Cluck, my three and a half year old, asks, “You need a flashlight to see?”
I respond automatically, “Yes.”
“When you are dead, you need a flashlight to see? When you die Mommy, you will use a flashlight so you can watch me?”
I find a superman flashlight in his covers a few days later. Is it that sleep is a form of death? Or darkness?
He asks about death a lot. Mostly in the car or before bed. He asks how his toys will die, if chewing with his mouth open will make him die.
I take him to see a dead bunny, flattened like a penny left on a railroad track. Flies dart from here to there. Its eye hole is visible, the ball eaten so it is an eye of negative space.
Materials: Sharpie and colored pencil. It took many tries to figure out that drawing light is actually drawing the darkness.
There is a road near my hometown I’ve driven over and over. The old mining and railway roads lace out from it and rejoin later, so if you take the past, you end up in the now anyway. The road feels haunted, though I don’t know if it’s due to the low orange horizon at the hills that funneled good air (i.e., air that tumbled up and over) to the TB sanitorium, or all the lights of lives behind long driveways, or the total conifer-bathed darkness when the sun stops fighting the hill-peaks, or my own ghost – years and years of her leaving and coming back.
Atmospheric illusions have wonderful, spooky names: Spectre of the Brocken, Alpenglow, Belt of Venus, Fata Morgana. Sailors were terrific at watching the world change around them, fearing the lie of light on the ocean, then naming the falsehood – that yet existed – as a god.
My dad taught me to watch the forest for when the light changes. Everything becomes not what it was, and the before shifts into ghosthood.
I snap snap snap photos of the road through the passenger-side window. The photos are streaked with motion blur, the changing of objects our brain won’t let us see when our eyes are moving in rapid saccade. I search the images for ghosts and lies my brain wants to ignore.
Materials: ink, gouache