Nebraska should be so lucky. Everywhere we’ve been around Dubuque, the world is green and lush. It’s like a joke, almost. A cosmic face-slap.
Today we sat out in the “garden room” and had our drinks while rain fell constantly but hardly made a sound as the great green sea of grass absorbed it like a living sponge. (Back in the woods, one might have heard the plop-plop-plop of big drops falling from the leaves.) I watched it with a wonder never felt in 25 years of living back in Maryland. The terrible high desert of New Mexico that stole my heart has shifted my perspective and I see the life the water brings. It wouldn’t rain like that in Taos without cracking thunder or great wind and later mud of course. It is a crazy, wretched thing.
On the way to visit the alpaca farm we passed by more green fury. All the grass was screaming bright and reaching for the sky. Mowers mowed and farmers sowed. The undulating plains groaned heavy with desire, not so much for corn (I thought) as prairie grasses, wildflowers, and the like. Too bad. And yet the gleaming white farmhouses and red barns were perfect in their way, invasive though they were. I wanted to live in each of them and watch exploding gardens as they grew.
But I have a fatal sickness. A need to grapple with the unimaginable Darkness makes me steal the best of what there is that’s easy and move on. Not long would I look out from my window at the happy cows or someone else’s barn a quarter mile away before I’d feel I’d fallen in between the velvet jaws of normal and go mad. There is no cure for this nor should there be—it’s just the way I am. The decades spent in futile purpose trying to adapt aren’t wasted, though, because they brought me to this point of recognition. It is a huge and monstrous gift.
Next time around I want to be a tree instead of a mistake. Plant me in a corner of the yard and hang a tire from my arm. Cut me down and burn me when the lightning splits my trunk. But that is then (perhaps), and this is now.
“…between the velvet jaws of normal.”
More fine stuff, pal.
So good. I totally understand where you’re coming from, JHF. ‘A tree instead of a mistake’ – almost unbearably poignant.
I particularly like “steal the best of what’s easy and move on” – even if I don’t quite get the meaning or what it has to do with escaping the normal. You say this habit comes out of sickness and darkness, and yet you also call it “a monstrous gift.” Very confusing to a logical guy like me. However, I do get this much: You, like all us forked creatures, have divided feelings and loyaties. The difference between you and us is that you bring your penchant for baroque prose to the conflict. Must be a good feeling. Good you’re not a tree, cause a tree can’t do that.
Oh, John, this is one of those posts of yours that brings tears to my eyes. I cannot fully relate to your angst, being one of those in who fall within the blessed curse of “normal.” I know that is why I will never realize your gift of the written word.
But living now in Portland having grown up in New Mexico, I can relate to your appreciation of lush vegetation while being lost to the “terrible high desert.” I am often torn between these equally seductive climates. I love the refreshing green I can see today as the rain drizzles down my window. But I often long for the way the light burns all the way down in El Norte, with no atmosphere between the sun and those little grains of sand on the arroyo floor.
You’ve connected again. The water, the sponge, the corn vs. the grasses, that’s the Midwest where I live. Can’t decide write now if I want to come back next time as an Eastern White or a Pinyon Pine, maybe an Oak would do, all quite grand, must be my ego again. Well done.