The calendar says September, but the thermometer still says August loud and clear.
The fields that aren’t torn up with pipeline excavation or
well pads are filled with the wildflower known as “snow on the prairie.” Look
for it at dusk when the cooling illusion is most beautiful.
Beauty is a necessary thing, I’ve decided. And for us—human
beings—it is a potent medicine. Even more than that, its absence creates a slow
Don’t you feel it, this pervasive uneasiness?
Everywhere we drive now in Fayette County, we feel the land
hurting. Cows huddle under shade trees at 8AM. The sere pasture next door wears
a painful slash, fifteen feet deep, and beside it piles of spoil. At the bottom
of the trench, there are lengths of pipe, newly set. The men nearby are working
in 100 degree weather and relentless sun. Who will do that work if the
temperature keeps rising?
The junkiness that gas exploration, industrial development
and transient retail bring to our peaceful landscape isn’t given a price tag.
But it exacts a cost.
Recent reports confirm a large increase in anxiety-related
illness since 2016. But we already knew that, didn’t we?
Abruptly, it seems, we find so little to rely on. The people
and routines we thought worked well have vanished.
Business rushes to replace them with the latest technology. My
favorite is the portable card reader that malfunctions half the time.
We get pressure from our banks—the big ones, that is—to pay
bills online, in interfaces that buck and pitch on a good day. Or, if that’s
too complicated, you can just scan your check. Hmm. And wait for the massive
data breach that’s sure to come?
Does that help us feel secure and comfy?
The Baby Boomers are aging in a large indigestible lump
throughout the economy. Precisely at the time when reflexes are slowing and
eyes are developing “issues,” business decides to speed things up. Put half
their operations and all their communications on a screen in 8 point type.
My car dealership outside Houston just fired (or reassigned)
the service manager with whom I’ve worked for fifteen years. “All the old guys
are gone,” I said to the very young man who took his place. “Yeah,” he said
cheerfully. “Too slow.”
What’s the hurry, folks? What’s this finish line we’re so
eager to reach?
The other evening I came out of a meeting into an
extraordinary sky. The meeting room sits on a hill. When I stepped out of the
door, I felt space open in front of me and above it sky, framed in tall trees.
Shades of soft blue and pink rose beside a dappled gray
thunderhead, and at the top, just off center, the slice of new moon. What my
son used to call a “fingernail moon.”
I was alone for a few moments while Beauty flowed into me. Time
We are so starved for Beauty. Our souls are pinched by its
absence. With every desecration of our landscape, of the scenic charm that
brings visitors to patronize our businesses, our souls shrivel a little.
You may not like that I use the word, “soul,” but what else
is it that blooms inside me when I allow a field of flowering snow in September
or a sunset sky to fill me up? What else can it be?
I can tell you this: it is the same part of us that dies a
little in the presence of grief.
There’s so much cause for grief around us, now. Horrific
wrecks on the roadways, mass shootings, children and parents damaged by hurricanes
and border policies, landowners losing the peaceful enjoyment of their land for
the rest of their lives.
In a broader view, artic ice melts, the Amazon rainforest
burns. The globe warms, bringing with it the prospect of mass extinctions.
Grief is a logical response.
We are bequeathing the Age of Loneliness to our children.
Why are we in such a hurry to get there?