High Wind Warning

As dawn arrived, the wind picked up and all manner of things wired or weighted down began banging and clanging in protest, especially the artistic frying pan hanging next to the rusty tire chains. Everything not secured took flight. It was the last I saw of the brown tarp, the ordinary clothes I’d hung to dry, and the light pink clouds that make mornings easier. I ran outside and grabbed at vague shapes flying by, but it was futile. I looked up. The tempest had peeled the sky raw, and the gaping blue of infinity was in sharp relief. I wasn’t ready for the existential vertigo that washed over me. My lack of innocence was frightening.

“God!” I yelled from the middle of nowhere. “I could use some help here!” The voracious wind emptied my lungs and flung my words down the valley. I took cover in the low-slung fort I’d built as a child, amazed it was still there. On hands and knees, I inched deep into the soft, undisturbed darkness and found a place to hide.

This is where a Godness discovered me, hours later. I was thirsty and ready to surrender. The Godness began to sing against the merciless gusts in a tone lower than sound. Gradually, the wind died down, and we emerged to survey the damage. Fallen trees, stripped branches, shed antlers, lost feathers, disturbed water, dashed dreams—a landscape bereft of permanence. Neither God nor the earth engage in murderous self-defense. I could see why the promise of heaven makes so little sense. It’s only the promise of hell that matters.

I tried to whisper the names of God etched in the grounded patterns of dust and ash, but my lips were gone. Holy breath, warm and moist on my neck, made me long for my mother, or a simpler God, or something easier than gale-force wind. Gently, the Godness wrapped me in fragmented light and told me I would always be beautiful. I shook my head and blushed the blood red color of my favorite hollyhock.

Hollyhocks are biennials. The seeds from the parent plants sprout and gather force the first year and bloom madly the next. They can last for generations without any human assistance. The hope they inspire seems delicate. But it’s not.

Teeth

I have a friend we’ll call Albert who sends me Dark Web QAnon Planet X Antifa alerts on a regular basis, hoping to inspire me to get a gun, stop posting naïve declarations about compassion and forgiveness, and split more firewood. Albert likes me. He wants to help me and my family survive the coming apocalypse. I appreciate the intention, but I wish he could help me survive my arthritis and osteoporosis instead.

God stops by Albert’s place now and then. There’s always a pot of coffee on the back of the stove. Albert and his wife invite God in, and they have lively chats. Albert warns God about the evil afoot. God leans back, and from behind her Covid mask, she smiles a big, inclusive smile. I don’t think God means to be condescending, but she can be sarcastic in ways most people miss.

“What’s your take on survivalists?” God asked me. I was pretty sure she had Albert in mind.

“Depends,” I said. “I kind of like preppers and hoarders, but the conspiracy militia crowds freak me out.”

“Yeah,” God agreed. “They require a little more effort.”

“Effort?” I said with a snort.

“Un-huh. Effort. They’ve concocted some exhilarating realities to play with. It’s addictive. They roam around looking for something to make into an enemy, someone to blame and hate and shoot. It’s like they’re living in their own video game, and it’s a whole lot more fun than a being a grownup.”

I shrugged. Being a grownup is not all that easy. “God,” I said. “Humans have a lot of adolescent fears and fantasies that set us up for some very bad outcomes. And we have a lot of trouble outgrowing them. I, myself, have a few I’d like to outgrow.”

“I know,” God sighed. “Open your mouth.” I gave her a look but complied.

“Got some crowns. Fillings. And overall, your teeth look thinner. Not shiny white anymore.”

“So?” I asked, a little ashamed of the state of my teeth.

“So,” God said. “Teeth don’t lie. You can whiten them, cap them, pull them all out. You can just keep flossing and brushing ‘til the day you die. You have choices. They’re your teeth. But someone could come along and knock them out. Then you’d have a new set of choices.”

My tongue curled protectively around my chipped tooth. My mind curled protectively around the days I inhabit, the bones that carry me around, the ways and means I use to navigate these deep, choppy waters.

“God,” I said. “I don’t think I could kill someone to insure my own survival.”

“Of course you could,” God said. “But I hope you don’t. Survival is unattainable anyway. Your teeth won’t be with you forever, you know. No matter what you choose.”