Can’t tell if this is a rant or a lament. That may be evidence that I badly need to get out of the house and go camping or it may signal something about this extraordinary age. Probably both.
That’s when I got the idea about sleeping out in the forest: pine needle pillow; pricks of stars visible through the jagged, vertical pines; shadows. Hoots and cricks, some scary, some soothing but all better than the eternal thrum of the AC system and its chill result. What are we? Slabs of meat in the walk-in cooler waiting for the sous chef to grab and fry? The heat knows no bounds. Or at least, previous bounds exceeded. 90, 91, 95, 97. Even the dog gets tired after a block.
I drape my bra on the back of my chair — convention set aside. Where am I going anyway? I can speak to a neighbor at the lot line with my arms across my chest.
The deck at night offers no alternative because of all the AC generators littering yards nearby, thrumming into action at regular intervals. Plus traffic two blocks over. You don’t hear traffic in the daylight because of all the suburban sounds of improvement and maintenance — yawing, sawing, polishing, blowing, hammering, trimming, and trucks, trucks, trucks.
The place of my birth always lies to the north or west. Where I write in community in August quite nearly on top of my birth town and so the geography speaks to home as little else can. When no single school, no single neighborhood, not one state, even, claims your history, let the rolling hills and the clinging mists at dawn speak to home. Those hills. Old, old mountains. Not the majesty of young upstarts like the Rockies, but the soothing ancient rolls of tree-covered dirt and stone. That’s where I’d like to sleep.
After a long solitary walk away from the conference center’s line of Adirondack chairs. A creeping fear of bears. A constant look-out for the bite of a tick. Scraping through damp grasses until shadow and branch take over. What happened to our primitive selves — the musculature of the hunt, the wary nervous systems of vigilance?
We’ve been scrambled. First by too many interior hours, then by a wicked remove from food sources and now by the glowing blue light of our devices. How many sleepless nights do I succumb to the news feed — holding the phone above my head, working my arm a little, my thumb a lot, knowing the whole while that I’m entering an insomniac’s hell — a damnation so complete that it might keep me awake until the early doves start calling out to each other and the passerines twitter with their timeless chatter. If the eyes manage to close at three, the continued scroll under the eyelids represents a modern form of torture — not just for the delivery system with its pituitary-disturbing glare, but because of the tsunami of terrifying content.
We are fourteen Reichstag fires into the creation of a fascist state. We are frogs, boiled, boiled, boiled. We are pretend pundits, all, twittering our outrage in fear and pretend hope that something, ANYTHING, we do might forestall the total collapse of the Republic.
How much, then, I might prefer the clicking rattle of a venomous snake or the crackling approach of a large mammal to lying in bed in the glare of news. Dying riddled with poison or after being mauled by a bear, alone and in pain, somehow more right than the accretion of damage to our nervous systems wrought by today and tomorrow’s political fuckery, which of course is not merely political, but personal. DID 1970’S RADICAL FEMINISM TEACH US NOTHING?
So okay, those circles of advocacy were hideously, egregiously white, but now here we are all, arms extended to any and all who would prefer liberty, or let’s say “so-so democracy,” to kleptocracy, hoping to grab each other and sing, not unlike the yellow-shirted moms in Portland trying to protect protesters with their bodies, which is what good moms have always done — tried to protect their young with their bodies. Look how they turn the BLM chant into a lullaby — “hands up, please don’t shoot” — knowing how the nasty, cameo-clad soldiers must not be angered and really, must be soothed.
I’ll sue, you’ll sue, the AG’ll sue, the ACLU will sue — but the delays and the chances of meeting a radical, unqualified right winger on the bench grow by the minute. We’re frogs. We’re boiled. Our organs are near to exploding.
Let me walk, therefore, barefoot on rocks still warm with summer sun and risk disturbing a rattlesnake. Let me enter the deep, cool shade of the forest and lie down there as the sky inks black. Let me be surrounded by the old sounds, even if bringing ancient fear with them. Let me lay my head in the bracken ferns, aware that I crush a few fronds for my comfort, but prepared to do so to save my soul.
- Collage above made sometime between Zimmerman’s acquittal and Michael Brown’s death.