Monday, March 19, 2012

The Lightning Forest Chapter Thirty-four: Country Darkness

      Orlando is burning on the southern horizon. Every night, it burns a little bit brighter, a little bit closer. The entire city is immersed in a searing light. It inches northward consuming Eatonville, Maitland, and Apopka. Imperceptibly it draws near. Lake Mary has fallen. You can feel the hum as it rises up in a torrent.  It is feeding on the trees, the untouched land. It is inhaling all of the oxygen. Fire. Fire. The sand pines are heavy with cone. Does the forest lean toward the glow, hungry for the flame?  The scrub wants to be destroyed. At its heart, it is a tinder. It aches for fire. Once a generation, the desire is so compelling, the denied ember explodes and ignites the crown, charring everything down to the sand. The lightning bolt, the cigarette butt, the campfire is only a convenient excuse.

      I like to go outside and stand in the country darkness. A gentle churring in the grass. The dew swells. A bold galaxy spins from horizon to horizon. This is my precious metal. This is my Mercedes, my yacht, my golden parachute.

Night does not fall from the sky, it rises up from the earth.

      Orlando is burning on the southern horizon. It brings complete destruction. The tortoises won’t emerge from their burrows. The gopher frogs will boil. The rosemary, the oaks, lyonias, and the pawpaws won’t resprout. The sand itself will solidify. Orlando’s firestorm burns so intensely that nothing will rise from the ashes. Its brimstones fall tens of miles away in the open land and grow out from there, eventually to meet up again with the main blaze. The scrub will willingly accept this fire, but it will not survive it. I wonder if I will I be here to see it reach my doorstep.

      I wake up late at night and look out to the scrub. It is three in the morning. The trees are crooked black masts leaning over a sea of white sand. It is so late even the frogs and crickets are sleeping. Sparkling lights are drifting slowly from the trees down to the ground. Tiny, quiet lights. I rub my eyes. I count ten, maybe more. They glow on the grass and sand for a moment before fading away.  It is unlike anything I have ever seen. My heart beats faster. More lights fall from the trees. Fifteen, maybe twenty. They are bluish-green. I strain my eyes trying to get a closer look. There is a tiny speck at the heart of each light. A bug? A fungal spore? Tenderly, they drift down, lighting up the woods around them. A magical shower. Not the green luciferinous glow of fireflies. Not the atmospheric rip of meteorites. Not the meandering sparks from a fire. I’ve seen foxfire and will-o’-the-wisp, the ignus fatuus. This is different. A hanging garden of light. This is something forbidden, a pollination of energy, an unexplainable phosphor adrift in the deep scrub. They fall from the trees like heavy snow. More follow. The streak of their descent lingers on the film of my retinas. Then, they are gone, faded completely away into the ground. I wait for more. And wait. Nothing. I vow to search the sand in the morning for a tiny ash or the sudden appearance of a shy flower that wasn’t there yesterday.
      Do I say anything or should this be my secret forever? I fall back into bed.  

      Orlando is burning on the southern horizon, brighter every night. It has swallowed a curving slice of sky. No plucking, no moderation, no savoring. Taxes are going up again this year. The land is getting more expensive but it is worth less and less. I know these falling lights, whatever or whoever they are, will not survive when Orlando arrives.  I know no one will ever believe.  No one will ever believe.

      I stand in your country darkness, Lord, amazed and humbled. The more I see, the more confused I become. I flow down from a northern mountain. I rise in an ancient dune. I burn. I bend in the wind. I surface. I crackle like a handful of beetles. Like lightning. Under my skin, I itch. I weep light. Up in the candles, inside the inner lantern. I long for the relentless hot summers. I do not understand my own body. Do I say anything? Should I pray aloud so everyone can hear my sandy voice?

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