Kassandra spends every afternoon out at the farm, working on her art piece. She brings the day-old pastries from the coffee shop, the ones that would otherwise be tossed, to the dad and kids, and a decaf mocha for the mom. The middle kid, the one who could never get engaged with remote school, spends the hours out there with her.
She could, she knows, do the prep work – the sketching and planning of the piece – in her own studio. It would be easier in a lot of ways. But the middle kid, who prefers to be called River, seems to thrive on the tasks Kassandra assigns, completing them mostly silently, asking a quiet question or two now and then.
“Take the end of this measuring tape as far as it can go, River.” Kassandra holds the metal container as she feels the tape unspool, then tug to a stop. “Okay, now stand there and don’t move – I’m coming to you.” Thus they measure the side of the barn: “We’ve stretched this twelve-foot tape out twice, right?” River nods. “Plus we got thirty more inches. So write down on this paper how many feet that adds up to.” Kassandra points to her planning sketch. They haul a ladder over to measure the vertical. River adds it to their plan.
“Now,” Kassandra muses. “Which way should the spiral go?” She doesn’t intend this as a literal question – there is, after all, no prescribed answer. She’s calling upon her inspiration, the inner guiding voice to tell her which way the universe is spiraling at that moment, and whether she should paint her spiral going the same way, or the opposite, a kind of counterweight, offering balance.
River answers nonetheless. “Counterclockwise.” The quiet voice carries certainty.
“Really? Why?” Kassandra asks, although she immediately knows she will agree. Her artist voice was saying the same thing: this spiral needed to be counterclockwise, going first backward and then forward, mirroring the year of pandemic.
“Because you can’t trust clocks,” River answers. Kassandra bursts out laughing at the deep truth of this simple statement.
“Right you are,” she says.