Parked on the side of the road, I look out at a vast Texas landscape filled with iconic trees and mythical buttes that stretch out into the infinite.
Memories drift by like the clouds.
Until the air shifts. Humidity increases. A dryness permeates dirt and rock and organic matter down below where we hadn’t noticed it before.
Slow decay and rot provides a shifting foundation of our lives, making a lie of the myth we all live by that the world beneath is solid and unchanging. Thank geosmin, a small bacterium we safely ignore most of the time, a complex alcohol compound powered by deterioration, an integral part of the decline and fall of all things natural. The air moistens just before rain arrives. An otherwise imperceptible increase in humidity precedes the rain, causing geosmin to release tiny aerosols in the earth. As molecules shift, the human nose, inefficient in so many ways, picks up the scent.
We are all now as we always were: careening, albeit very slowly, towards chaos and disorder.
The center cannot hold. We cannot keep it all together. We are destined to see everything crumble.
Still, we hope to keep it all together. For a while.
This hope is grand and eloquent. And doomed to failure.
We smell it before we feel it. And feel it before we realize it.
Death, once a distant abstraction, makes its presence known.
It’s still far away (although uncertain perspectives make it difficult to tell exactly how far), but near enough to be part of our world and impossible to ignore.