I have lost the battle with my garden, the only war I care about these days.  The Drought (yes, I mean to capitalize it, to personify it as if it were an angry god) has scorched the yard, and there is no such thing as victory in the face of such an enemy—only the hope of a standoff.  Much territory has had to be abandoned: I have retreated from the southeast orchard, where only the apple tree stands triumphantly among what was once a field of “drought-resistant” wildflowers.  Indeed, that old tree is so heavy with fruit that its limbs fall straight to the ground, yet this is no victory of mine: Those gnarled roots were sunk deep in the earth long before I took possession of this property—or, rather, this property took possession of me.

Sitting in the shade of the redwood grove, I watch the wasps chase the little reddish-brown butterflies—or are they moths?—while a dragonfly perched atop the highest branch of a pear tree looks on with equanimity, serenely sunning itself and making the most of its principled noninterventionism.  Hummingbirds compete with outsized bumblebees for the savory sap of the salvia—a giant bush of the bicolored red-and-white variety with plenty of room for all.  Yet still they jostle and fight for preeminence, buzzing insults carried on the wind.

Here is the perfect setting to review the morning’s headlines: As vultures circle overhead, I see the White House is once again contemplating bombing Syria’s centuries-old cities.  I impatiently look up from the page, my eye wandering in the direction of my rose bushes—simple old-fashioned five-petaled tea roses, so unlike the monstrous multilayered mutants that abound in our modern nurseries—and note the deadly black-spot disease has arisen once more to mottle their leaves, which fall to the ground like yellowed tears.

A headline shrieks in the morning stillness: Russia’s humanitarian convoy to the beleaguered people of Donetsk is, in reality, an “invasion,” and the warmonger-in-chief of NATO is beside himself with rage.  Of course, it’s pure coincidence that, at that very moment, a crow shrieks at a starling en route to her nest under the eaves, where hungry hatchlings wait in vain for their meal of caterpillars and fresh-caught ladybugs.  Who is the invader?  Who is being invaded?  Who can tell the difference?

The Drought has taken its toll on the vegetable patch: The edamame is yellowed, and the beanstalks are withered beyond recognition.  The eggplant will never see a dinner plate, alas, and even the celery is pitiful.  Yet the rude, gray leaves of the cabbage are vibrant and stiff, peasant food impervious to the weather, and one particularly tough little tomato plant is unnaturally green amid the desolation, a single fruit reddening like a boil.

ISIS is in Chicago, we are told—and a great empire cowers, readying its defenses 6,000 miles away.  Open the borders, and ready our missiles.

Yes, the Drought is everywhere, a desolation of thought and sense dominating the news, the devastation reaching from the front page to the editorials.  All reason evaporates under the sun’s blistering assault amid calls for draconian limits on water usage and proposals for seizing the very groundwater under our feet.  Not only do our rulers make war on those unfortunate foreigners who pose an obstacle to their hubris, but they point their guns at us as MRAPs rumble down Main Street like they did in Fallujah.

The southeast meadow is enemy territory, and the northwest field has succumbed to an invasion of weeds.  Still, I fight on: The dandelions are the neocons of nature, the bane of my existence, proliferating like yellow jackets at a picnic, but I won’t give up.  My next-door neighbor is growing what looks to be a dandelion farm, and the seeds are carried on the wind like a snowstorm: My answer is a fence rather than despair.  I shall never surrender.

Yet is it too much to ask for a temporary truce?  Is it a sin to sit here, motionless, watching the battle as if from afar, and dream of going into real estate?  Is it heresy to think—if only for a moment—of retiring in some unattainably distant future, even as the dandelions plot fresh aggressions?  Is it permitted to put off watering the vegetable patch, even though the broccoli is demanding sustenance, the lettuce is wilting, and the country is going to hell?

Retreat is not defeat.  I’ve managed to preserve a green belt between the dried-up fields, conquered by the sun, and the perimeter of the house, where flower beds thrive and nary a dandelion raises its yellow head.  And the apple tree, older than me, is golden in the last rays of the setting sun, its vibrancy untouched by the Drought or rumors of war, its roots deeper than anything I’ve planted in my short reign as master of this place.  Tomorrow, I shall unburden it of its bounty, although it will take days to strip its branches bare of fruit.

It needs no watering, and little care.  It asks nothing of me.  Its independence is my anchor, my inspiration, my hope that victory is possible after all.