Road Rage

When I’m driving around, sometimes a line pops into my head and I think it deserves a whole poem. Like this little phrase earlier today: The exquisite pain of knowing… The chances of remembering it for long were slim, so as I negotiated the traffic, I repeated it over and over, even though I didn’t think I was in pain. I was, instead, enraged.

The roads were terrible; people were driving stupid. It’s election day and as usual, my beloved state has gone to the highest bidders. Good, honest people ran against paranoia and lost. I knew I was angry, but when God tapped me on the shoulder I jerked the wheel and yelled, “Fuck you, God.” This surprised us both.

I’m home now but there’s no poem waiting for me. God made a hasty exit at a red light. Fine with me. Who needs any kind of God riding along, let alone a misrepresented, passive one?

To ward off a potential return, I put my fingers in my ears and sing la la la la la. I think of people who don’t love me and hate them for it. And then I retract the hate because I don’t want to be loved anyway. I’m weary of it all. I make herbal tea and wait for the end.

“Finished?” God asks, in a quiet, almost tender voice.

“Yeah,” I say. “You?”

“Oh, I’ve been finished for a very long time.”

“Did you quit or were you fired?” I’m still feeling a little hostile, but I push a slice of sourdough toast toward God. Breaking bread together might help.

“Technically, I was finished before I started,” God says, and takes a bite of the toast.

I make a face, hoping to signal that I don’t like these cryptic answers.

God also makes a face. “There’s something wrong with this toast. It’s bitter.”

“Well, why don’t you whip out your magic wand and fix it?”

God smiles. “Because as I said, I’m done. I turned in my wand so we could be friends. Maybe you should feed this to your pigs.”

“We’re going to eat those pigs someday,” I say.

“I doubt it,” God says. “But good on you for trying.”

The snow continues, and visibility is limited. There will be anger, anxiety, and accidents throughout the day. Night will fall and bring a temporary peace. This moment will be the last for some. The first for others.

God remains soft and circular. I am linear and limited, and I realize that this is the knowing that brings the exquisite pain.

No worries, I whisper to myself. You’re tough. And you can always make more bread. This isn’t true, but God doesn’t contradict me. For that, I am grateful.

Parasites

In the murky gloom of predawn, I consider parasites. Parasites deplete but do not replenish. The host gains nothing and in most cases incurs harm or loss. Given the lopsided nature of this arrangement, most hosts do not choose to be hosts. But there are some who willingly agree to these sometimes-temporary sometimes-deadly conditions. Parents, for example. Women during pregnancy. And God.

“I love a cheerful giver,” The Ultimate Host says. “So I try to live up to my own standards.”

“I appreciate that,” parasitic me says as I sidle up for a hug. It’s good to be grateful. Hosts are not easily replaced.

And I’m welcomed as I knew I would be. The lap of Ultimate Host is warm, innards glowing with love, her earth resplendent with abundance and beauty. I take heart because her planetary systems continue to spin, even as humans blithely carry on with their deadly extractions. She offers me hot chocolate and ginger snaps. I snuggle in.

“I think you’re oversimplifying your equations, honey,” Ultimate Host says.

I make an indeterminant noise and burrow in further.

“Of course, there are givers and takers in any given moment,” Ultimate Host continues. “But it goes far beyond the physical realm. If you weren’t on my lap right now, I’d be missing something. I’d be sad.”

“So, by taking warmth and comfort from you, I’m giving you something?”

“Yes,” Ultimate Host says. “Long ago, I chose to let creation matter to me.”

“That makes no sense,” I protest. “You’re beyond time and space, sufficient unto yourself.”

“It may seem that way, but I’m willingly defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice.” God pauses, then adds, “And you exist in my image, defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice. You are both parasite and host.”

Ultimate Host wraps parasitic me in the finery of being alive. After a moment, in a firm voice, she says, “So what are you?”

Reluctantly, I say what I know she wants to hear. “I am both parasite and host. I am defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice.”

As daylight arrives, a gunshot startles me. It’s hunting season.

“I didn’t ask to be an omnivore,” I tell God as I get dressed.

“I know,” God says. “And I didn’t ask to be God.” I wonder if the bullet hit home and if the resulting meat will be eaten with thanks. I wonder about weapons and butchering and factory chickens, evil and good, taking and giving. I put on my down vest and head out to feed the piglets. They will be ecstatic. I have homegrown carrots to offer.

The Meek

“Here’s the question,” I said to God. “Why would the meek even want to inherit the earth? After the unmeek are finished pillaging, what’ll be left anyway?”

Three distinct snow devils twirled by, and then a vicious wind blew the remnants of the last storm across the garden, blurring my view. The weather patterns have begun to express earth’s outrage at its tormentors. The meek stand at the far end of the long arc of justice and there’s no pot of gold awaiting. Only diminishment and misery.

“Interesting question,” God said. “Could I get a couple of scrambled eggs? The brown, free-range ones, if you please.”

“Why?” I asked. “What’s the point? You’re not hungry.”

God shrugged and made his own eggs.

And here’s another interesting question,” I said with some irritation. “Why is nature so exquisite? Elephants. Apple trees. Caterpillars. Orchids. Translucent baby mice, huddled in their circle of pink, bones so tiny they could be eyelashes. Wild skies. Bengal tigers. Wheat fields before harvest. Fire. Ice.” I paused, caught up in the complexity and splendor of it all. Then added, “and why are humans so destructive?”

God ate his eggs, nodding and smacking his lips. “These eggs were fertilized,” he said. “Circle of life and all that. Tasty. But this toast is questionable. I think your flour has gone bad, and I think I’d like some ice cream.”

I sighed. The wind had died down. The air was clean, my vision unimpeded, my flour rancid, my questions mostly unanswered, and for some inexplicable reason, my soul was at peace. A cold snap was rolling in, but we had enough wood. I vowed to have more faith next time and buy less flour. But I bake a lot of bread.

“Survival is a complicated, temporary equation, isn’t it?” I asked God as he zipped his down coat, wrapped his neck with a wool scarf, and pulled his rabbit fur hat down tight. I didn’t expect him to answer, but he did.

“Yes and no,” he said. “On one side are the essentials: Compassion. Humility. Sacrifice. On the other, well, you figure that out.” He took a long lick of what appeared to be licorice ice cream and added, “It may involve delight.” Then he slipped out the door to the west where joyous and majestic mountains rose to greet him. There were snowshoes strapped to his back.

Good and Evil, Weeds and Greens

I just ordered extra-strength mold and mildew killer for a nasty basement area that hosts a strain of fungi I do not like. And later today I’ll chop, pull, and in some cases, spray chemicals on bugs and weeds and tenacious grasses that are choking the good stuff.

I hate this.

I hate every single stupid aspect of the battle between good and evil, weeds and vegetables, beneficial bugs and destructive infestations, liars and truth-tellers, thieves and the generous of spirit. I realize there’s a purpose for all of creation. Nature is not mistaken. We know a little but not enough. Defining anything as a weed or as evil begs the question of an omniscient creator who pronounces all things good (or potentially good, or redeemable). It violates my premise that God knows what God’s up to. This is why being rational sucks sometimes. The whole of life is filled with unsettling contradictions that must be addressed or endured.

I’m a consumer and a provider–a lover, hater, poet, pragmatist, winner, loser, dreamer, doodler; I’m easily duped but wise in the ways of my insular world. On occasion, I fail to be honest or kind—but I’m skilled at manufacturing reasons to justify myself.

As a human, I have a large degree of autonomy. I have the prerogative to be caring or cruel, truthful or deceitful; I have power over those weaker than I am. Each day arrives new but slightly tainted by the dregs of the day before. The brilliant colors of an unguarded sky disorient me as the hot wind of redundancy stirs the August dust. By late afternoon, I see in my face the toll taken by trying to live well. What do the “evil” people see—the depraved and debauched—do they see the same contours?  Small victories and apparent defeats? Do they glimpse God with her arms crossed, waiting? Do they see my futile longing to give every living thing another chance?

The problem with weeds and germs is that they don’t know their place: they’re not humble. They roam around the party sipping wine from everyone’s glass. They are invasive and infectious. Taking unfair advantage, they form self-defeating monocultures and thus fail to be a balanced part of an intricate ecosystem.

The God I hang out with is the Balancer-in-Chief. She climbs on the scales, lies down in the street, lets the bastards starve her to death. She sustains injuries from the blast, drowns in the flood, joins the protests, widens the cracks, and endures. Unlike me, she seems to know it will come out okay in the end. There will be justice. There will be mercy. There will be love. I shield my eyes from the glare of the moment, but I can only see so far. So while I’m still able, I yank at the weeds with a ferocious mix of futility and hope, and with a certain sadness, I leave their roots exposed to the merciless sun.