The Devil Beats His Wife

Still catching up on this Saturday morning. On the eve of the momentous Saturn Pluto square. Today is a good day for rosemary butter cookies and something my sister calls “girl comfort tea”. Here is a report from my notebook that has been gathering dust since middle September.

#950 c. 1864

The Sunset stopped on Cottages
Where Sunset hence must be
For treason not of His, but Life’s,
Gone Westerly, Today —

The Sunset stopped on Cottages
Where Morning just begun —
What difference, after all, Thou mak’st
Thou supercilious Sun?

I hate it when cliches turn out to be correct. Or even useful. But I guess that’s how they get to be cliches. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I didn’t see much point to anything. Today I think I can figure it out. Forty years ago I was afraid of fireworks. Today I still don’t like them. Not much has changed except that I don’t have to be put in my bed screaming and crying because I am terrified of loud noises. So, that’s progress, right?

This morning the sun shines and there is a little spray of rain falling through the sunlight. They say when it rains while the sun is shining that “The Devil is beating his wife.” I have no idea where this came from, but I like it. It connects the natural world with some other mythic world. People go around New Orleans saying this all the time. A woman I used to work with was fond of making this announcement. As soon as she saw the rain coming down with the sun shining through it, she would step out onto the porch and say out loud to anyone within earshot: “Yep, the Devil’s beating his wife.” She said it with satisfaction, as if the Devil’s wife deserved a beating. And she enjoyed being the one to call it. She’d stand there and speak it into the sky with grim pleasure. Why this satisfaction in knowing what this peculiar event signified? She liked knowing there was something to say. Something she had always heard being said by her mother, her grandmother, aunts and cousins.

Whether you actually believe in the Devil or his connection to the rain and sunshine, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you live in a circle of people who attach meaning to freakish events in nature and go around saying so. That makes it true. The truth is what a majority of people say is true.

So the Devil beats his wife today. The blackbirds have disappeared from view. Honestly they are gone, really gone this time. Have not seen them for a couple of days. Pffft! As if they’d never been there. The tricksters from the murk below conscious understanding have packed up their bags of yakety-yak and flummery and moved on to torment some other soul.

What a difference a day makes. What do you have to say about it, thou supercilious sun? (Emily loves those sssss . . . sounds. She is giving voice to the snake at the back of her throat.) Today the sun looks down on puny humans, hurrying to and fro. Making meaning, writing myths. Attaching stories to the concrete world out there. All the while looking down his nose at us, amused, supercilious. How absurd and brief we are. How limited in comparison to the vast sun. Good thing He likes us . . . at least . . a little bit . . . maybe?

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