Ironically, not having a ‘real’ garden this year may have saved the lettuce during the heatwave. Tucked into self-watering planters in a shady spot on the deck, the Romaine seems to be surviving the heat, if not the appetite of the resident jolly Greens-Eating Giant.
I took a mental picture of the storm roiling from the Taconics, over the Equinox mountain to the Greens as I drove to the grocery store after work last night. I wanted to remember everything about this moment, this second when the radio announced that all twelve boys and their coach had been rescued from the cave in Thailand.
They weren’t my kids. I’m guessing you’re not reading this from Thailand, so they’re not probably not your kids. But for almost two weeks, they’ve been everyone’s kids, and they’ve caused an amazing phenomenon.
Volunteers from a dozen countries, allies and adversaries worked together toward the rescue effort. Articles detailing thoughts and prayers and efforts winging their way from every habited continent on earth to those kids appeared on liberal sites and conservative news sites.
For two weeks, the entire world was able to agree on one thing, to share a hope that these kids, who somehow belonged to all of us, would be reunited with their families, would be safe, would go on to whatever purpose their lives will hold.
Not too long ago, in this galaxy, I was a Trekkie (and obviously a Star Wars fan too). My guiding political philosophy was based on the prime directive of non-interference. I was the kid Bill Shatner was yelling at to get out of my parents’ basement and make something out of my life.
I didn’t just love Star Trek for the adventures or even the characters. I loved the premise.The very existence of an organization like Starfleet was predicated on a supposition that the human race would eventually evolve enough to make possible the kind of cooperation that would be required for that kind of exploration. It was an optimistic view of the future but also of humanity.
So much of the world is mired in division. The US is divided within itself, as are many of its allies and its adversaries. To follow current events is to invite challenges to the idea that, as a species we would ever cooperate to ensure our own survival, let alone achieve great discoveries outside our atmosphere.
Yet, as I dashed into the supermarket trying to beat the lightning, I overheard a woman asking her friend if she had heard about the rescue and then the man at the meat counter telling a customer, “Isn’t that great?” In the time it took to put milk and cereal and bananas in my cart, those conversations were repeated half a dozen times. They continued echoing when the car radio was turned on again for the drive home. It was as if the world was breathing a single, joyous sigh of relief.
Against my will, I remember what show I was watching when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.
I remember the color of the sky when we first heard about the first plane flying into the World Trade Center.
Two weeks ago, Thai officials despaired of finding the boys in the cave, let alone finding them alive. Then officials despaired of getting them out and then getting them out before they ran out of supplies, so, twelve kids and their coach getting out of the cave was a cause for rejoicing.
But today the almost 7 billion people waiting for the news of a successful rescue found something around which they could unite. We had at least one moment of shared joy. That’s the kind of moment that’s rarely repeated, but, when it does, it’s worth committing to memory. It’s worth remembering that the seemingly impossible actually is possible.
Ironically, the first pile of firewood in the driveway is still a sign spring is still springing. The day-lilies still so brilliantly blooming announce and celebrate summer, but for me, the Black-eyed Susans are the first color of fall.
They open just after the middle of summer and the orangey yellow is a reminder to stop complaining about the heat, but take the time to enjoy it because it won’t last.
The first wave of firewood arrived shortly before the heatwave. Conquering Mt. Cordwood is a family affair, and it has to happen quickly, as more is on the way.
It takes a little over 4 cords of wood to heat our earth-sheltered house. We don’t use any other heating source. Some years we cut more than others, but the Big Guy and I mind paying to have it delivered far less than we minded paying for oil in our old house. We know the woodcutters, and it’s nice to have the bulk of the money coming into the community.
Denial isn’t a river in Egypt. It’s a pitcher of Kool-Aid, and as the heatwave wore on into its fifth day on Thursday, Thing1 and I were sporting faint purple mustaches, reality about to crash through the walls — again.
Heat advisories all week had included warnings for people with chronic illness. The advisories didn’t specify what care the chronically ill should take beyond staying out of the heat. Thing1 and I, however, still mentally had him in the ‘warning doesn’t apply here’ category, and, when Thing2 suggested going to the driving range, I got my keys.
It was 92 degrees by the time we put our money in the honor box in the barn that doubled as a pro shop and plant nursery. Thing2 and I were happy to make contact with the ball. For Thing1, every shot matters. He’ll hit one 200 yard ball for every three his eleven-year-old brother knocks into the ruff. Thursday Thing2 swung his way through half the basket before Thing1 had teed off four times.
“I need to sit down in the shade.” Thing1 grabbed his water and headed down the small hill to the car. He sat on the shady side, hand resting on the open door, sipping and breathing slowly.
“Do you want to go?” I asked, ready to put my foot down and force an exit. Thing1’s illness, however, has kept him indoors most of the summer. I wanted him to enjoy a normal day out.
He shook his head ‘no’, waited a few more minutes, and trudged back up the hill for a few more shots. We quickly realized practice was over for him, and he went back to the car for a minute while Thing2 hit the rest of the bucket. We headed home thinking Thing1 only needed a dip in the Green River and some rest to be better for work the next day.
Friday morning, Thing1 woke up with a fever and a phone call from the hospital telling us that his latest blood test showed his anemia — a side effect of the ongoing six month flare up — was worse. Neither of us was surprised. His lips had no color. His energy level, briefly improved in June, was almost non-existent again. He didn’t work Friday and stayed in bed all Saturday, determined to go to work today.
This morning he woke early and got breakfast. He headed out for his shift, and I took another mental sip of Kool Aid hoping he was over the worst.
<<I’m coming home.>> It was three hours into his four hour shift when the text came. <<If I stay any longer I won’t be able to drive.>>
We texted back and forth, arguing if should be driven. He was already on the way home by the time he managed to text enough teen tone to convince me of his alertness. He spent the rest of the day on the couch, hydrating to control a new fever, once wondering aloud if his body will ever let him out of limbo. Thing2 waited on him, bringing him water while I worked.
When work was done, the Big Guy and I sat on the deck as he grilled burgers for dinner. We talked about the fragility of Thing1’s plans for school in the fall and beyond. The wall of reality was crashing in.
Thing1 used his last bit of energy for the day moving from the couch to the table. He looked at the burgers.
“I’m not really hungry,” he said. “It smells great. I know I need it, I just don’t have have any desire for it.”
Thing2 had spent the day monitoring his brother in an unnatural state of quiet and was bubbling with energy as the Big Guy served the burgers. He waltzed to his seat, a speaker-connected iPad in his hands and a devilish grin on his face. He tapped the screen and a loud fart emanated from the speaker. He tapped again and a Beavis and Butthead laugh echoed into the surrounding forest.
Tap, fart. Tap, goat laugh. Tap bark causing the pets to look in our direction andThing1 to smile and then quietly chuckle.
“All that science and technology for a fart joke,” Thing1 murmured. Then he grinned at me and the Big Guy and reached for a burger. Thing2, never one to let an audience down, serenaded his older brother with more creative fart sounds as he ate until, as happens with all great jokes, the farts grew stale. But the farts and the technology had served a higher purpose.
It’s still early evening. Thing1 is already in bed as I write this. We have a visit to the hospital this week, and I’m pretty sure both of us are no longer drinking the Kool Aid. Thing1 is in the ‘really chronically ill, better heed the warnings category. He’s in the ‘no idea what his plans are past tomorrow category’. We’re off the sugar high of denial, but just because the walls fell in, doesn’t mean we’ve fallen down.
One of my favorite books growing up was Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy which traces the voluntary circumcision of Tashi, an African woman trying to mediate her gender and and cultural identity. Through her physical and emotional recovery in the aftermath of the mutilation, she discovers and reveals to the reader that “resistance is the secret of joy.” I’ve never wanted or been able to forget the story and the beauty of Walker’s writing, but that missive burned itself into my subconscious. It resurfaces in chaotic times, it is guidance.
Since Thing1’s illness intensified this year, my resistance has been finding the right drug, the right strategy to get him well enough to start his adult life. As squeaky gassy sounds from the iPad surround us at the dinner table, however, it becomes clear that resistance is not about finding the solution to every problem. It’s about recognizing that some problems won’t be solved, but life will go on, and, if you’re willing to seize it, joy — however dinner table inappropriate — happens anyway.