I am one of the howlers: those who, when left alone, whine and howl for the return of they know not what. Piped-in music has been known to help, but only if it is Grand Opera, one kind of howling offsets the other. I have known this about myself for years; but it was not until I watched the tiger at the zoo and realized that it was autistic, that its stripes had become bars and its howling days were over, that I began to take people’s decorations more seriously.

  As a child, I lived with my mother and father on top of a hill, and I kept my eye on the valley. By squinting, I could make the roads, the river, the clumps of forest, fall into a map; by following where the map took me I soon had a fairly clear idea of things, but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up.