Monday, September 28, 2015

King Snake, Blood Moon, Escapism (A Fall Meditation)

The sun lit the Baboquivari mountains as I slowed for the Border Patrol checkpoint. The agent asked me what was going on with all the cars on the road with bikes in them. I told him about the bike race up Kitt Peak, an 11.7 mile time trial that would climb 3700 feet. He nodded, utterly elsewhere.

As an afterthought he said that these bike people seemed pretty serious. I told him most of them were more serious than I was and left it at that as he waved me through.

The mountain grew as the distance between it and me decreased. The radio droned on about the loss the University of Arizona has suffered to UCLA the day before. This was serious talk. What did it mean for Arizona? Where would they land now? What about us and our standing on the national stage? It was an embarrassment. That's what it was, an embarrassment. How would we recover?

The ride up Kitt Peak was dreamy with heart pounding hypoxia. I relaxed my arms, neck, back, and shoulders as I jammed on the pedals, an old guy fighting gravity just working to stay in the moment. The road snaked up the mountain, around the western flank. It went on longer than I thought was fair, given my condition and lack of climbing prowess. But that was what it was, and it was a thing between me and me, an extravagance of time, money, energy, and attention. So much happening in this world that more deserves attention.

I was beat by the time I descended back to the car. One of the younger guys was on his way back up. He and the elite racers were doing repeats. Repeats.

The rez around the mountain is like most reservations -- open, wilder and less developed than white cities, harshly poor, and, today, blindingly bright. Too much for me.

Football was still all the news on the way back to Tucson. Now it had moved on to the NFL. College ball was so yesterday. Who was on the rise, or on the skids.

The saturation of football, especially on Sundays, even out here, on the rez, far from city life speaks volumes of how it works to keep us glued to the dramas of the gridiron. Football is our modern mythology, its players our god and demi-gods. In it our modern gladiators keep us from thinking too much about a world in flames with migrant crises, financial inequities, environmental calamity.

The simple puzzle pieces of the game are enough to keep us occupied and pacified.

As the city closes in, I feel the Gulliverian ropes begin to tighten. I have classes to plan for, home maintenance to attend to, bills to pay, decisions to make.

When I return home, I hang up the bike, the bike that is way beyond my abilities to fulfill its potential, drop my kit in the wash, and begin the work of the householder. First things first though. I fill the hummingbird feeder. Those creatures are high on my list. Then I fill the fountain with a bucket I carry from the pool. Our water main is broken, so if I want the fountain to run, I need to carry water, like much of the rest of my fellow humans.

Simple stuff like making a living is too mundane to make it to the news. I would rather escape into the dramas of consuming, of winning and losing, of big breasted cheer leaders whose phony smiles get tired as they gyrate their pom-poms for the camera, shaking their heads in a come hither move for the cameras.

It gets so empty, though, the constant and mind numbing sameness of grinding collisions in the hope of big play, the highlight, the "moment."

But I do the laundry in front of the TV, fold the clothes as the Colts come back against the Titans. "It's a miracle," says the commentator.

Then the rug needs vacuuming; herd of T-shirts needs thinning; the cat needs feeding. I need to cook dinner.

At sunset, I take a bike down to the river, where I have a clear line of sight to the mountains to the east. There I wait for the moon. It is a harvest moon, a super-moon, a blood moon. It rises, huge, with a bite taken out of it by the shadow of the Earth. It cuts at me, an unforgiving witness of my heart's betrayals. I watch as it rises, the bite getting bigger while the backdrop of sky darkens.

It turns reddish brown, a rusty orb hanging over the ragged slash of the Rincon ridge line.

When it is full I return home, climb up on the roof, and sit with Megan to study it with the binoculars. I drink a beer to calm my jitters.

This is it, the reality of planets spinning, hearts pumping, the cool of a new season delivering its first touch.

When we tire of the sight, we descend the ladder from the roof and find Simone the cat fixated on a black whip of a snake in front of the back door. She is queen of the yard and doesn't know what to make of this interloper.

It shines like it was lacquered in the beam of the headlamp. It looks lean and hungry. I see its eyes as its reverses course and heads back into the tangle of ivy along the house.

It is reality, life on a hunt to survive, a being in a web of birth, life, death, utter uncertainty about when and how all these things will happen. The snake comes from the darkness, the shadows of the yard. He is what we don't want to look at, work so hard at avoiding and denying.

No wonder the snake is portrayed as the messenger and form of the devil.

The moon's dimmed redness doesn't help. 

Simone moves to follow, but I pick her up and we all go back into the house.

The moon is still up when I leave for work just before 6:00 AM. It is an enormous platinum disk suspended over the mountain I rode up the morning before.

The hum of human chatter is quiet still, but is coming. It's Monday, Moooonday after all, and it's time to get to work, to attend to the business of making, getting, wanting, selling, buying, of adoring the winners and forgetting the losers. 

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