To my mother's sun-faded sketchers on the back steps of my childhood home:
My father mows the lawn in the backyard and I spectate from beside you. I sit on steps that have seen many tears, many fights, many of my mother's signature campfires in the pit right off the patio. The pit is turned over, and has been for a few years now. My father wipes sweat from his brow and pushes on, insistent on finishing the job even if it's disgustingly humid outside. He drives the blades over the patio, maneuvering the rusted table and chairs set, a green paint-chipped Christmas tree holder, and the grill my mother and I got him for his birthday years ago.
He lets go of the lawn mower for a brief moment to adjust the table as to better have access to the weeds and grass protruding through the stone plates. I point and laugh at the lawn mower that is now moving on its own toward the pathway leading to the side gate.
"It's running away!" I say.
My dad shakes his head and jokingly blames, "perpetual motion," the phrase for the currently unharnessed motion of bodies which continues indefinitely. As someone who was never very good with science-y things, I do not understand what he means. So, I later put on my invisible lab coat and ask him to indulge my questions.
"You start something and inertia will continue to carry it," my father explains. "It is an avalanche that will never stop. For instance, if life were perpetual motion, you would never die. Perpetual love is a love that never dies. It doesn't exist."
The more realistic version of this is kinetic and potential energy from what I understand. Like perpetual motion, inertia will start something, but it will eventually stop moving. However, there is always potential for it to move again.
When I was younger, my mother would make fun of this commercial with the catch phrase, "A body at rest tends to stay at rest, while a body in motion tends to stay in motion."
You, sun faded sketchers, have been at rest since the summer of 2016. You, weighted by rain and not a body, have no purpose other than to be yet another headstone in the graveyard of things my mother left behind. I wonder what the word is for something that will never move again if not "death."
October 24, 2016 was the day she moved out. She still has not stopped moving away.
As we drive over the bridge into Sayreville on our way to our new, forever home, I look up at the sparse, torn cotton ball clouds in their infinite sky and wonder if things ever really stop, and I think to myself that perpetual motion exists generally. In theory, I will only ever see something for how it is in that moment. The universe and I have a very surface relationship in this way. For example, I recently went to North Carolina and as I saw small trading posts on the sides of the long, winding roads, I thought about how even when I am not here, these will still be here. You can go to New York City and sit in the middle of Times Square and the next day, when you're not there, people will still be walking/running/sprinting/rushing somewhere.
It is in this way that my arts mind interprets perpetual motion. The clouds that I saw while crossing the bridge will never stop floating. The planets that I've been fascinated with since I was a child will never stop turning. Butterflies that I have met will always land on flowers and dance on pockets of air into our hands. People in general will never stop living and dying and moving on to other things, other moments and joys and heartbreaks and illnesses and loves. In theory, love and hate will possess people indefinitely like specters longing to relive hat they've had before.
In theory, moms will stay and continue to nurture the fruit of their garden even if some fruit rots, even if there are too many weeds, even if she thinks the upkeep of her garden is much more work than she initially planned.
I am still trying to convince myself that not all gardeners abandon their plants and move on to live a barren life, that not all mothers leave. My mother's cloud body will follow me forever, but you, sun faded sketchers, are still empty.
"If you can capture and use perpetual motion, you'll be rich!" My father says to me.
"I've always had a fear of becoming like my mother," I think to myself. "Maybe I'll leave the inventing up to her."