Going Home

March 17, 2007

I’m veering away from my usual post with this one.  I decided, when I started this blog, to remain topical – focusing my anger and bile towards specific things I’d like to see obliterated and swept away into the trashbin of history… you know, the usual shit I prattle about.  But seeing as how Nature saw fit to grant me one last whitewash… I figured I’d talk about something a little more interesting than my current bane, and talk about something that really means something to me.

I’m going to talk about death.

Why would a sudden snowfall inspire me to write about death you ask?  Why does death mean so much to me?  Why do I continue to pose rhetorical questions?  I’ll get there.  Well, I’ll get close.  I’ll probably end up talking about chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with the way my pinball machine of a brain works.

It’s so exhausting being me.

Winter is by far my favorite season.  You can imagine then, if you live in NJ, the pissy mood I was in this season, as there was barely a flake for months.  I think it’s rather fitting that an ice storm hit, just as we were sliding into Spring.  We had a few days of weather so cool and lovely that even I didn’t mind sitting out in the sun, smelling the breeze for a while.  But still, I felt like a jilted lover for the past few months, celebrating a decidedly un-merry, 60 degree Christmas, while everyone else rolled up their sleeves and planted their hands on their hips, barking like loonies about how great the weather was.  So it wasn’t without a bit of reserved glee that I saw a sudden drop of 30 degrees in the past two days, and a wall of ice slamming into everyone’s Spring Break like a drunk driver in Daytona Beach, eliciting a chorus of moans from essentially everyone I’ve seen or heard.  It’s the same kindof glee one feels when anyone’s happiness is upset
slightly – like when you see a cheerful baby trip over its clumsy feet
and scrape its knee.  Sure it’s unfortunate for him… but deep down,
in your guts somewhere, you’re smiling about it.  It’s been a great few days leading up to the storm, and certainly during it… watching people stamp the snow out of their shoes, huffing and puffing, while the snow rattles against the windows in its sustained white noise… "shhhhhhh."  I love that noise. 

Tonight I went on one of my long, snow walks.  I do that every time it snows.  I wait until very very late… when everyone else with a brainstem and a 9-5 job is asleep… and then I tromp around through the snow, and listen to just how quiet it is.  There’s something about the cold that just drenches everything in silence… like the world’s been asleep for a long time – like I’m somehow the only person left alive, climbing out of my bomb shelter, to find a ruined world, all darkened windows and bare, skeletal trees.  The sky is swollen and grey like a bruise, hanging heavy overhead, as though at any minute, it could just snap, and pour more snow on top of me like white paint.  Everything looks dead… and I find that peaceful.

I had a discussion tonight about death… about how people from different cultures deal with it.  During the conversation, a consensus was reached, wherein both I and the person I was speaking to agreed that, despite our shared reluctance to take part in any religion, and standard distaste for dogma… there really is something quite lovely about the ritual of mourning. 

Everyone deals with death in their own way… for me, when my mother died, I went out for a long walk, like I had done tonight.  I found a secluded spot in a field – or the closest possible thing to it in the suburbs, which in this case was a drainage reservoir… it’s so exhausting living here.  I laid down on my back, and cried like that baby who’d tripped over his clumsy feet and skinned his knee that we’re all laughing about on the inside.  My father kept his mourning in his office.  I’d hear him late at night, crying quietly to himself, with his face in his hands. 

Her funeral was… funereal.   A bunch of people I didn’t know or remember showed up in black clothes… they shook my hand and gripped my bicep and showed me that face they’d been preparing in the bathroom mirror earlier that morning – the one that was designed to tell me how sorry they were, but instead all ended up saying the same thing: "wow, you’re too young to handle something like this."  But I wasn’t, I’m proud to say… I had my little drainage reservoir, and my dad had his office late at night… and sometimes, when I’m lucky, I get a snowy night like tonight, when I can trundle around in the snow, looking for that spot where I’d cried 10 years ago… I get nights where I can look around and see a world that is as dead to me as my mother, somehow made more beautiful and precious to me now that it’s gone.

Tomorrow the sun will come up and take all of that away.  The snow, in its flat, perfect sheet, will become twisted and wrinkled as everyone rolls out of their driveways to go to work.  Ugly shoots of grass will start poking their way through, as the surface melts away, the roads will go from white to grey to black… and everything will turn into spring again… and I’ll have to force myself to put away my sweaters for another season, and start wearing short sleeves again.  I’ll still take walks from time to time… but not as frequently… and they’ll be missing something – rather they’ll not be missing anything.  Because the snow wont be there to unfocus the world for me.  The trees will wave their leaves at the wind, and every rustle will divert my ears… and I’ll stand there all alone, in the din of a Spring night with its birdsong and crickets, the smell of flowers in the air, and a cloudless, starlit sky… miles and miles away from where, in some way, I always want to be.



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