“Riprap, also known as rip rap, rip-rap, shot rock, rock armor, or rubble, is human-placed rock or other material used to armor shorelines, streambeds, bridge abutments, pilings and other shoreline structures against scour and water, wave, or ice erosion.“
The hillside in front of our home is eroding. Much like my brother, Tom’s mental health is deteriorating. I wish I could take his old Ford 150 Ranger, the speed queen, which is now in our possession, out to the country roads where we collect limestone to protect our hill from the downpours, and rip rap him.
We came home this past Sunday, after collecting what felt like a ton of rocks, and I said to my husband, I feel like I pulled a muscle in my chest. But that wasn’t the case, I think instead, my heart, like so many others’ who know and love Tom, is breaking.
The slow burn in the center of my chest is what it feels like to lose you to an illness, that you, nor I, or any of us who love you, ever stood a chance against. No amount of alcohol quells the burn you feel inside. If that were the case, you would have been cured long ago. No hallucinogens have put straight your thoughts, no metaphors, poetry, postcards, or prayers have made any difference to the plot of land that is your DNA that you were allotted at birth.
They are precious and sacred stones that we put in place-when we try and shore you up. One by one, we carry them, hoping with all our might, they will circumnavigate the floods of delusion and pain. Or at least in the meantime, serve as some form of armor for your delicate heart.
For as hopeless as this all seems, I don’t believe I am, nor you, are without hope. Hell, I go out and get the rocks every time it’s necessary. For close to forty years, we’ve come to your side, without fail. We take you to rehab. We pray, we write, we do all we can, it’s just that right now there’s a part of me that wonders what it would be like to let the hill go.
What if I let you go?
The Earth will surely give way, we will all die and somehow be transformed.
You said today, you have fallen three times, like Christ, then you asked who would be your Veronica. Who would wipe away your tears? I answered, we, your sisters: we were there, ready to clean your face. Our sister, Nan, urged you to take the metaphor further– she urged you, being the most excellent Chaplain that she is, to think in terms of rebirth. (But that is her story to write not mine.)
I being a bit more of a pantheist, think before we go so far as to think about rebirth, we simply need to face death.
The hill has to wash away first.
I am not sure I have it in me to carry more stones. I am inclined to let the land slide. Not because I don’t love you enough but because I don’t think this is about love–I think this is about acceptance.
We have to accept we are eroding hillsides, dirt, and dust.
One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen is dust motes in the light—such small dancing particles.
Part light, part energy—the tiniest bits of matter.
You matter. Of course, you matter. You are Matter.
And if love were enough to keep you alive and healthy, you would live a thousand years, perhaps ten…
I cannot rip rap my hill, my breaking heart, nor you.
So I am just going to get in that truck of yours and drive it until I see the dust rising behind me and hope that by my going forward somehow, you will be free to rise too.
And when the rain comes, and it will come, the petrichor left from that hillside transubstantiates us all simply by breathing it all in.
If you don’t know what petrichor is, look it up because it’s a damn good word and worthy of being said more often. (“Other than the petrichor emanating from the rapidly drying grass, there was not a trace of evidence that it had rained at all”)
Now, where are those fucking keys?