This is the actual lake where I am writing my actual book. It’s truly going now. I am finding the voice. It helps that it is 1982 here. Lydia says I am wrong. She says it is feels more pre-1978. Maybe, yeah. This is the American South where I came of age. It still exists.
There are meth houses with rusted metal Confederate flags planted in the yard. A BEWARE OF DOG sign advertises the inevitable pit bull. He is always chained to the porch. He has a pendulous ball sack and an alligator mouth. Just down the road we come upon a cluster of tidy, vinyl sided Mee-maw houses. One has a pansy bed. One has heart-shaped cut outs on the shutters. You KNOW that inside that one, someone is making jam. YOU KNOW.
It is beautiful and full of nature. We have seen geese (6), fat fuzzy bees (2), a fishy splash that may have been a turtle(1), a shadow that may have been a deer (1), entitled ducks(3, all mallards), and we have heard but not seen sex-obsessed springtime perverted frogs (Umpty). The murderous sex cannibal count is still at 0. SO FAR.
The ducks are irked because I am off grains and have no bread. They cluster around the dock, making disapproving tutting chuckle-y sounds low in their throats. I like the musical duck-muttering, though if I spoke duck I am pretty sure they would be calling horrifying curses down upon my breadless house, yea unto the seventh generation.
Me: Maybe we should give them some lunchmeat.
Lydia: Would they eat that?
Me: Ducks are omnivores, I am pretty sure. I feel like they eat bugs and minnows and such. Once at a duck pond in Atlanta, I saw a duck sidle all innocent toward a picnic and then run off with a piece of fried chicken, but it upset me.
Lydia: Yeah. I was thinking we could give them the fat off our rotisserie chicken, but then that upset me, too.
Me: It’s a little too cannibal-y.
What if we fed the ducks the chicken skin, I am thinking, and one of them LIKED it. What if one of them…OVER-liked it. He might look at his relations and make the same connection Bagel made between the wildlife of my yard and That-Which-is-Delicious. He would begin preying on the other ducks, unable to help himself. What if he ate HIS BEST FRIEND? WHAT IF HE ATE HIS MOTHER? He would be the saddest, sorriest duck cannibal in Alabama. I don’t want to carry that, you know?
We put the chicken skin in the trash.
ASIDE TO YOU I SAY: I know I am blogging a lot about cannibalism and other instances of eating inappropriate things, Oh my Best Beloveds, but I am on a new food regimen trying to create for myself something like a immune system. I am HUNGRY with this specific cookie-wanting HOLLOWNESS that all this God-forsaken, blighted #&^&$)#&*@@_#ing FRUIT I am poking down gullet is not going to fill.
My LORD, but I love this state. This LANDSCAPE! The greens of Alabama are the greenest and most lovely greens. The dirt is black with old blood, it smells rotty and loamy and feels like crumbled velvet in my hands. It almost makes me want to garden, this Alabama dirt, and you know I hate gardening. Gardens are where they keep the bugs.
But this land makes me want to till. I want to dig and gauge and turn this rot that makes the lushness rise up.
Every time I come here I know that I am home, but I could never live here. I would need SO much therapy. Rural Alabama is the beating heart of my ambivalence about my homeland. When I come here, I am inside a double pulse of love and despair.
It happens so fast. Yesterday we pulled into this gravel drive. I got out of the car and breathed in, and it started. Later, I paused while unloading the car. I knelt and put my fingers in this dirt, and I knew —I still know — that the book is here, both in the decay and the green smell of new things rising.