Calhoun’s Cannons for Dec 18, 2012
The winter storm was warm and tropical. In the yard the grapevine finally turned red and started to settle into its long winter’s nap only to have a sudden burst of summer heat arrive. It’s now pushed out new green leaves thinking it is spring again, a dangerous mistake when the winter frosts finally arrive.
If they ever do. After all, a whole lot of people believe the world will end promptly at midnight Friday, which has got to have the gentle Maya wandering around their Yucatan corn fields snickering. “Silly Gringos. Too many Apocalypses. They must be in love with death.”
Well, grapevines and world endings, it has been another season out of sorts. The country, too, has spent a few years upended and in the confusion failed to look around to see what it had become -- a brave new world filled with women, Hispanics, African Americans, a whole lot of ticked off newly un-prosperous working 47%ers and a new cohort of the young, all of whom now form a glorious new rainbow majority of World Class Moochers. Their political ascendancy was aided by a grand old party that also failed to look around and so descended into comic and massively funded irrelevancy. Like the grapevine, the GOP mistook a permanent change for an anomaly.
Time is out of sorts for me, too. I’m beginning to lose all sense of it. Recently, a friend and I were discussing a project we had started together and I was shocked into silence to realize that we had been on that journey for six years. Six? I had absolutely lost all connection with the usual signposts of continuity and progression – this happened, then that happened, then this. Instead, I no longer had a sense of when we had started and so had no real feeling for where we were now. Six. One. Three. It was all the same size. She might have well reminded me we had been working together 40 years for all the difference it would have made.
It’s that same time compression I see when I look into the face of The Mighty Finn McCool. In my mind, he’s a gangly greyhound puppy, so it always brings me up short to see his face getting whiter, his step slower, the gimpy lurch of joints getting stiff and old. The same shock occurs when I look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that woman and how did she get into my house?” As for the rest, my life has become a blur interrupted by a flash of illuminations, all of them disconnected from any sense of linear time -- a life turned into a snapshot album.
The normal process of aging, I suppose. All the boring stuff falls away and what remains are sharp, out-of-time tableaux. I suspect this transformation explains why it was so easy to erase my life this summer when I gleefully cleaned out closets, purged file cabinets, dumped old photos, childhood mementos, souvenirs, slides, letters and paintings. Out! Out! They were no longer precious, sentimental items, things vitally connected to me, a part of my history. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, they had become dust-catchers and fodder for the silverfish. Out!
Far from being a depressing activity, this broom-sweeping effort was liberating and when I was done, I immediately thought of that lovely scene in “Harold and Maude,” when Harold gives Maude a sweet token of his affection and she promptly tosses it into the ocean. Outraged, he asks why she did that and she calmly replies, “That’s so I’ll always know where it is.”
And so it is with me. The mementos and memories I want to save are already inside my head. No need for so many hard copies. And when I can no longer remember even the few I have nestled in my brain, then it really will be time to go.
And so time slips by while we aren’t looking. The darkness arrives and the winter stars wheel again into view. We have made a hash of the natural world and it will exact its revenge on us. Best to take our medicine stoically as we try to heal its wounds, for our children’s sake.
And for our own sakes as well, to keep living the message of love from a small child born in a stable. Or the command of peace from a merchant who spoke to God in a cave. Or a young prince who sat under a Bodhi tree. Or to all the sages and wisdom-givers who remind us, if only once a year, that we are full of possibilities and light. We only have to pay attention to see it gleaming, even on the darkest nights at the end of the world.