Last night, I was walking down the steps and I didn’t even bother to not lead with my right foot. I imagine watching me walk down stairs, when I do do it, is like watching a little kid, but larger. One step down, then the left foot joins on the same step, and then the right foot goes down. And so on. I hadn’t really noticed how I’ve just accommodated that quirk. It’s hard even to know if I’d even have a problem with these steps. The adjustment has been made. I take steps like a toddler by nature and it’s only when I stop to think about it that I take them one foot on one step, the other foot on the next.

I’m reading this manuscript, and there’s a quote at the beginning, which I can’t remember right off of the top of my head, but it’s basically about how the past shapes us, whether we know the past or not. I think about that when I drive into work, crossing streets, some of which were paths for migrating animals, then Indian trails, then paths for settlers, then dirt roads, then stagecoach routes, then roads, then highways; dirt, then gravel, then paved.

I walk right foot down the stairs first, for two unrelated reasons. One is that, when I fucked up my ankle in grad school, that’s the ankle I fucked up. That’s the ankle I wore a boot on for weeks. And I did all Wake’s stairs in it. And the second is because of the anxiety, the dizziness, and the sense of already falling even before I’ve stepped. A lot of this has been alleviated by getting all this shit figured out and righted with the rest of my body, but it’s still there, to a smaller extent.

And I have worked around it, sometimes, without realizing it. Like last night, walking down the steps, without even bothering to try to do it right. Without even realizing until the end, that I wasn’t doing it right.


I look out my bedroom window every morning, to see the hill across the street in the early morning light. The lack of leaves on the trees does nothing to disquiet the illusion that the hill is the shoulder of someone, huge, with the next lump to the northeast her hip. The deader the plants on it, somehow the more alive the hill seems. Or at least, the more it looks like a living body.


And when I drive into work every morning, right before nine, all the Metro Water men are getting ready to open the street back up to work. They stretch into their overalls and straighten their hardhats and find the armholes of the reflective vests of their co-workers. They often squint into the sunlight as they wait for the men at either end of D.B. Todd to close the street. And I like to see them, really see them, doing their ordinary thing.


When you’re young, you think, “I want to be special.” And when you get a little older, you start to think, “I just don’t want to not see, really see, all this stuff.”


I don’t think we’re going to have a vegetable garden this year. We may have some vegetables, but not a whole garden devoted to them. I want too much to see the ridiculousness of a whole huge swath of that side of the creek devoted to sunflowers. I just have to figure out how to keep the animals from eating all the seeds before they germinate.


2 thoughts on “Seeing

  1. I broke my femur in a snowmobiling accident when I was in middle school and ever since, I’ll sometimes catch myself doing the same thing – taking stairs one at a time like that – if there’s no railing.

  2. The quote’s from Wendell Berry’s “Pray Without Ceasing”:

    “When I stand in the road…I am standing on the strat of my history that go down through the known past into the unknown: the blacktop rests on state gravel, which rests on county gravel, which rests on the creek rock and cinders laid down by the town when it was still mostly beyond the reach of the county; and under the creek rock and cinders is the dirt track of the town’s beginning, the buffalo trace that was the way we came. You work your way down, or not so much down as within, into the interior of the present, until finally you come to the beginning. And nothing is here that we are beyond the reach of merely because we do not know about it. ”

    Our past is still present, though we’ve unlearned the spirit work that bridges us to our dead.

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