He said he loved the simple things, like swimming. So twice a day, he swims.
Today our new friend brought us with him to his ‘secret place’ and indeed it is that, since for all my years here, I did not know of it. But I couldn’t stop thinking of his benign comment, ‘the simple things’. Now they are luxuries most people can only dream about or be scared of.
A naked swim in a warm fresh water lake accessible only by kayak across open sea and a short hike through second growth Douglas Fir and Cedar forest. Silent footfalls on moss, carpeting dry ground. The drought that is pressuring the whole Western Seaboard has indeed made it’s way up to this normally green moist place, rendering it as vulnerable as a tinderbox. There has been a fire ban on this whole island in effect for weeks now, in deference to the extreme dryness.
It would take the most hardened climate change denier to ignore the signs that the natural world offers up to us, here in this place stripped of malls and air conditioning, coffee shops and cute boutiques to distract us. How could we not see!
Last year all the starfish disappeared. Some virus, that the warming ocean did not kill? This year it is this extreme heat and lack of moisture. The fruits are all early by as much as six weeks. People are exulted by the sunshine and equally irritated by the brittleness and thirst of the land. The leaves fall from the deciduous trees in a brave attempt to conserve moisture for their core, to survive.
How long could a forest survive without enough water, we wonder? How long could we survive without the forests?
Just a swim in the utter beauty of a clean water lake in a silent unpeopled place.
A pearl of great price.
I slip into liquid comfort
sink down to nose
as the rain’s rhythm on slate
beats earths heart
a metronome tallying ever
how illusory this flesh and
bone when fluid is what we are
the stuff of tides and currents
do our tears for African
girls raped on the way
to the well, growing
longer every year
fill the arid riverbeds?
while neighborhood kids
shriek and run
soft soles on lush
springy green grasses
through whirling cool
on hot dry summer afternoons
gutters spilling gold into sewers
running down to oceans swelled
by regret, by the bodies of
starfish, the melt of ice caps.
I’m told my grandchildren will fight
water wars as we now fight for oil
will remember as if in a fairy tale
when the turn of a tap could quench
the thirst of a watery body’s yearning
for its own fulfillment, as we now yearn
for god or the beloved to make us whole.
From ‘Of Bone and Breath’. Published by RiverstoneArtsPress. Due November 2015