The Ornamental Cabbage Manifesto
I will wear three pairs of underwear to bed, because I like the way that feels. I will wearpants that sag, that are gathered tightly at the ankles, balloon out at the knees, and then cometogether again at the waist in a great big band of elastic. I will sew them myself.
I will meet God. I will grind up on her at a party. The next morning I will realize—that wasGod’s fingertips on my hips, God’s hot breath on my neck hair. I will remember a roughestimate of the circumference of God’s thighs, because I felt them all night against my own,and I will be able to see the precise golden hue of God’s belt buckle. I will notice all of this,and write it down—that God was all up in the club, how her eyes were the color of maplesyrup.
How it was lovely.
I will see God everywhere, and maybe not call it God, but call it beauty, or love. Maybewhat I mean is that I will say “oh, look at that!” over and over and over. My life won’tprovide this for me; I will provide this for my life.
This will be my work—looking, and looking closely, and looking deeply, and lifting up leavesto expose their hairy underbellies, and the miniature orange eggs clinging there. In a similarway I will poke at the carcass of the elk we found on the beach, first with a stick, and thenwith my shoe, and then I will plunge my hands into the hot, maggoted hole where the brainwas, once—my hands holding the emptiness that made decisions about when to cross theriver, and to avoid the hill of grass where the hornets circle, and to lick and lick the mucusoff of the calf just born, hour after hour until the dawn comes, pink and filled with promise.
With my small, sturdy hands I will hold beans, and bend greasy metal wire into the shape ofa bear, and I will know my muscles and be able to talk to them, sing, even, as my mothersings to plants. I will be a disciple of Miss Rumphius, leaving trails of beauty everywhere.And when I say beauty I mean flowers, and poems, and grape-flavored lollipops, and thedress Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Golden Globes, and hairballs covered in snot, andstatues made of driftwood and bags of Doritos.
When I am fifty years old, my hair will be just like hers, a billowing gray cloud thatdisappears in wisps around the edges.
I imagine I might be noticed for my ability to notice, to see details that others miss,to include details that others leave out, to find stories where life seems sparse orbland or tired.
My leg hair will be in a perpetual state of about 10 days post-shave. I will hitch hike. I willgrow more noticeable thumbs. I will love fast and love hard and love often. I will havefriends enough to fill a small garden in the front yard. I will teach others about the magic ofwords. I will grow ornamental cabbages. I will be an expert at growing ornamentalcabbages.
Wherever I am, I will know where north is, because if I know where north is I will be able tofind my way home. Wherever I am, I will know the closest really good swimming hole, theone that is deep and quiet and just secret enough so you can swim topless, but shouldprobably wear your underwear. Wherever I am, I will not forget that I come from the oilysmell of goats, and running out of gas, and listening to beavers slap the paddles of their tailsat the moon.
Where ever I am, I will know that my mother was a general, that she stood 5-2 and wore atrench coach and a long brown braid, and that she drove a school bus, not filled withchildren, but with her life, and that she knew God—she found him one night while she wassitting on the coach eating dried mango—she said it felt like a waterfall of light was emergingfrom the crown of her head, and raining down around her.
I will give thanks to my mother, for knowing how to plant a tree, and how to cut my hair soit looks like a male European soccer player, that she can knit two pairs of mittens at thesame time, on the same two needles, and for always making two birthday cakes, and for threetimes in her life for getting up and walking out. I will find comfort in my mother’s story,that her life has been varied, and full—full of energy, and surprises, and heartaches andregrets and I will know that all that is okay, and good.
I will receive sadness and grief with an open heart, I will let it sear me, cripple me, and sendme falling off of cliffs. I will take too long to recover. I will invite strangers into my houseand they will kill me. I will be driving in the car and will reach to turn up the radio andsuddenly I will be impaled by a tree. I am absolutely certain that I will be making popcornand the oil will catch on fire and I will panic and freeze, and then my house will burn down,me along with it. It’s possible that I will not call my sister for six months, and those monthswill turn into years, and years into pain, and pain into chalk in our mouths. I will die thesedeaths, over and over and over. And over and over again, I will live.