The statistically average American family, consisting I suppose of motherfather, nemesister, brotherape, each in their separate seedpod of distraction, inhabit a house without a single active verb to keep them warm. They are all learning how to be outcome-oriented. If time weren’t still lurking among the flowerpots in the kitchen window, their lives would become joined in one vast wound, I wrote, standing on the stone bridge over the stream. The sound of water: something I used to think of often when I sat in classrooms waiting for the bell to bring us back to our senses. I always pictured a clearing deep in the forest where a spring welled up, unseen by anyone including myself. Later on, this favorite image symbolizing something like hope gave way to the cry of a night bird – a black-crowned night heron, a wild goose. I gave chase without avail. That cry offered the promise of shade in a land too brightly lit, like dark foliage in a 15th-century illuminated manuscript with hardly any blank space left in the margins. I hadn’t thought about this for many years, until the other night when I stood in the road looking back at my own house. It was all dark except for one window, dimly lit by the glow of the computer monitor – though to anyone who didn’t know this it might have seemed to emanate from the pilot flame on a gas stove, or a florescent nightlight. I stood outside in the darkness wondering what it might be like to have that statistically average family, wife and however many kids, remembering computer-generated images based on averages from hundreds of different, real faces. Male or female, such average features always turn out to possess uncommon beauty.

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