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  • Margot Singer (bio)

We are packing up the house. The air is pulpy with the smells of cardboard and newsprint, and every room is lined with boxes, flaps fanned open at the top. We pack and pack—eighty boxes already, and so far, with two weeks still to go, we haven’t missed a thing. What do we keep it all for? Books and more books; unused wedding presents and mismatched wine glasses; worn-out stuffed animals and outgrown toys; sheaves of letters; boxes of loose photographs; a landfill of sweaters, shoes, and clothes: the weighty apparatus of four lives. It will take more than two hundred book boxes, dish barrels, mirror boxes, mattress crates, a football field of paper, bubble wrap, and tape to contain it all. We want to contain it. We want to hold it tight.

This morning, it is raining, a passing early storm. Water rustles through the cottonwood leaves, drips in beaded rivulets off the overhang above the porch. A low roll of thunder murmurs in the distance, raindrops pling against the hood vent of the stove. A thick band of cloud has descended over the Wasatch so that it looks as if there are no mountains there at all, as if the house might have lifted off from Salt Lake City and spun itself around while we were sleeping and set us down in the flatlands of the Midwest, which soon will be our home.

There’s no place like home, Dorothy chants, clicking her ruby heels as she recites her dream-dissolving spell. I’ve moved half a dozen times since I first left my parents’ house for college, twenty-five years ago this fall, and sometimes I wonder if there is any place I’ll ever really feel at home. I feel loose-footed on this spinning planet, as displaced as those mountains vanished in the fog. Of course, you don’t have to move physically to leave yourself behind. Something is lost with every tick of the second hand on the clock. [End Page 65]

I sit here now at the kitchen table with my notebook, a mug of coffee warm between my hands, my husband tapping at the computer in the next room, the children still asleep upstairs, and I want to say that I’ll never forget it, this moment—the cloud draped low over the mountains, the drip-drip of spring rain—but even as I write these words, it is gone.

Twice a week in yoga class, I sit cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, trying to turn my gaze inward to the brow point, the sixth chakra anja, the third eye. Opening the third eye, I’ve read, brings insight, self-knowledge, intuitive understanding, the ability to “see” beyond the physical world. I like the idea of clairvoyance, of course, but I find I have a hard time holding my attention on the pulsing universe behind my lids. What is that grainy galaxy, backlit by a reddish glow, sparked with points of white? Is it the inner lining of the eyelid or the residue of refracted light? I’m distracted by the musky smell of incense, by the rustling of my classmates on their mats, by thoughts of the cone and rod cells of the eye, of the pea-shaped pineal gland nestled deep between the hemispheres of the brain. Some say the gland—which regulates the body’s circadian rhythms in response to perceived patterns of darkness and light, and whose cells indeed bear a strong resemblance to optic photoreceptors—is related to the third eye. I try again to focus my closed eyes, turned upward and slightly crossed, on a point somewhere between my brows. I inhale in three short sniffs, then breathe out slowly, noisily, pushing the air against the back of my throat. A black orb wavers briefly in the center of my field of vision, disappears.

“When your mind wanders, bring it back,” the instructor intones. Back where? I try to stay in the moment—with the breath swelling in my lungs, my heart tap-tapping behind my ribs—but suddenly rising before me instead is the sun-rimmed...