Wednesday, November 8, 2017

bleeding atlases

As I scroll across the grey and green map of Upper East side street grids, pins of old places pop onto the map, unbidden, summoned up by the inescapable memory of Google. Our Lady Queen of Angels, The Penrose, St. Vincent Ferrer, Whole Foods on 87th, Cristo Rey New York High School. The memory of staring at this map so many times, as I find directions between my neighborhood and another fills not just my mind, but my arms and legs and eyes and hands. For a moment, I feel that I am back in the grid.

But there's no grid here.

Feeling out of place makes me feel rather snarly, so after unleashing a bit of snarl (which is always, always aggravated and never ameliorated by mid-afternoon-blood-sugar-plummet [why did the desert fathers never write about this?]), I plop my double-bag-load of books and my snarling self on a bench in the midst of God quad in the height of her autumn glory. The air is cold, with a substantial bite even in the warm sunshine (just the way I like it), and the leaves are turning the entire air, trees, and ground golden.

I miss my neighborhood cobbler, across Lexington from El Aguila, Cesar and his cat that sat on the shoes, and picking up another set of fresh heels. I like the cobbler because it's a sign that you have been places. Your shoes are your vehicle to all those places, so you invest in good ones, like a car. And get their soles changed, like tires.

I miss my bedtime routine of last semester, reading through Deutero-Isaiah on the busted futon in my quiet room, lit only by the ridiculous ancient lamp from the nineteen seventies and the lights of Fisher Hall across the tree-filled alley-yard between us. As the sycamore trees sway outside in the spring breeze or violent thunderstorm winds, we are inside, being rebuilt—quietly and slowly.

I miss eating a caramel Magnum bar in Magdala. As I remembered how sweet and good that ice cream was this morning, I realized I never think about Galilee. I think because it was one of the most profoundly uncomfortable experiences I have ever had. I remember being mostly dazed, as I tried to survive on one piece of fish the whole week and a makeshift trail mix on hikes. I remember the terrible, death-like silence and deserted heat of Tzippori, which causes my skin to crawl, even just thinking about it, remembering the feeling of my skin tangibly burning in the sun—no matter how much chalky white sunscreen applied—and a sense of dread creeping behind my ears.
I remember lost of exhaustion in the middle of the day and blistered feet. I remember being lost in Caesarea, among the basalt buildings, looking for a hommus stand. I remember watching the rock hyrax and the lizards scurry around Chorazim. Galilee was a lot of ruins which felt empty, not even haunted by ghosts. Just mostly blank and barren nothing-ness.



But at the same time, it was teeming with life:

The parakeets (or macaws? I never got a good enough look or an accurate enough ornithology guide to tell) which fluttered and squawked in the palm trees along the Jesus trail. Whose beautiful, shining green feathers glistened in the sunbeams streaking through the shade of the trees.

The donkeys that stared me down on my way to Tabgha. I was convinced they were going to murder me. If I'd gotten closer, perhaps they would have. But they were so ridiculous looking, in their skittish little mob, it was hard not to laugh, even if scared for my life.

The overgrown fig tree that covered a solid several yards of the path around Banias. In the vein of Pocahontas' Grandmother Willow, this fig tree exuded maternal spirit. Her supersized fig leaves created a scalloped speckle of light on the dirt path, and covered a hot day with cool shade, and a thick, palpable darkness. Which, unlike a cave or cavern felt unintimidating. Usually low-hanging trees cause me to check superstitiously and anxiously for snakes. But, despite all the other anxieties entertained that week, I never once worried about serpents hanging out in trees. Perhaps that's why Eve was off her guard as well.
Eden's down the road from here

And the sea. The turquoise, marbled, sea, with his churning white surf that bit at the ancient harbor of Caesarea. It was the perfect temperature, the perfect depth, the perfect color. After a long, water-less hike, nothing could feel as paradisiacal.

Minus the ruins, teeming with life



I miss when Blank Space's music video hit the scene like an atom bomb in fall of 2014, and we were Young and Dumb in New York City (the most obnoxious—but irresistibly magical—cultural narrative to live into), the eerie, jam-able heartbeat of Taylor Swift's witchy little ballad pumping through the speaker systems of Macy's bathrooms, our earbuds at work, or our computer speakers at home while cooking.

I missed these fall colors, which are now falling on sidewalks, like someone spilled the red and orange sections of a Crayola 120 box onto the grass. There's a tree that's entirely scarlet in someone's front yard. As I ran by this morning, the leaves were spilling off in a constant staccato stream, like a crimson sprinkler, watering their grass and the concrete where I was running. They took their time appearing this year, but now there is a golden canopy covering the sidewalk by Malloy.

Now there are leaves falling by my bench which are gold, flushed with scarlet. As I breathe in the smell of autumn and cold air deeply, I settle into place, finally feeling at home.

And I know, because this is so beautiful, in a few short months I will miss this bizarre and intemperate autumn in Indiana.

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