Monday, July 23, 2012
Wet Postcards and Wasp Stings: Part I
Everything I own is wet.
For starters, every time I decide to do laundry (which I must do frequently because the machine in the barn sort of sludges mud about and spins a whirl or two before deciding--erroneously--that it's finished) the windows of heaven open. This is so reliable that whenever I hear Polly complain that the soil is too dry, I just pop a load in and wait for the storm cloud.
And so today: my sheets, towels, and bathrobe are all strung festively, if a bit damply, around the moldy confines of my cabin while I wait for the rain to stop. I've just got off work, and I go to make myself a spot of dinner (polenta with marinara and apple pancakes for dessert). Suddenly, the drizzle turns to a downpour so violent that the rain sort of hisses and rebounds when it hits the forest's floor and turns into a sort of mist so that you have a disconcerting feeling that you're suddenly underwater. Well, I was distracted by the news and by sizzling pans of polenta, so I turn around too late to save the books and papers on my picnic table from shriveling and turning to goo. I spread them out on my counter which is now the only dry spot in my kitchen as the roof has also started to leak in scalp-tingling drops.
The real tragedy, however, occurs when I go into my cabin to find my shoes and I realize that my sink has backed up, flooding the counter and my floor with muddy drain water. A little rivulet, however, has diverted the main flow away from the floor and into a large cardboard box full of all my valuable papers which are now floating in about eight inches of water. There is something of the tragicomic nothingness and nobility of human existence about a cardboard box full of water and four years of poetry and letters--and then lugging it to the door and tipping it out into the forest bed, hoping the bottom won't fall out.
Is this, I ask the sky, necessary today?
So now all those letters from friends and postcards from my dad from the last four years are all spread out in a several-sheet-thick layer over my picnic table (which I had to mop off to make it reasonably more dry than the sad little refugees I stacked there). I peeled apart photographs, homemade cards came apart in my hands as the glue softened, and the colors of the many self-portraits dad has sent me ran together like a Rorschach test of love sent over continents and time. Photographs hold the ghost prints of news articles and handwriting on their faces; a pink heart my father cut out from construction paper my freshman year melts onto a letter I got last summer.
The transformation certainly better represents the state of memories in my skull--all mixed up and melting into one another--but I had liked that that stuffed envelope had kept them preciously distinct. Well, not any more. In the morning, they'll be permanently wrinkled as well as stained. There's nothing I can do about that.
Nature is none but its own, and it likes to remind me of that fact when I get too rapturous or content. Both attitudes are idolatrous--that is, they try to make what is transcendent controllable by making it small, shaving it down to something manageable. "Things are precious before they are contributory," Fr. Capon reminds me in his superbly delightful book The Supper of the Lamb. "It is false piety that walks through creation looking only for lessons which can be applied somewhere else."
So I let the spider by my door handle stay even though he found a mate and then had little babies which turn up in my bed sheet. I try not to succumb either to aestheticism or convenience in this. My idea is simply that if I lack ill-will toward the beasites, they'll do me the same favor--and usually it works. Infrequently, however, I do wake up with itchy, two-punctured bites on my hand to remind me that our treaty withstanding, they are outside of my control--as is the rain, as are these fragments of my past spread out on my kitchen table. I have to live in the absurd romp of the "unneccessary now," as Fr. Capon calls it.
I'll go grab the mop the now.