Saturday, October 18, 2008

Feeling Oats

Every year, I say I'm going to catch it this time. But the leaves change color anyway, while I'm not looking. It's the analog to the birthday that creeps up without us "knowing." We'd rather not know, thank you very much.

Still, I'm very happy for the change of season. Autumn feels like death to some people--flora does indeed look like it's dying, but it's not; it is dying in order to live again, just like some of us. This is the stream of paradox into which life pushes us. It carries us along swiftly, and cleanses us at the same time. But don't resist, or you drown!

Some people are anticipating a winter they feel is dark and oppressive, a boom that's lowering. It's called SAD. (Who came up with this one? Is there a hiring office for Apt Acronym Creation? What's the salary like?) There should be an award for naming this one, Seasonal Affective Disorder. Aka despondent depression. I've never felt it myself, but I am intimately acquainted with its effects.

Nelly doesn't feel it for her part; quite the opposite. The snap in the air brings a snap to her step, and she bounds off the rail trail (or "trailrail," in the parlance of a non-native-English-speaker I know) hot on the heels of a chattering squirrel.

[Think, for a moment, about what a squirrel's heels actually look like. Thanks.]

Just teasing you, Nel! I know you can't climb trees, heh-heh. She freezes, looking up at the branches, noble face outlined against the brown of the woods.

She is full of life, and so am I right now, for some reason. I don't know why, but I'll take it. Even though there seems to be so much that is frightening now. The prospect of another Great Depression. This horrible bubble we've been forced to sit on top of and now feel deflating under us--You mean none of that money ever existed? It was not real, yet we were spending it anyway, billions and billions and billions of dollars they simply call "the deficit," much of it ending up in the pockets of "contractors" for the "rebuilding" of a country we destroyed for no purpose, and somehow buying things like seven houses for one person who pretends to represent us--I can only shake my head, then decide where today I will take my dog for her walk.

Yes, though, of course I feel genuine fear: I do not want to be alone on November 4, because I am afraid I may then have to cry alone. I naively do not know what people are capable of; I do not know what the Republican Party is capable of, though I am being given to fear that it is truly deep into malfeasance and practically evil. I understand they are busy trying to wipe the rolls clean of all the new voters recently registered, because most of them are the previously disenfranchised, i.e., likely to support Obama. And do not underestimate the power of racism to curdle the milk. (My prison pen pal, who happens to be black, writes, "I'm really freaking pissed off at McCain after the last debate. I mean, why didn't he just call Barack a nigger? Instead he used the Southern 'that one,' which in case you didn't know is what passes for it in 'polite' circles. . . . McCain/Palin rallies are one rope short of a lynch mob.") This is something to be frightened of, and energized by. I am feeling my oats now. I don't want to cry alone. If the Bad Guys (and Gal) win, we will face an unprecedented disaster, on moral and physical levels both. We have been living in Fantasyland for a while here in the U.S.; we created an unsustainably high tower of cards. That it is now blowing down is cause for a paradoxical pleasure: only in destruction of the unreal construction is there the hope to rebuild something that can last because it is built on a foundation of truth.

Only because the leaves fall and die can the green of spring burst forth. Only by grace of a small recent disaster could I have unwrapped this gift of possibility: a new life based on the giving and receipt of love. Renewal hides inside death. So I say: Death to the old regime, and its false promises. Life to what is real. Feel your oats.


Tina in Cleveland said...

Melissa--this is an out of left field question, nothing to do with what you've written here, but I know you're from Akron from reading your book and would value your opinion on, of all things, the Univ. of Akron. I have a 17-year old son applying to college, we live in Cleveland, I'm not from here, and am just wondering what kind of place it is. Thought you might know. Sorry if this is outside the bonds of blog manners. thanks for any help.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Hey, Tina. Yes, I'm from Akron. But if you can believe it, I never personally knew anyone who went to Akron U. My impression is that it pretty much all depends on the department--some with better reputations than others.

Not sure if you're aware of this, but Ohio has more colleges than any other state (maybe this is per capita, but "more" may be good enough for our purposes). If you want to keep him close to home, and you can swing it dollarwise, take a look at Oberlin. Some of my smartest pals went there and loved it.

Anonymous said...

Oberlin?? My, my??? I’m in Madison – alum of UW for undergrad and grad – and it is truly amazing how many people I know from Oberlin. Perhaps because of the ones I know, they are just those who went on to get PhDs, or could it be everyone who went to Oberlin goes on to get a PhD??

I think Kenyon is another decent Ohio possibility.

A heartening note….On my little camping excursion a few weeks ago, I noticed a deficit of McCain signs throughout rural SW Wisconsin. This is not normal. I would say the Obama/McCain ratio was 3 to 1 or 4 to 1. Because I live in Madison, I can be lulled into thinking the rest of the country is like me politically – I mean, it is all I see, day to day – but usually a trip to the country dumps a bucket of cold water on your head (Madison is nearly pure blue, while the state as a whole is barely blue). Not this time.

I’ll be at a party November 4. I’m told I too often jinx these things, but I think I’ll end the night with a smile. And it may still be motorcycle weather.


Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine said...

Melissa, Your blog actually cheered me today. It's raining (another cheering sign as we need this in Kentucky!) and I am one of those SAD afflicted souls (but kind of like it, especially when I know it is coming and can ride the wave--like Melville's Ishmael, I have "a damp, drizzly November in my soul"). I love the autumn when I am used to the idea and reality of it.

But this campaign--I hope we are all breathing a collective sigh after November 4 rather than shedding tears of misery. And, Mercury has been in retrograde since late September so perhaps that change back to "normal" in late October will also help.

Enjoy your leaves!


Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Yes, Catherine: preparation is all. Large stocks of firewood and good hot chocolate are essential to getting through winter, and a love of winter sports helps too. (Did you ever go skiing at Boston Mills? Or "skiing" might be more appropriate.)

It's funny, this play of hope/preparation for possible disappointment in the upcoming election. A lot of still remember, in our bodies, what it felt like 8 years ago. So we daren't get *too* excited. Yet I am . . . Having a bottle of champagne chilled for either eventuality might not be a bad idea!

tina in cleveland said...

In Cleveland, it's all Obama. Drive just a little way south, though (as I did with my son to visit tiny rural Hiram College--he wouldn't get out of the car), and the McCain-Palin signs start appearing. I'm from the East coast, and these outposts of liberalism in the midwest are oddities to me--protected enclaves of academics and the only Jews you're going to find for miles around.

My son wants to apply to Oberlin and Kenyon, but he's got a 2.6 gpa (but great SAT's). Plus he needs a LOT of financial aid. We'll see.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Yes, Cleveland is a little bit of an urban-civilized oasis. Akron used to have quite a strong strain of liberalism, as I was growing up, but it seems to have lost it almost completely. My sister, who still lives there, says she doesn't know a single Democrat other than herself (and, of course, my mother and the aforementioned uncle)--not even her own husband. I find that scary. The place I love has indeed been changed beyond recognition!

Tina, maybe your son can pull together some project that will knock the socks off the admissions people. And there's no harm in applying. Though I understand applications fees have gotten pretty daunting, so you don't do it lightly.