One thing I love more than just about 6,000,000 other things is to see a family of quail make traffic decisions. I had this pleasure this morning while in Big Sur. First I saw the male of the brood, sticking his little bobbling tuft out through the greenery. "Should we cross this path? And how do we all get there. I know. You go first. Then if it looks like you made it, I'll go. And then the rest of you all wait here for a long time, and then rush one at a time across the path. Pretend that you don't know where you are going or who we are and make sure it looks like someone is chasing you. Then let's do it again."
Pretty much that's how I think humans do everything. Someone makes a choice to try something out, and then the rest of us blunder along until we can meet up and confer. We have to talk about everything for a while, and then when we are ready to give it a go, we try something else.
I don't know what I would do without other people, and pretty much that involves having to live with them. Over and over again I am tested, multiple choice tests, using up many Number 2's. Driving and shopping and teaching all force me right there in the midst of things I often want to run away from, but I have to stay and deal. I have to confer for a long time about what's going on! I have to bitch and moan and cry and laugh, and then I need to open the door and go back into the classroom or the mall or the car.
Being alone, being solitary, is really all well and good, but being with people reminds me of what a friend once told me about gravity. "Souls," she said, "love to be born here on earth. They love gravity, feeling their bodies, all this force, all this resistance."
Being alone is like being without gravity. There's no one to fight but yourself. Of course, many of us put up great battles with ourselves that can last lifetimes or many lifetimes. But you can finally get along with yourself and then go out into traffic and revert back into who you don't want to be. There's real learning out here, in this place called life.
Strangely, writers spend great quantities of time alone, and that can make some strange little clams. It's often romanticized, the chewing on the quill end, the garret, the cigarettes, the bar scene with us slumped over the vodka bottles. When we are alone, we get to figure out things for different characters, but, of course, those characters are all about us. We are our characters. They aren't about other people, really, though most of us borrow. So while it seems we are masters of human nature, we are really only masters (perhaps) of our own reactions and responses. Deep thinkers, maybe. But don't put us in the mall.
There's nothing wrong with being like quail. We learn from each other, and we share the adventure. We find out new things and then get to do it again and again and again.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org