One problem, when it comes to beginnings, is that it is difficult to pick a point of origin when you are dealing with a substance that seems more wave-like than particular, when even if you could separate particles, there would be so many.
But it’s hard to resist trying to identify these points of emergence after the fact and harder to know how and when to jump in. Still, a wish to know and name is innate. Maybe this has something to do with pride, or a misplaced survival instinct. When I was five or six, I hatched a plan for counting raindrops. If I could isolate the amount that fell in a given measure of time before the five or six inches of my face pressed against the window, then I could multiply this number (about 15-20, I supposed) by another number to get the number of drops that fell in the square foot in front of our house in the space of––say, a breath. I measured a complete breath to be about six seconds (inhale: one two three; exhale: one two three). Then I would know what it was that was falling before me in the span of a single breath and then I would know––
Not much, apparently. But I couldn’t help myself. I needed a place to start, some foothold that would allow me to do the climbing that everyone was always talking about, except that what I saw before me was no ladder or stairs, not even a climbing wall. It was glass and falling water and the only response I ever seemed to have when it came to noticing anything, was wide-eyed awe, and it was clear that this wasn’t going to get me anywhere, not by the standards that were quickly becoming apparent. Among the adults, there seemed to be a consensus that expertise was valued above all else, and I seemed to have a natural immunity to it. This was terrifying. If I couldn’t be an expert in anything, at least I could learn to climb, I thought, so that I could manage to pass among the other climbers.
But this experiment failed. I couldn’t hold the drops in my gaze long enough to count them, not even for the space of a breath. And absolutely nothing about this solemn revelation seemed to relieve me of the pressure to find some way to begin.