Sunday, June 18, 2006


I grew up believing that everyone has a gift. Too much religion or too many Disney movies, maybe, but there it is. Everyone has a gift, and you just have to find yours. And for years, I felt more and more desperate: What's my friggin' gift? I can't figure it out. I'm not really great at anything. Oh, I'm smart enough, and I can do lots of things well enough to be going on with, but I'm not particularly talented in any one way. It's been this sort of gnawing worry. What if I can't figure it out? What if I can't find it? What if I waste my whole life and never ever do the one thing I was put on earth to do?

For a while, when we were first married, we had this dog. And I used to take her for walks after dinner, and in the winter that meant after dark. Which was okay, because she was a big friggin' dog and part wolf (yeah, I know), and who was going to mess with me with that dog on the leash?

Anyway. I'd take her for walks and it was frosty and dark and we lived in the older part of town then. And I used to love looking in the windows of the houses we passed. Not in a creepy way, of course; just looking in as we passed if the curtains were open. There was a man who made violins, and his workroom was on the street and everytime we walked by I felt like the whole world was in the right place. Just seeing that house, that room, and that man carving out the curve of a handle, the half-finished was like seeing everyone in the world, all at once.

When I was younger, I played a different version of this game; whenever we'd drive home at night I'd look out at all the lights we'd pass and try to imagine all the people living in those houses, working late in those buildings. Sometimes, now, this is the way I pass the time when I'm stuck in line. This woman in front of me, this man behind me. I look at my children, and I see a line running ahead through years and years, and back through years and years, and across the entire Earth. Why do we think we're all so alone out here?

This strange idea has been forming in my head for the past several months. What if my purpose, this thing I'm supposed to do, is just that? See. Just look, and look, and really, truly see.