Living in an Equatorial World

Suddenly transported to a different land, we are confronted daily with the new. Certain phenomena can be examined, tested, toyed with, maybe integrated. What do we do with the jar of raw milk from Johnathan’s cow, or the lump of soft queso fresco? How do we convince a singularly stupid and/or near-sighted chicken to go into her coop? And when we had a gift of a bag of organic red beans right off the trees, still mixed with the pebbles and pods and dust of the harvest, we amused ourselves trying, gringos that we are, to wash them enough to resemble the nice, easy beans that magically appear in the supermarket.

Other elements cannot be questioned, only accepted. There is much to observe, and to realize we cannot assume. One never thinks about the sun being different, for instance. But it starts getting hot here even before sunup somehow. The heat of the day is exactly midday, which surprised me but really makes good sense, as we are equatorial, unlike further north where it’s hottest in the late afternoon.

In this different world, even plain-shaped birds seem to have been, for no reason I can tell, dipped in the Sixties. Yellow Submarine colors. At the end of the driveway, I looked up to see a small bird of blue, chartreuse, and stripes, and later learned it has the fabulous name of Violaceous Trogon, which J. says sounds like a four-year-old named it. Things grow extravagantly and with alarming speed, which is also how they disintegrate. A strong entropic force (tropic entropic?) pulls beings both once-living and inanimate (shoes, tools) back into the earth. The vultures wait in the trees, the worms wait in the mud, the rust and mold hover in between. A dead horse, bones and all, will be gone within three days, so we hear.

But most disorienting of all: the stars are not the same. The familiar constellations are on the other side of the sky. Where is Orion, and the Great Bear, and Cassiopeia?

At the same time, what possibility! Momentarily ignorant of how the lines are drawn, we are free to make them up as we please.

Full moon rising

It’s so hot that there is nothing to do but melt glaciers over my skin and drink the Flathead Lake once or twice. The sun’s packed and gone and the clock hands fuss until there is no one to call and nothing to clean and certainly no dish worth heating the oven for this evening. Nowhere to go but out, out with the dogs and alley smells and monsters, out to stand on the falling-down porch and watch the full moon come up.

The sliver of icy light seeps over the mountain’s edge and then lifts its white shape after. Dry seas are revealed, scars on an old face, and shape comes and comes and comes. Celestial kissing terrestrial, a slow round illusion of touch. It’s a long kiss, the tips of the pines stretching for the last flicks of light. Then it is up and off, on its own course again, solemn and blank. But before it goes back to messing with tides and moods and telescopes, it sends a wind. It slips between the moon and the hill. It steals down the mountain, through the alley and into the angry hot stacks of boxes full of people trying to sleep. And at last, it kills the hottest day in a thousand years, which crawls past crying into my oven to die.