THE LAWSON’S PEAK BOOKS

Soggy

I checked in the woodshed. I do not have enough lumber to build an ark.

Besides, what I have left – which isn’t much – I am saving for a skiff I want to build before spring. A skiff will float as well as any ark.

But an ark would be better. I could take two of every species that way, and make sure Louisiana is repopulated. No, I’m not getting divine instructions. I’m just soggy.

Good grief, this has got to stop. It isn’t fishing season (for me, anyway) yet, that’s when I usually complain about the rain. But enough is enough! My brain is soggy. I’m so soggy, when I clench my fist water drips out. I’m so soggy, I squoosh when I walk even if I have not been outside. I’m so soggy, I don’t even bother putting milk in my cereal.

Last week’s rain caused some people some distress and damage, and I certainly send my heart out to them. I don’t mean to make light of anybody’s misfortune, but sometimes I feel like I just gotta laugh to keep from crying.

Were I to possess an ark, I’d let all the chicken trees, nutria, wild hogs, coyotes, fire ants and crooked politicians stay behind to fend for themselves. I’d save everything else. I’d let as many of you kind folks come on board as I could. Bring beer and cigars, it’s going to be a long trip. And a cubit tape measure, if you got one.

Old Indian say that when the Great Flood came, the Chitimacha made a giant clay pot to ride it out. Rattlesnake came by, begging to get in, but the Indians of course refused, for who would want to be stuck in a clay pot with a rattlesnake no matter how big the pot is? They finally relented, after extracting a promise from the ol’ serpent that he’ll never bite a Chitimacha, nor will his offspring. I have not tested this theory, to be sure, and though I have utter confidence and faith in the oral tradition handed down to me, I am also suspicious that my grandmother possessed an indigenous cure for rattlesnake bite.

Of course you know the story of the Raintree, but just to jog your memory: There were four sacred trees that marked the boundaries of the nation, and though we don’t know about the other three anymore, the fourth and last was a cypress and it was said to hold magical properties over rain, for if the Indians did a certain ceremony and plunged a limb from the tree into the water, it would bring rain. My grandfather swore that when the tree fell into the little bayou it grew near, it caused the flood of 1927.

“Right as rain,” he said to me as we ate sandwiches in a patch of river cane we were harvesting for baskets. “Right as rain.”

It happens, you may recall, that a photographer in Lafayette heard about the fall of the old cypress and journeyed down to take a photo of it. Back in his photo darkroom, he developed the negatives and made prints of them, and was so stunned by what he saw as the prints materialized in the developing trays he took them all the way to the reservation. He had never been there before, knew the legend only from history books, and sought out my grandparents.

“This must be with you,” he said. “It must be with the Indians.” He handed them the photo, and there it was, the Raintree, collapsed into the bayou.

When he turned it horizontal to show my grandparents, there, in the water, are the reflections of Indians, hands clasped, dancing around the carcass of the great old tree. Or seem to be. My heart says they are real, I can see them clear as day, ghostly, ethereal shapes in the ripples of the bayou’s surface, hand in hand, dancing…

He also brought pieces of the tree to my grandparents. I still have the photos and the pieces. They are secure, and have touched no water. When I touch them, power numbs my fingers.

But that was a long time ago. I guess I turn the tables too harshly in these meanderings sometimes, leaping from humor to melancholy in a jarring span of a paragraph or two. My emotions are like that, hills and valleys, highs and lows, even from one moment to the next. Ebb and flow, Harry Middleton said. The rhythm of things that come and go…

Never mind. No sense making ourselves more miserable, eh? The rain was so intense last week, it took six inches of mulch from around my new oak and sycamore trees, right down to Bayou Teche and who knows where from there? Luckily, that was the worst thing that happened around our place. Except being soggy.

My hair, what’s left of it, stays flat and muggy. My sinuses are soggy with mist and dew. When I sneeze, I sneeze rain. Getting the garbage can to the road requires a mudboat. I haven’t been to the bayou in weeks, because I’m afraid if I slip down the slope of the Teche ridge, I’ll keep sliding until I end up in the flow and wash away to Ecuador. Perhaps Bogie would rescue me like a good yellow Lab in the movies would do. Rather like promises from rattlesnakes, I’m not going to test the theory.

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