Friday, February 20, 2009

Word from the eastern front V/15

The battle wages on. We have breached the half way point. Six fields stripped down to the bare stumps. The old shoots churned up and now invisible, just a bit of organic matter that feeds the future. It’s not unlike an animal that eats its offspring to continue living. Or if you like it closer to home (homme), the Donner Party. They got snowed in for a winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains and ended up eating each other. Organic matter. We all need it.

So as the world in the vines advances, the outside world which demands my getting by as a stranger in a strange land doesn’t cease. If anything it becomes more insistent because of the lack of time I can donate to it. Being a fake farmer is even more tiring than being a real one.

The idea of one thing at a time doesn’t work when that one thing goes on for months. I’ve missed the deadline for the taxes, I haven’t made an appointment at the eye doctor, and I have a stack of various official looking letters sitting on the kitchen counter that haven’t been read yet, in part due to the unseen eye doctor.

It’s a rat race here too. It’s just slower and there is more cheese about. Perhaps field mouse marathon is closer to the just description of the pace here. In that case I could say that I am coming up on the 20 mile mark, otherwise known in the world of marathoners as ‘the wall’.

“The Wall.” It evades easy definition, but to borrow from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of obscenity, you know it when you see it—or rather, hit it. It usually happens around mile 20, give or take a couple of miles. Your pace slows, sometimes considerably. You feel as though your legs have been filled with lead. Sometimes you can’t feel your feet at all. Thought processes become a little fuzzy. (“Mile 22, again? I thought I just passed mile 22!”) Muscle coordination goes out the window, and self-doubt casts a deep shadow over the soul.

Yes, self doubt and a deep shadow over the soul. It’s for this I crave the sunshine, it creates a chemical chain reaction that counteracts doubt. In fact it’s one of the reasons the vines attract me. If the sun is out, (which it often is here) the vines are in it. The vines whole life cycle is dependent on massive doses of sun. Mine too, after all, I am a Leo.

It was glowing bright light yesterday and eventually we stripped down to shirt sleeves. Hmm yes. The sun. It keeps the soul shadow free, the skin toned, and the muscles limber. But once again the French administrative world was knocking. Actually it was insistently pounding on the door in the form of the requisite monthly meeting for wards of the state. That includes me. I like to be included in things, but this meant that I had to quit both work and the sun before they were finished for the day.

At three o’clock I found myself sitting again in the windowless basement office of the Lodeve MSA office awaiting Mme. Montseratt. She is a cloud that casts a shadow of self doubt over souls throughout the department. It isn’t her as much as what she represents. Namely the numberless gate keepers of low ranking bureaucratic status who thrive on making access to the social system more complicated than it really is. I can’t really blame them, it’s a form of job protection, but to miss a sunny day for this kind of man-handling throws a deep shadow of doubt over my soul. I am not talking Thomas' questions but rather his teachers in Gethsemane when he wondered, at the most fundamental level, how he came to this. Oh. Where are my raisins in the sun.

By the time I leave the bureau it is five thirty. The sun is still up but it’s heat is gone and it is throwing off that low angled sharp light of late winter afternoons. That glaring dirty light that arrives just before dusk and which flattens out everything in it’s path. It’s a heat-less light which highlights all the blemishes of our human constructions, our improvements on this earth. It throws long, harsh shadows.

By the time I get home the sun is down. In the western sky, in a limitlessly dark blue sky Venus is like a beacon. In the moment when I step out of my car and look up at the transparent dark blueness that fills the distance between that planet and myself I am stunned into forgetting everything mundane and un-wonderful that comprised my day. The warmth of the sun, the dark blue transparency of the sky, and the house full of souls on vacation rested.

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