After the debris had been lifted and carted away, all that was left of the little yellow house was concrete — an impersonal litter devoid of any indicia of 40 or 50 years of living. I told myself that I would hold dear whatever little sign of life I found. Don’t ask me why.
First, I spied a disk of nylon tulle, scarlet against the grey debris like a splash of fresh blood. How did it survive when so little else did? During one of my trespasses, I’d come upon a pile of these in the basement — leftovers from a baby shower, perhaps? They were the perfect size to load with pastel-colored candies and tie up as a favor.
But mostly, there was rubble. No hemp. No copper. No stray nails. Nothing. When I squatted down near where one of the basement doors had been, however, I found four more things.
There was a hank of black cord, a padlock, and a dead mouse. I used the tulle to pick up the mouse. I would bury it later.
The house triggered thoughts about our predicament. Most of us operate under the shared hallucination that more is better, but developers and corporations do so with a vengeance. The old calculus of cost-benefit analysis (long-term consequences be damned) these days means risking the future of our planet.
The almighty dollar will float like limp lily pads when a super storm floods the new and enlarged basement. Money in the bank won’t slow the storm surge when a torrential, 100-year-storm hits. And, by the way, when will we stop calling storms that happen twice a year, ‘100 year storms’?
The almighty dollar won’t buy our grandchildren a future when water becomes the new oil and Ted Turner’s descendants own the Mississippi. Money will be rendered conspicuously useless in a barter economy. What do stocks and bonds mean to hoards of refugees fleeing drought or civil war? And when the pandemic comes, bleach will be the precious commodity.
Maybe the empty lot, still forlorn and naked in transition, suggests that you won’t want to live in a post-capitalist disaster zone — one bottle of bleach and a beaker being enough, if you catch my meaning.
The empty lot speaks to the break down of bodies, since we too will crumble into anonymous debris. But while the decay of flesh falls within the natural order of things, conspicuous and reckless consumption does not.
New lives will occupy this square of land — lives of sorrow and triumph, pettiness and valor. Will they act as if we can consume and invent our way out of climate change? Or will they be willing to look at hard truths and buckle up? Am I?
And then, I found Jesus in the rubble. A piece of maroon felt about the size of a quarter appeared at my feet. I flipped it over to find Jesus. Half a scapular. This and the dead mouse somehow became emblems of ‘radical hope.’
A crescent moon winked through the branches as I walked home. The air was crisp. With a dead mouse and half a scapular in my pocket, I pulled an airing quilt off the yew in front of my house. After the grey debris and feelings of regret, the colorful patchwork moved my tired and clamped heart. This was yet another emblem, wasn’t it? One of love. One I hope will survive as a minor but meaningful legacy.