Sunday, March 07, 2004

Rain And The Rhinovirus

The slate gray, billowing clouds finally moved west, taking the sudden gusty rain with them. I had been sitting in my car waiting for the shower to pass, watching the Charles River fall over its little spillway, impatient to get to my walk. There's nothing like a good old fashioned cold to bring out one's peevishness. One's head -- the brain pan, for goodness sakes -- becomes host to a miraculously self-renewing spring, bubbling up from nostrils and eyes and throat. The unexpected downpour seemed a watery taunt. Childish, hankering, I taunted back: Rain, rain go away/ little Paula wants to play.

There was a part of me that was at peace. I was warm and dry. The rain noodled pleasantly on the car roof. The clouds were extravagant, interesting. But nonetheless, there they were, all three kilesas at once, doing their little vaudeville routine: the wanting, the pushing away, the clamoring, impatient, snot-addled, illusory self.

Finally, the rain stopped.

So I went out, avec camera again, into the late winter woods. The landscape's pallette has been narrowing week by week to dun gray, brown, black. Subtle purple and green branches, by contrast, appeared neon-bright. Green-gray lichens seemed positively gaudy. The drabness honed attention. I noticed that form, underfoot, was giving way to a humid compost of emptiness: mud and decaying leaves. I took a picture of the delicate ribs of a tattered, rotting leaf on a bed of sludge. My own ribs someday.

Almost out of film, I picked my way through the brush and trash of the municipal, post-industrial riverbank, drawn by some clustered clumps of pale stalks rising from the water just offshore. They were mudstained and wet up half their length, then ghostly beige. I got closer and peered into the water from which they rose: the eye of a dead fish stared back.

As I walked back to my car, I remembered that it's Lent: the season of relinquishment, of fasting. The bleak stretch between Fat Tuesday and the Easter Ham. The final dregs of winter, just before the earliest, most tentative hints of spring. Which is, after all, the prize. The resurrection and the life. The binge that follows the purge. Brought to you by your heavenly host, JC. Who descended and rose and ascended and who will be back for a rapturous return engagement. Get your Godside tickets now. Christian "salvation" with its complicated timetable and mechanics exasperates me. Is there a Christian equivalent of When you meet the Buddha on the road, slay him ?

The green mountains, replies Dogen, are walking.

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