last glass...dusty buckets...parched e-lips...sponge...drip...drop

2003-07-07 - 11:09 a.m.: lava

this is long.

took a long, long trip this weekend, back in time, to the place where i spent time growing up. it is a large, white colonial house with black shutters and secretive windows, creeping vines, a large wooded backyard, a swimming pool rimmed with red-clay stones that toads like to sit & warm themselves on (until they fall in to get fished out by child hands) and exotic, sporadically tended gardens, everywhere. it is, until this coming august, my grandparents' house. but it's not, because we spent the weekend gutting it. tearing apart its insides. stripping it of all its character. finding the pieces of ourselves that we'd left behind, here and there, over the years. now it is a dusty shell.

the dust is what surprised me most, actually. it was everywhere. thick.

friday was spent in the attic with my dad� sorting treasures from junk� throwing the junk out of a narrow window to land with a thud or the sound of breaking glass on the driveway below (preceded by a "clear?" or a "look out!" or "more coming" and postmarked by a "done!")� my mother was like a little girl� sorting through old letters, dolls, bowling trophies, school papers�my grandparents have kept everything� EVERYTHING� there were bags and boxes of rocks, seashells, little bits of glass that little hands had gripped and forgotten. there were rotten ballet shoes. a stamp collection. hockey sticks. hubcaps. goggles. canceled checks. refrigerator magnets. notes.

we filled two double-wide dumpsters.

it was really kind of difficult to see that place so ravaged� so thoroughly disassembled. at least the hands hauling boxes and throwing things into bags were *familiar* hands� it would've been worse if someone else had done it. i think. i didn't see my grandmother cry at all� but she had the look of someone feeling hot and prickly and choked. most of the furniture she had refinished herself. most of the artwork she'd painted. the house was hers in more than just a proprietary sense. she had birthed and mothered it. now she is retiring from teaching and moving with my grandfather to live, permanently, in their summer cottage in the hills� their "doberdom"� they have no close neighbors, there, and i'm worried that she'll grow sad. she talks about painting and learning how to use a jig-saw and tending her wilder gardens and feeding their oversized, pond-swimming goldfish� but a day is a long time to fill with solitude. enough of them lined up could do damage. my grandfather drives tractors and cuts trees and bushes.

he is comfortable speaking to himself.

he has created a system of trails, at this cottage, named after each member of his immediate extended family. my branch of the system is named "julie's jaunt." it is narrow and twisting and wild and unfinished. it dead-ends at a very large oak tree dying of a slow-moving disease� he wants to chop it down, but my grandmother is attached to it� her grandchildren used to climb around on it because the base is wide and low and the branches spread outward in shallow arcs that let you balance-beam your way up until someone yells at you that you've gone too high and must shimmy down. until they reach a compromise on the fate of this tree, my trail ends there. i think i like it that way. it is the kind of trail that will never forget where it came from... what it used to be. left untended, it will immediately get to work filling itself in with weeds, vines and thorns. you have to brush things out of your face to walk it. it's dark green, sky blue and shadow black and glitters with dew and spiderwebs.

you can drink it.

fireworks were shared by my grandfather, my petite cousine dee and myself� we took the jeep to the top of a ridge lined with other vehicles, circling a large land-basin with water in the middle. a lake famous for false sea-monster sightings in 1855. they shot fireworks up toward the middle of the lake... being so high, we managed to view them from above. very cool. but the coolest part was the horizon� fireworks displays in different cities� maybe even different counties� licking the sky like flames from distant volcanoes� the smoke blowing away like ash. i felt so primitive. so new.

the sound echoed in a very strange way, too. the blasts. the cheers from the onlookers on the shoreline� the car alarms awakened by the vibrations� all combining to create this eerie sort of roar from below� eerie and mournful. chaotic. as if the earth was keening. i haven't used that word in years.

in a sort of side note� had a really weird dream that night. (yeah i know.. they're all weird). this one struck me because it was very realistic. i "woke up" in a hotel in new york city. i won't say what i did next, or who i did it with or why (in a dream nothing's for sure), but it was so distracting that i didn't realize until quite a bit later that chaos was happening outside. we looked out the window to see that people were fleeing� running, riding, driving, flipping over�at insane speeds, all in one direction�from a thing we couldn't see or hear. pure panic. i didn't know what it was in my dream� i considered that it might be terrorists, might be king kong or godzilla� might be a tidal wave or hurricane or fire. i remember feeling very calm� wondering what our options were� wondering what to do. i remember him being very scared and holding on tighter than ever before, and feeling confused by but okay with that. thought about hiding in the bathtub / shower. no. decided to hang out on the fire-escape or roof and watch it all happen. if i lived, fine. if not, well� i probably wouldn't anyway, so it's okay. i didn't want to die rushing around or feeling scared or panicked. i wanted to experience it like an event. i felt so much love for everyone and everything. the fear.. the tragedy� was like a drug. so powerful. i woke up. after thinking about it� i decided that the only thing that would really make people act the way they'd acted in my dream was nuclear warfare� some devastating bomb. at least� the only thing that i'm aware of now. and i rethought my strategy for dealing with it. and i still agree. this isn't to say that i'm not scared of nuclear warfare�i'm terrified, particularly considering that my country's leadership is developing plans to EXPAND our weapons of mass destruction programs to enable us to strike anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world. okay. pretend that the u.s. is benign and would never use this technology against anyone pre-emptively. pretend. is anyone willing to bet that this technology will STAY with the united states? that no one else will benefit, militarily, from the billions of dollars of research that we'll be undertaking in the name of peace and liberty? the research that no one else, currently, is likely able to afford?

it just shouldn't be done. we might be the only ones capable of pushing this insanity ahead. why not leave it the fuck alone?


ummm� i figured out that the reason i like western new york is that there is so much evidence of lives-in-progress. in michigan� it seems like everything has to be finished, all the time. like your life is a presentation, that you have to be measured, up to speed at all times. if you want to make changes, they must be small, incremental. there can be no transitional sloppiness.

at least, that's how it seemed this weekend. i think it was just seeing piles of dirt in the process of being moved around� i got an impression of fluctuation. of lava in no hurry to solidify. of people being okay with it.

i think.

and i think that's loooong enough.

(p.s. tell me all your thoughts on...)