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Field Notes

The following was published in Galaxy Brain Edition 20

It won't last long, this time when we middle aged moms can sit around and kill a bottle of Prosecco and talk about our children, our partners, the goddamned patriarchy, before the air gets smoky but while we know it's coming, maybe worse than last year or the year before, maybe worse than ever before. We chat about school and the future we know is burning up in front of us; the people who have declared us toxic, the people we've declared toxic. We talk about our plans for the warm weather, about what summer vacation used to mean, but between us hangs the understanding that at the end isn't another lugubrious year of growth and hope; it's a year of loss and grief and anger and sorrow, and another and another. And then hunger and then nothing, which might be the worst, and might very well not be. Which won't be the worst. Definitely not.

We talk now about our go bags, the kinds of bags we used to keep hidden from violent boyfriends and husbands, the ones with three pairs of underwear and three pairs of socks and as many twenty dollar bills as we could take out of the joint checking account without catching his attention, set aside over months or years, the change we got from the grocery store when we started paying with cash. We remind one another to tell our daughters to keep their money separate, to open a secret savings account and tell no one about it. Not even us, or well, us, because we’ll put money in for them whenever we have a little extra. Now we pack for the coming fire season. We worry about water bottles degrading over time. It doesn’t make sense to try to store gas so we have to make sure we don’t let the tank get below half full. You can get those drinking straws from the camping store, the ones with the filters so you can drink out of puddles I guess or out of rivers, which of course won’t help much if there’s a nuclear war. But it’s something, right? We need to make sure we pack a phone charger. We need to plan for the grid to go down. Do we know who our people are? Do we know where to meet them? We make lists, we buy seeds, we take a first aid course. We hide these things from our children because they worry, we know they’ll worry and we have to give them the good childhood, the foundation that will hold them up in the unbearable (immediate? Please not immediate) future. We read about kids with terminal diagnoses, the things very sick kids want out of their lives. Swimming and ice cream, we remember. We buy ice cream even though it’s January. We think about taking them to the public pool, but one of us caught COVID there in the summer and we can’t risk that again, not for us, not for them, we’re still paying off the debts we accrued during those few weeks when we couldn’t work, couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t lie down to sleep. We’ll go to the beach this summer, we decide, we’ll swim in the ocean together. Of course now there are great white sharks off the coast of Nova Scotia, and jellyfish everywhere, and lion fish with their venomous spines; we have to be careful, we tell one another, we don’t know what might be out there, and then we think (maybe it’s only me) nothing’s out there, that’s the whole problem, the ocean is a big wet emptiness, its tides bring in cigarette wrappers and condoms. The tentacle that wraps itself around your foot will be the string of a drowned balloon. Nothing lives there anymore. 

We plant gardens and we keep bees. We try to make things with our hands. We try to make things that are precious but not so precious that we can’t bear to leave them behind. We do the laundry and wash the dishes and think now if the water is cut off, at least we have a few days worth of clean things. We make sure the Brita is full, the ice cube trays. We clean the fish tank and consider that we might be able to use our little survivalist straws to drink the fish water. We wonder what a gourami might taste like. We make sure to keep a Narcan kit with us at all times. We make sure not to leave it in the car on hot days or very cold nights. We remember our reusable bags when we go to the grocery store and we try to buy as much of our food as we can locally. Everyone knows us at the farmers market. 

It’s January and I’m picking dead bees out of the snow, big eyed drones. Why are the drones being kicked out in January? All that should have happened in the autumn. I take the cover off my hive on a five degree day when the dog shit I didn’t bother to clean up during the cold snap two weeks ago starts to materialize adrift on little pools of meltwater, and an avalanche of dead drones falls out, a drift of them all around the base of the hive, dozens of them mummified in propolis. I’ll need to order a new queen, I think, but there’s nothing I can do right now. There’s a feeling that it must be bad in there, that the girls are trying to regulate their over droned hive and they’re anxious, and I’m anxious. I put the cover back on.

We try to remember that we’re alive right now, that the world is still beautiful, that being alive is a privilege, and it is. It’s beautiful and it’s a privilege and our lives are whole, and if one or all of us die this summer we still got to live longer than a lot of people. Our kids will be ok. They will probably be ok, because they know how to do things, how to build things, how to love. We bequeath them this community of worriers, just in case. We think about love, about the failed marriage and the one who died young and the friends we lost and the alienated family members. I think about the man I’ve just started seeing, I’m still being careful, we’re both very careful. We don’t want to hurt one another with the spiky accretions of our various fuck ups, which are several and some quite sharp. I think at whichever deity I absolutely do not believe in but at whom I direct my pointed thoughts. I think just give me enough time to fall in love once more. Just one more time.

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Ooof. Stunning. I feel this. I am in love with the world and the heart-rending ways you describe it.

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