For an eternal day or two the ground is covered with petals, the trees are covered with petals, and I'm so buzzed with life I forget to fear death.
And just as true, a wet northeast breeze comes through and washes away the petals, as it has the last couple of days, and the eternal blossoms are replaced by a mortal tree, and I cannot remember how spectacular the blossoms were.
This Saturday musicians and farmers and writers and barkeeps and drivers and all kinds of folks who pay attention to things will gather at a garden center in Ann Arbor and honor the spirit of my sister Mary Beth. There will be dancing and a costume party and maybe even a parade, and it will be fun.
The last time I touched my sister, early summer not so long ago, a few rough pieces of her stuck to the wheat straw I had been nibbling on when what was left of her sat on my lap as David and I trucked through the dark orchard up the hill to where she would be scattered.
We drank from the bottle of wine that had survived the crash, poured the last bit for her, then headed down the hill.
I chewed on the straw, as I will, and was momentarily puzzled by its grittiness.
Today is Earth Day.
Fritz Haber invented the process of fixing nitrogen in air with hydrogen from methane to make ammonia, allowing humans to make ungodly amounts of fertilizer and bombs. He won a Nobel Prize, and his technique has "freed" humans from natural cycles that once limited food production.
Fritz Haber is also the father of chemical warfare; when chlorine gas was first used in battle in the Great War at Ypres in 1915, he was there to witness it.
Today I talked to my students about Haber's deeds, including his work with poisonous gases. His work with nitrogen is indirectly responsible for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Life gets tricky that way.
We are responsible for what we do, and we are also responsible for what we choose to know. Mary Beth gently reminded me of that many times before her death, and continues to remind me now.
It is easy to forget the cherry blossoms when they are no longer here, but that does not make them any less real. It is also easy to forget where your oil or your water or your beef comes from, but forgetting does not make them any less real, either.
The cherry tree photo is by Amanda Brown of the Star-Ledger--we live near one of the most beautiful collections of cherry trees in the world--Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ.
(No, I won't be there--give me a few more years.)