drying out

July 22nd, 2021

Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body. — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I was bringing in the garbage cans when I saw my next-door neighbor crouched in his front yard pulling a tuft of grass.

It’s half dead, I said to him, which might not have been true about the grass but was certainly true about a lot of other things. So I said it.

I just can’t seem to get the sprinklers right, he said. We’re thinking about taking it all out.

The ground was bare in spots, and although our neighbor’s patch of grass is small, I understood where he was going. It’s a stage of grief. A late stage.

That’s how I feel about the garden, I said. So much of it is dying.

He looked up. What’s the good news?

We were warned.

I heard a story on the radio the other day about the dire impact of climate change in the western U.S., specifically the southwest. The expert being interviewed said that the current drought and water shortage wasn’t just about seasonal temperature or rain but about a third, larger transformation at work: aridification, the long and irreversible process of drying out. Or maybe it’s dying out.

I happened to hear this report on the drive back from a few weeks of sitting in silence, and when I came home the truth of things rang out to me in the shriveled stalks, burnt leaves and bright yellow slope of dying mondo in the backyard. I’ve been seeing this happen in inexplicable bits for quite some time, seeing but not quite seeing, disbelief holding sway, as it does, past the point of no return.

And so I sit, even as I walk and weed and sweep and weep, but there is no hurry because I have no answers or questions, nothing to add, nothing to say. I don’t write much. I don’t do much. I am letting go, which is the unburdened love of the one left behind, the peace that passes human understanding.

Photo by Kelsey Dody on Unsplash




  1. Okay, I’ll maybe be the first comment. It’s appropriate I speak remembering the last communications. Last being the operative word. Like weeds that manage to squeeze their way in everywhere, there is a tongue in cheek humor in your words, from time to time, certainly in this blog. Being resigned is the only option. Mass hysteria will occur from time to time, depending where you happen to be in the world. These days it could be anywhere! Many of us will fall back on the NIMBY approach. Madness will strike some. Others will find a way to make money from it all, as they have always done. They’re not drying out in Germany and China, but are where you are. I had a good laugh last night watching Tracey Ullman impersonations on YouTube. Try it.

    Comment by Larry Misiak — July 22, 2021 @ 9:29 am

  2. Ah, Larry, despite appearances (flooding) Europe is drying out as well.

    Comment by Simone — July 27, 2021 @ 12:54 am

  3. See above

    Comment by Larry Misiak — July 22, 2021 @ 9:39 am

  4. Oh, you got me again, Karen, and after I already had mascara on for an interview today.

    Brian, my husband, is away in Montana fighting wild fires. He called as he was driving there, describing how dead and dry the landscape was.

    Back at home, I’m preparing to send one son back to college and another for a week at a friend’s lake house. And thinking, as always, of my father—who was much more like your mother than your father. And this unburdened love of the one left behind.

    Comment by Deirdre — July 22, 2021 @ 10:21 am

  5. As I read, I am only able to weep.
    “I don’t write much. I don’t do much. I am letting go, which is the unburdened love of the one left behind, the peace that passes human understanding.” – Yes. Thank you. Much love and kindest regards, Maezen.

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — July 22, 2021 @ 10:54 am

  6. That last paragraph — oy.

    Comment by Elizabeth Aquino — July 22, 2021 @ 8:37 pm

  7. Always timely, always welcome. Thank you.

    Comment by Sheri — July 23, 2021 @ 6:17 am

  8. Oddly enough, when I look at that beautiful photo and see cracks in the earth, all I can think is “that’s where the light gets in”. Can you see it ? Lean in … 💚

    Comment by Bonnie Rae — July 25, 2021 @ 3:01 pm

  9. Appreciate the thought, but no I can’t see the light in this case. That would require putting my head in the sand, again.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — July 25, 2021 @ 3:48 pm

  10. Exactly.

    Comment by Bobby Byrd — July 26, 2021 @ 9:35 am

  11. Yes, this. We were warned. For half a century. It is heartbreaking.
    I remember once, taking a Buddhism workshop from a Tibetan Lama, he explained that joy and sorrow always have a counter energy somewhere in the universe -because all energy together is zero- and that because of that our emotions should be kept in check.
    Some people in this world have been having too much fun.
    Give your neighbour a sedum to replace the grass. It has beautiful flowers.

    Comment by Simone — July 27, 2021 @ 1:30 am

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