Nothing But Blue Skies (Winifred Mumbles)

Churros are restive out there in the darkness. Should probably be concerned. Takes a lot to worry an animal with four horns. Shearing makes them irritable, but not sleepless. Something different out there bothering them.

New note to the night air. What is it? Got this old saying tumbling around in my old head. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Blue. Why blue? Paint the door blue. Paint the porch roof haint blue. I want to paint the bathroom blue. Blue moon. Black and blue. There’s blue in this night. I can feel it. Blue is the only color you can feel.

Ah. No wind. No sand rasping the window glass. No hell cats dancing down the canyons and churning up the piñon and juniper, painting the dark air in bright blue scent. It’s a silent night. Supposed to happen in the middle of winter, not summer. Silence in the growing season is never good.

Weather just stops this time of year. Always happens, but always sudden and unexpected. Someone called it the season of hot. Back when you needed something blue. For what? But anyway, gets deep into June like this and nothing. Not even a tapering. Just stop. Endless blue skies mocking the beans. Nice to not have to sweep the desert off my door sill. And quiet. But even that. The night rings with a loud quiet. Because the body adjusts and then expects. When it goes quiet, you’re put on alert. It’s an aggressive silence. Haint blue worries painting your dreams and then awake to… nothing. Uncanny nothing.

Sheep don’t like the quiet. They fill the unwonted silence with muttering.

Course this means no water also. Maybe they know that. Cistern has enough for a bit. But a string of calm days and silent nights in this heat is going to be draining. For all of us. Birds don’t sing when the wind dies. No dawn chorus. The hens register their concern by not laying eggs and panting in the dawn light. Every body hunkers down in whatever blue shade there is, flinching away from the sunrise.

Sunlight like a lance. Spearing up through soft blue air. Cresting the mountains and arrowing down into the blue-green bosque, seeking out the river waters. Sun chasing water from the sky, from the soil, from the body. Sun becomes the enemy, the searing gaze that blanches the blue corn.

There’s an old story of a giant with burning eye. Opened that eye and wiped out armies in the blink of that eye. That’s sunrise in the still desert air. Only way to defeat the giant — fight red flame with blue. The lightning lance into the burning glance. So now we wait for the monsoon in this silence. Storms to fend off the sun. Blue fire in purpling skies, rather than red-gold in blue.

The shortest nights are always the longest days when that giant stalks the desert. Suppose that’s true regardless of giants. But the silent blue skies stretching to infinite horizons and that single, searing eye leveling the fields… makes each day last forever. And each night is spent in cold apprehension that never cools anything.

Churros adapt. But there are thresholds. When infinite blue skies bump up against the solid limits of sheep, there will be grumbling.

Nothing I can do though. Just wait it out. Sit through this short night, dreading the day alongside the sheep. At sunrise, refuse to leave my shaded roost like the hens. I’m learning to hate the color blue just a little bit.

Why was blue needed? I can’t remember. We swim in blue. Blue is the background, the canvas. We start with blue and add white and silver clouds as needed. We need clouds. Maybe not the wind. Maybe not the lightning strikes. Drama maybe could be dispensed with. But big, fluffy sheep clouds. That we could use.

That’s it, I suppose. Always the drama in this desert. Histrionics. Tears always come with rushing and gushing and mad violence tearing up the garden. Even the silence is dramatic. A great doom-laden gap in the growing season. Time suspended in this hostile, falsely cheery blue. Each footstep in this weather is loud, menacing, but meaningless. Nothing approaches. A huge dramatic nothing.

Just once it’d be nice if the monsoon came in on bird wings. Soft as swallow flight. No chasing giants with lightning spears. Just silver rain in grey skies. And gentle susurration rather than hell cats. Raindrops plinking down from pine needles into sand puddles. If I can imagine it, it must be possible. Just never happens.

Wonder what soft dreams the sheep have when their nights aren’t so disquieted. Do they dream of rain? Pretty sure then hens do. They fix the blue skies with that beady glare that really ought to slay giants, muttering incantations and imprecations. When unruffled, I believe they dream of silky rain in rustling airs. And eggs every day.

Or maybe those are my dreams. But I’ve lived with these birds so long they might have rubbed off on me.

Things to be grateful for: eggs every day.

Used to say the fairies were busiest in these midsummer nights. Suppose fairies liked drama and all that. But still… when the silence is this brooding blue, there can’t be much magic out there. Maybe there aren’t fairies in the desert. Wilting flowers they’d be, petals all akimbo, panting in the glare of summer. Though they never did love the light. Creatures of cold darkness, it’s said. And yet they tend to the flowers. Go figure. Sort of like that needing something blue thing.

Don’t think the wind carries fairies to my garden. Blows them right on by, straight through to somewhere beyond the rainbow. Wind just tosses sand around here. 

Sheep wouldn’t like fairies anyway. They get annoyed at hawk moths, never mind something with opposable thumbs and ill intention buzzing around their ears. Course the chickens would just eat ‘em. Maybe for the best we don’t have much midsummer night dreaming around this garden then.

Eerie how the sunrise doesn’t sing in these airless summer mornings. Silent light creeps over the mountain on spider legs. No heralds. No fanfare. No chorus except the mutterings of churros and old women. Dawn is supposed to be joyous. But desert dawn at midsummer is dreadful. And all this blue. Not a white cloud to soften the jagged silence.

Suppose it’s time right enough though. Time to start the day once again. Shake off the brooding silence. Return to life. Take up the day’s tasks. Tend to beans. Brew the tea. Milk the ewes.

Make hay while the sun shines.

No eggs though. 

Thing for regret: eggless, blue-sky mornings.

©Elizabeth Anker 2021