My mother used to say, “You trying to dig a hole to China?” And I guess I was.
Every place that I could find a crack of pure earth I’d dig. It was in my mind to
escape this world. I’d pretend I was tunneling out of prison or that I’d break into one
of the rivers underground and float away from here. I thought a way would break
open, and I’d find an entrance to another world and I would enter it free and alone.
Sometimes I see things as they were before this world, in the time of first people. Not just before the building of houses, the filling in of land, the drying up of water, but long ago, before we had canoes and torches and moved through the wet night like earthbound stars, slow and enchanted in our human orbit, knowing our route because, as Ama said, it had always been our route. I see this place from in the beginning when it was an ocean of a world. Even sky was a kind of water. Land not yet created. And then a breeze of air, an alive wind, swept through, searching for something to breathe its life into and all it could do was move the water in waves and tides, and water didn’t stand up, although it spoke.
It was before there were ants that survived the floods by gluing sticks together to make rafts that will float. At first, there was not even a stone. It must have been that a dreaming god, a begetter of some kind, dreamed up something solid and rooted. Then, that first island floated up like limestone from the ocean floor, the way it is now, in this time, and it began to breathe. Soon, green ferns pushed up their first coils from the ground and opened. The frogs emerged from mud and the island in the sea was breathing. The wind breathed through all of this. And all this was before anyone thought of heaven. The time might have been the age of the first trees, tall cypress or the mangrove trees that form land now.
In this watery, foggy world of one color and only the breeze of life, the great anhinga bird with its open, drooping wings, broke through the watery sky world with its beak, broke it like the shell of an egg. It, the sun bird, they call it, sat in light and draped its wings, and these wings, Ama said, called down the sun. And that first