I wake and remember the sound of rain. How familiar its splashy percussion, how not.
“Is it raining?” I ask the already dressed partner, incoming for a kiss before he descends to brew coffee, amend contracts. These days the sky withholds. The earth dries. With hurricanes pounding, surging, blowing in from the Gulf, it is perhaps unseemly to complain. With the West ablaze after a near decade of severe drought, what’s my plaint?
The forests in New England are in trouble.
We get the storm forecasts per usual. The usual build up. A sky darkening its announcement for an hour or two, depending. Then the whipping of leaves, the canopy gone frenetic signaling time is near. A certain smell to the air. Finally, the rain. It plops and then pours. Or it plops, then stops. If it does pour, so often now the slants of rain fall only briefly — gone just as one expects to settle in for a long dousing. Its like getting to the brink of orgasm and folding in on oneself, inexplicably, without release. The Middlesex Fells parched. For the first time, I water the line of arbor vitae and the golden chain tree. We lost a pine at the lot line already. Its slow decline was so painful to witness, I was relieved when it finally gave up the ghost. A failed purchase. A failed effort. A failed weather pattern.
So, it’s an honest question, just upon waking this morning, “Is it raining?”
One son moves to the edge of the Pacific on Friday. He can ride his bike this week, but couldn’t last, a particular shame when speeding around Los Angeles on two wheels serves as one, maybe the only, compensation for the confines of Covid. The other son considers becoming a firefighter. Informs himself. How can he want to approach those wicked front lines, those unpredictable, deadly infernos? The Rockies don’t get as much mention as the far West, but Glenwood Canyon fills with smoke and counts as one of twenty current, record-breaking fires in Colorado’s history. Measured by acreage burned. The twenty worst. Burning, right now.
Two years ago we cancelled a reservation to Buena Vista on account of the smoke. The cell towers out. What kind of vacation would that have been? But of course now, two seasons into a pandemic, staring down a third, any flight from home looks exotic. What would a little smoke have been?
No one quite knows how to think about the holidays or the coming winter. Winter in New England, Boston-style — dark at 3:30; lots of shitty slush (as opposed to light bearing snow); the hazards of ice.
I’ll bake cookies anyway, I decide, and mail them West. Of course, I will! But where will I buy the essential pecans, the prime ingredient in Mimi Balls and the elegant Pinwheels when Costco offers the best pricing and I don’t want to go there!
A plan seems necessary. I won’t display the nutcrackers. No. It’ll be a tree and wreath Christmas. No corny gingham, balsam-filled bears on the mantel or Christmas Tree Shop bells hanging from doorknobs. No vintage Santas clustered around the glitter-dusted cardboard villages.
There is some relief in this. Not at the drying woods, the paltry emails and texts in lieu of presence, but in not entertaining. All those ridiculous last minute $90 runs to the grocery store, after already spending $200 — for a single meal! So much finesse at the stove to get all the food to the table warm. And because I’m the one dedicated to the archive but can’t focus on those nights, no more disappointment at the blurry family faces at a table nicely set, if only you could see it.
And then the mess after! The outright refusal to serve company coffee because by then I’m in near collapse and somehow I never quite conveyed to husband that, in addition to bringing up the folding chairs and stocking the liquor cabinet, maybe he could and should handle the coffee.
“Is it raining?” I’m confused. And, weary of disappointment. How debilitating the collection of climate crisis evidence — the golden, fallen arbor vitae fans raked into mounds. The smell of rain-saturated earth infrequent.
The anguish about it all is so pervasive and so multi-directional in source, it’s almost impossible to believe that one nightmare (out of four?) might end in 21 days.
If animated, our scene would feature the rabbit, the giant chicken, or coyote running toward a desired object, circles to depict speeding legs. But then, the perspective would stretch and stretch, its fantastical elongation making the attainment of the goal unlikely, even as our character runs his booty off.
“Is it raining?” The confusion of elements. The upset of order — not just storm patterns and the rules of the Senate (what rules, you ask, bewildered). Not just holidays and traditions undone by disease, children run off, death at everybody’s door, but time itself. A casualty. The distortion of time seems to conspire with the bad guys. “Will it ever be over?” we ask in collective anguish.
“Is it raining?” A delicate, hopeful question. It could just be the wind, after all.
The Native American art book pulled out in honor (not) of Columbus. It opens to a crouching, naked, mask-wearing man. Perhaps one who knew how to embody the other, to seek out animals as sources of wisdom, who understood that our relative place in the Universe is insignificant. Not a top-down-take-what-you-can-colonialism. Rather, a webbing interconnection. Kneeling, praying, donning the mask of Raven, hoping devoutly, perhaps, to channel just a fraction of bird knowledge, a whisper of bird freedom, a glimpse at bird perspective.
Is it EVER going to end? The willingness to rip everyone off. The deceit. The flagrancy of violations, the cheapness of human life. It has recently become too much to bear.
And why? Three weeks is not so long a time. Even if armed Proud Boys storm the polls, the good guy might win (she tells herself). Even if our Toad of an AG has slipped off the national stage, not to recover from Covid, but to plot a coup, the good guy might win. Right? Even if the incompetent judges appointed by His Corrupt Highness uphold voter suppression the good guy really could win, and win big, even if those judges don’t stop at mere voter suppression but feel compelled to go one step further and declare a single ballot drop box for a vast Texan county an act of ‘facilitating the vote.’ Even then.
We want to bow down to the Georgians who waited six, eight, eleven hours to vote — as if it were somehow celebratory when it is tyranny made manifest. But let’s talk about a hypothetical packing of the courts, okay?
Is it ever gonna end? The drumbeat of coarse invective, the rampant lying — lying, by the way, not merely in service of smudging the facts, but dedicated to turning truth inside out (a single drop box facilitates the vote). The demise of institutions, so many in the press taking every piece of red meat tossed their way. It all makes it hard to believe we will ever be free of them, of a minority so vile as to require entire paragraphs to list the sources of their infamy.
If only we could be as the old, wise ones. The ones who came before. To take flight. To thrust one’s body and hollow bones into the sky. To energetically defy gravity and then relax into the thermal currents. To see the world from there.
Oh, what a dream! What a dream!