Craig Childs - House of Rain
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Field Notebook

October 31, 2009
Dispatch from the East Coast

Newark airport: I picked up someone's lost dog-eared book, stood reading treasure-filled, scribbled notes in margins until TSA apprehended me on the spot. When I pointed out there was an address inside and that it should be returned to its owner (I've lost enough journals to feel this in the pit of my stomach) they told me to put it back where I found it. The book had been placed as bait, for security reasons they said. Nice job. You caught me.

Since then, I seem to have fallen into a well of pestering and shouting security guards and the likes. Taking my two little boys to museums in Washington DC, at least once a day we are abruptly told to stop whatever we are doing. Sitting on boulders beside the Natural History Museum or walking atop a granite pony-wall, we are becoming used to the refrain: "Get down from there!" For security reasons. For decoration. For anything but you applying your full senses. My wife reminds me it's Washington DC, a bureaucratic city, but she, too, tires of the restrictions. She grew up in the woods and knows how important it is to study the expanse of your own limbs, testing the various weights of gravity.

We take refuge in a restaurant riddled with widescreen televisions and as we eat our spring rolls a CNN debate goes on over our heads: should children be allowed outside for more than 30 seconds without sunscreen? What?!? They advise that you consult your pediatrician.

It feels like a form of extinction, a changing of the species. Not long ago, we knew what to do. Our skin told us. We knew how to sleep on the ground. Our feet were accustomed to uneven terrain. We went to what our eye found, lifting a book to see to whom it belonged, touching someone else's life. Now, the city feels like a bubble and I swear I'm trying to breathe through plastic wrap.

I park the stroller, three-year-old asleep, and I sit watching brown and red leaves gather in his lap.

A spider drinks rain off the side of a metal sculpture.

Sometimes it is only for my own species that I truly fear. Even then, I know we are blowing and blustering like all the rest.

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