Sunday, March 19, 2006


There is no refuge, I decided on last Saturday's walk. Hunting's allowed in the federal wildlife sanctuaries now, and, from the military base across the river, came the sound of loud, long fusillades of gunfire punctuated by an amplified, booming, garbled male voice. Target practice, probably. Young people learning the craft of war. How to kill, and, by unspoken extension, how to die. The voice, authoritarian as a father's, floated across the pretty, brown river and followed me as I made my way along the path.

War, corrupt, benighted rulers, greed, poverty, the corporate commodification of basic human necessities, ignorance, apathy, rampant superstition, intolerance, violence in the name of religion -- none of this was new, of course. The world had been this way for my whole lifetime, and, indeed, from the beginning of history. But I was tired of being appalled. There had seemed to be a particularly ugly confluence of awfulness lately. I was tired of finding myself screaming profanities at the radio everytime I heard the president's voice, of trying to drown out the wheedling, faux-Texan twang and the empty, insipid, platitude-and-malaprop-ridden, lie-filled rhetoric.

The Amurrrcn people have GOT ta un'rstan

#@$%^&*&*$^%$%^%&^#@%&* !!!!!

And now the Bush song had followed me into the woods. Cantata for Gutteral, Incoherent, Amplified Voice and Gunfire. Great. At least the slaughtering refuge hadn't yet become the Pepsi-Cola Federal Wild Game Hunting And Soft Drink Sanctuary. That was, I suppose, something. File under atrocity-yet-to-come.

The winter, though, was ending. That should count for something, right ? Lilacs out of dead land ? I had always found something unsettling about spring. The swollen-to-bursting buds, the burgeoning green, the incipient heat. Joggers, sunbathers, vacationers swarming outdoors in hale, backslapping, bike riding, rollerblading, Gatorade-swilling droves.

It was almost obscene.

Soon I'd have to say farewell to the gold and brown, light-filled chalices of late winter. To the silhouettes of winter trees against sunset, branches ramifying like lead through stained glass. Soon I'd have to fake smiles of agreement when assaulted with the inevitable

It's spring ! Isn't it wonderful !!

Is this dread that Persephone feels each year when it comes time to leave Dis and rejoin the living ?

I leaned over the sheer, sandy bank of the river. Even the water seemed golden, shot through with vague shafts of sunlight. I looked closely. Spring had already arrived here. Strange little nymphs were paddling about underwater. I skidded down the soft, crumbling sand and watched them for awhile. There was something, well, happy about them.

As I scrambled up the bank, eyes inches from the ground, I noticed a small, black hole. I braced my boot against a root and stopped to examine it. A cold wind and dead smell tickled my nose. I sniffed at the heart-shaped gateway formed by the incurved stem-end of a dead leaf. It was a familiar smell. It was the smell of, if not abduction, at least seduction. It was an invitation to an under-underworld.

Come down whispered a familar voice

and I'll blow away the leaf.

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