All day a dragon in a rented crow costume was installed in the tree outside my house, shrieking imprecations and keeping me at bay.
A few months back I reversed the mat on my doorstep so that each time I opened the door I would encounter the word “WELCOME.” My hope was that this would somehow strike me as a greeting or an invitation from the world. So far it hasn’t quite had the desired effect. If anything, in fact, it’s made me increasingly self conscious about what seems almost like a gesture from a self-help book.
Two days ago I was out walking my dog when I encountered two little girls in matching pink princess costumes selling rocks from an excavation going on in the yard behind them. I asked them how much rocks were going for these days.
“It depends,” one girl said, “on whether they are space rocks or indian rocks.”
“How about this one?” I asked, taking a rock in my hand.
“That’s a space rock,” the girl said. “It fell to earth during a moon storm. Let your dog smell it.”
I dutifully held the rock to my dog’s nose, and he dutifully gave it a sniff.
“See?” the girl said. “One dollar for a moon rock.”
I handed over a dollar, and as I went on my way I heard the girls erupt in laughter behind me. I was momentarily chilled by the unmistakable cruelty in that laughter.
Now, though, it’s late. A fox is frozen in me, paralyzed at a point in a journey beyond which I cannot yet take him. Perhaps, I thought earlier, his fate has something to do with the charms of the night sky, but I now see no reason in the world why it should.
I would so love to do something extraordinary.
But who wouldn’t?
You reach that point where when you look in the mirror you sort of do so with a very evasive, soft-focus glance –you’re essentially looking right through or around yourself, trying, perhaps unconsciously, to work your way back into time and memory. When you’re most successful at this you manage to see not the person you’ve become, but the person you once were, or –even better, or maybe sadder; I can’t decide– the person you most hoped you’d become.
My sleeping dog raises his head and briefly peers across the room through eyes a half step removed from dreams. As if he seeks reassurance that this is still the same world that he closed his eyes on an hour ago, that the man in the green chair is still there, keeping watch and squinting into his book, more lost than ever beneath a giant cowboy hat that makes him feel exceedingly small and foolish.
Somewhere in the world tonight, I’m sure, someone is playing an accordian and people are dancing. Somewhere a broken man is wide awake and screwing up his nerve to do something entirely unexpected and perhaps even extraordinary. All over the world couples are curled up together in bed. Some of them are completely unaware that only one of them will wake up to see another day. Ambulances are streaking through the universal night, through sleeping cities in every country on the earth, their drivers speaking urgently in a hundred different languages. And in every one of those same countries, under one improbable moon, thousands upon thousands of hands are folded and stricken faces are searching the dark continent behind their eyes, and the huge sky beyond, for God.
This morning –or later this morning, when and if the sun makes things official– I’m going to listen to James Brown.
I’m going to take my dog for a walk.
I’m going to take another crack at the world.
And when all is said and done, well, I guess all will be said and done.
Hey there. You.
Take a look at me now.
Take a look down here.
I’m on top of the world.