In the Autumn of my Years
September 5, 2013 § 1 Comment
I lay on the grass last night, looking at the big stars in the midnight blue sky. There were tatters of clouds barely visible, slung between the stars like fishing nets. I’d been reading about Climate Change and felt intensely grateful for the still-sweet and welcoming earth. One of the things I came to Wyoming for—that opening out of the senses that only happens to me in nature—was right there, tapping me on the shoulder. Just stop thinking. So I did.
This used to come so easily—the profound peace that attends an intense awareness of beauty—that it woke a lot of questions about the universe, life, meaning and so on. Now it comes rarely and I have no questions. I’m a body, breathing. Just for now. Not for later and memory is a story with an unreliable narrator.
Why don’t I spend more time on my back in the grass at night, out where a person can see stars? A mosquito came and whined in my ear. I went inside.
Novels are so finicky. They don’t want to be changed too fast or too much. They’re like children, impatient for pleasure, distrustful of the unknown. They want their own beds and more chocolate.
“You’re not alive,” I whisper to my novel. “You’re just a heap of words, which represent ideas or sounds or a gestalt of meaning, depending on who you ask. You have no soul.” And then my novel transforms itself with cruel witchery into a beautiful woman who shows me the infinity of her possibilities: a million lives, cities, men, powers.
My parents come from a place where all the houses stop
at one story
for the heat. Where every porch—front
and back—simmers in black screens that sieve
mosquitoes from our blood. Where everyone knows
there’s only one kind of tea:
served sweet. The first time my father
introduced my mother to his parents,
his mother made my mother change
the bed sheets in the guest room. She’d believed it
a gesture of intimacy. My grandmother
saved lavender hotel soaps and lotions
to wrap and mail as gifts at Christmas. My grandfather
once shot the head off a rattlesnake
in the gravel driveway of the house he built
in Greenwood. He gave the dry rattle to my mother
the same week I was born, saying, Why don’t you
make something out of it.