The Water Cycle II


In our world’s glorious, savage unconcern,
there are fogs.

Elise Burke
May 09, 2017

It was a warm winter in the ridges; fog glowed gray in the mornings. Winter-born, I celebrated my birthday in a cabin cut into the edge of a rocky, clay-dirt cliff. The ground by the lake was riddled with quartz, since every surface of this world seems to want to sparkle. I woke up before my people and snuck the dog outside. The ground was damp and the vapor hung in the sky, quiet. We’ve all seen fog before, but I am always bowled over by this hug of water droplets, suspended at eye level. What better way to celebrate aliveness than in this damp, slick world; my dog balanced on the edge of a hazy cliff.

I am calmed by the idea that every day I meet water, in one form or another, that will evaporate or condense and then maybe later pour over me again, familiar. If Earth is a magician, which it goddamn has to be, then the water cycle is the trick that leaves me droop-jawed and like, “How did you do that?” Every magician relies on an eager audience, willing to look past certain sleights. The Earth has this in me.

My dog Flynn, my perfect counterbalance, has always been afraid of water. I didn’t worry about him plunging in when the dogs threw themselves down the quartz-cliff toward the lake. I knew when he got to the edge of the dock, he’d pull back. For a few years, I have watched him do this, while attempting to tempt him into pools and puddles, both clear and dark waters. He resists, cowering even at hoses and faucets and rain-ready skies.

Fog, though, he doesn’t register as water. He nudges at the fog, like he’s trying to find where to kiss it. He also loves snow, not seeming to mind the melt beading on his fur. I like this misunderstanding. I cherish the reminder that fear can have so little to do with fact.

Many days this winter, I was dragged from the floor into bed; from supermarket aisles to nearest bench. I wake up from fainting mystified, while the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys come into focus. Both strangers and people I love surround me, with wide, serious eyes, and it takes me a few seconds to register them while they pant, relieved, that I am awake. Sometimes I wake up alone, staring up at the underside of my kitchen table or bedframe, space and objects unrecognizable. The doctor asks what it feels like when I wake up. I refer to the fog—as if all the water I am clouds up in me.

On my birthday, I woke up in both of these fogs.

Half-asleep and sore from the fall, I stood outside a cabin supporting the sleeping bodies of people I love, looking to the blue ridge, to the misty lake, to the bone-bodies of the trees, to my dog, like they might instruct me about what’s next. The fog interrupted, but I welcome its intrusion, making me better appreciate what’s behind it. This is true of my body fog, too. After it settles, I look to my worried loved ones like it’s the first time.

Uselessly, I spend time trying to understand Earth’s logic; I can’t help wondering how it chooses what to rob and offer. There are no answers or instructions for me in these ridges, waters, or trees. There is no epiphany when I come to. Even in my invented world of fiction, I run my characters ragged and never deliver well-earned miracles. And in essays, the curation of my life, you’ll never ever catch me figuring it out—only looking. In our world’s glorious, savage unconcern, there are fogs.

#

A few weeks after my birthday, Flynn and I took a walk in the park at dusk where I let him off leash to run in leaning circles, herding nothing—or maybe something I can’t see. I pretend sometimes that he’s circling the ghosts of our lives, keeping them close together—close to me. Though I never see them, you wouldn’t believe the number of strangers who approach me to tell me there are spirits clinging to my side. When I look into the eyes of my dog, who was born on a day I was so desperate and afraid, I find souls I have known. That I can see.

I leaned against a tree, dizzy, watching Flynn make compass-perfect circles, until the heat hit and I fainted there in the park. When I woke up, there were no people—just a darker night, distant neighborhood noise and Flynn, panting steadily beside me. His eyes were patient, soft, knowing and animal-aware. I’m all about Lassie’s instinct to bound off for help, but his staying— this was the right way to protect me.

I am not a person of faith and don’t expect salvation, but I am in touch with terrestrial grace.

#

Spring found the valley early and the fogs have begun to dissipate. Now it’s warmer and flowering weeds dot the yard with color.  Flynn and I sit outside to warm, to ward off the shakes, the questions—who, what, where, when and why—but I’ve added if. I’m a few months into this year of my life now and still, despite passing fogs, can’t clearly see. Flynn avoids the hose, but chases bumble bees so mammoth that I shrink away. He jumps and snaps at them, but shrinks when he trips over the coiled hose, more afraid of baptism than sting.

Flynn and the bee circle me—the barking and buzzing are in stereo, dizzying. I don’t faint as often these days, but I know that at any moment, given the history of my body, I might. I let the thoughts of my disordered life flood me. I pat the dog’s warm fur, sun-trapped, calming him. He goes between leaning into the comfort and chasing the bee, barking and snapping when it gets too close to me. So often with us, I can’t tell who is protecting who.

#

It’s neither sophisticated or sacred to say, but I believe that water, in one form or another, wants to be with us. I love its cycling—its reincarnation. This is why I write: to make sense of the gift of water, which both rushes us and ghosts. Of this dog, who drinks it but cowers as it hits his bowl, who was born while the doctors gave me bad news, who sits beside me while I’m unconscious, declining the squirrel-chase and the dog park and the many runnable acres.  Of Earth, the most complex character.

I also write, frenzied and scrambling, a day before this piece will find you, to rework it in the face of change. I didn’t expect this, so little can be anticipated.

It’s May now and the azaleas are fireworking. Birds are singing out of sync almost every morning. I love this world.  I don’t know why I write essays, because I never get to the bottom of anything. Or when I think I have, it shapeshifts. I’m working on not being so concerned with pinning down truth. I strive to make meaning out of something, then amend it, build on it, forever stacking onto my sloppy heap.

I took a walk in a park. Flynn bounded on the path, always looking back. At the end of the trail, I moved into the creek. Though I have never stepped into this creek before, I know this water and I will know it again. I want for everyone to feel this comfort. Maybe for some it is God or light or sound or dirt or metal—for me, it is this cool, numbing rush at my knees; knowing it is both used-to-be and soon-to-be-again. And again. And again.

Flynn hangs over the edge of the creek and before I even have time to crouch and coax, he steps in. Carefully at first, but soon he barrels through the stream; water’s up to his neck. At first I worry about his worry, but then I loosen. I lean against a fallen tree and watch as he holds his breath and plunges under to dig and bite at rocks. He pulls worn stones to the shallower spots and goes back, searching. It’s an unrecognizable trust he’s putting in the water. I don’t know who to thank for deviations from the patterns, these secular miracles, but I kiss the man beside me and a chunk of mossy bark we take home; I kiss an algae-slick stone and the rippling current.

#

These seasons have been strange lately. I wake up so unsure what the sky will do.

Today though: flowers are bright on the bushes and there is rain. Fog again. So much fog that from the valley, I can’t tell we’re encircled by mountains. I’m sitting on the covered porch listening to the rain bang on the metal. I watch it bead off the roof. I watch the purple impatiens, who I always call impatients, shrink away.

There’s a flood watch tonight, which means when I take Flynn out to the creek tomorrow, the water will be deeper and the currents swift, like I like them. I want to be able to tell you he will dive under again. That he’ll be strong against the current and that he won’t let it deter him. I want to see him add stones to his pile—his own sloppy heap.

I know I see things through a lens. When it comes to the water cycle—to all things—metaphor has a hand in comforting me. But sitting out here in the rain, I feel sure of the symbol’s value—different than, but as legitimate as, fact. I write to test this conviction, but also for this:

Flynn leaps off the porch into the yard and stands stock-still under the rain, looking up. He has that pre-play energy, but it seems directed at the sky. I run into the yard and look up with him. Animals, we know the terms of our aliveness. There is so much we aren’t permitted to witness. Still, we stand there staring, mud-sunk and slapped with rain, as if we will be able to see into the cloud it comes from. No matter how hard we look—no matter what we want or love or fear or resolve—this magician will never reveal her tricks.

Still, we keep looking.

 

Elise Burke
May 09, 2017

It was a warm winter in the ridges; fog glowed gray in the mornings. Winter-born, I celebrated my birthday in a cabin cut into the edge of a rocky, clay-dirt cliff. The ground by the lake was riddled with quartz, since every surface of this world seems to want to sparkle. I woke up before my people and snuck the dog outside. The ground was damp and the vapor hung in the sky, quiet. We’ve all seen fog before, but I am always bowled over by this hug of water droplets, suspended at eye level. What better way to celebrate aliveness than in this damp, slick world; my dog balanced on the edge of a hazy cliff.

I am calmed by the idea that every day I meet water, in one form or another, that will evaporate or condense and then maybe later pour over me again, familiar. If Earth is a magician, which it goddamn has to be, then the water cycle is the trick that leaves me droop-jawed and like, “How did you do that?” Every magician relies on an eager audience, willing to look past certain sleights. The Earth has this in me.

My dog Flynn, my perfect counterbalance, has always been afraid of water. I didn’t worry about him plunging in when the dogs threw themselves down the quartz-cliff toward the lake. I knew when he got to the edge of the dock, he’d pull back. For a few years, I have watched him do this, while attempting to tempt him into pools and puddles, both clear and dark waters. He resists, cowering even at hoses and faucets and rain-ready skies.

Fog, though, he doesn’t register as water. He nudges at the fog, like he’s trying to find where to kiss it. He also loves snow, not seeming to mind the melt beading on his fur. I like this misunderstanding. I cherish the reminder that fear can have so little to do with fact.

Many days this winter, I was dragged from the floor into bed; from supermarket aisles to nearest bench. I wake up from fainting mystified, while the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys come into focus. Both strangers and people I love surround me, with wide, serious eyes, and it takes me a few seconds to register them while they pant, relieved, that I am awake. Sometimes I wake up alone, staring up at the underside of my kitchen table or bedframe, space and objects unrecognizable. The doctor asks what it feels like when I wake up. I refer to the fog—as if all the water I am clouds up in me.

On my birthday, I woke up in both of these fogs.

Half-asleep and sore from the fall, I stood outside a cabin supporting the sleeping bodies of people I love, looking to the blue ridge, to the misty lake, to the bone-bodies of the trees, to my dog, like they might instruct me about what’s next. The fog interrupted, but I welcome its intrusion, making me better appreciate what’s behind it. This is true of my body fog, too. After it settles, I look to my worried loved ones like it’s the first time.

Uselessly, I spend time trying to understand Earth’s logic; I can’t help wondering how it chooses what to rob and offer. There are no answers or instructions for me in these ridges, waters, or trees. There is no epiphany when I come to. Even in my invented world of fiction, I run my characters ragged and never deliver well-earned miracles. And in essays, the curation of my life, you’ll never ever catch me figuring it out—only looking. In our world’s glorious, savage unconcern, there are fogs.

#

A few weeks after my birthday, Flynn and I took a walk in the park at dusk where I let him off leash to run in leaning circles, herding nothing—or maybe something I can’t see. I pretend sometimes that he’s circling the ghosts of our lives, keeping them close together—close to me. Though I never see them, you wouldn’t believe the number of strangers who approach me to tell me there are spirits clinging to my side. When I look into the eyes of my dog, who was born on a day I was so desperate and afraid, I find souls I have known. That I can see.

I leaned against a tree, dizzy, watching Flynn make compass-perfect circles, until the heat hit and I fainted there in the park. When I woke up, there were no people—just a darker night, distant neighborhood noise and Flynn, panting steadily beside me. His eyes were patient, soft, knowing and animal-aware. I’m all about Lassie’s instinct to bound off for help, but his staying— this was the right way to protect me.

I am not a person of faith and don’t expect salvation, but I am in touch with terrestrial grace.

#

Spring found the valley early and the fogs have begun to dissipate. Now it’s warmer and flowering weeds dot the yard with color.  Flynn and I sit outside to warm, to ward off the shakes, the questions—who, what, where, when and why—but I’ve added if. I’m a few months into this year of my life now and still, despite passing fogs, can’t clearly see. Flynn avoids the hose, but chases bumble bees so mammoth that I shrink away. He jumps and snaps at them, but shrinks when he trips over the coiled hose, more afraid of baptism than sting.

Flynn and the bee circle me—the barking and buzzing are in stereo, dizzying. I don’t faint as often these days, but I know that at any moment, given the history of my body, I might. I let the thoughts of my disordered life flood me. I pat the dog’s warm fur, sun-trapped, calming him. He goes between leaning into the comfort and chasing the bee, barking and snapping when it gets too close to me. So often with us, I can’t tell who is protecting who.

#

It’s neither sophisticated or sacred to say, but I believe that water, in one form or another, wants to be with us. I love its cycling—its reincarnation. This is why I write: to make sense of the gift of water, which both rushes us and ghosts. Of this dog, who drinks it but cowers as it hits his bowl, who was born while the doctors gave me bad news, who sits beside me while I’m unconscious, declining the squirrel-chase and the dog park and the many runnable acres.  Of Earth, the most complex character.

I also write, frenzied and scrambling, a day before this piece will find you, to rework it in the face of change. I didn’t expect this, so little can be anticipated.

It’s May now and the azaleas are fireworking. Birds are singing out of sync almost every morning. I love this world.  I don’t know why I write essays, because I never get to the bottom of anything. Or when I think I have, it shapeshifts. I’m working on not being so concerned with pinning down truth. I strive to make meaning out of something, then amend it, build on it, forever stacking onto my sloppy heap.

I took a walk in a park. Flynn bounded on the path, always looking back. At the end of the trail, I moved into the creek. Though I have never stepped into this creek before, I know this water and I will know it again. I want for everyone to feel this comfort. Maybe for some it is God or light or sound or dirt or metal—for me, it is this cool, numbing rush at my knees; knowing it is both used-to-be and soon-to-be-again. And again. And again.

Flynn hangs over the edge of the creek and before I even have time to crouch and coax, he steps in. Carefully at first, but soon he barrels through the stream; water’s up to his neck. At first I worry about his worry, but then I loosen. I lean against a fallen tree and watch as he holds his breath and plunges under to dig and bite at rocks. He pulls worn stones to the shallower spots and goes back, searching. It’s an unrecognizable trust he’s putting in the water. I don’t know who to thank for deviations from the patterns, these secular miracles, but I kiss the man beside me and a chunk of mossy bark we take home; I kiss an algae-slick stone and the rippling current.

#

These seasons have been strange lately. I wake up so unsure what the sky will do.

Today though: flowers are bright on the bushes and there is rain. Fog again. So much fog that from the valley, I can’t tell we’re encircled by mountains. I’m sitting on the covered porch listening to the rain bang on the metal. I watch it bead off the roof. I watch the purple impatiens, who I always call impatients, shrink away.

There’s a flood watch tonight, which means when I take Flynn out to the creek tomorrow, the water will be deeper and the currents swift, like I like them. I want to be able to tell you he will dive under again. That he’ll be strong against the current and that he won’t let it deter him. I want to see him add stones to his pile—his own sloppy heap.

I know I see things through a lens. When it comes to the water cycle—to all things—metaphor has a hand in comforting me. But sitting out here in the rain, I feel sure of the symbol’s value—different than, but as legitimate as, fact. I write to test this conviction, but also for this:

Flynn leaps off the porch into the yard and stands stock-still under the rain, looking up. He has that pre-play energy, but it seems directed at the sky. I run into the yard and look up with him. Animals, we know the terms of our aliveness. There is so much we aren’t permitted to witness. Still, we stand there staring, mud-sunk and slapped with rain, as if we will be able to see into the cloud it comes from. No matter how hard we look—no matter what we want or love or fear or resolve—this magician will never reveal her tricks.

Still, we keep looking.