5:50 a.m. In dark just lighter than pitch, the dog and I venture out for his morning relief. The spilled streak of stars we call the Milky Way fades as I glance up, as though my eyes mop heavens’ mess. The dog lifts his leg and anoints the road sign pole and I hear the splash of contact. He kicks his hind legs, rubs his paws on the grass making sure every bit of his scent graces his small patch of turf.
Crickets, raw-throated from their marathon nocturne, peep less vigorously than at dusk and because of this I hear a new song. Not birds. Something else. Most songbirds have flown already and these days only chickadees, cardinals and blue jays voices scrape away the black into dawn. Bats maybe? I hope so. Let them feed on the persistent mosquitos that hang around in this sweating dawn.
Their voices are small, barely louder than the exhausted crickets. Squeaks really. Sweet squeaks you want to cup in your hand and raise to your ear like a conch shell. Listen to the song of the universe.
Lucky me to have heard this morning prayer.
“What would you do if you knew you were dying, mom?” I didn’t answer “We’re all dying, kiddo,” the depressing evasion of an old woman who calculates daily the probable number of years remaining in her life. This to a teenage math whiz who thinks infinity is hers to order.
I plant miniature hostas along the edge of our backyard shade garden. I dig a hole, fill it with water and watch as it seeps into the earth. I sprinkle in grains of bloodmeal and stir them into the mud. Into the hole I place the delicate root ball, fill soil around it, and will it to grow to its full 10” potential and produce its dainty purple flowers, the size of a fairy’s bugle. I bend down and imagine a fairy Reveille waking bees and dragonflies.
The heat squashes me and I sprawl with my arms outstretched and peer through the spackle of cherry tree leaves into the clear blue sky. I can’t imagine not being here. Un-me. I rub my arms in the grass and make an invisible snow angel. Later the dog comes out and sniffs all around. He knows I was here.
“Would you try and do fun things every day if you knew you were dying?”
I wonder would I try to fill a holey bucket?
Would I race infinity?
Would I be Stoic and brave?
What would my last days teach my children?
Maybe I would go into the garden, dig a hole, and plant a seed. I would watch the bees pollinate. I’d count the monarchs visiting the Joe Pye Weed I planted in August. I’d listen to morning birdsong and fairies’ Reveille. I would hold my husband’s hand and wish for infinite strength. I would ask my daughters to teach me one math equation to give me a moment of control and certainty. I would beg forgiveness for my trespasses and ask them to forgive those of their future selves, too.
In the name of infinity. Forever and ever.