Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Waiting for Spring

Have you guys ever had a perfectly written blog all complete while doing something else, like, say, driving or washing your hair or in the wee hours of the morning and then, as soon as you sat down at the computer, it evaporated completely? This has happened to me more times than I can count. At least my hair is very clean.

I also tend to put off writing until the last moment and then, twenty minutes before work suddenly feel the need to write right now.

Daily I wage war against Excel. Yesterday, Excel won the battle. But tomorrow is another day and I won't give up until I have subjugated the system. My coworker shook her head once when I told her this; she has a great deal more experience in it than I; I often ask her for help. "You could study that program for years and never know everything it's capable of doing," she said, her tone of voice resigned and respectful.

Privately, I have come to terms with the fact that now is the time for me to resort to one of those cheerful yellow manuals that so shameless identify their target audience as "dummies."

Sometimes I feel as though I were drowning in time. It is similar to that feeling of driving west for the first time, through the night. It was election night, four years ago. My brother and I left my parent's home in the sleepy little hamlet town in the evening, my Honda full to the gills with my few material possessions.

We stopped for gas at a General store deep in Vermont. It was fully night by then and cold. The clapboard houses that lined the narrow street were stony and blank faced, looking down their gabled windows at us. I stood next to the antique gas pumps, my hands in my pockets and shivered.

What on earth was I doing? I wondered. How could I be doing this, leaving everything I had known, fallen victim to the American instinct to migrate toward the California coast? And how could it be that at twenty six years old, my most valuable possession was a cardboard box with Japanese characters on the side, filled with unused wedding invitations and yellowed e-mails in broken English?

By the time we were nearing Chicago, Bush had won the election and we were exhausted. We had underestimated how much money for gas we would need and were eager to reach our destination, so we didn't stop much.

My brother pulled over at a rest stop in some deserted stretch of highway and slept for a few hours, once. We stopped in Ohio, I think. I remember this mostly because I saw all the little foil packages of pork rind on the display stand; but this could have been a dream.

I took the wheel while driving through Wyoming, figuring that I could do no damage on those long, empty roads. I passed trucker after trucker, decked out in garish yellow lights, the chrome reflecting my headlights back into my eyes.

We cruised into our destination on our last tank of gas and no money to spare. For over a month, I slept on the floor, on couch cushions, the pillow I had brought from home scrunched under my head. I couldn't find work anywhere.

The land all around me was flat, bare and brown; the mountains rising up all along the western horizon snow covered and almost forbidding. The hundreds of new houses all huddled together in little herds like sheep, with fences round them; windows staring into windows and doorsteps running down into side yards, as though scared of wolves and with not even a nod to the dramatic and stark beauty all around them.

Somewhere along the journey it struck me how solidly landlocked I now was and it almost caused a feeling of panic somewhere deep inside me, a quickened heartbeat, as though I were being smothered. I felt the weight of Canada bearing down, the hundreds and hundreds of square miles of solid rock surrounding me.

It took me by surprise, I hadn't even lived near the ocean. We were just near enough to drive up there once or twice a summer and clamber over the spray washed rocks, look for sand dollars and watch the taffy machine pulling and stretching the colorful candy in the display window.

As I move through my days now, that same feeling of being smothered, of the pressure of rock, comes over me from time to time. This time though, I am weighed down by all the days and months I must continue to pass through. I try not to lift my head much and look at this wider vista; I try to keep my head down and focus on one foot after another, but I feel the looming pressure of all that time regardless.

I remember a phrase my father used to use, sometime in mid March. Usually the growing strength of the sun would trigger it, and as the snows piled up higher and higher, yellow grey and ice packed around the drive way, he would stare cheerfully out at the blue sky.

"Winter's back is broken," he would say. (Ever the optimist, he would also sit sunbathing on the front lawn in March, out of the wind. What can I say; the long, damp and bitter cold winters of New England make the watching and waiting for spring into somewhat of a quirky and deeply personal religion for its inhabitants.) "Winter can do its worst, but it's on its way out," he would say.

I'll have to practise saying this more.


T said...

I like your dad. My dad was by far the biggest pessimist I have ever known.

Your post reminded me of when I did the 150 mile bike ride for charity last May. Everyone reminded me that the hills on the second day were endless and difficult. I did my best to focus on the bit of road in front of me instead of the incline ahead of me... and you know what? I did just fine. I was one of the rare ones that made it up those steep hills without getting off the bike to walk it uphill. I stayed focused. I listened to my breathing. I took it moment by moment until it was over.

I'd had practice already.

I was in love with a deployed soldier.

Via said...

I'm a big fan of the "copy everything before you hit "submit" or walk away" philosophy. That used to happen to me all. the. time. so I started copying it! Works great =D