I stare up at, gather attention toward a set of newly mounted tape racks. We’ve been busy with various projects around the house: repairing the AC unit, installing a shelf in Frankie’s closet. Frankie resents the distinction between meum and tuum, a distinction learned via conflicts over toys at the pool. But the pool works its magic: sun shines down, conflicts are forgotten, and baby is happy, happy, happy.
A neighbor with a chainsaw helps me remove a fallen tree. He relays the yard’s history, helps us decipher the boundaries of a garden, one he tended in years past. He’s a contractor. A worker who works with him brought music and, with a wheelbarrow, lent a hand removing the tree. To both the worker and the neighbor, I am thankful. Yellow daffodils sprout around the house and in the yard. I imagine plucking a sprout of onion grass and eating it as seasoning atop a baked potato. This I do.
I move amid the house attending to needs, wishing all well. Light fixtures, sculptures, paintings, artwork: plant the seeds and start doing.
Evenings are when I write. Sarah DJs, gets us dancing to James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. Time to set up stereos and drums. Organize the studio, arrange speakers atop the desk. So I tell myself, past self to future self, mind ranging through the rooms of its memory palace assembling a “to-do” list. That’s where my head goes until I make my way out to the porch — where moths cast shadows and streetlights shine in my eyes. A daddy long legs crawls past as pass cars on the road. Crickets sing in the grass. Dogs bark from a distance on occasion. Traffic eases up come night. With the latter come cooler temperatures, however, so before long I’m back indoors, washing dishes and snacking on sesame sticks.
Sarah looks into how we might remove bats from beneath a section of our attic. They’re endangered and they’re cool to have around, in the sense that they eat thousands of insects per day; but their poop isn’t something we want collecting next to our house. Perhaps we can arrange for them a small bat house. Build them into a workable permaculture. Jonathon Engels is one of many who recommend that we “utilize wildlife.” Create good habitats for frogs, lizards, birds, rabbits, deer, bees, butterflies. Add fertility, spread seeds, create compost. Bats are skillful pest eliminators — pests that could otherwise endanger crops like corn, tomatoes, and beans. Bat guano can then be recycled back into the land as fertilizer. Bats are also pollinators. So let us build or buy a bat box. Mount it on a post in a sunny spot in the yard. The box should perch about thirteen to sixteen feet off the ground. Let us do our best to provide all creatures with homes. Scale up the ladders of the allegory; apply the principle more broadly. In all cases, it means overcoming fear of otherness. Build a culture that uses narrative to occasion imaginative identification with all of nature as kith and kin, while also responding lovingly to difference. Think of this as an alternative to the relationship to Otherness proposed and imagined by Thomas Nagel in his famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”
The new house is magnificent, majestic. I pulled up most of the carpets, I’ve removed much of the padding, I’m in the midst of removing staples and tack boards. A crew will help us sand and refinish the beautiful hardwood floors. Each day we transport boxes and objects as we begin our move. It’s work — we also plan to paint several rooms, plant a garden — but it’s coming along, the whole assembling before our eyes. And we’re working together. Baby gives loud, satisfied sigh.
I set to work reorganizing my office into a sanctum. I handle old books, rearrange them in space. I eye the parts of the space, asking each object that my attention happens upon how it might give me joy. I peek through piles of paper. I pretend to think for a moment in character as a “life coach.” “What do I want with this stuff?” I ask myself while staring at the contents of a tall metal filing cabinet, each hanging folder neatly labeled, organized mostly in accord with topics I studied in grad school. Much of it seems distant and dated: political pamphlets, neighborhood bulletins. Paper-media objects of the past. How much of it is worth holding onto? At the very least, the file cabinet tells a story: eyeing a drawer’s contents, one moves from dissertation chapters and professors’ comments to a final folder (the only one with which I interact anymore) overflowing with bills. That’s why I took to climbing Mystic Mountain. Yet now I’m here, sitting beside a spider on my front stoop at dusk, watching it weave its web. I sit awed by all the little live things, all my kind, beautiful companions, breathing, centering, seeking to do well by all.