There are April days in Atlanta where the whole of creation seems to have remembered that once it was perfect. A garden. The trees, their young leaves neon green with fresh hope, dance when the wind rushes through them. On days like these, the bright spring days promised in storybooks, I try to breathe in deep with the earth. I swear I can hear it breathing—expand and contract. I can believe that there was once no sin in the world. That it was only good, only pure. I try to remember the truth, which is that goodness is older and stronger than anything else that came after it. But it’s hard to remember sometimes, let alone believe, when I have my phone in my hand and another news alert pops up. This little black box of internet I tote around begins to feel impossibly heavy in my pocket, as if the weight of the world were in it.
I read Greek myths aloud to the children because the ancient Greeks got so much right about humans. Zeus, angry that Prometheus has given mortal men the power of fire and therefore technology, punishes him by creating the first woman: Pandora, whose name means "all-gifts". Zeus tricks Prometheus's brother, Epimetheus, into falling in love with Pandora. Prometheus warns his brother: never trust the gods, nothing good can come from the gods. But Epimetheus forgets his brother's warnings. Zeus gives the happy couple a wedding gift: a beautiful box that Pandora is forbidden to open. They live happily for a long time, until Pandora, left alone one day, is overcome with curiosity and opens the box. Once she opens it, horrible things come rushing out: greed, jealousy, poverty, famine, war, all spill out to plague the earth. She frantically races to close the box, as she finally slams the lid, a small wisp, like a cloud, almost slips out. This is hope, stuck forever just under the lid.
Because I’ve read the same books to each of the three children, the oldest boy, almost a man now, has heard it the most and laughs knowingly when I can’t seem to put down my phone. I say in exasperation, “I carry Pandora’s box around in my pocket.”
I show him the headlines I’m skimming: “Look at this: greed, jealousy, poverty, famine, war.”
“Does that mean funny cat memes represent hope?” he asks, eyes brimming with mirth.
“I mean, I’m hoping the whole sum of human knowledge in our pockets leads to wisdom and instant connection leads to lasting relationships and maybe even peace and understanding, but for now, I guess you're right. Cat memes are the best we got.”
I carry it—Pandora’s box, my iPhone—in my pocket on this perfect April day. It's getting heavier. It's not just the weight of one world, it feels like the weight of many worlds. My phone is putting on weight the way a black hole must: infinitely. I drag it to the pond, which is almost sacrilege. The little pond behind our home is a sacred place for all of us, a center.
We walk to the pond most perfect April afternoons. The wind rustles trees that surround it, then it breathes on the water, the light glances off the wavelets, sparkling and shimmering like the pond is alive and saying hello. The geese are back, raising another clutch of eggs. In the marsh, the turtles lounge on logs until we walk by, then they plop in the water—plop, plop, plop. We sit for a while by the edge of the water. A dragonfly skims by, the first we've seen this year. Little girl, who isn’t so little anymore, commands me, “Look, Mama, I’m making a stick fort. Isn’t this a good stick?”
Looking deep into her eyes, I see the light green of the new leaves on the trees, the dark green of the water reflecting them. The light playing on the water, the wind making it dance. Her eyes are stained glass the color of the pond in April—alive, a glimpse of the way things are supposed to be in the world. Pure, good, irresistibly alive, incredibly green, alight with the command: “Look, see that this is good.”
This stick is good, Mama. Do you see?
My green eyes, alive like the green leaves, twinkling like the light on the water, are good. Do you see?
You, here, with me. We are good. Do you see?
I reach for my phone to take her picture because it’s too astonishing: the green of the world and the green of her eyes.
And really, that is a very fine stick.
I snap the picture with my phone and look at it adoringly, I show it to her, she’s pleased and runs back into the trees to find more good sticks. I pray, even with Pandora’s box in my hand, “Lord, let me see.”