A Thousand Lives.
“Ma, you scared a goin’? You scared a goin’ to a new place?”
Her eyes grew thoughtful and soft. “A little,” she said. “Only it ain’t like scared so much. I’m jus’ a settin’ here waitin’. When somepin happens that I got to do somepin, I’ll do it.”
“Ain’t you thinkin’ what’s it gonna be like when we get there? Ain’t you scared it won’t be nice like we thought?”
“No,” she said quickly. “No, I ain’t. You can’t do that. I can’t do that. It’s too much livin’ too many lives. Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one. If I go ahead on all of em, it’s too much. You got to live ahead cause you re so young, but, it’s jus’ the road goin’ by for me. An’ it’s jus’ how soon they gonna wanta eat some more pork bones.” Her face tightened. “That’s all I can do. I can’t do no more. All the rest’d get upset if I done any more’ n that. They all depen’ on me jus’ thinkin’ about that.”
-Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
I marked this passage in the emergency room, full of fear and doubt and hope about a multitude of lives and paths I had never before imagined. Ma is right. It’s too much to bear. Hiking has been a refuge these days; walking the Arroyo, tracing the stream slowly, crawling in and out of thickets, finding shade to sit and listen. A small toad in the grass, dragonflies mating on the water.
The present is just fine.