Out-of-the-blog experiences

After rain, a dry high blows in, bringing such clarity that one can see the tiniest gnats dancing in the sun. It was days like this that used to make me feel the most anguished, back in the days before my heart shrank to the approximate size and durability of a black walnut. You can live in the most beautiful place in the world and still wish to be someplace else – or at least to be somebody else. Those yearnings haven’t entirely gone away, merely subsided a bit as I coasted into my long middle ages. And I have learned that I am far from alone in feeling that way. I can sit on a figurative pew in the figurative cathedral here in the back forty and watch the light streaming through the figurative stained glass with a kind of vague contentment verging on joy. I can contemplate a lady’s slipper orchid, listen to a cacophony of coyote pups or watch a black bear nosing around the lawn at dusk and feel – for lack of a better term – blessed. It’s still escape that the mind is after, though, I know that.

I’m going out again in a few minutes, but if you’re stuck inside for the day, here are a few other places worth visiting in this Neverneverland called the blogosphere.

On Tuesday, Susan of a line cast, a hope followed described a moment of near-panic in a Rite-Aid store:

My son walks over to the shelf of cars and picks up an army tank, saying something like “I don’t have this” and quickly putting it down as if he recognizes why he wouldn’t have one, and then says “I like all the Hotwheel cars” waving expansively at hundreds of tiny cars, which does not surprise me but I am feeling like I will faint if he asks me to buy him something, as the excess of the stuff in our house has loomed up in my mind to meet the cacophony of colors of baby bowling pins and Frisbees and neon pool toys and women’s Ked’s style shoes in fuschia and cobalt. Why is this bothering me now? Why doesn’t it bother anyone else? All I can see at this moment is a meaningless excess of cheap soul-stealing stuff. At home many things are broken – the fluorescent kitchen light, the garage door and siding on the south side of the house need replacing, the pond leaks, a car is dead in the driveway and requiring towing. I’ve spent the last hour talking to the repair guy about all the different ways to replace the fluorescent light with no clear answer.

In Acerbia, Abdul-Walid briefly inhabits the hell-realm known as CNN:

My mind was disturbed by the multiple layers: lies, vapid lighting, torpid commentary, mob mentality, more lies, stage-managed debate (on stem-cell research), “news”, trivial pursuits (a report about a housecat stuck in a tree in Oregon, followed by footage of fighting in Iraq), canned laughter, death dealing as entertainment, car commercials, perfect blonde hair, gleaming teeth, and even more lies.

I thought I would lose my fucking mind. A baby being held near me started crying. I must have had a crazed look on my face.

I sought refuge. I started to think of the Zen Center in Cambridge, I thought of an Arboretum in the midwest that I love, I thought of Mount Athos, I tried to still my mind with the words of Krishnamurti. I knew that, given the choice between constant exposure to the obvious insanity that is capitalism, and the mental effort it would take to pretend I actually believed in the dogma of a religious orthodoxy, I would gladly worship the Theotokos or Kuanyin.

On a more cheerful note, earlier in the week Chris at Creek Running North treated his readers to an engaging description of a canyon hike. That’s “Canyon” as in “Grand.” The ending of his five-day sojourn was, predictably, bittersweet:

On the trail in the inner canyon, especially away from Phantom, each person you meet is a welcome spark of humanity in a huge inhuman landscape. You stop, you ask if the person is comfortable and they ask you, you trade life stories and plans for the next hours of hiking, you feel a bond of sincere appreciation. Over a few days, I met a dozen folks I thought of as friends. I never learned their names.

Walk toward the rim and that diminishes. The closer you get to the ice cream trucks and gas stations, the less important it seems to cultivate those ties. Your every need is granted, assuming you have the cash. The closer you get to the rim, the more distant the strangers’ eyes become, the more your wave of greeting is seen as a startling intrusion. Mommy, what does that dirty, hairy man with the backpack want? It took me a few hours, after Cindy and I stepped triumphantly and with some wistfulness onto the Rim, to stop striking up conversations with total strangers.

The Middlewesterner continues to report on Tom and Mary’s recent drive around Iceland.

For lunch we stopped in view of another g-damn waterfall. Yeah, it has come to that. To the tourist in Iceland, the waterfall becomes as ocean is to the fish. Soon enough you just don’t notice the waterfalls. Your spirit may need them but you cannot think too much about them. You cannot process the reality of them after a while. At least that might be the case if you had grown up in the great middle flatness of the USA where even one of these throw-away falls in Iceland would be a source of great wonderment; yet eventually the sky-full of waterfalls becomes too much to comprehend.

A few days ago, Natalie of Blaugustine blogged about her visit to a maxilofacial unit’s waiting room:

A Rabbi in full mufti enters the room and sits down beside me. He immediately pulls a handsomely bound volume from a briefcase and opens it. Out of the corner of my eye I notice the large, beautifully wrought Hebrew lettering. Strangely, at that moment I am reading a chapter about the Nazis who went into hiding in Paraguay after the war. I don’t dare ask the Rabbi what is written on the page of the holy book he is absorbed in. The Rabbi and I are the only people reading in the waiting room, everyone else is staring into space.

Over at alembic, Maria describes her narrow escape from an MRI machine:

Does magnetic resonance shake up your brain? Is it like a mild version of electroshock therapy? When we came out in the sunlight on Post Street, and later, as we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin, I could have sworn everything was aglow with color. Maybe it was just that the timid poking fingers of the first summery fog withdrew into some other pocket over the Pacific….

Meanwhile, in Keene, New Hampshire, Lorianne makes some startling discoveries about her fellow inhabitants: some are

transgender hermaphrodites, starting life as male and turning female upon maturity.

And Fred First travels to Vancouver, where the locals also have some surprising customs.

Rain or shine, Vancouver BC is a city of walkers. We would look out our hotel window and see folks sitting on park benches along English Bay, no hat, no umbrella–in a heavy drizzle. Water is like a second skin for these people and to be outdoors, they think nothing of being wet. In an hour it can stop and start raining a dozen times, so you can’t really wait for ‘good’ weather to leave the house….

On one of our umbrella-walks on Sunday–our second night at the Sylvia on the west side of downtown–as we approached Stanley Park, I heard what I assumed was a chorus of frogs. The raucous calls were coming from the trees. It had to be tree frogs. I’d never heard such a dense cluster of any other invisible creature calling back and forth in great numbers; and the wet weather seemed perfect for amphibians, didn’t it? But wait. What were those manhole-cover-sized clumps of sticks in the branches–ten in this tree, half again as many in that one there? And I could see movement, but in the dismal light against the somber sky, it could have been anything. Anything but frogs….

Finally, in the cassandra pages, Beth – like Susan in the essay quoted above – writes about Allergic Reactions.

The past few days I’ve felt crummy: I’ve had a bad headache from, I think, my usual spring time allergies: the dark side of all those blossoms. But it’s also from too much stress, too much breathing-in of the suffering that goes on around me and the impossibility of finding solutions. I wish I could just hate it and push it away; dismiss without compassion the woman barking at her child. But what made her that way? As much as I despise a world in which beautiful dark-eyed girls end up begging on city streets and small boys, bribed with fast food, learn early to cherish the fat-drenched moment when the unhappiness around them seems to abate, I’m unable to find release either in judgmentalism or escapism. As Merton said, we’re meant to hold both the dark and the light. I wish it were easier.

Now I really need a walk.

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