Thursday, August 3, 2017

10 items from a run after the rain

1. I watch my dog cant across the green grass, muscles rippling under his brown silk coat. I've let him off the leash, and he chases geese into the cold water of the lake, until I call him back.
Pippin. Come back.
He only listens if I drop my voice into a lower chest register. But he returns. Unquenchably excited about his foray into the reeds and scummy water, and how tantalizingly close he got to those sneaky water fowl.

2. The man reaches out a fist and I go for the fist bump, because I assume he's not trying to punch me. He seems surprised, and awkwardly splays his fingers so my loosely clenched fist does not produce the satisfying thunk of knuckle-meeting-knuckle, but goes through the gaps in his fingers. The clammy physical revulsion that accompanies a greeting gone wrong shivers through me. As I bound after Pippin, straining on the leash, I consider his midstream change of course may have resulted from the plastic bag I hold in the same fist. It is not yet filled with dogshit, but it looks as though it might be. Certainly an object to shy away from.

3. There is a baby sock, still a fresh white, lying in the middle of the slick asphalt sidewalk. Pippin sniffs it and his roving nose brushes past it.

4. I realize that I am overwhelmingly angry about the fact that women, for millennia, were not treated as men's equals, because they weren't men's equals. Like, metaphysically, perhaps they were. Ontologically, I suppose. But practically and culturally, they simply weren't, because they were denied the power and the education necessary to become so. It must have felt like talking to a child; talking to a woman who depended on you for her social and physical mobility, just as it feels talking to a teenager today. And I am angry that it is only within the last century [not even, if we're taking Mad Men as a guide!] that social pressure has shifted (shifted infintesimally, almost imperceptibly) towards treating women not as chattel or as property, but as other humans. And I am angry that men (and, even more mystifyingly women) have the gall to suggest imagining that that means all work is done, and that there's nothing to talk about, work on, or [heaven forbid] complain about, you whining bitch. Look at how great you have it. How does one imagine that centuries of being treated as second-class citizens can just be easily reversed, sans the slow, systemic conversion that we each have to apply to our own most deeply-rooted sins? How would a society experience conversion any differently? What if we treated micro-aggressions as we treat venial sins: small symptoms of deeper spiritual ills, which must be attended to and confessed. And only can regain their proper perspective within that sacramental act of self-aware acknowledgement.

5. I remember that when I ran down these paths in high school I was not angry. And I wonder how it is that we learn we have need to be angry. I remember how I listened to Colbie Caillat and really didn't concern myself with a larger world outside my own head. There was enough going on inside of it to occupy me, and I splashed in its depths, conveniently and blessedly ignorant of the entire universe. If anger is a price I pay for being saved from living my life in the box of my own context, I will gladly pay it.

6. A man raises his eyebrows, about to address me, as me and the newly-leashed Pippin approach him. I am wary: is he going to rebuke me for some rule of etiquette I am unintentionally trespassing upon? Does he have unsolicited advice about how to control my dog better? If you're continuing down the trail, he says, in the hushed tones of enthusiasm used by acolytes of Marian apparitions, there's a doe and her fawn at the end of it. Thank you! I whisper in equally hushed tones, his excitement catching, as I motion Pippin into a quieter gallop.
This would never happen in the city, I think. It is good to share excitement over nature with another human.

7. How spicy is the slaw?
Uhhh I don't know, the cashier counters, embarrassed flush coloring her cheeks like sunset. She's embarrassed for me, as if I just asked the most foolish question in the world, like there's a joke I'm not in on yet, which everyone else in the softly lit café has understood already.
She shrugs.
like medium I guess?

8. A silver-haired grandmother, holding her grandchild in a baby carrier on her breast, a seat from which her big baby eyes can take in the entire world. They are staring off into the Bambi-underbrush of the woods, into which I imagine their cervine counterparts have disappeared. They watch the woods with an unvarnished intensity, and the grandmother smiles.

9. I realize once you lose faith in someone's good will, everything they do becomes suspect. The latin chant becomes pretentious, their recalcitrance is selfish, their enthusiasm is possessive. Trust is so easily lost. They tell me that once your tank actually runs out of gas, your empty meter will register empty later so that you have less time once your meter hits empty to refill your tank again. I find this mesmerizing. It is as if my car has sprouted feelings and sentience, and her small revenge on my inability to hold up my contract to feed her regularly is to play fickle with the gas meter. My car, it seems, will no longer completely trust me. I have reneged on my commitment, I have wounded her with my casual disregard for her needs in my selfish haste to get from A to B and she responds as I respond to everyone else: small acts of distrust. Burned once, she will not be so injured again.
Perhaps that is where anger arrives: I trust that I can sink into the world and it will receive me as hospitably as Colbie Caillat music and the rich imaginations that swirl inside my head. The world proves me wrong. This place does not promote my flourishing, in fact, it wants to make me fodder for the furnace which keeps it running. No way in hell. Enter mistrust and anger, pursued by bears.

if you have ever felt a small, cool breeze in midst of the most shadeless, scorching summer day
if you have ever felt the first drops of rain break through constipated barometric pressures
if you have ever felt the delicious surprise of a stranger or a friend speaking out loud words you have only heard in your heart
if you have ever seen whatever home you have rear up out of the horizon, or pop around the corner, or emerge from the tangle of city streets, to swallow you up in its familiarity and safety,

then you probably understand how grace feels as she roots new space in the rotten soil of cynic thoughts, as she ripples through the stagnant swamp of self-righteous nursing of old wounds, tired spin cycles of the same grievances. She is so gentle to welcome, and her gracious self floods over these festering internal hills. After building up inside of me fast strongholds, stubborn stone towers, there is nothing more fun than finding that chink, that hole in the dam, and let grace flood through, rivering refreshment as she goes.

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