Friday, November 16, 2012

Some days the only thing that makes sense is nature

Some days the only thing that truly seems to make sense to me is nature. Some days I wonder how we ended up so far removed from our animal selves. In increments, over many thousands of years, it happened -- until here I am now on the highway, entering my second hour of infuriating, insane-making, stop-start traffic. Roll forward a foot. Stop. Roll forward a foot. Stop. Encased in metal. Powered by an engine I don't understand. Entirely sealed off from the hundreds of people stretching in front and behind me on this jammed roadway as far as I can see, one person per metal capsule. Furious, isolated, trapped, and somehow each finding it one of life's great unfairnesses that we should be the ones to suffer like this.

And here the animal self does bubble up, for a moment at least: the guy behind me who just can't take it any more honks his horn, long and loud and drawn out. And then it bubbles up in me, as I wave my arms and shout back at him in the rear-view mirror. Blood vessels throb in my brain, and I feel as though I could do some damage.

Then the animal self ebbs away again, our reptile brains retreating as the other driver and I shake our heads clear and see the logic of the situation, once again accept this peculiar life that we have created for ourselves. Pavements, and suits with ties, and lipstick, and little rectangular objects we carry with us everywhere to connect ourselves to . . . to . . . what exactly?

A male Northern Cardinal shoots like a scarlet missile across the road, followed quickly by a female, duller but more subtle and just as beautiful. Two Red-tailed Hawks are circling high up in a thermal above the road, elegantly slicing through the air. Inexplicably, something about them up there and me down here makes me feel teary. I put the window down and hear a Goldfinch calling, the sound coming to me in waves as the bird rises and dips in flight: potato chip, potato chip, potato chip.

I have to consciously fight the urge to pull off onto the grassy verge, abandon my metal capsule and walk into the woods. Yes, these woods are degraded and despoiled and weed-entangled, filled with trash and runoff and cigar wrappers and Bud light cans. But deer also graze here. Woodchucks barrel along. Orchids grow. Baby birds call to be fed. Bluejays make sounds like rusty gates swinging in the breeze. Crows skulk. Squirrels pounce. I know I would last nary a night out here with no electricity or grocery stores or the rule of law. But right now, even that seems appealing. Nature is so much less cryptic, so much more honest, in its brutalities.

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