Expressways

The first walk around my neighborhood in three months reveals what I had suspected: any sign of spring is way underground. My sycamores are still skeletal.  The locusts are still wearing a few of their blackened seed pods, like they forgot to take off their eyeliner after a great party.  Everywhere I looked for a bud or a smudge of green, I came up with nothing.

Thursday, one of the front wheels on my car screamed every time I turned right.  Metal scraped metal and joints protested.  It was sort of like the noise Westley makes when he’s being tortured by The Machine in “The Princess Bride” (according to Inigo, “the sound of ultimate suffering”).  I have an elderly car.  It was not until Saturday evening that I accepted the noise was real and ran the appropriate google searches.  Yes, I agreed with Google: this is a CV joint (it was a lower arm control, actually, you know the CV joints are on the back, doing nothing, and the front wheels need to steer, duh).

In the hierarchy of my mental and emotional suffering, car trouble ranks high.  When I have a physical illness, at least I can drink juice and go to bed early.  With car trouble, it takes money, phone calls for rides, and time.  Not being able to go where I want when I want throws me completely off balance.  Trapped!  I spent Saturday evening and a chunk of Sunday morning worrying about my car, if I should drive it at all, and what car to buy to replace it.

I complained a great deal about my car trouble, both inside my own head and to a couple of people who were kind enough to listen.  It’s almost as if I want to verify the legitimacy of my stress.  It’s not really legitimate.  I had some food and books and movies and coffee at home.  Plenty of people, even in our small city, get around without cars.  Some by choice, some by circumstance, and I know they’re not as spazzed out as me.

In addition to this car crap, Le Corbusier and I had a falling out. I finished the New York City documentary I mentioned in an earlier post.  The last episode explains how Manhattan almost got gutted by Robert Moses in his Le Corbusier trance.  I had no idea someone tried to build a highway across Manhattan.  The lack of cars in Manhattan, the primacy of pedestrians, is what makes it so intense and fun and free.  I was sad because Le Corbusier has a great name, and he wears those classic architect glasses, and I love modernism.  I’m a very modern (and hardly post-modern) type.  It’s so unfortunate that we have to be enemies.

I know it’s not the car thing that is hurting me.  It’s a lack of control and a lack of patience.  I might as well stroll around my neighborhood and worry about the trees budding.  When will they start?  How can we persuade them?  What about the one with the ice damage?  How can we get it to resurrect?  What kind of prayer or fertilizer or fruit juice will heal my broken car?  I’m afraid that maybe I like my healthy eating, exercise, and religious rituals because they make me feel more in control.  (“I will feel better if I just….”)

There is movement toward spring on a day like today, one of the first days people walk at a leisurely pace, have conversations over fences.  The warmth of today is waking the trees slowly.  First they must be warmed and fed with sun, and then, when they feel safe, they will peek out at night.  One morning we will wake up, and not even notice the new crumb of green on our very own trees, out our very own windows.  Are all the trees worried about how this spring will go, and how their leaves will turn out this year, and if someone will cut them down?  Well, they don’t look worried to me.

Winter’s Last Grab

Theoretically, the arrival of spring is inevitable.  It doesn’t feel inevitable in April.  We get handed a day of sun and short sleeves, the forsythia squint out, and then winter yanks us back.  Today is forty degrees, overcast as a trenchcoat, and the wind slaps everyone in the face.  Grow up!  It’s not spring yet!

Last Friday evening, I wore a summer dress under a cardigan and a winter coat.  My boyfriend and I made rounds of art galleries.  He walked up to me holding a cup of beer, and I could smell the alcohol underlying the grainy bouquet. 

It’s still winter, and it’s still Lent.  I miss drinking.  The poisonous streak of alcohol, then the flavor in my mouth, down my throat.  Then it turns my blood from calm magenta to fluorescent and squealing.  I can live without it, just as I can live in long underwear and wool hat and long boots.  But the abstemious life is isolated and itchy.

During Palm Sunday church, we read the whole Passion story, for the benefit of everyone who doesn’t hit the extra Holy Week services.  Some people would miss Jesus’ death all together, and be completely confused by his surprise appearance at Easter next week.

I like how Peter freaks out.  Every time you trust something to save you, it ends up getting crucified.  Every time you are inspired, you are shocked by the death of inspiration.  It just happens that way. 

I think the Passion story is about how people survive disillusionment.  People somehow move toward new beliefs and new opportunities.  Regardless of whether some Jesus person in any way came back to life, I believe that resurrection is real. 

Eventually, spring will win.  Although this Sunday I held my paper next to my wool coat and shivered, some Sunday soon I will stand at that same intersection, with my arm bare, glowing in the sun.  From shivering, we will glow, and then sweat, and then go back around again. 

Where most religions emphasized the circular sense of the year, and of life, Christianity has a streak of linear energy, messiah-seeking, a future orientation.  Christianity relishes spring.  Worships spring.  Fetishizes spring.

The winter is still in front of us.  We’ll kneel and mourn and listen to the gory details of Holy Week’s winter, only because we hope spring is inevitable.