An Interview With Jim Nollman
But, once in a blue moon, we communicate with the whales in such a meaningful manner that I experience a sense of grace. That’s what communication with nonhumans is really all about. When that communication happens, no matter how subtle it is, whether or not it registers on tape or film, I feel as if I’ve been blessed. It is the greatest blessing of my life, and, in some way, it is the same experience that I see lying at the heart of religion.
All day long we would pick, seeing places we would never have seen had our mission not drawn us out of our daily routines. We filled cottage-cheese containers and old ice-cream buckets and coffee cans, and we poured them into the bigger containers in the back of the red 1965 Volkswagen that we’d all crammed into for the trip. We drank water straight from cold streams. We ate berries by the handful. We studied squirrels and chipmunks. We ran across deer.
For fifteen years I hadn’t seen a mountain lion, and then I’d dreamed of a big cat and seen one within a six-week period. The synchronicity brought my inner and outer worlds together with such force it left me tingling for hours. All day long, I turned over and over in my mind the image of the cat, the memory of my dream, and the resonance between the two. I felt certain that this mountain lion had come to make real the image in the dream, to bring the symbol to life.
“I’m sorry,” I say, finally, and she nods. Neither of us cries. My own two aborted pregnancies come to mind. It was never the right time to bring a child into this world; it was too much responsibility. But Linda has done it, and done it badly, done the unforgivable — damaged her own child. How could you? I think. But then, what mother doesn’t? The only other choices are do it perfectly, or don’t do it at all. And how can you make any choice when you’re not in control of your own life? How can you deal with this awesome female power to create new life among the garbage and broken glass of old mistakes?
She loathed weakness for the simple reason that it prevented one from seizing life’s opportunities. In her case, opportunity consisted of being born with a hundred thousand megawatts of pure drive and determination, and a father who pegged her early along as one of the Divine: a daddy who let her drive a car when she was twelve; a daddy who gave her a twenty-two-room mansion on Riverside Avenue for a wedding present; a daddy who adored her beyond all reason.
My wrist grows warm and creaks, aches like an arthritic’s. My forehead’s pressed against his “treasure trail” — that’s what we called the line of hair on a boy’s stomach in high school; giggling, we watched the shirtless boys run back and forth, chasing a ball. When their bellies began to glisten, we grew quiet, afraid to speak our minds. I’m sweating now, with my head smushed against him. I lick him with my wilted tongue.
Everything is packed in the rented car and we are about to drive off when my mother sucks in her breath and says, “Your father!” She gets out of the car, runs into the house, and returns with the baroque-looking urn that was left out on the dining-room table like airplane tickets so she wouldn’t forget it.