|"The Curious Joy of the Flame" Copyright & stuff to me|
Rural America is not very much like suburban America. It has grown like it in speech and in many sexual mores and outlooks, but the society of the small town is generally quite different from the lack of a society found in a suburb or the duress society of an urban core. Land and ownership of major businesses keep the top stratum of a rural town where it is. I could tell hard times had come when the drive from home to work was suddenly a drive through a clear cutting camp.
The SUV's don't disappear, nor the Lexis cars. The trees do, though, as rural towns are land based, and people will believe that the trees on their land can give emergency money during a disaster. In 2010, I saw an entire region sell trees. The perspective of the world got much shorter all of a sudden. I'm no fan of this thinking, but I'm no fan of the pine tree -- which is the most common citizen taken from the soil (Roy Barnes ran for governor of Georgia last time saying that Georgia was the "Saudi Arabia of pine trees"). My opposition, though, is not simply aesthetic.
In North Carolina, the botanical garden is pretty cool. They have all the pwetty flowers, but the real botanical garden is along a series of trails that go miles through the woods and rise in elevation by a couple of hundred feet. Along the way, there are plaques marking out the zones the trail is emulating and illustrating the plants of the state present there. That's how a state botanical garden ought to do it, I think. It was there that I was walking and came to a mature tree fallen over a creek, and it had a plaque.
The botanical garden explained that this mature tree fell over because of run-off. 1. People put in parking lots and roads that do not absorb rain water. 2. The rain water hits local streams in vaster amounts and at greater speeds. 3. This stream, way back in the woods, is fed by those streams running behind subdivisions of houses. 4. The water is running fast and digs out the dirt underneath the tree. 5. A tree that had been growing comfortably for 120 years falls over.
|1999, outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina|
These last few months, I've been grimmer and less operatic in my morbidity. This is because all of the talk of lingering shadows has been closer.
My mother's condition is puzzling. She will not initiate any actions. She will sit or lie and stare, with a mind fully active. She is not vacant, and any conversation with her reveals how vivacious she is, but she won't stand up, won't walk, won't move around anywhere. As for whether or not she is confused, that is a question of which six hour period you speak to her in. One segment is good, and another is bad, and another is acceptable but trending good or bad. This means, for me, that I have to be extraordinarily involved in ways that I had and do and will dread.
Yesterday, a colleague of mine died of liver cancer.
Also, as I was coming home and praying that my car's wheels stayed on, I passed a horrible wreck, where a tan sedan had its top smashed in and torn off sideways. A large -- very large -- tree from the lot the employer had sold was down across the roadway, too. I prayed for the ambulance workers that they have skill and success, and I prayed for those involved, that their lives might be spared.
Two college freshmen had been in that tan car, and the tree had fallen on them as they were going 40 mph or thereabouts. They were both killed at the scene.
Death mocks the young. It turns the sententious old men's voices to cruelty. Those who had said, Think of your future, and Plan for your life after college, are moved from the wise to the vicious, and those who said, Listen to the voice, for you have been called here must choke. The death of young men is vinegar and ash. They die in the high tide of life, when passions are stronger than reason or body, when the heart's truths can't be contained.
The middle aged death is the explosion of worlds. My colleague's wife becomes a widow, which is no thing to marry. The children, below ten years, have to hear echoes of God's purpose and not understand that death is not a judgment, not an evil, not a sentence carried out on this person or that. They have to know that love is undimmed and undiminished by death, and that death can quiet the body, but it cannot remove a father, truly. All changes, and bills mount, and the future looks to have been written in black on black, night in night, because of the jeering interruption of death, which said "No" to plans.
Death to the old is no better, for it sounds the bell. As one friend goes or another, or as one acquaintance or another goes, the generation and all the world a person has known announces that it is passed and that you, you too, belong in that quiet. The constant funerals become death's repeated tattoo: "Isn't it time for you, too?" Then one sits waiting -- fully alert and hoping for a catastrophic blow that will spare the dribbled out life of the thousand indignities.
I am taking a break from talking about suicide and gloom, myself. Instead, let's look over at those fields. The reason the trees are worth keeping is the vast roots. They make a city underneath the surface. They are interlaced fingers of roots clasping hands. When death comes to them, it comes, but it should not be because we took the soil from beneath the roots. It should not be because rain, the life giver, has cut through our breast.