“All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood.”
Rainier Maria Rilke
The seasons fold into one another like origami. Several days of hard frost caused my tomatoes to droop with dismay. As if on cue, east winds set the maples ablaze with fall color. Then a front of marine air, spring-like, collided with the desert breezes and snow dusted the valley.
I and the other wildlife go about our autumn rituals. Squirrels scamper along the fringe of the forest. Their cheeks bulge with food for winter. I pull cartloads of dead plants from my gardens while grosbeaks mob the elderberry. Other small birds twitter as they feast on the gone to seed flowers. I drain and roll my irrigation hoses; then I board up the crawl space beneath the house.
Toiling in one of my garden plots, I unearth remnants of my boys’ imaginative childhood. Toy soldiers and metal cars routinely appear when I work this piece of ground. Years ago, I’d dug a hole and filled the area with pavers’ sand, atop which I built a small shelter. A ladder led to an eight-foot high platform. It was topped with a sheet metal roof that clattered in the Oregon rain. A thick-knotted rope hung from the roof beam and descended through a hole in the floor to the sandbox below. Here, my sons played until adventures on their bikes led them far from their home and innocence.
Against this backdrop of domestic familiarity and memories, I ponder on the finiteness of life. Everyone with cancer peers into the unknown of mortality, much like a child looks frighteningly into the world of adults. The territory of my contemplation is as magical as any child’s daydream. It’s scary… and thrilling. There are monsters with horns and big teeth. They howl and bark. A terminal illness steals from us the comfortable blanket of adulthood. We can no longer stroke its silky border of oblivion for security. Suddenly, we are awkward and self conscious as adolescents; our hair falls out, our GI tract turns somersaults, or worse, freezes solid. Our body is not to be trusted. We sulk and just want to be alone.
Perhaps now is the time to consider the mischief we’ve made along the way. Probably, it’s not as bad as we thought or others made us feel. Magic awaits; the world remains ours to behold. Cancer cannot foreclose on my astonishment at the mystery of life. For me, the wonder of being also glows in the terrible murky haunts of our perishability. At times, I am afraid; yet I am nourished, encouraged even, by my fear. And, in the face of it, I’ll continue to plan for the future.
My brain percolates with ideas for next spring’s gardens. I envision more of one color here or there, maybe even a pond for the birds. It’s nothing dramatic, just a few improvements to satisfy my imagination’s appetite. The sandbox now belongs to me. I want to play there and, as for the monsters, well, they can join me. Together, we’ll raise a rumpus.