When Brown Came to Town

Being the color of ditch-water, scabs, and earwigs, brown begins it’s journey into this world at a deficit. For me, the only thing worse than the anticipation of brown, is the constant and overwhelming experience of it.

Such was the summer of 2016.

In those dry days, it seemed as though a plug had been pulled on every leaf, one by one, they became drained of every green memory. Even the insufferable juniper, typically reveling under neglect, seemed to languish in the unveiled glory of the hot July sun. There they stood, staring gauntlet at me like threadbare specters and, with every breeze through their dry leaves, they seemed to wail, “For the love of all good things man, don’t you care if we die?”

And I did care – even for the juniper – but watering them seemed little more then a cruel taunt. Like a marathon runner freshly dosed up with lemonade, the plants would revive briefly for several hours; but all too soon the withering thirst would return, accompanied by fever dreams of a distant winters coma.

The only thing  more tragic than the color brown might be the thousands of homeowners who spent most of their summer trying to keep it at bay. I have mixed views about the perfect green lawn. On the one hand, such widespread homogeneity seems reckless and a bit pretentious; on the other hand, there really is nothing more satisfying then nursing a glass of scotch while padding around the lawn in bare feet.

All that to say I understand the frenzy – I just refuse to partake in it.

Sometimes I would even stand on the porch with the pretense of an old paper under my arm – my true purpose to secretly pass judgment on the rabid green lawn-ners. One poor fellow two doors down spent a good half hour trying to position the sprinkler just so but only succeeded in drenching the grim foliage trying to eek out a living in the nearby sidewalk cracks. Another lady waved a hose haphazardly over her lawn the way a hack magician might over a desolate top hat, apparently unaware that 98% of the water was running off into a storm drain.

It seemed a bit macabre to just stand there presiding over such misery, but what could I do except proffer a sympathetic, old paper salute?

Stalwart rivers receded to reveal countless old bicycles and shopping carts rise up out of the waters like strange mossy skeletons.  Water parks stood dry and bereft of children – little more then sculptures inhabiting a dystopian future . Even the vast fields of corn, those rows of reassuring parallelism, lay stunted and misshapen in the baked clay.

But then, just as the exhaustive brownness of it all began to close in on me, the autumn rains began and, soon after, the first snow. I imagine thirsty plants are less than thrilled to be offered snow after months of drought, much like handing a parched man a glass of ice cubes.

Judging by the first cautious bulbs the following spring however, they gladly accepted.