Other Kinds of Deserts

Watson Road (the old Route 66) is, at this location, a 24-hour rushing river of manic traffic and sirens.  It divides two worlds.

On my side it’s a tree and nature, as well as food, desert.  Mostly what’s falling is trash from the gas station/7-eleven above me, interspersed with a scattering of leaves from the few trees.  The gas station’s bright lights keep an artificial daylight going all night, no chance of stars.  Behind the apartments is a drainage ditch that smells like a sewer.  A couple of squirrels are all I’ve seen of wildlife.  You can barely tell there’s a world of old trees and brilliant autumn color just across the proverbial tracks.  And this isn’t even close to the part of St. Louis they demolished and turned into a third-world country for people of color.

Having said that, don’t get me wrong–I love my apartment, and I’m extremely thankful for the family and friends that made it possible.  I’m very privileged and fortunate to get this second chance at life, however late.  I wake up each day and appreciate the oasis of calm I enjoy amid the hurtling stampede just outside my window.  And though I’m carless, I can walk just 15 minutes (assuming I survive the Watson Rd. racetrack) and be in that other world of autumn color and critters.  I have Jess to thank again for the smart thinking ahead, plus the practical help ensuring I could stay here.

Of course, COVID brought everything to a screeching halt, as it tends to do.  One by one, everyone in Avdi’s family, young and younger, has gotten it and continues to contend with its exhausting effects.  Ironically, so far I’m OK.  My apartment island has kept me safe.  Also isolated and solitary for now, but a small price to pay.

Jess, the more immune member of the extended family, has been diligently trying to pry me out of my cave.  Yesterday she and Avdi succeeded in getting me as far as her house, a few miles away in a beautiful old neighborhood of colorful old trees and landscaping.  Avdi, still recovering, took a long nap, while I got my cat fix, and worked on cleaning up their front yard, which was extremely overgrown with invasive vines and tree seedlings.  Later I helped with a few chores, and sat with drinks on the deck while Jess prepared a presentation for her latest business trip in SF.  I even got to hang out with her family a little, a bonus.

It’s a weird thing.  On this side of the “tracks”, I feel a little lost and disoriented.  Almost like homesick, but for an unknown place that doesn’t exist.  Probably just the barren unnaturalness of a kind of artificial desert.  Perhaps I’m experiencing just a glimpse of the daily reality of most of humanity, and I’ve been spoiled and protected by privilege.  And this is luxury compared to much of just St. Louis, let alone the world.  It does make you think.  It teaches you to have to look a little deeper for beauty and meaning in your surroundings, and also to appreciate the desperate need for same of your immediate neighbors.  It’s harder to ignore, here on my side.

But I digress.  Here are some vicarious autumn scenes, and Odin the Cat.  Yes, I’m aware some of these plants are exotic invasives, not my customary native offerings, but you adapt to your reality, and try to introduce more beneficial, environmentally friendly practices as you can.





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