"Sometimes you can listen so hard for the faintest of sounds that you don't even hear the louder ones." Ivy Elgin in Velocity by Dean Koontz
The wind in the trees provides the white-noise backdrop as I stand on the roof wishing I had never decided to start this project. Not on this day. Torn and scattered tar paper and shingles litter the yard below, and the heat is smothering but not smothering enough to erase the realization that the lawn needs mowed, the storage building needs organizing, the oil needs changed, the shower faucet needs to be replaced.... The wind of this existence is silent and screaming, tangible and invisible, tedious and lovely.
"Daddy, hurry! Come, look!" One of the boys. "It'll have to wait until I'm done here." That or something close to that is my reply.
The roofing project provides a focus, a purpose and goal that carry a certain peace. The sweat dripping like water from a soaker hose when the water is barely on, the scraped knuckles and knees, the noticeable progress - all leave signs for future seekers, trackers: life has been here. On the roof, I have a measure of solitude and quiet, allowing me time for my own tracking. Still seeking answers to questions I should have never had, I easily delve into self-analysis. My spirit is perpetually splayed on glass, pinned back for my never-ending dissection of desires and their motivations and the search for purpose and discerning between the purpose I desire and the purpose I have. Peace may be on that glass, too, but I have not found it yet. So maybe peace is in acceptance, in ceasing such contemplation, and maybe such acceptance is faith: faith that purpose will find you in its time.
"Daddy! You have GOT to see this!" One of the boys again.
"Yeah! It's sooo cool!" Another one of the boys.
"OK, it won't be long." That or something like it is my reply.
Hogwash. Bullshit. Pick your poison.
Even if purpose will find you, you must be ready. Anyway, I believe smaller purposes DO find you, every day. Unfortunately, we do not always recognize them. As for THE purpose, well, I believe you must strip away the dust of this world, then the grime and mildew of your learned biases, and then the cheap veneer of a mask you've come to believe in. Then and only then can you view yourself and come to know yourself in such a way that you can discover the larger path. Afterall, it lies before us all, in some form or fashion. Smaller purposes, life diversions, and so on - all those things will digress the days but should not keep you from traveling the path.
"Daddy! Are you coming?!" One of the boys.
"It's almost dark!" Another one of the boys.
"Just another minute!" Me or someone like me.
After stripping fully, you can better choose how to reapply the veneer, if you apply it at all. You can even become mildew-resistant. You can notice the dust for what it is. Damn it! Lots of beating around those freakin' bushes, but not even a bird in the hand... Answers, I tell you, I want answers! I stand slowly, back sore and showing its age more than I care to admit. The roof is covered in tar paper, roofing felt, call it what you will. The shingles go on tomorrow. In the dusky twilight, the boys' shapes flit beneath the eucalyptus and poplar trees. I climb shakily, tiredly down the ladder.
"Daddy is done!" One of the boys, speaking more truth than he knows.
"Daddy, you should've seen it!" Another one of the boys, speaking more truth than he knows.
They had discovered a maimed but alive rabbit, apparently. They know enough to not approach or try to capture the animals they enncounter out here. They tried to keep it hemmed in, but I took way too long, they inform me. They are excited, wanting to share this with me, wanting me to capture it and try to save it, as I've done for countless birds and frogs and lizards. Six weeks ago, I mowed the lawn and inadvertently maimed a toad badly. The toad was in tall grass and was unable to escape the blades in time. On my next pass of the area, I saw it. It had lost one rear leg and the "hand" on a front leg. The boys love toads, and so they were saddened somewhat. They are realists, though. Afterall, the oldest shot a bluejay with his BB gun a few weeks ago (they are allowed to shoot at bluejays and crows and mean, strange dogs and squirrels only) and the jay did not die. Of course, this attracted the attention of the dog and the cat. The jay had no chance, flopping so enticingly as it was. The oldest asked me to help. I gave him his choices: shoot it again and kill it, or let the animals have at it. He turned and walked away, choosing to leave it to the dog and cat instead of shooting it. It was a lesson, of sorts. Anyway, we recently had dug a hole and put an old kiddie pool in the ground, filling it with rich soil and rocks and moss and plants and flowers. It was the beginning of a living diorama or something, not really sure. Well, we washed the maimed toad and made it a home in the transformed pool. The toad lives still, happy and safe, for now.
So, to assuage their disappointment at losing the rabbit, I grabbed three flashlights and we went searching. For almost forty-five minutes we scoured the forest. We found loads of toads, saw a fox and three deer. We heard an owl, thought we saw bigfoot, and watched two low-flying planes cross to points unknown. The night was perfect for a marshmallow roast, so that's what we did for dinner. Then, we decided to sleep finally in the tent that has been set up in the forest for two weeks. Just us boys. One fell asleep quickly, over-tired from living a life of catch-up to his older brother. Another talked a bit about stars and dinosaurs and their coexistence before drifting to sleep to dream dreams that confound those of us who think we're wiser. The third boy stared at nothing in the darkness, realizing that he had been stripped bare at some point during the evening and that the layer that sheltered his spirit, that enveloped him with perfect comfort was one that had been there all along. Still, it was as fresh as if it were just created. And, in a way, it had been.
It's way cool to be a daddy. I will never, ever forget that.