Intolerable temperatures, the air dripping with humidity, unable to sweat, my body catches fire. My aging mind shuts down.
How to find hope in the ruins, not just personally but all around me in dying leaves rife with holes or chewed to bits in late July, flowers shriveling under a merciless sun. A solitary frog croaks from somewhere inside a garden gone wild. Silver swords create an impenetrable bower protecting toads and frogs from within. The scent of bittersweet butterfly weed draws in flaming orange fritillaries, monarchs, bees, a silvery white butterfly with two spots on her wings. A few spikes of scarlet bee balm burst. Flames erupt, crimson, salmon, lemony lilies and golden nasturtiums seduce with sweet nectar. Hummingbirds hover, chirping madly between these and red mint…my breathing is labored – shallow – my body waterlogged and swollen. Together the dogs and I doze lazily, our bodies aching for relief… a chorus of cicadas sing on, impervious to sweltering heat. A nubbly mole brown toad sits on a damp granite stone, peering in at me with bulging eyes etched in gold… “Be still” he intones. “Patience”.
A horned caterpillar inches its way up the porch window – furry – an ebony stripe on his back, a tail of dragon thorns. An amber orange head carrying four lemony protrusions on his back… Amazing that any living creature moves at all!
We three are rooted to the couch on the porch, opening to the impossible – ever thickening air, heavy like lead. Supine, barely conscious, we wait – suspended animation. The porch is well shaded. I vaguely note the angle of the light spinning gold filaments. It’s late afternoon. The emerald sheen of leafy trees is long gone – faded to dull gray. Oh, the trees barely transpire, too much heat, bug ridden, stress slows them down too. With a third of our insects extinct we have more destructors than ever; not one tree is without its predator. Where are the lady bugs? I hesitate to answer my own question, when I already know its answer. A few more pale ochre leaves drift to the ground without assistance from the slightest breeze. The parched brown grass curls in on itself. Moss loses supple gray green. We are living in the ruins of what was. Extremes rule… Stiffened by so much sitting, I meander into the inferno. Seeding up is nature’s way of dealing with too much heat and not enough water, and I rattle the ripened columbine pods, scattering hope along with black specks, the possibility of new life. Celandine spikes are ready to pop. Where to plant the hazel nuts I collected from the forest edge? I spy my cedar watered by me from a rain barrel. She alone sparkles; her intention to thrive revealed in height and width, her flat needles shining deep green… a seedling only two years ago; she’s become a three-foot tree. Life so tenuous, so precious, seeks only to continue…if only. The tattered remains of a few morning spider webs catch my eye. Just this morning they were spun last night and shimmered laden with crystal dew. Did I imagine it? No. A few drops of precious mineral rich water darken a stone or two. A rumble of thunder, and a torrential downpour sends me scurrying back to the porch to watch silvery sheets creating a lake in the yard – a silvery waterfall that drops the temperature from 85 to 70 degrees in a matter of minutes. And suddenly I am breathing sweet moist air praying for this relief to last until dark and beyond. I throw open each window welcoming in ionized air. Every rain barrel is full to the brim. For this moment in time I am overcome with gratitude as I stand at the window gazing down at a roaring brook, watching the trees lift their leaves and needles to absorb as much rain as they can. Like me, they rejoice.
We are living in the ruins of what was, but for this moment in time life is beginning again.