Mouse munching in the cupboard to my left. Or is it—? No, Sheba’s lying by her special bowl on my right, splayed out with one eye cocked my way and a gleam lucent within that brown orb denoting a contentment I wish were mine. Me of all creatures forever dissatisfied, even if only passively, even if furtively, secretly, forever wanting more, and here at my feet a lesson for the ages. I find myself unconsciously shaking my head, eyes burning with exhaustion. How much actual sleep did I get last night? My addled mind struggles to do the math and arrives at last with a calculation of three hours. Maybe less. Maybe a shade more. Not enough. And not just a lack of sleep but fevered dreams and tormented thoughts dragging me into places no sane person would dare go, and now the dawn and dark overcast skies and the faint tap-tapping of rain dancing on the downspout and a mouse munching in the cupboard and Sheba nodding her furry head haughtily at me as if to say, “Are you going to let it do that?”
No. I remove my glasses and setting them carefully on the desk take two fingers and massage my eyes until ghostly halos electrify that interior darkness. I want to lose myself in that night and have no time for it but the sensation is so alluring and profound it’s almost erotic. With a sigh I wearily lift myself from the chair and root in the pantry until I locate the trap. It’s buried beneath a 12-pack of paper towels, which I move aside to clear space. The trap’s jaws yawn wide and latch snugly but snap without warning like some rabid dog turning on its master. My pulse rockets into overdrive. I wonder how many people have mangled fingers or suffered heart seizures by touchy mousetraps. A reverse sort of expiration or bone-splintering. Do mice privately rejoice at such times? Questions without answers. Useless ponderings of a sleep-starved brain. Time for work.
Stepping outside is to enter an emerald chamber painted with a thousand shades of green, the air warm and humid and soft on the skin like a caress and redolent of tropical breezes far beyond the farthest green ridge. Kansas summers aren’t slow to arrive such as the cuckoos and goatsuckers lollygagging their way northward from Yucatan jungles and Panamanian estuaries but sudden, explosive, irresistible. Our winter-logged minds stagger at the pace of change, the sheer random fecundity, the riotous transformation of brittle, colorless desiccation to teeming growth, and never more disconcertingly than when overwrought by sleeplessness and haunted dreams. I pause by the car and take it all in or as much as anyone can, tracing in my mind’s eye the erratic path of Juganine Creek and seeing behind that green veil an invitation to a world few enter or care to tread.
I am never at my best when this weary, nor when my mind roams a different plane altogether, one of western skies and mountains upthrust into a cerulean sky or even redrock canyons echoing with rivers swollen from snowmelt and the land spare and unfinished somehow. And leaving, which exacts its own toll. I’m grateful for a long weekend spent in Lori’s companionship but now comes the workweek and nights alone and packing for a journey and the inevitable goodbye.
Chimney swifts chitter a farewell and I’m off, music playing, coffee hot and working its indelible magic, the drive relaxed and long enough to allow me to settle into my bones. Almost lucid on arrival, getting in the groove, and somehow the day passes as they do and I come out the other side wondering where I was and what I might have done, if my words were any good or interspersed with exhortative notes to don’t forget flashlight or charge batteries or get hay for Sheba. The road reversed and a new weariness descending, and a host of new questions, too, what to cook for supper, when will I see Lori again. Where will my dreams take me tonight.
Half-awake, lost in thought, I see the elevated towers of Lynn far off and a single shaft of sunlight breaking through the low clouds and the atmosphere hazy and velvet and it seems like a dream but not the normal dreams of cities paralyzed with traffic or dark hallways but one I dreamed long ago in a time before this was real. I sit up straighter, roused and alert. I know this dream. This green dream, these green variegated fields textured with hedgerows and tottering fencelines and windmills without blades, with bisecting roads stretching away to indistinct horizons luminous in the fading light, the lowering clouds, a distant fork of lightning sizzling like a serpent’s fiery tongue, roadside ditches limpid with still pools of water mirroring lush grasses yet unmown, dark masses of cattle, darker clumps of cedars, swarms of swallows weaving the air around bridges and the streams below sluggish and half-lit and altogether mysterious and inviting, the pallid monolithic grain elevators rising with the miles humming beneath the tires, rising one after another, each containing its own tide wrack nestled at its base, each a waymark, each a variant of another, each a prairie lighthouse guiding me ever eastward to a home at the end of a gravel lane and hellos and goodbyes and hellos again.