Today is the day children wake up pink-cheeked, warm-toed and sparkle-eyed, as the sky wakes from behind the mountain, lazily, then with an urgent rush, color, running, movement, the voices come from all six directions, kids and birds alike: “I am hungry!”
Drink-your-tea! Drink-your-tea!, insists the spotted towhee from the pinon pine. She gets frustrated with me. I sit at the foot of the flaming Apache plume, coffee in hand, while towhee ramps up her instruction: Quick-ly-drink-your-tea! I’ll whistle back sometimes, teasing her: I-don’t-want-the-tea!, and we get into a melodious argument over tea, pine cones and sun. Her beak is upturned, her throat dances in fresh light with the confidence of the day.
Today is the day wildflowers know exactly what to do. They had been playing ‘pass on a baton‘. In March, the hills looked snowy with Mountain Balm, and the bees got drunk on the first nectar. Then Cliffrose, and Apache Plume, Evening Primrose, and Desert Marigold, Indian Paintbrush, and every type of Penstemon, California Poppy and Golden Columbine, Prickly Poppy and thickets of Desert Globemallow took turns. Today is a wild awakening unfolding.
Today is the day my mango will sprout!, sings the boy. And a new strawberry will be there waiting for him. Three lizards on the wall will show off their sun-catcher scales and muscles: push up, jog, push up, jog, flip the tail… And the yucca on the quail trail, it was merely a bundle of conspicuous spikes last night, today the yucca will suddenly shoot out a two foot flower stalk, as only agaves and yuccas do, just like that, overnight, because they can, because they are as magic as magic beans.
Today the child will say: Let’s keep jumping until we hear water splash in our bellies! Did you try that? It is a perfectly good day to listen to the child’s whispers. To roll the blue blanket up into a jumping rope, and jump.
Today is the day for hiding in the canyon. And for skipping rocks. Counting herons, butterflies and wild poppies, and then forgetting the numbers. But we’ll never forget the tips of the wings, the brush of the petals brushing on our skin. Today the gardener will count her tomatoes, and the homesteader will count his chickens. Today we will quietly or loudly acknowledge again, that waters are low, radiation is wide, prices are high, species are fewer and the poor are more, that cities keep creeping and forests shrinking at a much faster pace than traffic on the highway. Today we will find an expression for our grief. The way damned rivers find the herons and the cormorants. Today we will also hold the door for someone just a little bit longer and smile just a little bit wider and we will place out faith in the faces of these rocks.
Birds ate all corn seeds and sunflowers, and pack rats scurried away with some fresh seedlings, but kids kept watering that lifeless corn spot, morning after morning, when it seemed hope was all but lost. Today is the day I spotted one fresh green spiral reaching into the sun, with a rare dew drop on its lips. Last man standing.
Today I walk the creek carrying in two hands, wild mint in one, and a bag of trash in another: crushed beer cans, plastic bottles left behind by hopeful prospectors. I smell like a cat who just rolled in a mint patch, happy, squinting in the bright morning sun, accompanied by hummingbirds, and glad we were given two hands.
Today is the day of the oak. Boy carries a tiny Gambel oak in his little hands with muddy fingernails, and we will plant it in these burning rocks, praying for its roots to take. We will not be here, and will not see it grow, but I am sure my spotted towhee friend will carry the news far and wide. And acorn woodpeckers will hoard the seeds, their pirate faces buried in perfectly carved out Ponderosa granaries. I close my eyes, and in the dry wind, the aspens sing the rain. Today the air fills with moisture, and swells up with possibility. There should be a word for that. For that feeling: No matter what, anything can happen today!, because it is wider than Southwest skies. Or maybe we do have a word for that feeling — it is the sound of water in jumpy bellies.