The gas fireplace kicks on. I lose my train of thought for a moment as I give in to the simple decadent pleasure of its radiant heat. I’m here on this weathered but still solid couch, legs stretched out and butt aching from too many hours of sitting still. My inner scholar voice has spent the day droning on about something that might matter to some person I imagine could at some time sit in front of a gas fireplace like this one and think about the thoughts I am thinking. But I know I would be happier and care more hunkered down on a hunk of granite warmed by the sun doing nothing of the writing kind. My mind drifts to a certain granite outcropping overlooking miles of ponderosa and grand fir, rolling farmland and deep canyons housing rivers named Potlatch and Clearwater. It drifts there in the white space between hard won sentences. I’m alone in this not so granitic vision, but the grandiosity of the world keeps me from feeling lonely. Who am I? I’m a nontraditional woman writing a philosophy thesis.
I’m writing a philosophy thesis while my seven and a half month old baby boy sleeps upstairs. We live in a small house in a small town a few miles from a small mountain ridge made of granite, the ridge that is home to the perch I just visited. The town here 2500 feet below is charming, nothing too garish, the people in it no-nonsense, kind, open to conversation. My neighbor Jane comes to mind. We shared a few moments at the cafe yesterday flipping through a library book on “castles of the world,” baby breath rising and falling against my chest. Meandering topics shifted our gaze to the women’s art strewn along the walls, each piece dedicated to the artist’s favorite artist of the woman kind. The one an homage to Deborah Butterfield was taken down, Jane tells me, but it was good. I make a mental note to look her up. Butterfield. Deborah. She makes horses from driftwood. Beautiful. All from found pieces. And then she casts them in bronze. Fragile found pieces of dead matter rearranged to look like forms of life and then cast in cold metal that could weather another ice age. The permanency of it is comforting. Sort of. Like this time in my life when all the drifting that got me to yesterday’s cafe, to this granite outcropping, to this basement in front of this gas fireplace on this weathered but still solid couch, ephemeral as wood, is realized in one solid mammal’s breath. A son. Teeth emerging, his waking voice finding a dance with his tongue, his postnatal heartbeat still my own. Jane and Me/Baby look forward to next time as we say goodbye a block from the cafe. Three steps later I realize I forgot to ask how her chemo was going. I don’t turn around.
I am lucky. I repeat it as if in gratitude I will be insured against evil. Tomorrow I will join this couch again to thoughts abstract and real and maybe, if I’m lucky again, find the time to wander freely with Jane on a rock before a castle with a bronze horse and lay down thanks for Virginia Woolf. And for the other sex to which I have found one case of unfettered love.