I want to say the smell of death is just outside my window. I want to say that’s not a metaphor, it’s a real thing, and I think it’s the young robin I thought I’d saved from the cat last week. I want to say I know we’re not supposed to talk about these things, no one wants to hear it, but then again, there it is.
And then I want to say that of course it’s a metaphor, because everything becomes one eventually.
The poppies bloomed a few days late this year, waiting until June to tilt their heads in the breeze. But I sat in my garden and wrote on Memorial Day, the last time I sat long enough to listen to the words constantly crashing through my mind. I wrote about birds and flowers and cats and sky. Trees just gone green and clouds skipping along the horizon, July clouds in May, July temperatures in May, July laziness seeping into my bones.
I watched a turkey vulture floating overhead and thought it was beautiful with bits of gold sun glinting off wide wings, and it was. Beautiful. But a vulture means death, and there that was, too.
I don’t sit like that enough these days, I’m too busy trying to survive. And I know that’s a shame, I know it, but platitudes and dreams don’t pay the bills and the world isn’t waiting for anybody. I think about art and change and the internet and the pool that keeps spreading wider even as the world gets smaller and it feels like we are all just trying to keep our heads above water. Some days I think of that scene in Laura Ingalls’ On the Banks of Plum Creek when the locusts hatch and start walking, marching into the creek right on top of one another until it fills up enough to become a bridge of bodies. And they just keep walking because, of course, they have someplace to be.
I made this garden in my backyard, a place to rest my weary bones, and I don’t sit here enough because I’m too busy walking to a place I’ll never get to. And that’s not angst, it’s reality, and I’m wearing the shoes I paid for. Flip flops with a pebble lodged in the rubber, flip flops I will use to crush the giant ant that dares enter the kitchen when the grandbaby is crawling on the floor. Once, I would have let that ant live, but these days instinct wins every argument.
I remember when I used to go barefoot, all summer long, inside and out. I remember everything and everyone, every loss and every sacrifice, every joy and every smile. I remember this garden thirty years ago when it was nothing but lawn and driveway.
From my chair in the corner I can see the breeze but I cannot feel it. I watch the poppies dance and think, for a second, about getting up to join them.
Some days are just for watching. And listening. And thinking about life. Or death. Or both.
It’s all in there, and my garden (another metaphor) is a mess and my feet are tired, but I am here, these flowers are here, these clouds in the bright blue sky are here, moving across the horizon.