Outside the box

for Natalie

Outside the box, the imagination grapples with opaque horizons of soil more alive than dead, teeming with earthworms and nematodes, grubs and ground beetles, bacteria that fix nitrogen and other bacteria that take nitrogen apart, root hairs extending into fungal mycelia like fingers into gloves, floating chunks of bedrock, and the condensed and highly polymerized substance known as humin, insoluble in acid and alkali alike and virtually impervious to the methods and instruments employed by the shadowy agents of decay. Right outside the box, the temperature remains a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and six feet above, another kind of uniformity prevails, according to which the grass is continually foiled in its attempts to flower and set seed, despite the inaudible cheering from what the Kabbalah claims may be as many as two angels for every blade.

6 Comments


  1. That’s the most comforting image of an afterlife ever. Thank you.

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  2. “shadowy agents of decay” vs “2 angels for each blade”. I think that would make a great Japanese cartoon epic!. great piece.

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  3. I’ve gotten so tired of the phrase “think outside the box,” at interminable “problem-solving” meetings where nothing is solved and nothing is thought. I’m delighted to have a substitute mental image for this.

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  4. Zhoen – Oddly, I didn’t think of this in terms of the afterlife at all. But that is what it’s about, isin’t it?

    Fred – Thanks; interesting reaction! I haven’t looked at manga in 20 years, but I guess i can sort of see that.

    Rebecca – Cool. Yeah, I associate the phrase with would-be inspirational business writing and other such corporate contexts, too. I gather from Natalie’s enthusiasm, though, that it might not be quite so stale in Britain yet.

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  5. on first read, I thought that the box somehow referred to your little house’s foundation, then read Zhoen’s comment, reread finding fresh profundity…is that a word?

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  6. Profundity is certainly a word, though here I think I was concerned with more literal depths. Natalie had told me to be concrete, and to me, mention of “the box” usually conjures up a coffin. The mention of a mowed lawn should’ve tipped you off that i wasn’t talking about my own place!

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