Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Contemplation with Lizard

by Amy Hale Auker

This morning I took a shovel and a roll of toilet paper and allowed the cabin door to slam behind me, a song that is peculiar to this door, this cabin, this home. Home is what I contemplate as I walk away with my shovel. If I lived here full time, would I go each morning to the same place so as to minimize my impact, my contribution to the soil, or would I try to spread it around so as to distribute the impact over a big area? Not everyone contemplates the impact of their morning soil, but they should. 

We are creatures of habit and I am walking to a place I've been before--soft sandy soil, handy big rocks for leaning the shovel, handy small rocks for piling, shade. My contemplation is interrupted when I see a macabre sight at my feet.

Macabre--adjective and noun. 

A dead lizard lying on his back, spread-eagled as if he'd been crucified there in the dirt, an eerie human quality to his blue-bellied appearance. 

Two arms, two legs with knees, tilted head and jaw, vulnerable torso--only his elegant tail marks him as not of my same family. Only, some days I could swear I have a tail. A phantom appendage that swishes behind me as I walk.

Three ants have already discovered the scene of death--his ended walk upon the desert is their morning treasure, too big to drag back to a hill. 

So now I am no longer contemplating waste and impact but death and tails and art. I want to end this morning routine and go back through the noisy door for my camera. If I photograph the dead lizard--posed as he is in the sand, plus ants--is it art or is it macabre? Is it a morbid documentation not fit for Instagram? I should spare other eyes and sensibilities the Amy-mind. 

Or is it art--a fascination with what will be gone by midday into the cycle of heat and hunger and janitorial sustainability? Or is it one organism's contemplation of what is nasty, unacceptable, gross, unclean, sad, negative, to be avoided, voided? 

A friend mentioned, "Many writers sit over in the corner of life, taking notes, rather than being active participants." Since I sometimes write reviews, I replied, "Then I don't want to read those books."

My fellow writers, I hope for you a day job that feeds your passion, even if it keeps you a little hungry…One that allows you to hike trails and see the sunrise if you crave the out-of-doors, one that allows for hours of fascinating conversation if your pen bleeds human nature, one that smells of old books and wood floors if you lean toward antiquity and melancholy, one that takes you to exotic beaches juxtaposed with poverty if you need adventure and orange starfish. I hope that it lends itself to contemplation--those long stretches of time when a writer is living life and aching for a pen, fermenting old experiences down beneath the new. A job that allows for passionate reflection of art and excrement.
Photo by Kathy McCraine

Amy Hale Auker cowboys on a ranch in Yavapai County, Arizona. Her day job feeds her writing. She is the author of 2012 WILLA-award winner, Rightful Place, and two novels, Winter of Beauty and The Story Is the Thing.


Maria Norcia Santillanes said...

Nice, but you already know that I enjoy your writing. ~M

sderouen said...

I am never disappointed when I read one of your pieces. Even one with extra "Amy-weirdness"!

Alice Trego said...

I loved reading this, Amy! I read it twice so I could savor the story of your short trek that turned out to be a thoughtful sojourn.

Teresa Cortez said...

" be avoided, voided..." So many people are uncomfortable with death and decay, perhaps because it reminds them of their own mortality. This reminds me of a scene in American Beauty when a young male character videos a dead bird because he thinks it's beautiful. I can't imagine any true artist being unable to see the beauty in a form whose life was recently emptied. I forget who said it (Google time), but the quote paraphrased is: A meditation on death is a meditation on life. Beautiful piece, Amy. As always.