Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One of the stories I tell myself starts with a pangolin and a star-nosed mole who become friends through the walls of their exhibits. Pangolins are nocturnal but the moles, living mostly underground, are active day and night, and over time one mole discovered that it took great pleasure in explaining the daytime to the neighboring pangolin, the differences in sound and temperature and scent, all the nuances that it wouldn't have even thought to notice if it hadn't been asked to describe them. Zoos don't throw many mixers for the animals, so neither of them know that they are in a special exhibit for peculiar-looking creatures, or indeed that each is different from the other, which is the uncommon freedom that comes only from being born in captivity. But then one day there is an earthquake and their exhibits are torn open, and two creatures who have only ever known the dark and the damp step out into the light together.

Sometimes I think about all of the avenues for change, all of the forks in paths I didn't realize were there. All of the lives I'm not living, passed by and glimpsed through windows in the late nights. I never much liked Robert Frost, but I think of his Birches and how he interrupts himself from his reverie with facts before falling back into the story. If one must choose between a real ice storm and a story about a soft summer day, the choice seems obvious. Today my horoscope suggested that if I am wondering where my heart and brain are hiding it might be because they are on the other side of the world, discussing things together. Which makes as much sense as anything else. And it's true that the stories I tell to myself, alone in the late nights, are untouched by the cool chill of facts, which might not be the case down any of the others of those forks.

Truly, one could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

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