One Word

Texting is like tossing paper airplanes to someone, back and forth, with tiny notes.

My daughter texts me about the usual humdrum of who’s picking up her sister or grocery lists, sometimes bigger issues like financial aid deadlines, but also notes like, Want to know something weird? Well, who wouldn’t?

Some days, nothing. Some days, a veritable JFK International of these flying notes.

The other day, she and her friend shoulder their heavy backpacks and head off to their college classes. I’m at my laptop, working, when a single word comes through: rainbow. Just that.

I type back, Double.

Yes, she returns.

That was all. She was already on her way, having tossed me that sweet missive: see this.

The rainbow stands
In a moment
As if you are here.

– Takahama Kyoshi

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Texting as Mosaic

A lot of my humanly effort goes into writing, or at least trying to improve: can I write more clearly? More eloquently? Can I push deeper, and then even deeper, beneath what I’ve already written and glean yet more?

And then, I meet texting. I have a teenager. I witness this girl text. With considerable patience, she’s shown me the texting ropes. She even texted me when she forgot her lunch, and I most helpfully texted back that no, I wasn’t delivering her lunch in the next ten minutes, and she should mooch off someone else. But I don’t think I texted mooch. It might have appeared as lop or something. Lop off someone else?

Then, last night, I had my first texting “conversation” with my brother. (He would describe my effort as half-assed, sister, I’m quite sure.) In the midst of this electronic bubble back and forth, the house quiet at night with the children sleeping, the wood stove burning and my solitary light burning, we went on and on, although I had spoken on the phone with him the night before, and my late-night work was unfinished. This conversation was like deep sea fishing, pulling up one thing after another from the past. Do you remember this teacher? What was happening in 1987? In these little bits of phrases, I began to see woman in blue and what’s grammar and don’t hate Vermont surface and swim. That day, I had been writing about Chinese poetry and my novel and the seamless stream of language, and before me words appeared, hilarious and poignant and loving, too. Like a broken glass readied for a mosaic. And now I’ll be the mosaic-maker.

… this self-congratulatory belief in my ability to chart my own destiny was patently ridiculous. Worldly things are worldly things; two bad seconds on the highway can take them all away, and sooner or later something’s going to come along that does just that.

Once you have it, this information is unignorable, and it seems to me that you can do one of two things with it. You can decide that life doesn’t make sense, or you can decide that it does.

–– Justin Cronin, “My Daughter and God,” in Best American Essays 2015

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Woodbury Elementary School/Woodbury, Vermont