If I Lay Dying

If I Lay Dying

You know that time of day, when the sun is slowly withdrawing from the earth, moving slowly up the trees and the sides of buildings.  As I walk, I cling to any of its light that I can see.  And especially now, in autumn.  Something about the air, the warmth of seventy degree days, the cascade of that sunlight moves me to ecstasy.  I find a heightened love of the earth taking me over and maybe it is because I will soon be closed inside as winter hardens the ground and the brilliant blast of green grass will be dying, dulled to flattened brown.

In this time since the attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001,my love of the air and the sun, the grass and the burning orange leaves is intensified.  Will I be here next year to witness the same and in the same way?

I feel comfort in the world that surrounds me, in the neat neighborhood that I dwell in, the patches of lawns, the clusters of trees, the familiar homes marching down the hills of Des Moines.  I take in each white clapboard or red brick structure, each pumpkin festooning a porch.  I hunger and am satisfied by color, by the sounds of blowing leaves and the distant moan of a train.  Stay still, stay like this, I want to call out.  Don’t change, don’t erupt in something that my mind will not be able to accept, that my body will reject as not normal.

My life is so good, the day-to-day living simple and precious.  But I don’t long now for any change.  I long for permanence in an impermanent world.  And if something terrible were to happen, if my death were to suddenly stare me in the face–I hope it would be away from chaos and fire, screams of terror and fear.  I hope that I could crawl to a soft spot in the downy grass, lay my body down in the last square of sunlight.  I would want to smell the air, the grass, listen to the whispers of the trees and maybe birds — oh it would be wonderful if there were birds.  And I would lie there watching the sun move away from me, trying to hold it back, knowing it has to speed along the grass and up the trees, until craning my neck to see the last of it in the sky, I would hope it will take me along, let me breathe my last before it dies away.