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Amber Paulen

The Heat Wave is Over

Today the heat wave has been replaced by sparse clouds that for a moment converged into a patchy overcast. A cool breeze gives goose bumps. The following is what I wrote last Friday, strung out on the limp mindlessness which is heat, but still trying to sift through ideas for a new piece about a tree.

Summer plays its heat down the sweat of my spine, dripping. The air is still, heavy and the light feathered leaves of the trees barely rustle. I can’t imagine moving from here, moving my legs hanging sticky on their undersides, from my chair. I can’t imagine moving my mind, lethargic gob in my head that mopes unstimulated even with iced coffee. Information reaches me after crossing a gulf of steam, melted. I am melting, I think.

Experiencing such heat is like time-travelling to primeval days, to earth formation. I feel like water, not only for drinking, for immersion, but the water in me is evaporating. Some invisible part of me is rising out of my body, liquid, my attention span, limited. The water that usually sloshes around inside me in abundance, has dripped its last out of me. I am nothing but a dry husk drying in the sun, nothing but tangled hair and oily face and sticky armpits, undersides of legs. Nothing left to think with, nothing left to think.

The dry hangover didn’t help this morning and now I’m hungover from earlier hours, trying to think about the tree with life in the air. The fallen tree in the forest behind the house whose roots stood vertical. I read those roots like a palmist reads palms and a card reader reads cards. I was reading for a future I couldn’t see; reading for the present obscured from view. It was more than just solace I sought there. I saw my young self grow old and my old self grow young; I saw the life of the parts and the life of the whole. It was fall and I was seventeen. I don’t think I conjured hope but instead waited, expectantly. There was so much to be written out yet.

My sloshy ideas for this piece are first person, past, present and third person. To convey adolescence with examples: boyfriend or no boyfriend, sports, school, the advent of change, leaving high school, relief, independence. I didn’t go to the forest to think as much as be with the tree. The unspeakable wisdom of its silence. The tree didn’t counsel me and I never told it anything. We conversed in silence. What it gave me to witness: saplings and growth all along its decaying body—and me. The smells of fall, animals, hibernation, leaves falling, shutting down, turning off, under the soil, up in the boughs, bird migration, harvested fields, nights of frost, apples, pumpkins, squash.


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