Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Impermanence: and all sad goodbyes

It is the ultimate risk.  Sometimes a decision, often a swirling force, wheel within a wheel, that sucks the soul irretrievably towards it's vortex. The force has a name, it is called Love and once you have surrendered to that cosmic pull you are tethered  by the heart to the risk called loss.  Despite the ever present possibilities of pain inherent in the act of  loving we all take the risk, for better or worse; hedging our bets that the joy, connection and gifts of loving will outweigh the pain and disillusions of love's loss.   

Impermanence is the life lesson inherent in loving anyone or anything. The special bonds that we form with the creatures of our domestic existence are especially poignant teachers of this lesson. The love for a pet is in everyway as potent as our human love relationships. I am writing this on the day that death ended my 11 year relationship with Paddington Bear, my gray and white cat friend. His life span, as a cat, was a constant reminder that, no matter how much I loved him, I, as a human, would probably outlive him and ultimately, have to grieve his loss from my physical life.

He choose a bad time to leave. He was comfort in the suddenly very long, lonely days resulting from the loss of my teaching job. Like Paddy's sudden death I had no time to prepare for this sudden solitude.The vacuum created by the loss of the daily friendships of my colleagues is painful. Paddington Bear was always there, speech was not his gift, but listening certainly was.

I buried him in the rain this afternoon, under the trees at the corner of the woods where his predecessors in companionship, FB and Preston Nichols lie at rest. Will I take this great risk again? Probably I will. I have yet to master the great teachings of the Zen Masters.

Thank you Paddington Bear, for being one of my teachers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wood Wars

It is beginning.  Last week  an absence of electrical power, internet , cable TV and all things virtual in nature, forced the residents of the suburban burg where I have lived for the past 39 years out into the streets. A small gaggle of people, who normally keep very private lives, were drawn together by the unforgiving litter, inconvenience and snarly devastation of Hurricane Irene. Now, Cedar Avenue is not your average suburban idyll. During the past three years we have weathered the likes of 3 SWAT team invasion, complete with full battle regalia and tanks. All spawned by an our neighbor's sadly unconquerable substance abuse problem. But, that is a story in itself to be later told. There were occasional police force visits to quiet the wrath of the elderly woman across the street who suffered from some form of mental illness.She has now passed from this world into more peaceful surroundings. The aged locust tree she left behind however, spawned the beginning of this saga.
Early Sunday morning, about 2 weeks ago, she, the tree, fell with a splintering shuddering tremor that rivaled the earthquake which had struck days earlier. The morbid felling of the tree, and many more like her, forced me, trembling, into the basement of my house where I waited out the remaining 4 hours of thunderous, windy terror huddled next to my washing machine. My own fault for trying to play Superwoman by weathering such a storm alone. I survived, as did the other human and animal residents of the street. Many of our towering, sheltering trees did not.
The comradery of the cleanup was novel and welcome and, sadly short lived. The ever present wailing of chainsaw and generators has given way to an inharmonious and mal-tuned chorus of chain sawing. From dawn to dusk these monsters are dismembering the corpses of the mighty trees furosiously felled by Irene. They are also quickly disbanding the chivalrous comradery amongst the men of this neighborhood. Three of my neighbors have wood burning stoves that they use constantly in winter months to supplement the raging oil bills of the Northeast. My immediate neighbor to the left, has a most voracious wood burning habit. That wonderful smell of woodsmoke is ever present as soon as a chill nips the air.  Consequently, he is forever gathering wood and always has an  impressive pile adorning all corners of his property. The other 2 homes heated by wood, have less impressive and downright puny piles.  All three of these men have fallen prey to the slumping economy and are living on unemployment benefits. This is important only because they are at home, generally all day.  Thus enters the hunting and gathering phase of the saga.

It begins around 7:00 every morning. A distant saw strikes up a crescendoing wail and I hear the truck engines power up. The race is on. Whoever is the first to hunt down the source of the dissonant wail is the victor. He claims and brings home the wood. Age is in the favor of the man with the biggest stash and so he always wins the prize. Now, this was tolerable for a few peaceful days but then the trouble started. Grownmen reduced to the status of 2nd graders pushing to be first in line. No words were exchanged but, as Rich's pile of logs grew to the greed stage, looks were drawnl like swords everytime his log-loaded van dumped another pile in the driveway.

Today the crew came to dismember the giant tree which has lain across my neighbor's fence since the hurricane. The prime gatherer was at bay chasing another saw and my friend, with the puny pile, came down , in the absence of the gatherer,to stake claim on his catch. They sawed her up and I came out to count the rings in the circles of trunk which were placed beside the road. My heart wrenched as I discovered that her rings outnumbered the years I had lived in the shade of her presence. Glenn and I were discussing how we were going to get the heavy wood up the block. Neither of us is young and spry. I went in to change into work atire and when I came outside the workers had loaded the tree into Glenn's van for him. We all smiled, another dose of chivalry had been shared. Suddenly, two vans came screeching to a halt in front of my house and without words spoken, it became apparent that ownership of the wood could easily become a call to arms. A truce ensued and Glenn, who truly needed the wood more ,went home the victor.
Later, playing the part of the peacemaker, I reminded Rich of the huge hoard, that I had protected his latest stash, felled from my woods by the Brookhaven cleanup crew, when they were about to dump it, via bulldozer, into a dump truck to be hauled away as bounty for another hunter.

It is beginning. In New York City a threat of men terrorizing each other on an awful anniversary. Is this the way the world ends? Revenge is child's play run amok.