Tell me why

by Andrea Elizabeth

I need to know why. In my region the answer is the Brazos. I think. I live south of town but I cross the Brazos watershed line to traffic with humans. My dealings with people are in the Trinity watershed, but my heart is in the Brazos. My stillborn son, Isaac, is buried in the Brazos watershed west northwest of my house. Perhaps some of his molecules entered the ocean from there. If I were to resurrect him, maybe I’d have to canoe that way to find traces. But Possum Kingdom Lake is upstream from the cemetery and that is the northern boundary of my interest. The Brazos watershed goes up to the New Mexico Rockies, but upstream from PK lake is foreign to me. The southern boundary to me is Lake Whitney, around Waco, even though the river flows to the Gulf of Mexico. My turf is western central Texas. I like the Colorado and Pecos basins next. West of Austin, though the Colorado also flows to the ocean. My interest in the Pecos is from Ft. Davis to where it terminates in the Rio Grande, Judge Roy Bean’s turf. This area does not include Amarillo, Lubbock, or Midland to the west, nor East Texas nor Houston – the oil areas. My areas are thinly grassed cattle ranches with rugged hills, and even mountains if you include Big Bend, which I do. It’s named for the big bend in the Rio Grande that give Texas it’s elbow. I kind of like ranches but they may be more of a con in this area because of the overgrazing that made it even less grassy. And the barbed wire. If there’d been less people and less greed, I would have liked the shortlived free range cattle drivers’ impact on the land. But wouldn’t buffalo have suited better? They mostly stayed in the plains of the panhandle though.

Maybe it’s the aspergers in me that likes the unspoiled natural landscape better than the populated areas. What I like about them is the stability. People live so short and change their mind and move so much. The rocks are the only really stable, local inhabitants. But they have slowly changed because of the rivers. The rivers also change because of sediment deposits and erosion. It’s a constant tension between rocks and water. The stable banks of the river are the rocky hills, and the looser banks are the flood plains on the other side.

Back to Isaac. He didn’t flow upstream to PK lake, and he probably flowed past Whitney, so why the concentration between them? He touched the water let loose from PK lake, and maybe he was more confined by the Whitney dam than the Granbury one. The town of Granbury is built really close to the lake’s edge, so the dam lets more water out to maintain a constant level.

I can’t move from this section of the Brazos River Basin. I’d be leaving Isaac behind. What about my other kids? They don’t want me to move from this house, so I have their permission. Dostoyevsky’s Zosima says don’t forget your other kids. Why was the mother so drawn to her dead baby? One, death of a baby goes against a mother’s anatomy. Baby nurturing is what our bodies are all about. The rest of child-rearing is a gradual series of letting go. To have it cut off abruptly at the woman’s most secretory stage is a violence beyond bearing. Truly. It’s what makes things like the Grand Canyon happen. But the Grand Canyon is beautiful. Ripped up humans not so much. Why do people love to post videos and pictures of ripped up humans heroically coping so much? I’d rather see Palo Duro Canyon, the only respite from those lifeless, rockless, flat Texas plains. I suppose the broken rocks and exposed sedimentary layers that somehow have survived the rain give me hope. They aren’t crippled, they aren’t stoically overcoming, they are just being where and how they are.

The second reason women are so attached to their dead babies, besides the breaking of the most attached relationship in humankind, is that babies are holy. Even though the dead ones break their mothers’ hearts, they will always be innocently attached before the world and hormones tear them apart.

I’ve heard that there’s some dislocated rocks in America’s northern plains that are miles and miles away from their associated crops. Perhaps a melted glacier dam broke suddenly and swept them down. I feel bad for those rocks and want to bring them back to their families.

Ancestry showed I have 99% roots in the UK and Western Europe. But perhaps the mass that all moved to the south and then west conglomerating from me to the west to Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi were enough of a cohesive upheaval that it compares more to plate tectonics than to abduction. Feels that way. I’m a first generation Texan, and I do have genetic memories of the Old South, but they are with the past and the trees that remember, not the grass that fades. But the thin grass of my zone remembers and survived the cows. I have one clump of long blue grass near a cedar tree in my front field that I love. Last year someone mowed it down before it could make flowers and I’m afraid it may be extinct.

Why don’t I love the azaleas, dogwoods, and lush grass of the southeast? They have it too easy. The sun and wind haven’t beaten them to dust. They don’t have seeds that lay dormant for years until a 7 year rainy season. The late rainy season that swells a few thick rings in the gnarly oak trees. Do I want it to rain more than it does in west Texas? Yes. Because the terrain is unnaturally suppressed by the cattle overgrazing. Its life is a delicate balance that was tipped to dry. It needs a little more tipping to wet. And the seeds are just waiting. But the rocks don’t want it to rain too much. The Palo Pinto mountains probably saw violence, and it left it’s mark that I don’t want to be erased. Too much rain will cover it up.

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