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AFTERWORD Jazzing Through the Drought BY JAMES HOGGARD lvv . ho knows if it’s over? Like a coolly forward promise, rain has been flirting with the drought. Little has fallen, but seepage in the sky is dampening the surface of the dried-out earth. In a lot of places the ground feels like brick, as if nothing but a pickaxe could break it. This rainless condition isn’t new; it’s been with us for several years. When things like this happen and the heat keeps rising, one starts thinking about Kiowa lore, the story they told about this place where I live near the Oklahoma border. The people from southern Indian Territory did not like it. They did not think that the area where our city is now was habitable. Some of them even said that God did not live in the place. They made their encampments elsewhere. For some reason, rain often skirts this region. It can storm and pour all around us, but often that does us little good. The worldand certainly this portion of itseems given to extremes, and extremes prompt foolish questions. In an oddly grasping form of desperation one’s attention drifts from our own rainlessness to the Middle East, a larger and globally more serious place than ours. At least three great and lasting religions developed in the desert there: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. And influences from another one, Zoroastrianism, still affect all three, and usually unhappily. Chaos and madness and cries for inelegant simplicity seem a lot more prominent than vision. There are too many nuts among us. Is there some kind of \(mysterious? what’s happening? Likely not. I keep saying that. I’m not sure I believe it. Maybe it’s a shame our experience hasn’t led us to animism. But like the Kiowas before us, we don’t really identify with numerous portions of our worldno matter how vigorously we sometimes lay claim to them. We do, however, sustain sources of pride: past tornadic disasters, for examplegetting through them. In spite of interested in trying to protect ourselves from the ferocities of cold, heat, and wind. We do so with electrical switches. We’re disinclined to think that the nature of our place names us or describes us, for we’re better than our place or so we assume. Intimacies suggested by animism don’t apply. That might also be true of other anthropomorphic models. Are we wasting our time with prayer? Not because there’s anything wrong or necessarily empty in reverence. We’d do well to be more meditative. I doubt, however, that we’re knowledgeable about valid ways to pray. I doubt that we know how to pray any better than many of us know how to live. We’ve never gotten weaned from the barter system: I’ll give you X, hand, with some independence even, we sustain our drives toward violence, but there’s nothing peculiar in that. We’ve always had a gift for the rowdy. We are not worse-behaved than people in balmier climes or previous times, and despite our failures we have not, it seems, given up on discovering a sensible order for ourselves. There are many god-enthused believers about, and their rhetoric is often infectious. Godtalk is often compelling, and even entertaining, whether it’s intended to be or not. Still, there are many among us who don’t believe in gods that turn whimsical or loving or critical glances our way, or in any other direction either. That’s always been true. A lot of the pioneer stock in our culture had little taste for religion or art. They were brilliant, though, with gadgetry and improvisation. \(Let’s not exaggerate. Some of stuffland, tools, remnants of family and, getting wilderand more holloweyed, moved on. That’s been true, of course, in many settings. Our time and place aren’t really unusual.We just need more rainor more illusions to cushion us against its absence. The questions, however, don’t stop. Have we become exhausted? Have we lost imagination? Are we desperate in ways we don’t even know? Do we need to learn forms of thinking we’re not using? Are there serious differences between the ones we do use? Have our imaginations ever sailed beyond us? What are we really dealing with here in this rainteased dry land? I suspect we’re not dealing with anything. I suspect we’ve become passive, or blind, or simply non-vigilant in terms of cosmic mattersand the personal often eludes us, too. The rain I’ve referred to is not a matter of metaphor. There’s something truly pressing here. It’s rained little in the last three years. Water tables are down, frighteningly so, and lakes near and well beyond here are seriously diminished. One even wonders where the evaporation goes. It’s not returning to its source. Cities and towns have gone to water rationing; many of them have discovered that they should have started the process long before they did. For the last three days, however, rain has come daily, though lightly. There’s a celebrative sense of moisture today in our air. Silly with encouragement, wesome of usthink of the damp 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 8129103