Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Last Act

I've been working on syllabi for the upcoming fall term. It's strange to be planning out December when it's August, warm, and the dewpoint has finally plunged from 80 to 54 today. Perhaps the dewpoint is setting the mood. Even the 'Nekan' sage began blooming today (a sage first found just a few miles away here in Lincoln, NE--beautiful sky blue blooms).

I'm thinking about migrations and transience, especially as my 70-80 monarchs go from egg to butterfly. I'm thinking about the goals I had set out for myself way back in May, full of hope and faith. I was to have finished drafting my memoir Morning Glory by mid June, then work on research for the Oklahoma / Mennonite memoir. It took me until mid July to feel happy with Morning Glory, and I have only read a few dozen pages on the ecology of the Great Plains or the history of Oklahoma Territory. And I know as school begins, research focus can either totally vanish or--in desperation--become intensely manifested in a few free hours here and there.

But I know, too, the narratives and stories and interviews I need for the next book are deteriorating, seeping into the Ogallala Aquifer as people age, as family become distant to history, and history to family and all of us alive today. But I am not ready to follow those stories, to know the context and ask the deeper questions and search out the sponged away places.

And yet the monarchs seem to never change, year to year the same regal four wings, orange and yellow and black. They appear the same, though they're generations upon generations removed. My college students look the same, except they seem to get younger and younger and I get older and older (I was never that young! Or, that young is very different than my young). And still, look at photos of college students 50 years ago and they aren't that disimilar. In another 50 won't they have the same desires and fears, joys and triumphs? How impossibly deep we are, how shallow, how transient and permanent. How little everything matters when it matters so much.

5 comments:

Michael B. Gordon said...

Benjamin,
Good luck with this new semester. I am working on a butterfly garden in public park here in Peterborough, NH. Any suggestions for drought tolerant, butterfly-attracting perennials under 4 feet tall? If anyone would know, it would be you. Thanks!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Good golly, you put way too much stock in my gardening ability. I'm trying to think here.... I'm sure you've got asters and milkweed (speciosa) and coneflowers (so many cones!). Liatris. Aren't there some joe pye weeds out there that can take some drought? My info is specific, isn't it? Hey, there is a low ironweed I was reading about today that is supposed to be drought tolerant and blooms in August--lettermannii, likes it rocky and dry and gets 2-3' tall and wide (Plant Delights has it). Ironweeds are big butterfly magnets you know.

Anonymous said...

Just checking in; I hadn't in a while. I always deeply enjoy your writing. We're coming up on the fifth anniversary here in NOLA of the flood, and I'm feeling a bit edgy, a little weepy. The sense of things always moving on, nothing matters and all does, was completely smashed into me during those weeks. My beau and I drove 'round the country, over 5000 miles, amazed at the beauty and goodness of others, desperate to find friends and neighbors. What's a house when the neighbors are all gone? What's a city without friends? We stayed in cheap motels, camped in the car. Late one afternoon, we made it to the Grand Canyon in time to watch the sun set - magnificent! On a whim, we stopped at El Tovar to see if there were any rooms. There was one: the Presidential Suite, $400 for the night. I took it. The room was great, with the 48 star flag framed from when Teddy Roosevelt was there. The best, though, was the terrace. I would have paid all that money for it. I sat outside with no real light around except the stars. I saw the Milky Way as I've never seen it. I'd been so stressed, so afraid because of those we couldn't find, but all those stars gave me a peace. I left the next day feeling life was okay. (We found the last neighbor the week before we returned, and I won't go into what happened to others after we got home.) You some kinda writer - I know others will find that out, in a bookstore holding your work one day - naomi

Benjamin Vogt said...

Hey Naomi, what a wonderful trip you had (the fact you did it, even if the outcomes weren't what you wanted). I don't know if I could ever sleep anyhwere but in a presidential suite. I could. I guess. If I had to. Of course we forget tragedies quickly, and those that are continual we turn a blind eye to for many reasons. We've forgotten 9/11 in large part. Katrina. Even the oil spill. I had hoped that spill would just go on and on, and the rage build, explode, until we demanded something better of our government or else. But we gave up, gave in, moved on, and we're still drowning--from water, from oil, from fallen buildings. We just don't know it. Yet.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for responding. We do know it here in New Orleans, the city seems to thrive on decline, though since the flood so many young people have moved here and begun wonderful things. This is still a city associated with eccentrics, and those types come, and some get upset realizing they are not as unusual as they thought. This week, all week, in the paper, on the TV and radio, all over, it's the fifth anniversary of Katrina and the flood. I'm hiding in my house and yard, pulling weeds - not dandelions, but papyrus, elephant ears, cannas - and I've given up on the ginger. Your blog adds a spark to life - thanks for writing it. (I haven't had many monarchs this year and I'm concerned - maybe when it cools a bit more.) - naomi