Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Something Happened

The wind on the edge of the foothills is not kind. Even in the Summer, when the air is hot and feels like a force pushing against each step you take, the wind will rise up, lash the clouds and blow searing dust and grass clippings into your face. But now, when my corner of the world is comprised of varying shades of yellow and gray, the wind is merciless. We have new snow, a dry pebbled kind of snow, each flake a chip of sharpened rock whittled into a fine razored and blood-hungry point and the wind loves nothing more than to toss it about, fling it with haphazard precision in every direction imaginable, so that even when I walk with my back to it, the crystals still find their way into my face and down my collar onto my neck and chest, defying all my careful zipping up and buttoning and scarf wrapping. It is a curious wind and wants to know every inch of me, its fingers reaching out and touching me all over as though to form a recognizable image on its blind eyes.

There is so little to love about this time of year. Color has been bleached from the world, taking with it all the joy and glory I worked so hard to stockpile last May. Walking and breathing are painful and only the sky––clearer than at any other time of the year––offers consolation, however distant and removed. I hate January, with its geese and their gummy green shit and the wind and bland skies, air devoid of even the most pleasant of scents, the brief days and endless nights, for my cold feet, aching back and dry skin.

After the sun had set and darkness had returned we ventured across the street to the park. On the far side of the baseball diamonds, we turned directly into the wind and Duncan's tail flapped above him in time to the flags mounted on the fences which lashed loudly in the wind over our heads. The snow crept over the sidewalk and rushed at us like clouds or waves and I had to turn my face down, shut my eyes and clench my teeth just to keep going. Duncan pulled on the leash, leading my through it, and with each step I found myself thinking, "How did I get here? How did this happen? This is not the life I imagined, water skiing behind a dog in blowing snow in some Denver suburb after working all day at a ridiculous job for embarrassingly incompetent students at a community college, all the while dreaming of flying and never quite getting my feet off the ground. Something must have happened. I must have been pushed because I would not have chosen this for all the world." The voice in my head sounded like the narrator of Joseph Heller's second novel Something Happened, a painfully relentless and unforgiving book about a man who sees absolutely no joy in his life and is not only unable to change it, but refuses even to acknowledge his responsibility in its outcome. It's the kind of book I urge people to read when they think they can't feel any worse. "There's rock-bottom," I say, "and then there's Something Happened."

Duncan led me to the long, wide soccer field which runs parallel to Bowles. A very crisp but fine layer of snow rushed across its surface, erasing my feet as I plodded through it, shoulders hunched, chin pressed against my throat. I dropped Duncan's leash and without a pause he darted away at a full run, threw himself into the wind, his head raised high, a smile pulled across his glowing face. He spun in the air, came down on his side and rolled right into the blowing snow, pulling it over him, robbing it of its bite. I watched, startled, as the world around him lit up. The snow became clouds and the dark stationary yellowed grass turned into a barely visible earth far-below, speeding beneath us as we soared overhead. The sky erupted with stars, first Venus, then Orion and then the myriad others whose names and shapes I don't know. I turned my face skyward and even though the night was dark, I caught sight of a large flock of geese flying high above the hill, turning only briefly toward the lake, then splintering into two groups who battled for supremacy over the other as they headed over the fields and across the street toward the golf course. They were high, their bodies buffeted by the wind, only their pale bellies visible, painted electric orange by the street lamps glowing beneath them. As they struggled and twisted, turning back on themselves and plummeting momentarily before finding their way again, they looked like burning cinders riding the currents of air as they floated and faded away. I caught my breath and watched long after they had gone, not even their voices catching in my ears. Duncan ran circles around me, his leash bouncing behind him, so I spread out my arms and ran after him, flying in my own way, chasing and being chased,

The truth is I am not as happy as I imagined, but who is? I am still happy. I am about to celebrate my thirteenth anniversary with Ken. We have four beautiful children, a safe home and memories and dreams we have built around one another. I do not have the job I want, but I am thankful to have a job, especially in these uneasy times. I am healthy and have good friends and a wonderful family and would wander aimless without them. I am earthbound, but my dreams are not, and my dog taught me tonight that running through the wind and snow can be more like flying than I ever would've thought possible. Something did happen, and even though it is January and there are no safe places to walk amid the goose droppings, I am thankful for every breath I take.

"I know at last what I want to be when I grow up.
When I grow up I want to be a little boy."
(Joseph Heller, Something Happened)


Anonymous said...

Beautifully said. Thank you.

Lori said...

Tom and I were having a similar conversation last night. Neither of us is doing what we want to do, and somehow we thought we'd "be somewhere" in our lives by now. We're not... but at least we're together.

Angela said...

What a beautifully written post. so honest and full expression. Thank you for sharing. baylor has taught me so much about life and how it should be lived.

I have missed being able to read this blog and am glad my time is finally allowing me the pleasure.

Angela and Baylor

Anonymous said...

Love you, son.

Sue said...

So, so true. It really is hard to be truly happy, isn't it? As least, as you say, you are thankful for every breath you take. Just by saying that, you are WAY ahead of the game.

merelyme said...

Amazingly well said. You are incredible. Thanks for this one!

caboval said...

What a majical post! Leave it to Duncan to show us the beauty of life! I love it! Hugs, Valerie Joey and Kealani

Greg said...

I'm sorry to hear of your January malaise, but what a gift you give us by letting us see you work through it, discovering the blessings in each day, and the wonder the canine point of view unlocks for us.

Duncan teaching you to fly made me think of Berkeley Breathed's A Wish For Wings That Work.

And I do hope that when you are on the ground, gaping at the geese flying by overhead, that you are doing so with your lips tight together! ; )

(Happy Anniversary, BTW!!)