Monday, September 6, 2010

Seasons Behaving Nicely

Would that life were like the shadow cast by a wall or a tree, but it is like the shadow of a bird in flight.--The Talmud

In Oklahoma, where I come from, summer can be a petulant, passive-aggressive jerk. Every year, millions fall for its easy-going charms and laid-back lifestyle. Hang out with it enough, though, scratch its surface a bit, and one quickly finds out how neurotic it can be. Complain just once about its annoying habit to go to extremes and it digs its heels in and refuses to budge. I always feel a bit guilty about this change of heart since I had seemingly, just moments ago, embraced it with open arms. However, when lengthy negotiations to talk it down from its ledge carry into late October, I secretly wish it would just jump already.

Imagine my surprise this weekend, in the Rockies, when I watched summer bow out...gracefully. There were no histrionics or middle fingers tossed as it left. Like a pleasant house guest, it graciously made its bed, started the coffee and then quietly slipped out the back door while everyone was still sleeping. One summer afternoon, we drove into the mountains and marvelled at the uniformly green slopes and then, magically, the next day, the verdure turned to lovely golden and amber hues. The change coincided efficiently with the calendar year's symbolic end to summer, Labor Day.

During the drive back to Denver, I contemplated how quickly and quietly summer had exited. The whole experience reminded me of a sunset I saw in Maui--so gorgeous, it bordered on obscene. I remember trying to will the rapidly slipping sun back into the sky in a vain attempt to prolong the pleasure of watching it settle into the ocean. I could have kicked myself. Why hadn't the same sun and ocean captivated me as profoundly for the previous 13 hours? Why, in the last fleeting seconds, did it not allow me to look away?

It's funny. We spend an inordinate amount of time trying to build solid, lasting shadows in this life but it is usually the ephemeral that ends up capturing our attention. When something overstays its welcome or hangs on unnaturally long, we oftentimes bristle at its impertinence. In our core, despite our wish to prolong it, we fundamentally understand that life is fleeting.

In the end, I guess that I am ultimately comforted by gorgeous sunsets and the efficient change of's strangely soothing to get a brief glimpse of a bird's shadow in flight.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And Pfffft, It Was Gone

Thanks to a recent Facebook thread, I can't get the Hee Haw song, Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me, out of my mind. It has been repeating in my head, over and over, just like my old Rhinestone Cowboy 45 with the skip in it. My brother gifted me that record for my 6th birthday because it was all the rage in our neighborhood to have memorized the lyrics in entirety. That same birthday in 1975, I received a record player with an uber hip "denim pocket" carrying case. Life was sweet and complete.

It seemed simpler back then, too. Every Saturday afternoon, I used to watch Hee Haw reruns with my brother on our couch with the scratchy red cushions ("Wool is so durable!", mom exclaimed when we complained about skin breakdown). We had different reasons for tuning in to Hee Haw. Six-year-olds could understand the corn pone humour whereas 17 year old boys could appreciate the country girls in their Daisy Duke shorts and tight tops. The cast, who I am sure were actually drinking moonshine from their prop jugs, seemed to be having such a good time being cheesy. Still, to this day, I watch it and just can't help giggling. Although not particularly funny, it remains ridiculously fun.

We watched the show in the den, almost always having to jump up and adjust the heavily tin-foiled rabbit ears to get better reception. Remember dens? Those mismatched rooms with furniture and decor cobbled together from wildly disparate eras? The carpet, and there was always wall-to-wall carpeting, was usually blue. Or green. Or red. (You know, to hide the dirt.) These rooms provided the prototype to the family room and then, the more illustrious, Great Room, where everything bought on credit goes together. Perfectly.

While we relaxed in the den watching syndicated boob tube delights, my parents would take a much deserved nap in their room, formerly known as the Largest Bedroom, now referred to as the Master Retreat. We didn't dare bother the masters in their retreat, for surely that would have meant premature death. We knew that, they knew that...everyone was happy, or, at least, content knowing their place in the world.

I wonder if this is the source of our country's current conservative malaise? To be conservative means that, well, you want to hold on to or conserve the past. This strikes me as a normal response to modern life. Somewhere deep inside, each generation secretly yearns for the practical sofas of its youth, for TV shows (or books) that are silly instead of edgy, for rooms that are a little messy. We miss knowing our place in the world as it was once defined.

Maybe all this gloom, despair and agony being touted by the Tea Party is just nostalgia for what once was and can never be the same again. Realistically or not, life seemed more simple, somehow better, in our youth and then....pffft, it was gone. I get that. Although I am an unabashed progressive, looking forward to what is to come and become of our great country instead of focusing on our excessive misery, I have compassion for those who like to "remember when".

So, to quote the ending line of that silly, syndicated, piece of TV perfection: "May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few." THAT'S ALL!!