I don’t know what to do with the immensity of it all. From the rusted derelicts to my stained socks, the murdered and the meek. Where is the soft path through the green? We have the liars and the bluster, the greed and the secrets, the parking lots over paradise. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe we’ll find a way. A way to unbuild, rebuild, destroy what we’ve habitualized and slip more quietly amongst each other. We build and it decays; we live in decay and opulence, between the despaired and those comfortable with disparity. The weeds are tall and grown into the spinach; two hands to tear them from the soil and find the black earth again.
I want to restore, to back order? To put things back in order. The order in wings, in coral, in avalanche and of fire and seed. Scrub, clean. It’s called Mother Earth for a reason, for the birth and rebirth, for the constant cleansing and reordering that life requires, demands. Motherhood is the essence of life.
There is a boulder in the ravine behind the house. It’s about the size of a lemonade stand; it’s a recent addition to the ravine having resided 150 feet up the hill for hundreds of thousands of years prior to the day this past March it lost its moorings. It pulled away from the roots that had grown down between the hillside and it. The shrubbery that grew there now dangles in the hollow of its past life. Just off the bottom of the ravine the boulder blew apart a clump of pinyon pine and mountain mahogany, splintering the small trees into broken arms and legs with the marrow of the bone showing. Between the hollow of its past life and the shattered trees are a series of divots marking the decent of a couple of tons of sandstone. Some bit of freeze, some bit of thaw, some bit of liquefied soil and for a few moments rock came to life. It will be many millions of years before it moves again. I live within eye sight and ear shot of this precipitous moment, yet did it go unnoticed. Would that I could have witnessed the fall. No doubt off busy with my own chosen destruction.
Maybe we are like that boulder. Layered products of the planet flashing into life with a blaze of energy shattering everything in our paths. No more able to alter our course than a boulder pushed down by the strong hand of gravity. The trees will be replaced by others. Water will carry the silts and clays against the boulder, some will find their way around. Life doesn’t much care about the fallen or broken. There was a loud crashing and then it all fell back to silence; did the birds pause in their song?
Does the universe know what it has created? Why should it care? Nothing lives outside the house it built. (Nothing it hasn’t already disowned, disavowed.) All under its roof are bound, almost literally, by its rules; no exceptions. We are like adolescents testing to see what the limits are. We are learning, but still hoping for special dispensation. Nature is unflinching in its discipline. We, barely conscious, feel too privileged for discipline. We want to roll down the hill before our misconceptions are eroded away. Before we’ve sat in the energy that time forgot.
Sandstone knows time. But we are not sandstone, we are frenetic ants, building, queuing up, chasing. We move earth and stone aside to thread a ribbon of fiber optics for our algorithms to blink ahead of our comprehension. We are creating an artificial intelligence daunted only by our natural stupidity. We have become addicted to a pace of change that our politics cannot hope to keep up with. Yet do I hope for salvation there, an algorithm to replace our religion, data that truly transforms. We know so much and so little all at the same time. We love so much, but not enough to set aside our agendas.
But when I pause, I find the world quiet in its natural state. Tonight we walk there, beyond the boulder, my love and I. The sun is sinking into the bookcliffs, the air is pure, crisp and warm. I pause to sit on a clay finger knobbed against the escarpment, resting against a root. Deer eye us suspiciously and move away over the basin’s mid-ridge. They don’t like us. The earth signs into the tranquility of a day well-orchestrated. The birds offer the last comments, the raspy cluck of the crow, the cawing pipe of the magpie, the wooing of the morning dove, and other chirps and trills and rattles of birds that I don’t know. She wants to move on, so I let her go. I watch her red shirt, white hat and long blue jeans walk towards the sinking of the sun. A couple of hundred yards out the sound of her shoes still crunch on dried clay. She disappears where the shadows grow, where the juniper encloses the trail. She’s a trail girl, she will stay with it and by that path find her way back where I will wait in silent rapture. Listening to the silence fringed in bird talk and jet travel. Nothing else but the distant barking of a dog comments on the cool air, the sun streaked mountains and glowing rocks. Mostly the world beyond humans is quiet, without the wind the trees do not speak, the rocks do not whistle. The sun will not set, it hangs on the edge of the cliff waiting for my love to return. She will come soon, she does not care for walks in the dark, alone. A cottontail pauses, in her tracks, when I look again it is gone. Something footfalls in the juniper alcove. I look for her, she does not come. Now the sun is split. Now the morning dove calls to the evening. Behind me I feel the anticipation of the moon. A movement and her white hat flits against the pinyon. A moment later a human bipedals up the trail. We are strange creatures. All vertical. I listen for the moment I can hear her scuffs against the planet. I shift enough to find my butt numb. Now the sun sets and when she is below, I rise and walk the intersect to join her. Cresting the escarpment, she calls my attention to the moon, cupped in the palm of an eastern mountain. Full and levitating.
About the Author:
Dan Becker is a Colorado builder, explorer, occasional poet.