Saturday, December 27, 2003

Decreational Vehicle

With a supreme effort of will, I flung myself out into the sunshine and headed for the river. No camera this time. Just a walk.

It was cold, but not overly so. The sun was sinking, but still bright. I turned down the small drive beside the Chinese restaurant, toward the granite marker announcing the path. There's a little roadway that curves along past a graffiti wall and comes out at the base of the railroad trestle bridge. It was very ugly there today. The fallen leaves were matted and rotting into a uniform brown crud around beer cans and plastic drink bottles. Up a small slope to the left, there were dumpsters and trucks. Junk. Everything seemed mud colored, putrefying, sad.

So I crossed the footbridge and took the usual route. The snow is gone. The various red berries and strange gold seedpods are still present, but sparser. I think the gold seeds might be Japanese Knotweed, apparantly a wildly invasive species. The beautiful nameless grass is still there, its seedheads nearly bare.

I turned down the path toward the river hermit's encampment. The river is full and fast from snowmelt, and opaque. I looked from a distance: no blue dome. Lawnchairs still there. I approached, cautious, feeling like a trespasser. It was little more than a midden.

The tent was in fact there, but collapsed. Oddly enough, scattered on top of it and around it, was luggage: four or five big suitcases, unmatched, one partly open and full of clothes. The collapsed tent was vaguely lumpy, and covered with plastic sheeting and tarps. A long, rolled-up rug and cloth thing protruded, with a swaddled knob at one end, like a head. For a moment I worried that it contained a dead hermit. I sniffed the air: no rotting flesh. I hoped the hermit had found suitable shelter.

Then, suddenly, down the little root-bound mud path, roared an all- terrain vehicle, a hideous unnatural radioactive lime green, on four big bulbous tires. Like some awful sci-fi video game insect. Certainly not legal, and certainly unwelcome. The driver greeted me cheerfully and drove past, a flesh-and-petrochemical embodiment of intrusive noise and environmental depredation, and seemingly oblivious to any possibility that his presence might be inappropriate.

My woodland sanctuary had been invaded by the internal combustion enemy, an ugly coital coupling of vile machine and thoughtless human, direct descendant of the infernal engine that, three months ago, broke my neck and derailed my life.

Disgusted, I turned around and walked home with the wrenching image of bulbous rubber grinding the beautiful nameless grass into the mud.

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