Burn Ban

The rain was slow at the start, and in the window of Hometown Crafts the poster–a woman and man wearing a T-shirt saying “STRONG TO THE FINISH” and the words below the figures, obscured, “Jesus said, ‘Go Into All The…'”–became abstracted as I let the windshield wipers rest.

Fact is, we needed rain.

That’s something you’d never hear me say in the city. The weather doesn’t matter much there. There, the elements are considered like so many commodities on Wall Street. Welcomed and forgotten within the hour. Maybe greeted with a shrug of the shoulder and an “Aw, hell” when heading out the door after forgetting the umbrella. Whether an act of God or man, little interrupts commerce there. Terrorists can take down the two tallest buildings on one day, and real estate prices turn over in five years with a capital gain for those who bought on September 10. A little drought certainly won’t hurt anybody.

But Kerrville needed the rain.

Hill Country Breaking News announced yesterday that the burn ban had been lifted for Precinct 2 of Kerr County. I just navigated over to see whether I live in Precinct 2–just in case I want to burn something–and though I couldn’t readily determine it, one click led to another and I did register to vote. So that’s done. The West Kerr Current reminded us today that the ban was back in effect for Precinct 4, their area of news coverage. Though we live on a golf course–we rent, mind you; the pool and health club membership alone is like renting a NYC studio apartment–and though the sprinkler activity is prodigious here and quite treacherous if you are a deer grazing at dusk, and though everything seems green, I’m not blind to seeing that the elements here treat a body differently.

When I was a kid, I used to love thunderstorms. Listen to them outside our pre-war building. Perhaps a part of me knew that the thunder and lightning and rain couldn’t get to me. After all, superheroes are born and raised in the city: Batman, Spiderman, Luke Cage (Harlem’s own; if you don’t know him, watch it on Netflix.) (Superman doesn’t count; being born on another planet is cheating.) And so many of them, maybe every one of them, become superheroes through suffering. Murder of one’s parents…spider bite (right up there next to snakes)…a scientist’s experiment gone wrong.

The city. Suffering. Impervious to the elements. Enter the superhero.

That’s the stuff of comic books.

I know Superman was ostensibly raised on a farm in the rural midwest, perhaps where there was a burn ban in effect from time to time. Certainly there was suffering.

Maybe the emergence of being a superhero–especially in a place like Kansas–is less literal than it is a state of mind. A journey that starts with a tornado, getting swept into a land of witches and flying monkeys, encountering old friends in new forms. Perhaps, like Eliot penned, and like Odysseus lived, we each must travel the same road again and again and finally reach the place at which we began, and recognize it for the first time. Perhaps, like Eliot said, we can find the “condition of complete simplicity.” Where, somehow, “the fire and the rose are one.”

Yet, he warns us, that simplicity costs us “not less than everything.”

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