Clear sky, bright sun, high whistles of cedar waxwings gleaning wild grapes from the treetops. With the news of the election swirling in my head I am walking, walking. Last night’s rain pools in the makeshift cups of broad, curled oak leaves that have not yet learned how to lie flat against the ground. The ridgetop gleams with a hundred thousand miniature lakes, each with its separate sun & a plan for evaporation. If there’s anything else to see, I don’t see it. When I get back to the house, my boots are soaked.
Crawling in the dirt under my house to wrap the heating ducts in fiberglass. I wear a face mask against the dust: a hundred and fifty years have passed since rain last fell on this patch of mountaintop soil. I worm my way as far up as I can, bending and twisting into positions I’d never attempt with a lover, hug pipes to stretch ribbons of duct tape around rolls of insulation. Strands of pink fiberglass worry their way through my clothes like porcupine quills, turn my eyes blood red. I’m filthy. I itch all over. When I crawl back out into the cold drizzle, I pull down my face mask and take several deep breaths, then drain my bladder. I get my dad to help me beat the dust from my clothes. Where there’s smoke, they say, there’s fire. I’m not so sure.
A dried stalk of common mullein rattles in the stiff breeze, seeds loose in their pods like teeth in the belly of a rat. This wind leaves nothing alone, scouring the field, roaring on the crest on the ridge. In every direction I can hear new squeaks and moans from snags freshly toppled into the limbs of the living, there to rub and chafe throughout the long winter. Overnight, most of the oaks lost their leaves except for the scattered clumps where squirrels had made their summer nests. Now this fine mesh of branches against the sky, this lovely empty net can’t hold a thing. Right there where the two planets – Jupiter and Venus – had been shining side by side like a cat with mismatched eyes, now there’s only a large dark cloud with a rose-colored belly. It keeps right on going. The sun comes up.