Some of my faithful readers will remember earlier photos of the volunteer flower garden that has brightened the beginning of the Dale Ball here for months.
Well, it’s gone.
The torrential rains of the past few days that broke our dreadful heat caused water from the adjacent parking lot to rush across the garden and carry away most of the plants an unnamed benefactress planted there a year ago.
Rains, so sorely needed in this parched desert, came too late and too roughly, eroding trails, washing out dirt roads, rolling huge boulders down the mountain sides and devastating croplands and gardens.
The garden will probably be planted again, if our benefactress, and the rest of us, have the courage and energy to start all over. But torrential rains are likely to wipe it out again.
Torrential rains are pouring across our political landscape these days, and sometimes seem about to erode all vision. I must admit that I, like many others, have a secret attraction to downpours, to displays of rage, even to the tantrums that are now appearing, regularly in the Tantrum Personified we see on television.
This is a dangerous attraction. It means I may discount serenity and call it too considered, too rational, and, inevitably, not dramatic, while the Tantrum Personified continues to claim my horrified attention.
I have to admit that I have always been attracted to the displays of temper I have seldom permitted myself to indulge in. The impulse, though, is always there, no matter how deeply buried, popping up now and then when I hear myself cursing at a driver for honking because I haven’t accelerated fast enough through a green light, or when I look with fascination and compassion at an ancient snapshot of my little brother, at seven or so, a whirlwind of shrieking rage.
I also remember the odd fascination of my three infant sons’ raging, so hard to soothe, at times, because what they wanted was not immediately available or, even worse, I didn’t know what they wanted, since I had not taught them to communicate, pre-verbally, with sign language, as one of my grandsons learned to do. There was something so ruthless, so truthful, in those screams—perhaps echoing long suppressed screams of my own.
Tantrums, though, like the rough tearing surges of violent rain storms, destroy the terrain of the human soul. Water, the most essential of elements, can’t nourish when it is delivered with such force. And the energy that propels displays of temper, and the failure of the dikes built to contain it, can only erode and wash away human consciousness and connection. In a country tormented by nearly daily displays of lethal violence, I must learn—we all must learn—to value and admire the discipline that comes only after, and through, long years of service, through learning, painfully, to deal with frustrations calmly and to accept compromise as an absolutely essential tool of good government. Faced with working with an intemperate Congress, only a nearly superhuman calm can prevail.
But I, and perhaps many others, are not much attracted by calm. Perhaps having never achieved it myself, I don’t really know what it is—not passivity, not neutrality, but an imagination developed enough to understand, and accept, all the terrifying shades of human behavior, and to find ways to work with them. For they won’t go away. We are in an intemperate time and, like the world-wide drought, floods and pestilence that also assail us, this intemperance may not go away any time soon, and may even find fuel in the desperate conditions we are going to have to learn to survive: “Apres moi, le deluge.”
To cultivate my appreciation of temperance, I study the beautiful photo my sister Eleanor sent me recently of a manicurist taking care of her nails. This is a woman, we may be sure, who can’t afford to engage in tantrums; she is dependent for her income on pleasing her customers, some of whom may be rude, off-hand or patronizing. Eleanor apologized for not remembering this manicurist’s name, a problem we all share when dealing with those we may assume to be different. After all, the photo was taken some years ago,
I am also cultivating my appreciation of the hard work in extreme heat of the Flying X team that is working at Apache Mesa—my wild; this entails driving more than an hour every morning from Santa Fe and working for ten hour days in extreme heat on a high mesa where there is little shade, cutting trails, building a jeep road, continuing to rehabilitate the little house and its bathhouse, and now laying the floor of the 10′ x 12′ rock hut that will be our combined studio and tack room.
What if Bernie, who built my rough work table, threw his tools down in a fit of rebellion against the heat, the labor, the sweat?
Probably he would not do that, not because he doesn’t feel the frustration, the fatigue and the endlessness of hard hand labor, but because he has learned control, and because he is devoted to El Jefe, his boss.
Our next leader—our El Jefe—has learned control by navigating the rough terrain of a complicated and difficult life devoted to service. This has always required calm, balance, detachment, the virtues of an arduously claimed adulthood, not the virtues of the wild man, or the wild woman, who commands our attention.
The next time you hear someone—and it may well be a woman—say something belittling about Hilary Clinton, I hope you will remember what it takes to forgo the terrible pleasure of throwing a tantrum.