A lot of my inventions don’t work out very well, but usually this doesn’t stop me from trying again. The lure of perfection shimmers on the horizon. For example, I dreamed up a way to install window trim that would reduce cold drafts, but it turns out that this severely complicates the process of taking down the shades–to the point of aching arms, hammered thumbs, obscenities and temporary defeat.
So this morning, with the shade half in and half out, I’m thinking about perfection. Is intention enough? Does anything fit the definition for long? Does detaching transform imperfection? Achieving perfection seems both precarious and potentially boring. Some people think God is perfect, but if there’s a God, it’s unlikely she’s boring. Is perfection an end state or a process?
“Both,” God said, slowly materializing near the woodstove. “And hey, did I slip in gradually enough this time?” She was dripping eucalyptus oil into the hot water, trying to calm me down and perhaps, dilute the odor of this morning’s burned toast or maybe the toxic fumes from the varnish I’d applied to an imperfect tabletop last night.
I nodded. “Want some tea?” I asked, my voice tight, embarrassed about the window shades and the black crusts of toast.
“Sure,” she said.
The eucalyptus was stinging my eyes. “You may’ve overdone that essential oil thing,” I said, as I put the tea kettle on the stove.
“Well,” God said. “Essence is hard to calibrate.”
I gave God a glance. “Why do you say things like that?” I asked. “You’re so obscure and elusive.”
“Am not,” God said. It was such an adolescent response I smiled despite myself as I put tea leaves in the boiling water. The scent of spearmint mingled with varnish and eucalyptus. The aroma of burned toast had dissipated, being a more transitory odor.
“So, about perfection,” I said. “Is that what you are? Is it possible? How would you define it?”
God blew across the surface of her tea. “It’s like…well…” She eased back in the rocker, looking thoughtful. “Seeds,” she said finally, glancing out the window. This hit a sore spot. An irregular layer of snow blanketed the garden beautifully, but the last few summers, that damn garden had resisted anything near perfection. Trying to address the problems had only made them worse. Things had gotten ugly. I felt a bit defensive.
God continued, trying a different angle. “Perfection lives inside perception. Perfection is not the thing itself.” But my mood had deteriorated. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I said. “Want some toast?”
“Sure,” God said, sighing. “But no jelly.” I nodded. “And I’ll try not to burn it,” I said in a self-deprecating tone.
“Perfect,” God said with an impish grin. I knew she was joking around, but I felt like burning the toast on purpose.
“Either way, sweetheart,” God said. “I’ll eat it either way.”