It started with the sunflowers. Those giant compound eyes sprouting everywhere throughout the neighborhood. Their heads slowly turning to follow the sun, guided by an intelligence we can’t hope to understand. Alien, demonic, mystical.
My dad used to say, “Never trust a flower.”
My dad never actually said that. If you want to make up a truism, put it in the mouth of an elder.
But people liked them. They’re yellow, and I guess we like yellow. Then there were the bees. Also, yellow.
People said the bees were dying out, but there were so many bees, more than I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying the bees aren’t dying. Just that it’s hard to get around your own experiences. When I was younger, I wanted to be special. I wanted my life to be the exception. It hasn’t been. Except, now I see bees all the time.
My grandmother used to say, “Better to bee stung, than to bee shy.”
There were other plants. Flowering vines. They crept up the wooden fences between our yards. Rabbits nibbled on them. If you walked slowly, the rabbits would even let you pet them. Children learned how to be quiet so as to not scare them. They became gentle, the children and the bunnies. Maybe all of us.
We didn’t know how to feel about the changes. Some of us were angry that we were no longer so angry. We’d fume as we cut back the vines with shears. We’d chase children off our lawns, running in circles until we were all laughing. The birds would wake us with their singing, and we’d refill the feeders.
It was just for a little while longer. We were promised an ecological disaster. If we held on, surely everything would die. Our beloved concrete would be returned to us.
My great aunt used to say, “Nature is the only thing in the way of perfection.”
Lydia was the first one to invite a bear into her house. She was a school teacher or a children’s librarian. The point is, she was used to dealing with wild animals. Professionally. The bear slept on her living room floor. Sometimes, she’d throw a rug over it like a blanket. It liked that.
Others copied her. It was the accessory of the season. My own bear liked to sing. Not all the time, just when it thought I wasn’t listening. When I was in the shower, or asleep. But I started wearing headphones, connected to nothing, and pretended I couldn’t hear it. I harvested honey, and left it for the bear on the table.
I told myself this was all temporary. Lydia told me about a city where it had been raining for weeks.
“It’s all part of the end,” she said as we lazed in the grass, entwining our fingers together.