He makes ladders: long, skinny ladders, shorter squatter ones, ladders out of dark wood (teak?) ladders out of blond wood. They lean up against surfaces, on top of bookshelves, in corners. When he first told me about them, I imagined them suspended in air. Immediately I thought of one of my favorite Georgia O'Keefe paintings, "Jacob's Ladder," a ladder suspended in the starry night sky, halfway between earth and heaven, rooted in air.
Soon after we started dating, he gave me one he'd made for me, a long delicate thing, reaching, reaching. It was an expression of faith, a ladder; we will find something to lean it against. One of us will hold it while the other climbs. Or we will take turns holding and climbing. Isn't there an image from the Bible about angels swarming up and down a heavenly ladder?
He doesn't know what the ladders mean, and neither do I. Maybe the climb itself, the journey toward a higher destination, the helix of DNA, a spiral staircase. When I was little, I "saw" a vision of life as a spiral, ever widening out. It was my first--and one of my only spiritual visions. I know these ladders are spiritual, but they are also practical, like him. Made of wood, finely crafted, simple but elegant. Not calling attention to themselves. Utilitarian, except that they are too small for humans to actually climb, so are they ladders for spirits and angels? Cats? All of these things and none of them.
What does music mean? Or a poem? The cat sleeps with us every night now, purring like a motorboat, like a NASCAR driver idling, like a sea whale snoring and sighing. He is compelled, for some reason, to make ladders. For now, they lean up against available surfaces and corners of our house. Someday later, perhaps they will float suspended above our heads, or visit an exhibition hall, where they will be an installation people may walk among and wonder. Someday the meaning of what we've built here may be revealed to us in a dream. It's not important that we understand everything as we go about our daily business. It's important that we build and follow.