The May my younger daughter was born, rain fell every day, from May 1 to May 31. At the beginning of June, cornfields sprouted shoots of green, and the summer turned sweltering. We are yet in the rainy phase. Everyday, my daughter, now nearly 12, claims the apple tree leaves unfold their leaves noticeably wider. Fragrant blossoms and pollination are imminent. This girl changes, too, on the tender cusp of childhood and adolescence, past the why stage of toddlerhood and wondering at the pieces and people in her life.
The other morning, she asked about a church’s billboard sign: Jesus was a low-wage worker. She asked what Jesus did; I answered he was a carpenter, not a low-wage job in our town. Then what does the sign-writer mean? We wonder, who’s telling this story, anyway? The story of Jesus? The story of our town?
Then we were at her tiny school, the handful of graduating sixth graders wild about their trip to Maine, nearly trembling with excitement. On my way to work, I stopped again at that sign, pondering its existential statement. Rain fell lightly, and I sank my fingers into the church lawn’s soil, glad to see grass for the first time this year, long as my fingers.
….art and ideas come out of the passion and torment of experience; it is impossible to have a real relationship to the first if one’s aim is to be protected from the second.
– James Baldwin