Wednesday, March 5, 2014

greater than you imagine

 Is it real? The fire? 
Yes it is. 
Where is it? I don't know where it is. 
Yes you do. It's inside you. It was always there. I can see it.
--The Road, Cormac McCarthy

I looked out of the window of class today, and saw the snow softly falling on the roof next door.
How pleasantly Christmas-like, I thought.
Then I realized how utterly depressing that was, because this wasn't November 31st, or December 11th, it was March 6th, and Christmas is definitely not the frame of mind that is generally cultivated on March 6th.
I mean, it's lovely.
But it's jarringly Christmas-like.

Because, several days before, we had seen the first spring green buds.
And before that, I had splashed in the puddles.
And before that, even, there were days of springish-ly warm rain and iridescent blue skies.
And the birdsong.
The thing about birdsong is that it far too easily slips into the background, into the white noise of the wind blowing and the plants growing.
But sometimes, when it's been months of no birdsong, the song sticks out to you in the middle of the dreary, long, and woefully dull grayish afternoon.
An afternoon like a November transported into March.
An afternoon where you feel your throat begin to scratch, and your eyelids begin to droop.
An afternoon on which being human feels more like a chore than a joy.

Sometimes, I watch the squirrels and think of how easy they must have it, hopping around, finding food from the hands of kindly, foolish college students.
What a great life you have squirrels, I silently shout at them, as they hop through giant snowdrifts, struggling to scamper from tree to tree. You don't even know how easy you have it.
Obviously, any mildly observant person could deduce that the squirrel lifestyle brings with it its own unique challenges and burdens.
But the grass is always greener on the other side. Meaning that no matter how big a puddle your neighbor is fording through, it looks smaller than the Caspian Sea sized monstrosity you are wading through, thus, you nearly tear your raincoat in two, remorsefully wishing you had chosen a different path, any path than the one you had taken.

Which, simply put, is an absolutely irrational way of thinking.
Because, it goes without saying, there are puddles on every path that you're going to take.
Some of them are Caspian Sea sized monstrosities, others have sheets of ice lurking at the bottom, others are filled with that lovely, tropical-bred typhoid water.

But the point of life is not to find the path with the least puddles.
It's about how to navigate your way through those puddles once you find them.
There are some of us who skirt around them, who walk on the soggy grass, or a marginally firm patch of mud rather than wade through the Mariana Trench in our path.
I always admire the resourcefulness and composure of those people, who manage to escape from a rainy day with nary a puddle-stain on their shoes.
But often, I find myself in mid-puddle thinking: I should have gone around.
But I didn't go around.
So there's no point going back to dry land and starting over again.
It's much safer (and, in the long run, dry-er) to just keep plugging onward.
Because, after being drenched to the skin in some kind of cruel bipedal baptism, you will finally reach the other side.
Because unlike squirrels, the snow only comes up to our shins, and hasn't swallowed us yet.

A Russian priest told me, "To say to anyone 'I love you' is tantamount to saying 'You shall live forever." 
I am slowly beginning to learn something about immortality.
--Madeleine L'Engle

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