.

Jack

Jan 23 2013

It’s a cold night and the air is still and feels frozen sol­id, no longer flow­ing unno­ticed. The sky is very clear and the moon is flash-light bright. For some rea­son, the cold­er the night, the more apt I am to take Jack out for a walk. Jack nev­er objects to being out­side and Scar­lett joins in; she joins in, because some­one is doing some­thing she is not. Scar­lett does not abide.

Where we are right now the sky is not blud­geoned into a schmear of grey, lit up street-light yel­low from the city below. The sky is an inky black-blue which lets the stars stand out pre­cise­ly and pristine­ly. We stare up at the white-bright moon and Jack tells me, ‘I see the moon, dad­dy.’ Scar­lett then tells me the same thing. We stroll down the side­walk next to our house, clear­ing the walk of small branch­es and bram­bles blown down by the recent, strong winds from the West.

This is about Jack, final­ly.

Jack enjoys these walks. He should; his feet are built for it. Large for his size, they stick out like planks and fur­ther accen­tu­ate his reed­i­ness which Arnæzs’s are not known for. His feet look tougher and more weath­ered than our cir­cum­stances would indi­cate: We are not holler-ed in hill coun­try nor dust-bowled on the Plains. His life is not hard-scrab­bled to explain the lack of excess in body and action he exhibits. Unlike Mac and Scar­lett who’ve devel­oped a propen­si­ty for flour­ish­es in body and mind, Jack’s acts are effi­cient and clear. His body is already ath­let­i­cal­ly lean and his move­ments are steadi­ly prac­ticed. If he wants that cook­ie, he acts only toward that end with­out fail. Be it a cook­ie in a cab­i­net or fifty feet up on a ledge.

It is this phys­i­cal self-depen­den­cy that I think explains Jack’s lack of speech. Until very recent­ly Jack was mute. I’d like to believe it’s because he had noth­ing to say. If he need­ed some­thing and he could see it, then phys­i­cal­ly he could do what­ev­er nec­es­sary to get it. The times he couldn’t act but need­ed to com­mu­ni­cate some men­tal-state, his per­spic­u­ous grunts and ges­tures demon­strat­ed to me1 how cave­man got along dur­ing most of the Holocene until true speech evolved. But I’m glad to say that in the past few months sur­round­ing his third birth­day, his speech has improved immense­ly and he is quick­ly com­ing up to par with his sibling’s ver­bosi­ty and while it’s still hard to under­stand him, if his speech devel­ops any­where near his phys­i­cal abil­i­ties, I will be a bit scared about get­ting into argu­ments with him. Also, I’m afraid he’ll just beat me up.

Some more about Jack.

Jack is cau­tious and adven­ture­some. I’ve yet to see him repeat the same mis­take or be fooled twice. How­ev­er, this doesn’t mean he is ret­i­cent; he’s the least timid of our kids. At parks, he has climbed high­er than a little-kid’s par­ent ought to let him. It’s nerve-wrack­ing to watch. Fre­quent­ly, anoth­er par­ent will move in and hov­er around him, until I tell them not to mind and that it took me a while to relax and get used to see­ing Jack tee­ter­ing on the edge, up high and look­ing down at the rest us and usu­al­ly smil­ing because he knew he was mak­ing us ner­vous. But this boy is not rash. He knows he’s up high and knows it will hurt if he falls. He’s fall­en and cried, but unlike Mac and Scar­lett who will make sure we know they’ve fall­en, he will brush him­self off, espe­cial­ly his hands, wip­ing them—surprisingly fas­tid­i­ous­ly on his pants—and get back up and go at it again, know­ing full well what made him fall.

He is unceas­ing motion from the moment he gets up: climb­ing, jump­ing, run­ning, inde­fati­ga­ble until about 6:30 pm when he will ask for his pooh-bear and his binky. Being only min­utes from falling aseep, he will climb into your lap and nes­tle his head into your left shoul­der. You will take him up, put him in bed and say ‘go to sleep, Jack’ and he will reply, ‘Oo-kay’ and then pass out, the on-switch final­ly being switched off.

Feb 3, 2013 6:08pm gea

  1. see Ges­tur­al the­o­ry on the ori­gin of lan­guage []

brief update 25Oct2010

24oct2010 5:33PM CMT BKGY

Jack has been climb­ing up the stairs. To the top. And Sits there with a big wide grin. His arms wide, each one hold­ing a remote con­trol, which he blinks on and off. He has fall­en a few times. Not for lack of try­ing, we have tried to pre­vent this. We have up gates and he wormed his way through them. Already out­smart­ing us.

It is thun­der­ing out­side. Haven’t heard real light­ning in a long time. It goes on for far longer than I remem­ber and longer than I thought pos­si­ble out here in the Mid­West, like drop­ping a rock down a very deep well, the crum­bling thun­der keeps rolling on and on, remind­ing me of a Finnegans’s Wake pas­sage:

The fall (bababadal­gharagh­takam­mi­nar­ronnkonnbron­nton­nerronntuon­nthun­ntrovar­rhounawn­skawn­toohooho­or­de­nen­thur­nuk!) of a once wall­strait old­parr is retaled ear­ly in bed and lat­er on life down through all chris­t­ian min­strel­sy.