Monday, June 2, 2008

a hard wind

The wind started to blow in the morning, and by noon it was a dust storm. We laughed about running track in that dust, the grit between our teeth when we woke, and the fine silt that collected in mounds beneath the garage door. I couldn't help but look out over what seemed so desolate and dry, and see so much beauty, and wonder what it was in me that called to such a forlorn landscape.

I remember things, though, like driving behind trucks overfilled with giant sugar beets, new corn shooting up through the orange earth, and cotton spread out over the fields like snow. I used to believe there were still buffalo, though no one recalls any but the ragged pets they kept in a pen out near Palo Duro Canyon.

Her funeral was held in the church where I was baptized, and it looked exactly the same, the cross hanging there without Jesus, the fake wood paneling (something the Catholics would never allow). Afterwards we drove out to the cemetery where the hard wind howled and ladies in high heels picked there way over great clods of red earth. Summer wheat flanked the cemetery on all sides, and the cottonwoods spilt seed over the dry grass.

She told me a story once, about how her father, before the Depression, would buy crates of geese from Holland. When they arrived on the train, the whole town would gather to watch them released into the corn to eat the grasshoppers. Everyone that hears that story always asks, "Did they fly away? Did they come back?" And to me that seems to be missing the point, the point that I believe she was conveying to me when she told that story, in the magic of her translucent skin, the far-off shimmer of those pale, pale eyes: the magic of those big white birds, their massive, white wings erupting over the corn in a single clap of light.