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It's Nelly's World

Build Me an Ark

alec vanderboom

Oxfam has reported that, in the past twenty years, the incidence of weather-related disasters has quadrupled. If the great consensus of credentialed climatologists is correct (barring the occasional right-wing crank who claims “the jury’s still out” regarding climate change—yeah, out of its mind, and into the pockets of Big Industry), then we’re in for more. Much more.

We are getting a little foretaste here in the northeast. (The polar regions, where none of us pitch our tents and therefore is off our radar, is changing at a far more rapid rate, with frightening levels of icemelt reported.) A little time to build our big boats, the only thing that will help us now. But whither to set sail? Why, let us dock in the deserts of the southwest, there to tie our ropes to the railings of a million abandoned Arizona palais de trop, now sunk ten feet atop the drained aquifer. Let us climb the mainmast to train our spyglasses on the vast browned fields of desiccated golf courses that represent our willful childishness, greenswards that should never have been put here in the first place.

This is the summer that wasn’t. I kept waiting for it to begin, waiting through rainshower after rainshower. Mushrooms sprout in the side yard; the scent of incipient mildew spreads through the house. The boy waits, waits for a day in which the temperature climbs enough past 70 to make swimming, that old summer pastime, a desire. The dog waits, going to the doorstep to peer out through the sheets of silver wet, then giving me a baleful look (You’re not going to push me out into that, are you?) and turning around to take up her supine position on the kitchen rug again. Or else on the couch. Or maybe my bed. Her hair coats the house, in this humidity.

Summer was once the Promised Land, stretching into infinity, three months of heat and various stickinesses (popsicle juice, sweat) to enjoy for what seemed like forever. This season, we have gone to the swimming hole exactly once, and it began raining shortly after we arrived. The dogs and people started streaming back to their cars, but we stayed. We were wearing our rain gear, I mean bathing suits, after all. Last weekend I pitched my small tent, last used years and years ago at a rally in West Virginia in another young life, and shivered through two nights in a cheap sleeping bag that was rated for warm summer nights, while the cold descended from a hard, deep sky occasionally giving up wishes in a flash of shooting star. It had been hard to pull myself away from the bonfire, even though I was tired, and even though I did not really want to see what might happen if the one person overindulging in gulps from a bottle of bourbon lost his balance near the pot of flames that was glowing red from all the wood being heaped on it; by midnight he had attained the general status of gas-soaked rag, which needs only one spark to combust.

In the couple of weeks left of this season—though it seems impossible that another one is in our sights, or on the calendar already, but nature does not lie, and this morning I walked partway up Ticetenyck Mountain on a path gently littered with scarlet sugar maple leaves—I will have to work hard to get my share of summer. Ice cream cones and ferris wheels head the list. I need these to make myself feel, if only for a little while, that we have not lost this all, these pieces of the past that seasonally recur, just yet.