things and the natural world

More than one woman has fallen in love with the Berlin Wall. There has been at least one marriage ceremony between a person and the Eiffel Tower. The women communicate with the objects; they love and their love is returned. I don’t like to use the word ‘it’, one woman says, because he is not an inanimate object. He is an archer’s bow.

I know a human magpie. He collects objects from what he calls the natural world. Rocks, stones, twigs, branches, knots, bird’s nests and eggshells and seed pods, gumnuts and ‘haycorns’. When he was three, he brought home a Jacaranda pod, hiding it beneath his bed in a paper bag. When he opened it a month later, it had burst in the bag. Its tiny opaque seeds were released into the air between us and settled in our hair, on the bedspread, the floor, our fingertips. I swept them up and took them outside to let them go in the breeze, holding his hand and my breath as he wept. When he pulls the bath plug, he repeats a ritual from his babyhood: Goodbye Water. I love to play in you and wash in you. See you next time, Water. When he was two, he spent one Autumn afternoon at the park attempting to convince me to put the fallen leaves back on their branches, where they belonged. All recyclable materials are to be checked for their ‘craft’ potential before they hit the bin. Broken toys are loved best and jealously guarded.

I am not concerned. Sometimes, as he falls asleep, he lists the names of the people he knows love him. When he wants attention, he says What’s more important, the news or your child? He is moved to tears by the tears of others. He comforts and seeks comfort.

I am terrified. I can’t put the leaves back on the tree. Tomorrow’s water will be both different and the same as today’s. If I could put his ideas of love and safety and home and forever in a paper bag and hide it beneath his bed, I might be tempted to do it. But very soon, instead, I will have to hold his hand and my breath and let all these tiny, opaque pieces of our future selves free in the wind.

The beginning of my story does not fit with this ending. These women who love these objects have nothing to do with me or my magpie. Only, I needed to start somewhere, and sometimes it is impossible to tell the truth.

We are not objects. We are archers’ bows.

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