Monday, November 28, 2016

I Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust

It's dry here.  It hasn't rained since September, and at our house, that rain was a spattering, a brief settling of the reddish dust that sifts over everything as the almost constant wind blows.

Everything is dead, or dying.

The tender herbs are gone.  I watered the basil and catnip for weeks, watching as the heat and wind blasted and withered the leaves, making them bitter.  The thyme went.  The lemon grass, the lemon balm, the tarragon.  I finally gave up on the basil when a weekend unwatered left it exhausted and limp.  It curled up on itself and died.

I tried to transfer the spicy marjoram into the big garden, but it withered away.  The squirrels tore the the mulching hay away, and pawed at the chives, desperate for water.  The last bit of chocolate mint alive in the yard sits in a cup of stagnant water on the patio.  I'm afraid to transfer it into the desert the big garden is.

Only the lavender and Mama Rosemary, depleted, are alive in the herb bed.  I water her and worry at the yellow tips of her leaves.

The big garden has been neglected for a month.  One of the blueberry bushes died.  The other droops, nitrogen-starved and parched.

The raspberry bushes sport crisp-edged leaves.  All but five of the strawberry plants are gone.  I bend the leafless branches of the pomegranate tree, wondering if I'm imagining that it bends as if it were alive.  These plants are half buried in hay, the only thing sheltering the soil.  The last Roma tomato is mulching itself as it collapses into decay.  I can't bring myself to pick a single green or yellow fruit, even when frost threatens. The Thai peppers shriveled on the vine.  Maybe I'll harvest some for seed, I think, but I don't believe myself.

There is no fall garden this year.  The rows that should be silver-green with collards and broccoli and lettuce are little sand dunes, marked with pinecones scalped by the damned squirrels.

The muscadines vines feel like brittle bones under my hands.  They need to be moved, staked, pruned.  I'm afraid sand will spill from the cuts my shears make.

The stinkweed stands like an old man in the midst of the ruin, clinging to its wishes.  It will not let go.

 Everywhere, life is passing.  It goes into dust, covered in dust.  It is just giving up, dead before it hits the ground.  Only the hawthorne blazes like an autumn tree should.  I whisper to it amidst the thorns. "Come back," I murmur, pricking my fingers, an offering to a silent god.  The blood is brighter than the leaves.  

As I edit these pictures, sharpening and sizing, I start to lighten them, turn up the saturation to give them more color, the kind of color for which I'm known.  But that wouldn't be the truth. The truth is, there is little color here.  The truth is, I feel colorless:   muted and quiet and slipping into a dusty sort of despair.

Years ago, Will wrote papers about how inspiration was drying up.  He traced the path from Tintern Abbey to Dover Beach and wound up silent and sad in Eliot's Wasteland.  That's how I feel.

My favorite time of year, which is supposed to be full of gentle, spiced winds and damp, cool mornings that energize me and set me to dreaming, is wearing me down.  I smell the smoke from the mountains burning, and watch the fires of hatred kindling again from one shore to the other and feel as if I am ancient.  I am ancient and trapped in a labyrinth of desiccated brambles, chased by the ghosts of wicked men forcing themselves into the present skin of wicked men.

They say rain is coming.  I stand in the wind and spit dust from my mouth and pray it is enough.

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