Thursday, December 31, 2009
I’m thinking about frogs and salamanders. And fish. Otherworldly varmints with slippery skins and wet unseeing eyes. I’d like to cradle more fish, frogs and salamanders in my hand: Squat in the cold water. Between the weedy banks of the narrow creek behind Grandmother’s house in Gate City. In the summer sun. With the ichthyologic smell of fresh water. My top half dry. Crawdads threatening to pinch my knees.
I should have plucked more of them up while I could. I should have let my toes squish deeper into the mud, without dread of the slimy or sharp or inscrutable thing in the water.
My mother played in that creek as a kid. Sixty years on she’s still comfortable with the squashy and the miry. She never fears what lurks beneath the water.
When I swim in a river, lake or pond, I launch myself across the surface to quickly gain some depth. I don’t want my toes to touch anything creepy. And I never ever peer into the water: There could be a skull or a bit of bone, or something half eaten, or – shit – just a bunch of scary weeds waving at me, urging me to look at the bloodcurdling, cramp-inducing object hidden at their roots.
But Mom never hesitates. Slips right into the murky pond with her pants rolled above her knees, her salamander-belly calves glistening against the water line, her long skinny toes spreading in the mud. Sunk in the sludgy, bottomless pleasure of Creation.