In God’s Hair by Shannon Burns
Things that once seemed unrelated, or opposite, have slid together and overlapped. The world is melting. Existence is weirder. I am weirder.
To read In God’s Hair by Shannon Burns is to peer into a kaleidoscope with real gemstones in tiny, dazzling array. You will feel as though these seventeen meditations on new parenthood, grief, and television were written expressly for you, and that Burns’s prophetic vision is very nearly your own, and that you are a person of great intelligence, empathy, faith, and understanding. 40 pages, handmade, stab-bound. Cover art by Shannon Burns.
There are moments with my son that are so blissful I feel I’ve unlocked a secret level of human experience and the roof will blow off the house and we will be assumed into the vaults of heaven. And at other times I am bone-tired, and to be awake and useful feels like a fight with my body, which seems like simply the wrong tool for the job, and with my mind, which is a slave to fear and grievances. At times I find I am putting the crumb of a tortilla chip into my bedside drawer.
When I remember the hardest times of my life, especially the misery of adolescence, I think, “if only I could’ve known that everything would be okay”—that I would meet my dearest friends, become happier and more beautiful, meet Jacob and live in this house, have this baby. Yet even knowing that, I know, too, that I am in danger of finding myself as many years from now, thinking about this time, these days at home with baby Meesh, and thinking again, “if only I could’ve known that everything would be okay.” Having a baby has made the call to live as if it will be okay both more urgent and harder. A classic combo.
I’ve been watching the now-canceled nighttime soap Revenge while Jacob is at work and Meesh is nursing or sleeping; that is, often. Many developments on Revenge are revealed through text message, and I can never read the text because my glasses prescription is out of date, so I miss a lot of plot points. But what I love about the show is not Emily’s quest for revenge against Victoria, but all the sweeping scenery–the beach and the pools, the parties on the lawn, the boats in the dock, the cavernous lamp-lit bar, and the establishing shot of Emily’s house, which is a pale, glittering stone I rub with my tired mind.
It may sound irreverent to say that the Hamptons remind me of the J.C. Penney catalog, but it is true. Both point to oblivion in a way that forces me to the conclusion that there is no point to life but love. During a brief preppy phase of my childhood, I would often leaf through the J.C. Penney catalog with the intention of fantasizing about my future preppy family and preppy children, Becky and Justin, but the catalog was so overwhelming—the chaos, the fragrance of the flimsy pages—I would always lose the thread and exhaust myself, returning renewed to my real life as a 10-year-old girl with hippie parents whom I loved profoundly. In this same way, I feel that watching Revenge is the first stage of preparing my mind to receive a kinder and simpler design. What the second stage is I don’t yet know but I expect it will also include watching Revenge.