I dug up everything I could find, held it up to the light, saw how delicate and sharp it was. I read an essay called “On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic,” where the words were large and unfamiliar. Language, it said, creates truth. We craft knowledge as we speak. And truth, I saw, was as fragile as words, and when your very language has been nourished on the prophecies of scripture, it’s difficult to disentangle your beliefs from the everyday nouns and verbs of your native tongue. Especially when the language is as seductive as it often is in scripture. For now we see through a glass, darkly, Paul said. Yes, for some prophets are designed for low lights and mirrors.
As the great war comes to a standstill, the Philistines decide to send out Goliath, the warrior-giant. Goliath, tall as a telephone pole, his size 20 feet slamming the ground as he makes his way to the front of the field, challenges the Israelites to send a man to fight him. He raises his sword to the sky, its point slicing open a passing cloud, and bellows out his dare twice a day for forty days. Finally, someone accepts the giant’s challenge: David, the beloved, braver than King Saul who sits shaking in his tent; David, too small to fit into the king’s armor, too young to even be a warrior in the first place. He steps onto the battlefield, wearing nothing but a pure white toga, carrying nothing but five small stones. David faces Goliath and gallantly proclaims his faith in God. In turn, Goliath promises to crush David’s body like a cornflake. David shrugs, and stretches a stone back into his trusty slingshot as though he were nothing more than a little boy taking aim at a sparrow.
The circumference of a trash can’s mouth is eternal. Mathematics is deceiving: when we were barely girls, they taught us division, that 24 divided by 5 is 4 remainder 4. As though everything could be so economic and all divisions could have surpluses. At a museum they showed us wing-tipped spears and fingernail-moon knives and how Native Americans used every part of the bison, gall bladders and eyeballs all. We gaped at the plastic bovine and imagined its pious intestines.
The gorge was deep in its summer brooding, the rocks hot and the river warm, the sugar maples and pin oaks heavy with green. I wanted to think of it as a sultry summer heat, but in reality it was just muggy, the weight of the season clinging to our bodies like a sweat-drenched T-shirt. The nights were cool though, and we slept uncovered in a log cabin as moonbeams washed over our bare skin. It was unusual, for us, to sleep without clothes, without layers of cloth or blanket. But there was something about being so close to nature, something about the rocks of the gorge that shot out of the earth and the river with its primal rush that made us shed what lay between us.