This morning, I awoke early to cool breeze and clouds. Took my mutt for a quick walk, threading through the quiet side streets solidly staked down by old wrought iron and filigreed brown stone. One tree pressed up a full six inches past the sidewalk, its rootwork bulging through the four corners some planners allotted it long ago, when its tiny frame still held only the potential to become a tree.
Telltale whips of cold wind announced the arrival of rain, the skies suddenly evacuating more water than it seemed possible they could contain. Vincent and I ducked into my car in the back lot, so beyond-belief lucky to have this unimaginable luxury. We tootled down to an almost-out-of-walking-distance coffee shop, retrieving a strong coffee for my hardworking house guest, and a decaf for me–my body having finally said no to caffeine this year. It was a long, and satisfying, love.
This year, I have seen the body of my beloved companion—which I remember so well as the shiny, fat, black-brown sausage of puppyhood—whittled down closer to his skeleton, shocking me with the edges he has always contained. Tiny licks of white dot his beautiful dark coat. He sighs, heavy with contentment. But I notice how seldom he wants to chase the ball, or the stick, or play with other dogs of any age. He is more circumspect, analyzing his situation for some time before choosing to act. None of the young dog’s heedless, joyful catapult into the world. Still, he enjoys his walk.
My own body, too, shocks me, though I’ve always known–haven’t I?–what living in the world does to the human form. The sturdy joints I have relied on for everything begin to complain, lightly–they must be tired of having to serve so many needs, so much work and use. My body becomes miserly, hoarding its reserves of water to serve heart and lungs rather than every inch of skin–then carelessly dumping out all that precious hydration in sweat the moment I emerge into the sun, which seems to pierce the sky like a blade…
Last summer when I visited proud and beautiful Finland, my hosts and I stood in their lovely yard, surveying the fairy-tale-like purity of the land around us. Ilkka, a brawny Finn who cooked for us every night, looked at me evenly and spoke for the first time what I had felt deep in my brain for a while: “I feel the sun getting hotter.”
The gods will hurl their thunderbolts, but slowly– as one unbroken beam, shining down with life-giving and life-altering force, just a little more every day.
I don’t know how to live in the world as it’s burning. And I am burning too. It’s all just happening too slowly, somehow, to actually do anything about.