I pivot the tiny screen on its hinges and almost slam it away in the ceiling of the minivan. “Don’t even ask,” I tell them, “we’re keeping our eyes on the real world today.”
I’m lecturing by now, a woman with a diatribe, “There’s so much beauty around us….” A song is running through my head. I think of the lyrics I’ve accidentally quoted: “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see but everywhere I go I’m looking.”
I’ve communed with God through those words and ones like them, plain-speaking words that roll out of my mouth a decade and a half after the artist up and went to heaven in a chariot. I want to be looking. I want us to be looking.
I pull the lever to reverse out of the driveway. Our wheels are rolling and my firstborn blurts it out: “The world is beautiful even though it’s broken.”
I am stunned for a moment. I expected to be arguing with him about the little silver screen. I am quiet, nodding at him, my foot on the brake. My eyes go blurry before I focus and take a mental picture to pack away as a keepsake.
We drive out of our little town and take the scenic route through the farmland on our way to the doctor’s office in suburbia. The kids are quiet, not even asking for the radio. They are looking.
I roll down the windows as I turn onto the road that traces the edge of a river. An old white barn gives way to gravity and lets the shingles sink low. Splintered cornstalks shake like tambourines in the breeze. A gnarled wire fence crouches in prairie grass. One, two, three, four and more. We count the spiraled haystacks.
And then we see it. On top of the haystack nearest to us, just past the claws of the fence, two eyes stare us down. I look in my rearview, press my brake and click on the flashers. The kids hold their awe to a whisper. The engine idles at a low hum.
The fine-feathered fellow stays still, not paused on a screen, but steady, fixed in real time. Right there on the river road, at these exact coordinates on real earth, I study him with out even the glare of a window to cloud the view.
Strapping chest dappled white and brown. Ochre beak tipped in fashionable gray. Batik print detailed on brawny wings. Football player neck. He eyeballs us from his perch, the self-assured bird.
There in all that brokenness sits bold-faced beauty, and each of us with just our two eyes to see.