Lately I am thinking of contingency.
Standing in her office, my editor reminded me that writing is a job just as ditch-digging is. The ditch must be dug. Must not also the writing be written?
She is right, of course. The ditch-digger goes to work and digs her ditch; so must the writer go to work and write her pages.
But, I think (my mind swelling with contingencies), must the ditch be dug in all weathers? And are not the graduation of a son/the marriage of another/the departure for six months of the former all grounds for writing’s suspension? What writing wants–I tell myself, I tell her (who is herself a writer and also not present during this rationalization)–what writing wants is level emotional space in which to write. One wants peace and quiet and non-upheaval, all of which (lately) have been difficult to come by.
My parents were here for over a week. They came, along with a beloved aunt, for Thanksgiving, and so for a time we were back to our usual number (+1) in this sweet little house.
We went for walks, we played games, we ate great food, we talked. And around the edges my father removed and stored all our window-screens for the winter. He replaced light switches and repaired a broken lamp and rescued two computer chargers that had been almost too thoroughly chewed by a certain rabbit (I’m not naming names). My mother finished my mending (languishing since time out of mind at the foot of my bed) and did all the laundry and cleaned up the kitchen most days before I could get to it myself.
I did not do any writing, and I do not feel bad about that in the least. Neither–if she knew–would my editor.
Yesterday’s loneliness was contingent on all of this. Emma had gone back to school, Bill was away, and our beloved guests had gone home. The dog, two cats, and offending rabbit, while present, offered little comfort.
I might have gotten some writing done. Indeed, my days’ contents are contingent on the demands of my work–except that yesterday my car needed repair.
And so for a while yesterday morning, my well-being was entirely contingent on the sanity and tow-truck-driving skill of a boy-man named Seth with a ZZ Top beard on his chin and a three-year-old son at home; and our comfort throughout the thirty minute drive depended on our ability to make decent conversation or for me, on the other hand, to stare out the window or immerse myself in my phone.
Everything hinges on everything else. Or, better said, everything hinges on something.
Refrigerator space is contingent on our finishing the leftovers.
A flushing toilet is contingent on good plumbing.
My happiness is contingent on the well-being of a very specific group of others–including my parents, who yesterday and again today are traveling north; and my husband, who yesterday was traveling south; my daughter, who is mere miles away at school; my daughter-in-law, who is gift and delight; and my sons, one of whom is currently residing on a island in the Pacific.
Seth earned his commercial driver’s license because another job fell through and he needed work. Currently, he has a class B license, which allows him to drive vehicles weighing 26,001 pounds or heavier. As we pulled onto the highway, we watched the rear wheels of a tractor trailer smoke, stutter, and come to a stop. He explained that the brakes had locked up, and for a time our conversation was of brakes and how they operate, and I told him that I have a real fear of rear-ending someone, so I always keep a gap between me and the car in front of mine.
He said that a tractor-trailer traveling at full speed requires the length of two football fields and then some to come to a complete stop.
This is true, of course, contingent on the weight of whatever it is the tractor-trailer is hauling.
So much can change so fast.
My mood is often contingent on what I have to do or what I can get done or some strange ratio between the two.
Yesterday my mood was contingent on the departure of my guests, the sudden quiet of my house, and the marks–everywhere–of my parents having been here: the newspaper my dad brought home from McDonald’s. My mother’s Sudoku book. The light coming through all the windows brighter, because my father had removed all the screens.
When they are here, everything I do seems more efficient, because they are so willing to do the difficult or menial things. They leave and the house looks basically the same, but in fact it is much improved.
Yesterday I sat at my kitchen table and noticed, for the first time this fall, pale sunlight irradiating the finest limbs of the maple trees that line my backyard–a beauty contingent on the cold and the leaves having fallen, contingent on the earth’s continued jaunt around the sun.
The last time these trees were bare–sometime in March, I think–we were still five people living in this house. But this change doesn’t make me sad as I once feared it would–and that is contingent on wisdom, for which I am grateful.
My parents left at 8 a.m., only minutes before Emma left for school, and it wasn’t until some time after they’d left that I realized I’d forgotten to wish them a Happy Anniversary. Yesterday was their 52nd.
We make our own decisions, live our own lives, but yesterday I was thinking that so much of my life is contingent on my parents’ commitment to God and to each other, which for them is, in a way, one and the same thing.
They practice what they’ve always told me: that you’ll find only One consistent in a world of contingencies–and that even this One sometimes only seems consistent because you yourself insist on believing he is.
I think sometimes we want him to leave us a note or send a visitation, but he has other ways. He doesn’t always tell us that he Is so much as he spreads scarred hands wide each morning and brings the sun up.
The sunrise contingent on his goodness, and all goodness contingent on him who is Always Good.