Sunday, October 6, 2019

Death all around

Death all around

Dear Ian,

Today I saw a dead grasshopper in our river bed, nested within a ring of dirt piled up by fire ants who were busy harvesting the meat.   His colorful gold, black and orange exoskeleton still intact. I was struck by how organized was their process. The ants always seem to me like a construction crew, but this time, I imagined that they were the team that breaks down sets when a play ends. People are filing out quietly to go home or to dinner, or to kiss their kids goodnight,  and the workers tear down the story; tear down the dream.



 Never mind the ants were feeding themselves and their colony, for a second I overlooked that detail, when in reality I guess it is the most important thing.....Hunger rules everything.

 I have been seeing fire ants in my house again, as I usually do this time of year when other food is scarce and the sun bakes the ground dry. They probably have quite a respectably large colony under my house and are sending expeditions in search of toast crumbs, bits of lettuce and dry dog food. Anything at all that my broom and sponge have missed.

I kill them but I don't like it.

Last month when I was rescuing minnows from the rapidly shrinking puddles in our river, there were fire ants waiting along the edges of the water for death to come. Puddles were almost gone, in fact so shallow that the tiny fish had to lay sideways and gulp for enough water to keep cheating the end. I frantically picked them up by tiny tails or whatever I could grab onto, and flung them into the salvation of my red bucket. I got every one I could see. I checked again and again so that none were left to the ants, and all the while they waited for death because it brought them food.

I can't hate them for that.

Death is all around me lately, Biggun. I was driving home from work Friday night and hit a family of raccoons. I missed the Mom and killed two babies, barely enough time to see the green reflection of my headlights in their tiny eyes. 

I screamed with rage at God for the first time since you died. The first time. I screamed at the pointlessness of random fate that put my wheels there just the perfectly wrong time. I screamed that I had had enough. I told God I could not be haunted anymore by the fucked up thoughts and memories of yet another ridiculous waste of life. I shrieked...."Stop...enough Goddamnit." I ordered God to help me not obsess about the babies all night, just to make me let it go. Let it go.

And He did, and it was OK. That is some small relief.

Death everywhere.....a beautiful cedar elm fell in my back yard, green leaves going dull and wilting all week until Chris and Payden came and acted as my ants and cleared the set. From under my house, the smell of a dead (probably) cat filled the air all day while we worked. I am waiting for the poor thing to decompose before I crawl under my house to put out fire ant bait. Death everywhere lately.

Death everywhere. Friends. Friends of friends. Clients' children, Andi's brother-in-law, a black man in Dallas killed accidentally by a policewoman who is going to jail; Mrs. foxes....grasshoppers and crawfish. Poignant notorious deaths and some so small only my finger on my kitchen counter knows that an ant has died looking for crumbs. Deaths big and deaths small. Deaths that are pointless and deaths that allow others to live. Death so neutral it seems robotic.

Deaths that change the color of things.

And then there is this other death whose humming pulses forever in my veins, my precious boy. It is the death of the most lovely story of my life. Death of a chapter, a memory; a rich and fantastic slice of my time. You were here, and we were sharing wishbones, jack-o-lanterns, advent, and piles of spaghetti. I got to hug you so tight, and feel that hug come back to me; 

When I had you with me for real and true.
For real and for true.
Before death came to break down  the set and end the play.



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