Saturday, July 31, 2004
All day a hot wind sweeps through the house. Curtains billow, doors slam shut, papers skid off the kitchen table onto the floor. Fat flies, lethargic with the heat, buzz the screens from both sides. The cats lie still, stretched out to full length, and sleep. Their little bellies rise and fall, rise and fall.
This morning, after squatting to sweep up spilled kitty crunchies, I arose -- and cracked my scalp on the mudroom shelf. I was surprised by the offended howl that escaped me, and sat stunned, gingerly touching the top of my head. Scalp wounds bleed like mad, and, sure enough, I soon felt a hot trickle running down my forehead, into the gully at the side of my nose, onto my chin, onto the floor. I stanched it with wet paper towels, and headed to the bathroom. Who was that blood-stained crone in the mirror, thin graying hair matted and caked with blood ? I daubed and rinsed, imagining myself eighty, ninety, fallen, bleeding, delivered into the indifferent care of robust young strangers, just another gomer gone to ground.
Hold still dearie, while we stitch you up. This won't hurt a bit.
An man in his eighties returned to the clinic last week, having barked his shin for the third time in the same spot, his thin, scarred epidermis torn and reddening with infection.
It's vulnerable he concluded.
It is, indeed, I replied. Did you know that the word comes from the Latin, vulnus, for wound ?
We are woundable. More and more so as we age.
August rubs our faces in incarnation. We sweat; our limbs seem to strain as if against water; it seems an effort to pull air down into lungs. Flies swarm everywhere. They remind us that we are carrion. They rub their little hands together in anticipatory glee. I think of Karl Shapiro's line "Hideous little bat, the size of a snot."
Cracking my head is a brilliant way to usher in the month. The year grows old, I grow old. Might as well knock myself senseless, speechless.
Earlier this morning I walked the bike path. The river was low, thick and dirty. Almost gelatinous. A Gatorade bottle bobbed midstream, caught in slimy rivergrass. The rusty bicycle under the footbridge has broken the surface, now. A handlebar, draped with some kind of limp vegetation admixed with trash, protrudes.
There is the image of a submerged bicycle in Andrei Tarkovsky's beautiful film Nostalghie. Puddles, pools, rain -- his films are full of water. And snow. The saddest thing is snow falling in a cathedral says one of the characters in Andre Rublev. And in Nostalghie the image recurs, big flakes falling in a ruined church.
The mown meadows are already regrowing. Knotweed stalks, indomitable, rise from the shorn grass. I prowl for late wildflowers: spiny purple burdock, tansy, bull thistle, mullein. And, just today, I saw some evening primrose beginning to open, bracing yellow petals unfolding around cruciform stamens. Just saying the name fills me with a sense of cool peacefulness. It could be a mantra. Evening Primrose, Evening Primrose. An antidote to August.
It was too windy to take many pictures. Everything was swaying, breathing. I was content to look. I peered under some small white pines, newly accessible after the recent mowing, where I'd seen a dead raccoon last April. Only a faint stench and some flat fur remained.
The beautiful nameless grass has just put out its seedhead, a light green spray from a dark green sheath. I began my river walks late last summer, noticing this late-blooming tall grass, its graceful panicle, and outlandishly beautiful seeds. The old, curled brown leaves are visible still, deep in new erupting green. The Queen Anne's lace has begun to brown and curl. The Canada thistles have turned from purple to brownish fluff. And the milkweed pods are a fresh light green, and bulging with their seeds.
And, already, the little, moist crusty lump on the top of my head has begun to close. What a miracle it all is.