Andie and I are cosseted safely and peacefully in our small cottage world, or so it would appear. Our routine is pretty much settled now and presents the illusion of a secure permanence, which belies a menacing atmosphere in these unfolding days and beginnings of an uncertain and ominous New Year.
After a decade of drought we welcomed the advent of wet, luscious, life giving rain. It rains and rains and rains. It hasn’t stopped raining. Our notorious liquefaction California hills are sliding down carrying destruction and mayhem on roads and neighborhoods. Floods and aging infrastructure threaten the very fabric of whole towns and cities. Those least able to withstand such disasters find themselves without their homes and the possessions that objectively and subjectively carry a lifetime of memories. Displaced people join the legions of the chronically homeless, which define the abject failure of the American dream in this new Golden Age of the privileged few.
Still, for now, Andie and I live in the bubble of our precarious security. She still chases bubbles in the rain as they fly down the gully chutes in a rapid of torrents on either side of the road in front of our cottage. She doesn’t notice that the water is eroding the underside of the asphalt and that small chunks are coming loose.
There seems danger in the air, often amorphous, menacing, as if some terrible ghost story is coming true and the reality of an actual disaster is settling down in a blanket of grief. No denial seems to slow or halt the unfolding of what seems like a dark tsunami of change undermining what one always assumed was basic to truth. Dark, cold, wet, late Winter days seem so simpatico with such thoughts.
Worse, is the specter of a dystopian future ruled by a dim-witted savage clown, who seems manifested from some evil cartoon of a cautionary fairy tale. His minions of D-list fascists, seem to relish a vision of America dead to its extraordinary history of vibrant Democratic institutions, the rule of law and its historic rule of civic compassion.
In a seeming parallel of decline my own health is often quite precarious these days and I embrace by necessity the challenges of chronic pain and fatigue. Each day is a new world. But for all that, fear is mitigated by an enormous aptitude for gratitude. During those times when I find myself huddled under blankets in the midday, I find a cuddly Andie licking my head and stretching herself across my chest until she falls asleep. I swear Andie is an incarnated nurse.
I often unload to Andie after we come back from our early morning walks. I make espresso, jam/toast and amble to the back of the house and the study where toast-time unfolds and the familiar comforts of our usual life prevail. I’m not sure Andie understands my narration of concerns about these great issues of the day….toast-time does not allow for expansive abstractions when one must adhere to the traditions of treat concentration.
Further, there are the weekly delights of the human kind, when friends visit, stories are told, concerns about great events expressed, laughter and snarky humor prevail enhancing the loving connections that make bright, simple living. The good news, which Andie observes on a daily basis is that I’m becoming a fair cook, thanks to a hearty blender, a crock-pot, a rice cooker and the will to reinvent every soup ever conceived.
Andie doesn’t get table food, but she does delight in vegetables and salads….particularly spinach and lettuce, provided they are covered in dressing. Her instincts for dumpster diving and road treats goes unabated. Yesterday, she found the better part of a large carrot near a garbage can and trotted it home as a supreme prize find. She ate the whole thing.
Some of her most recent interests, however, are a bit bizarre for my tastes ( pardon the pun ). I kept finding these little dried-up string-like things, now and then on the kitchen floor, the Andie hallway and the foyer tiles. It took me a while to figure out they were dried up earthworms. Brought out in great numbers by the rain, they are seen everywhere. Andie doesn’t eat them, just carries them inside and leaves them. Garden snails were one thing. I could rationalize a touch of sophistication and regale her about Paris days, butter and garlic, but these? I don’t think so.
To look at the garden, particularly on sunny early Spring days, one would easily forget the outside world. The other day in one of those lie-down afternoons around sunset, I looked out the window to see the entire vista filled with white wild plum blossoms glinting with pink and golden light. It was breathtaking! I said, “Let’s go Andie. We must go out.”
Because of all the rain the garden is a jungle of green. Cala lilies are blooming. Pink Camellias are ready to burst, a stray daffodil and a cluster of star-whites give rise to the first stirring of Spring. There are tiny green buds on bushes and trees. Deep in the existential grief that seems so palpable these days, simple joy makes known the tides of change and renewal.