Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Cesspool

     The dust of unwatered soil is making me blink and sneeze as I till my garden by hand. It's early evening, and the chickens are underfoot, scrutinizing the upturned roots of weeds for tawny squash bugs.  I listen to the crunch of these beetles in their beaks, and have those brief moments of horror and grief that come when you witness the death of a creature.  I can't help putting myself in the place of these flailing beetles, and feeling their terror.  But I'm not a beetle, and can't possibly know how they feel--or if they even have feelings in their tiny neural tubes.  This is the way of the world, I remind myself, which is a small comfort.
     The sky turns dusky and my chickens waddle back to their coop.   Crystal, as chief hen, runs around me in circles, worried, trilling and squawking, "Get in!  Time to go inside!"  There are untold dangers out here, at night.  So, what's my problem, she wants to know?  I am a recalcitrant member of her flock, perhaps mentally deranged, so she's forced to leave me behind as one might leave a dog with a broken leg on the mountainside during a treacherous expedition.
     I  stay outside and till soil until it's dark.  Then it's past dark and the moon appears, a tiny sliver without much light, and the stars poke holes in the great black blanket of the hemisphere.  I look up, my neck stiff from staring downward, and rest my head on the small shelf of my upper thoracic vertebrae.  Who hasn't been made to feel tiny, under an enormous night sky?
     I keep hoeing, guided by the tough, grasping pull of weeds that resist my intention.  An hour passes:  it's getting cold.  I'm very tired, and there's something magnetic about the earth.  "Come to me," it says.  "Lie down and let me hold you."
     So, I lie down on my back, on the freshly tilled ground.  Do you know the heaviness of gravity, sometimes, drawing your spine, shoulders and legs downward, as though it could take you back into    It's one thing, to feel it on the soles of your feet.  It's another to be clasped, fully, by the strange force of dense matter keeping us attached, until spirit wafts away, attached to life.
     The air is chilly, but the soil emanates the heat it absorbed from fourteen hours of sunlight.  I wrap my old, woolly sweater around me, turning up the collar and buttoning it at the neck.  I let my thoughts go, one by one, and they float into night.  Then, I fall asleep.
     In the images that follow I am kneeling on the ground and reaching into what seem to be manholes.   Way far down, I see people coming up, and I am hoisting them out, one by one.  It's cavernous, and dark down there, and I hear the sound of underground rivers, carrying the dark, basic substance of life.  It's a cesspool, too, from which stinking grime and filth may be excavated.  But these are not rubbish, but jewels:  rubies, diamonds, gold, people.
     There is a saying, in alchemy, that gold, the philosopher's stone, the stuff of creativity, the new man, the hope of the world, arises from what is most wretched and despised, the prima materia.  In Alcoholics Anonymous, it is said that one must "hit bottom" before the process of transformation begins.  When we want to change, we find the means to do so in our worst habits and thoughts, and in the experiences of life from which we want to run fastest.
     When I woke from this dream it was under the same starry sky.  I could smell that underground river, mixed with the soddy fragrance of my new-turned garden, I felt the desperation and the gratitude of those men whose bodies I was pulling out of the mess of that cesspool, and I wondered what to do next.
     Should they come home with me, for a shower and a hot meal?  Should I ask them, "Now what?"  Might they have a clue about where I'm headed, next?  Are they going to accompany me, with their knowledge of the depths, into my future?

No comments:

Post a Comment