Skip to main content

What the Gods Have Not Taken from Us

Illustration by Diane and Leo Dillon*
In one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, the author writes: "Weakness and work are two things the gods have not taken from us." I have recalled that sentence in my mind countless times in the 40 years since I read that novel, especially on nights when, already tired beyond description, I faced additional office work or housework. This summer, however, there has been a variation on that sentence coming to my mind: "Weakness, work and weather are three things the gods have not taken from us."

I live in one of this summer's drought-stricken states, Texas. Texans have long suffered hot summers and done so with no small degree of toughness and pride. This summer for me, however, has been like no other in my lifetime. This summer's drought and high temperatures have made the weather a source of death and destruction. Trees that have graced these plains for three generations or more have died. Ranchers had to sell entire herds of cattle, because there was no way to water or feed them. This leaves them with very uncertain futures, because starting another herd from scratch is overwhelming in every way, including economically. The wheat crop is a disaster, gone and done.  Cotton did some better, but not well enough not to punish its producers.

Where once there was water
Tanks (man-made ponds for livestock) are dry to the dirt, cracked and pock-marked. The lakes that supply our water are dipping to new lows. Wildlife are hurting. A few weeks ago, I found a baby Mississippi Kite in my front yard. An extraordinary creature, letting the water from the sprinkler in my front yard cool its grey and white feathers. Still so young that when it opened its large wings, it would fall over. Fortunately, there is a wild bird rescue operation in my community. One of their volunteers came to collect the bird, and I now know it will be fed and cared for until it can soar on its own.  The volunteer told me that last year, they rescued some 34 Kites, but this year by mid-summer they had already rescued well over 100. She believes that the Kite that arrived Lord-knows-how in my yard was pushed from the nest either by a dominant sibling or by parents who simply could no longer feed it.

The young Kite
The summer has taught me that we, too, are vulnerable, perhaps even as vulnerable as the Kite who looked steadily at me with its deep, black eyes as I sat on the ground next to it a while. And, after hearing news reports about Glacier Park in Colombia losing glacier territory, and myriad other reports about climate change, I want to say this: Let's stop arguing over what's happening and just work to fix it. Let's act as though climate change were real and fast upon us, and then everyone wins. I'd love to work on the problem and then find out we don't have one....much more so than not act now and find out later that the problem is insolvable.

But back to C.S. Lewis's novel and the gods that appear in it. Just when I had reached a level of distress over our weather, four days after I drove down a highway where a parched brown forest now borders the shoulders of the road, a cool wind arrived. The temperature dropped from 108 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. And then: and then the unthinkable. It rained. The first drop of rain in three months.  I went outside and stood in it, as I had promised myself I would do if the rain would just visit us once again. This was no rain I wanted to be protected from. This was God-given rain I wanted to embrace.  A reminder that, indeed, the gods have not taken weather from us, that just as the weather the gods give us can threaten and destroy, it can also soothe and restore.

*The illustration by Diane and Leo Dillon was used for the cover of the Time Life edition of Till We Have Faces. The caption links to an article about these award-winning illustrators.


Popular posts from this blog

Mil Cosas

Mil Lubroth was an American artist of Polish and Russian descent who came to settle in Madrid, where her chic, short name took on an extra meaning. In castellano, Mil means a thousand. Just right for an artist whose work could never be "pinned down," or categorized by any one theme or direction.

To experience Lubroth's work is akin to hearing a chorus of voices from Sheherazade's 1001 nights: it is to see and feel a thousand things united in one intriguing and beautiful visual journey. If you are anywhere near Madrid during October, invite yourself to a banquet of Mil's "mil cosas" atAnnta Gallery. The exhibit that opens October 5th is the first retrospective of Lubroth's work since her death in 2004.

Spanning 50 years, these works reveal an artist who was never less than mature and skilled in her work. There is no sign of awkward beginnings, improvement over time or deepening development. Here is Minerva, beginning her artistic trajectory fully f…

Booked on Sugar

Sometimes the television remote control finds the channel for Destiny. I believe I was indeed destined to see Marc Aronson'sand Marina Buddhos's presentation to students at the Brooklyn Public Library based on their recent book, SugarChanged the World. Their program certainly changed my world. While written for a youth audience, this is a book that adults will enjoy, and naturally, a great book for parents to share with their children.

I often wonder at the parallels between drug addiction and food addiction in our culture. I know I'm not alone in this. You can't miss the similarities:  "Betcha can't eat just one.  Crave the crunch. Do you dream in chocolate? Hershey chocolate is bliss."  And, as noted in my earlier posts on  Super Bowl ads, when you see a man "snorting" Dorito crumbs .... well, I rest my case.

I've also thought about how quickly we "judge" people with substance abuse problems while the US clearly suffers from foo…

A Cat, a Dog, and Shakespeare: The Perfect Sunday Afternoon

One reason I keep paying a cable bill is to be able to watch Turner Classic Movies. I had just finished a batch of Sunday chores and was resting a moment on the couch, wedged between Chatterly the cat and Gypsy the dog (an Australian Kelpie), and saw that TCM was about to air Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, and produced in 1953. 

I read Julius Caesar for the first time when I was in sixth grade. It was a great time to read it, because it seemed fresh and real to me, even though some of the centuries-old English was challenging. 

The movie made me wish that Joseph Mankiewicz had directed more of Shakespeare's works for cinema. The balance the movie strikes is oh, so totally just right. It does not go so far into cinematic territory that we lose the work's theatricality, but travels far enough by camera that it provides a sense of seamless reality only a movie can create.  The casting was brilliant.  James Mason was at his best as Brutus, and he carries the film on h…