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Gone to Ground

This is the first post in this week’s series, Grounded: Stories From the American Southwest. I’ve always been fascinated by its alien landscape. As always, thank you for reading my little blog.

A backdraft smacks him in the face when they open the door of the plane. Concentrated heat melts into him, causing his skin to crackle. He can hear it burn as he trudges along the jetway. By the time he makes it to his rented car, he is sweating, but before he can wipe his brow with the back of his hand, the welcome sensation of dewey wetness evaporates into the parched air.

He didn’t want to be here. In Arizona. The desert. At least, he’s come to say goodbye, if one can ever say goodbye to a person whose death won’t kill him. Parents, they live on within the landscape of our selves, even when they aren’t welcome there.

He surveys the terrain zipping past his windows. It matches his disrupted mood. The ground bakes under the relentless sun. Driving through the country is like visiting another planet. Strangled brush makes an otherworldy carpet on the dusty ground. Giant spines of cacti – would they become trees if it rained enough? Forests of them dot the rolling hillsides as far as he can see.

Water. He stops to buy a bottle. The hard ground scatters bowls of dust in the wake of his footsteps, the remnants of the runoff of the river of time. When he pours some water on it, the soil contracts like constricting pores, refusing to take the wetness in.

He stares, knows he’s stalling, delaying the inevitable, the possible rekindling of something within the core of his combusted soul. When he sees his father, he feels like the rocky, starved soil surrounding him. It’s mesmerizing. It goes on for miles.

Yet, there’s nothing there.

Connections can wither without a healthy dose of water, the proper amount of light and shade. Even predictable storms erode layers of feeling if they do nothing to relieve the harm of the aftermath they cause.

His father is dying in the desert. This wasted land will be a fitting place to say farewell to the man who withheld his care in a lifetime without rain.

NOTE TO READERS: WordPress seems to have a comment glitch this morning. If you aren’t logged into your WP account, the comments are absent from the bottom of the post, and when one clicks on the comments from the main page, the comments are not visible. I sent a note to support regarding this issue. I apologize if you are trying to post a comment and are unable to make it work today.

45 Comments Post a comment
  1. earlybird #

    Ouch! Harsh. Excellent last sentence and I love this: ‘The hard ground scatters bowls of dust in the wake of his footsteps, the remnants of the runoff of the river of time. When he pours some water on it, the soil contracts like constricting pores, refusing to take the wetness in.’ That’s exactly how it is.

    October 24, 2011
    • This post was inspired by MTM and true events, though I was with him when we came to say goodbye to his father several years ago when he was dying.

      October 24, 2011
  2. Teresa Mello #

    Once again, Andra, you have painted an excellent picture of both the harshness of the desert and the father/son relationship. I can visualize everything!

    October 24, 2011
    • I think the desert is gorgeous. It is harsh, but I always have to blink to convince myself I am not on some other planet. It is so different from anything else.

      October 24, 2011
  3. I need a drink of water after reading that. 🙂 Well written, as always.

    October 24, 2011
    • I think I will have one myself. I hope you had a good weekend, Lori. 😉

      October 24, 2011
  4. Barren, Andra,and sad. You reap what you sew…

    October 24, 2011
    • MTM’s father left when he was very small. So, I guess he did reap the disinterest he planted. I am glad I got to meet him, though. I could see where MTM got some of his charm. His father was very charming in small doses.

      October 24, 2011
  5. Parallels . . . Always there are parallels to be taken from your writings and measured against our own experiences. Loved this.

    As to the desert: having briefly lived there, I think the desert Southwest has some of God’s most glorious and spectacular scenery. A part of my heart will always remain there.

    As to the “deserts” created by distant, albeit ‘charming in small doses’ fathers, my heart aches for my own sons; and that father, too, who reaped what he sowed and carried it to his grave.

    October 24, 2011
    • I grin every time I visit the desert, too, Karen. I don’t think I would want to live in it, but it is breathtaking to see. MTM called me early this morning on his way down to Tucson, and he described the sunrise. Sunrises and sunsets, both are divine.

      I am sorry to hear that your sons shared the same fate as MTM. I hope, like him, they are not marked by too many scars.

      October 24, 2011
      • If my purse were bottomless (so I could freely travel to visit those I love), I’d live in/near either Santa Fe or Tucson in a heartbeat. My preferences for temps have always leaned to the side of warm (just one of the reasons I loved Charleston so much), so I think I could adjust. 🙂

        As for scars; I’ve always believed my boys both are fairly masterful at disguise. Brings to mind last week’s discussion of “what might have been.”

        October 24, 2011
      • MTM’s best friend is now living in Tucson. I am glad he’s getting to spend some time working with him on a review today. Beats the heck out of a class on America’s financial implosion, which is my work for the day.

        Peace to your sons, Karen. I understand. Completely.

        October 24, 2011
  6. I have never been to the desert. I think I might actually have a vampire like reaction and disintegrate into a cloud of dust. I was born to hight humidity and have always lived in it. The one time I went to a drier climate – near Seattle of all places, I got a dizzy head and a nose bleed. I think my gills were shriveling like onion skin.

    And just as telling as the different climates people live in are the differing relationships we have with parents are relatives. No matter how we chose to deny it, we are all products of those relationships – or lack of relationships. They are either fertile and lively, or dry and barren, or somewhere in between. But they are always of the profoundest influence on us.

    October 24, 2011
    • You would just use a lot more beautifying skin lotion, Carnell. I took a very steamy shower this morning, too, just so I could stand in there and breathe like home for a few minutes.

      The deserts of some connections aren’t that easy to resolve, though.

      October 24, 2011
      • And you just had to tell me abou the steamy shower this morning why? The mind boggles…. 😉

        October 24, 2011
      • I am bored, Carnell. Boredom catches me not thinking, I guess.

        October 24, 2011
      • So what is your excuse the rest of the time. Ha! 😛

        October 24, 2011
      • Oh, you are so droll, Carnell.

        October 24, 2011
      • And YOU should be paying attention in your class.

        October 24, 2011
      • I should, but now, with the discussion of CEO pay, I just want to go hurl.

        October 24, 2011
      • Would love to hurl a bunch of CEOs. You have to wonder sometimes, how do they sleep at night?

        October 24, 2011
      • They buy it with money.

        October 24, 2011
      • Well I hope they have nightmares…

        October 24, 2011
      • Me too.

        October 24, 2011
    • Carnell, if you go ‘near Seattle’ and want damp, humid air, you must stay on the WESTERN side of the Cascades; some places east of them will gain you the desert air. 🙂 If you want absolutely wet there, go to the Olympic peninsula and the Hoh Rainforest. WA has just about any climate you could ask for, IF you’re in the right section of the state. It’s another place that will always have a piece of my heart (and my youngest son still lives there).

      October 24, 2011
      • I have to second Karen’s rec. I only spent one day in the soaked Olympics, but I still want to return and hike lots more.

        October 24, 2011
  7. Harsh. some people only learn how to care when it’s almost (or is) too late. You get the feeling this has been passed on from father to son. Sad

    October 24, 2011
    • I don’t think the father learned how to care, Sidey. Luckily, I am married to the son. He loves me more than I can describe with words.

      October 24, 2011
  8. As always, your writing is awesome. I loved the blog post. I am sorry to hear that MTM and I had to experience the fathers that we did. I wish that my father would have been more loving and more emotionally connected with my sister and I. I have spent the last 25 years trying to figure out how to be something that I never experienced as a child. Luckily for me I have a heavenly father that has been able to heal some of the wounds and given me some insight into loving and caring for my family.

    October 24, 2011
  9. The start to another great series, Andra! Fabulous writing. Where is your novel?!

    October 24, 2011
    • Ah. My novel. A partial and two fulls are out with agents. Two more requested lengthy partials over the weekend. Hopefully, one of them will take me or tell me how to fix the book so someone will take me in my next round of querying. The writing game. It IS that. 🙂 But, I cannot imagine life without the writing (and the reading of exceptional writing, like yours. Where is YOUR novel?? 🙂 )

      October 24, 2011
      • Awesome! If several agents don’t claw each other to get to you, they’re nuts! As for my novel, it’s partly written and I’m taking the winter off to try to finish. Then, into the writing gladiator games for me, too (and here I beat my sword upon my shield, lol).

        October 24, 2011
      • It does feel like sword upon shield sometimes. Happy to act as a reader if needed. I know having readers helped me. I can’t wait to see what you’re writing! This past month has yielded so much richness in words for me. The connections make that so.

        October 24, 2011
  10. And the obverse from the great poet:

    “Water, water everywhere, and all the boards do shrink. Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

    One of my favorite lines from the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Lack is lack. Whether in a dessert or ocean.

    You’re on a fine roll–

    October 25, 2011
  11. Riding that fine edge between being so descriptive I skip forward looking for something to happen (a la Ray Bradbury) and not pulling the reader into the environment with you.

    Nice job.

    October 26, 2011
    • Actually, comparing anything to Bradbury is ridiculous… only writer I’ve ever read where I can just jump forward twenty pages at the start of a chapter and he’s still describing the scene.

      October 26, 2011
    • Thank you.

      I feel the same way every time I read Pat Conroy. I can skip pages and pages and pages of his writing and still know what’s going on.

      October 26, 2011

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