I am writing at the window, because someone asked me to. But I am also feeling as if Charlotte is onto something (which she will share with us soon at Tweetspeak), so I am going to speak as if watching, or speaking mythically, which is part of what happens when a writer moves into the second person.
Second person is the name of the viewpoint, but the use of it also, uncannily, creates the sense of a second person being in the scene. A listener, a watcher, a prophet, or maybe a priest. Someone who is one step removed from the writer, but strangely intimate with the workings of her inner mind as well. Someone who might help the writer ferry from one shore to another, on a drift of once-removed words.
Enter the ferryman. The switch. Here we go. I will herewith be “you” as I continue this letter. Bear with me. Or, would that be, bear with you?…
You are writing at the window, because someone asked you to. But you are also feeling as if Charlotte is onto something. You are going to speak as if watching yourself, or speaking mythically. You might become your own prophet, or priest. You might ferry yourself from one shore to another, on a drift of once-removed words.
You used to care more about the past, how it formed and shaped you—the stepfather who fed you hunted deer, the mother who planted geraniums every spring, how she dressed the glass sliding door with crystal beads of jewel-like colors, how he nailed you out of the house at every window. These people, these acts, these days long lived at the edge of the woods, maple and fir mixed, under the full moons and the Northern lights— they held a kind of power over you, because, within you, you still had, like Cisneros’s Rachel 11, 10, nine, eight, seven, all the years down to when your mother first held you in her arms and named you Laura (against your father’s will, who wanted you to be a Laurie), though your mother had also considered Susan, your eyes were so black, like the wildflowers she’d loved since she was a child.
You used to care about writing this past. But it’s been a long time, and many words, and now, at the window you are more interested in what is right before you and how it is framed. Sometimes you spend whole afternoons looking out this particular window, the one you are looking out at four-o-clock in the afternoon, this window with its Moorish side arch and center point, open to the air, to the maple and the hemlocks and, past house and house and house and house, to the river beyond.
You went to the river earlier today, and looking out this window now, you can find your way back to the leaf-cupped shore, where tiny white shells, clean as a brilliant linen and water-soft, crowded the shore beneath your feet, each one carrying their past upon their backs, but each one also blissfully collected in pockets and ridges of eddied sand as if all that mattered was right here, right now. Tomorrow they might be carried out to sea. Except, of course, the few you collected.
You collected, too, what you named “the grey dress tree,” tried to memorize its every curve and curlicue, watched the way its bronzed leaves lightly clapped with the wind, clapped against each other, and looked remarkably like little turnstiles which, every so once in a while would detach, then fly into the river, to join the journey of the little shells. If, you thought, some designer made a dress with the pattern of the grey dress tree, and it’s moveable leaves, like flat bronze bells or little turnstiles, you would accept it as a gift if someone wrapped it up for you in paper as light and smooth as the day’s wind, in paper as subtly silver as the river that lapped and lapped with a sound as mythic as forever and mirrored a sky of smoke and pearl.
Yes, you used to care about the past, about how the windows, looking out, or looking in, could recall something that seemed important to tell to the world. But now it feels like the best thing you could do is memorize the changing world, and, like your mother before you, love it, and call it by name: silver river, white shells, grey dress tree—and simply open each day new.
P.S. Speaking in the first person now, Dear—, I wish you a day of windows onto the gifts of this beautiful, beautiful world. Yes, beautiful, despite the many cares of its people. If I could give you a grey dress tree (or a grey suit tree, for you, Sir), a handful of white shells, a silver mirror of water to ferry your soul to somewhere you need to go, I would. Here, now. Here is my open hand, full with the vision of it. Take it, if you wish and will.