It is while I am watering the apple tree in our front yard, in the hot August sun, that I can first feel the changes stirring.
The light is shifting ever so slightly…temperatures are still in the high 90’s and low 100’s – relatively normal for August in south central Texas. But the light is changing, lining everything in a deeper, richer, buttery quality that I haven’t seen for about a year. That light is a promise of what is to come, cooler days and longer nights full of star gazing and owl call and pinion smoke kissed campfires.
My attention goes back to the Apple tree. There is a little Guadalupe statue at the base of the tree, blessing the land, blessing the tree and its fruit, our Lady of Grace and Apples, of Roses and Tears, of Life and Death. This little tree has done quite well considering the Summer it just weathered, is still in the midst of.
This season has been one of the hardest the land here has had to face, certainly one of the hardest in my lifetime of living close to the limestone bones of my birthplace. We have had record high temperatures, with less days than I have fingers dipping below 100 since May. 100-degree days in August are normal, in May and June – not so much. There has been no rain until some late-summer storms graced us with their power.
There is a desire by many who live in this region, to normalize what is happening to our land, our place. A tendency to shrug one’s shoulders, shake one’s head, and mutter, “What can you do? Mother Nature, huh?” A tendency to normalize the suffering and the damage that seem less and less extraordinary with every passing year. I understand this and I don’t hold hate or blame for those who react to in this way…it is a perfectly understandable response to situations that feel hopeless and beyond repair. I hear it as the cry of the heart is actually is.
Amid the weeds of normalizing what is not normal though, there are more shifts that I see. They are subtle. Neighbors making sure there are bowls of water on their steps for thirsty creatures including songbirds and bees. More collective appreciation when our dry and dusty land is kissed by some precious rain. Finding fullness in a rare, cool, breeze.
I grew up with droughts as a part of everyday life. And I have seen that the suffering they wreak across the land is in a strange alchemical dance with the wisdom they can bring to the surface in people…an awareness of what really matters, less of an ability to take the truly essential things for granted. Desert wisdom is what some people call this.
The desire to normalize our way of living against the land is being challenged by small acts of awareness and acknowledgement that whatever else happens, here we must learn better ways to live with it.
I’m folding towels, getting ready to change out the pool bag which has been my go-to carryall throughout Summer, loaded with sunscreen and insect repellant, band-aids and Neosporin, for the backpacks and lunchboxes that herald the beginning of school. More changes. More shifts.
Back to watering now. A dragonfly hums above my head and I catch sight of a hummingbird that I have been watching all summer, as she swills nectar in ecstasy, her light brown body moving with impossible grace back to her nest, high up in the pecan tree, where new life, new possibility waits. For her, and I think, looking at the newly rich light, perhaps for us as well.