Another week, another picture of fruit on the kitchen table.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m deeply grateful for these small pleasures, the fresh flavor of food grown just outside my door.
This week I’ve been grateful for laughter with my daughter, a soft morning rain, evenings filled with warm light and conversation, and a fair number of other small, vital gifts.
Still, it was a hard one. Again.
Drought-evading plants – non-succulent perennials which restrict their growth activity to periods when moisture is available. Typically, they are drought-deciduous shrubs which go dormant or die back during dry periods.http://landau.faculty.unlv.edu//adaptations.htm#:~:text=Drought%2Devading%20plants%20%E2%80%93%20non%2D,die%20back%20during%20dry%20periods.
The particulars of my personal drought are not important; we all have circumstances that can blanch us brittle, especially now.
Standing in the shower one day this week, water streaming over my body that feels more and more foreign, a land I neither recognize nor feel at ease in, I wondered why I cannot find much interest or joy in things that once provided an abundance of both.
When our lives rest upon hardpan, there’s only a skim of earth, fingertip deep, that we can dig into with our hands. Roots find little purchase in such soil.
There are workarounds for hardpan: tools to break it loose (forks, spades, chisels), amendments that can be added.
Or, we can adapt: Go dormant and accept that we will grow and bloom only when sufficient hydration is available.
These past few weeks, I feel myself becoming sharp and prickly, my words sometimes barbed as a xerophyte’s spines. Deep, quiet anger is a constant, terrible presence threatening to scorch the earth of me.
I share with a friend my intention to shut down, conserve my resources, grow a less pervious skin, and she answers with thoughts about my integrity, a feature she considers defining.
Definition of integrityhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY
2: an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS
Her words wash over me and tears breach the dam of my self-control.
It’s been a structure lacking integrity for weeks, allowing leaks, streams, torrents precipitated by almost nothing–a word, a flash of memory, a stray item happened upon–and it feels like such an extravagant spilling, an excess of fluid that leaves me nothing but parched.
What I would give to feel complete, incorrupt, and sound once again.
I grew on land bordered by tides, water that advanced upon and retreated from rocky beaches. Now, I live next to rivers that run in one direction past sandy banks.
I need water to be the person I think of as me.
How do we survive drought? I don’t really know. Sometimes we don’t.
Last year I planted a small hydrangea tree. It has been a gorgeous thing, full of creamy petals and vibrant, supple leaves. I love the tree, whose only purpose is to be beautiful. This week, after days of relentless heat, I realized its branches were drooping and its leaves were spotting, some turning dry and dropping.
“Nononono,” I whispered to it. “You cannot die.”
I brought out a sprinkler and soaked the bed it grows in, only then noticing how its edges had cracked and pulled away from the pavement bordering it. When did that happen? How did I let it?
We are all connected, my drought contributing to its.
What are the limits of adaptation? I’m thinking that a hydrangea cannot simply mutate into a xerophyte. But what do I know? The cactus was once a rose. Still, I think we’d all agree: A cactus is no longer a rose, which begets the question: What does it mean to survive?
I clip a branch from the hydrangea, and another from a brambly variety of rose that grows in an unruly thicket in the back corner of the yard. I put them in a vase to decorate a table for a birthday dinner. I light candles. I take pleasure in contrasts of line and color. We eat good food and have a nice time. I celebrate that I can still feel such pleasures and experience such times as much as I do the birth of the life we are honoring.
There are many things I don’t know, but I do know this: 73% of the brain and heart is water, and movement is water’s constant. Tides and currents. Evaporation and precipitation. What’s here will go, and what’s gone will come around again, in some form or another, even though we can’t step into the same river twice.