The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Lacuna or wandering through negative space

Rachael Conlin Levy
lacuna /luh-kyoo-nuh/ n., 1. A blank space or a missing part. 2. Small cavity, pit or discontinuity in an anatomical structure.

There is much to say. And little. Since I put down my pen and stopped recording my thoughts, summer has slipped by, minutes ticked off in traffic, at the beach, under the dull skies and mist of Seattle, a cool summer, short on warmth and sunshine that surrendered early to autumn.

When I moved, I packed all I love and now it surrounds me — husband and children, books and pictures — but when I open the door to our house an unfamiliar smell greets me and I’ve yet to learn to avoid the squeaks while walking across the wood floor.

Art by Molly Bang, author of “The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher,” a 1981 Caldecott Honor Book.

A friend sends sagebrush in the mail and I open the bag and inhale the pungent, tangy, dry scent. I pass it to one son and he buries his face in it, breathing, breathing until he blinks back tears and pinches his nose. Oh, he says, I’ve missed this. I say nothing. There is nothing to say. The place I love is not the place I live, and so there is a cavity, a lacuna, in my life. I mislead you if I sound sad, for I’m not, nor am I suffering from a shortage of sun (which, when it shines on Seattle, turns it into a glorious city). No, I’m just acknowledging that for which I yearn, what couldn’t be boxed and loaded into the U-Haul, clear blues and burnished golds, night skies sugared with starlight, and the familiarity between old friends.

“A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass.” — Henry Moore.

The days spent in Seattle have felt like a vacation. I marvel at the mist that soaks me, at the clams that spit and the plankton that sparkle in dark waters. I inhale the forest’s smells of rotting leaves, soft moss and lush ferns. I eagerly climb aboard the bus to lose myself in the city. But I cannot return home. As a stranger, I invite in all that’s foreign, opening the windows of my brain to the morning fog, which smudges the names and places that leave me smarting with loss. This move erased me around the edges and I’ve yet to fill what is missing.

Walls with windows and doors form the house, but the empty space within it is the essence of the house.– Taoist philosopher Lao Tse

One morning I run through damp streets and discover where the world ends. Road and sidewalk meet grass, then fence, then blackberry bush, then cliff, then tree in the woolly tangle of gray that whispers the secrets of salt and gull and the growl of fishing boats. And for a moment I imagine leaping off, tumbling through negative space, that part of the world that lies around and between things, the pause, the gap, or, in Japanese the ma, falling through the muted world until I’m snared by the brambles’ thorns where I’d stay, eating berries and crunching tiny seeds.

7 responses to “Lacuna or wandering through negative space”

  1. Linda says:

    I thought you might be back…welcome.

  2. Heather G says:

    Just wanna say that you left a lacuna here too. Which no other can fill. Now you know how important that little piece of sage that you sent to Madrid was. We kept it on a shelf that we all walked by frequently. I would pick it up and inhale its vapors, then just stop and breathe. Breathe.


    Love you.

  3. Kyna says:

    Glad you're back.

  4. Andrea says:

    Lovely…welcome back.

  5. I thought about this…what you wrote and I imagine it's the same feeling when the children go off to college. Something I'm not ready to face. Glad you're back 🙂

  6. shannon says:

    I have wished for this moment all summer. Your words are like bits of bread crumbs that lead to the lives that I love and miss, they close the gap of many miles. I am oh so happy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe: rss | email | twitter