Clay People

September 2, 2014
This has been the rainiest summer on record. Last night, several more inches fell, the house trembled from thunder and lightning, ants and earthworms are on the move, and tomato plants are prematurely drying up. This morning I counted the abacus of tomatoes on my kitchen windowsills. There were still ten left. The countdown was on.
We are clay people now. The bluffs have been softened, the green hills are mushy, the bowls at the feet of the hills are filled with coffee brown water. The whole mass might slide into the Mississippi. Even the egrets are perched in trees rather than standing in water.
I did a modified Genehouse walk this morning. On Stanka Lane, Hummingbird Man and his son and grandson were peering up toward the hummingbird nursery above the many feeders. What was the matter? Praying mantises. 
They had pulled twenty praying mantises from one tree and were looking for more. It is a horrifying sight when a praying mantis snatches a hummingbird from the air and slowly eats it—unless you’re Mrs. Mantis and you’re feeding your kid.
The swamp was filled with backwater from the river. Leaf boats and the clay people’s Styrofoam boats plied the waters, and treetops sagged until their high branches dipped in the muck. You couldn’t so much walk as row, this morning, the air was so thick, row with your arms through the pudding, through the multi-colored soup of shallow cloud and coal plant effluvia and drizzling trees and soaked road, legs paddling more than striding.
Yesterday, a friend of mine saw me, and her lips turned to jelly, and she began crying. A week ago, her husband started peeing blood. The episode ended as abruptly as it had begun. He was going to ignore it, but his wife insisted he see a specialist. He has bladder cancer. A tumor was removed; the results are announced tomorrow. 
Asking God to answer the “why me” question is so utterly disingenuous. He doesn’t allow cancer to plague us, allow kids to be exploited and slavery to exist, allow the wreaking of terrible havoc with storms and plagues, or indifference to the suffering of the world. There is an answer, but not from God: 
“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” The Gospel According to Pogo
Only the blind and deaf could confuse cosmic rolls of the dice with willful destruction. We didn’t choose willful destruction? Brother, sister, we chose it the minute we embraced the Industrial Revolution. Hell, we knew subconsciously from the beginning, we were flawed. We invented a story about a garden and how Adam and Eve fucked it up, then “they” went out into the world and fucked it up: the unreal moral of the story.
Once in a while “us” becomes a friend, a loved one, and it is difficult not to take it personally. Every second of every day, loved ones get sick, people starve, hatred threatens to consume us. We did it to ourselves, and we’re surprised? 
Praying mantises don’t pray—they prey. As for clay people, there can only be one prayer, of thanks. 
The rest, the whole destruction of the world, was a human choice. 
God help the hummingbirds. 

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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