It is a good night for ghosts

I woke up to a blizzard this morning. My first ever. Until you’ve lived in snow, you don’t know how quiet it can be.

A rainstorm sounds like a carwash. I come from the land of desert monsoons: swells of energy that gather after blistering days. The barometric pressure drops so sharply that the beast in you senses what is to come before reason can catch up. Every sense is heightened. The wind swirls and lightning strikes. You count the seconds between the flash and the sound of thunder to gauge the distance. They are sudden and capricious in their movements. They can stop as quickly as they began, exhausted.

They are both devastating and majestic. You learn to fear them for their ferocity, and yet you crave them. You demand the satisfaction of their intensity and denoument. You resent the weak storms for their lack of panache. And what are left behind are swollen arroyos and the smell of creosote that you carry for the rest of your life, even when you are far away from the desert you once called home.

But snow does not pelt or come down in sheets. Sometimes it floats sideways or even upwards. It accumulates or it melts or it crystalizes into ice. It is majestic and terrible in its own way. And it is a miracle that I am even here to experience it.

I’d have none of the talk today from friends who would bemoan a blizzard. Such a waste of energy. What’s there to do outside anyway on a day like today, in the middle of a pandemic, but sit in the silence and marvel at a white sky and frosted buildings. It’s not exactly Doctor Zhivago is it? No one is trudging through miles of snow, pinballing between the Reds and the Whites and any starving serf who would kill a man for the moth eaten blanket off his back.

I took a shower this morning while listening to KUAZ. I learned that Aung San Suu Kyi had been deposed. That Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a book I’ve yet to read, deals with a dystopia in which the masses are subdued by a drug called Soma that artificially keeps them happy. And that Aleksei Navalny is a political prisoner in Russia after being poisoned by his own government and recovering in Germany. How could anyone hear such news and not feel crushed by the weight of it?

But the sleeping do not notice. Evil sometimes rains down like a sudden deluge but more generally accumulates in sedimentary layers of snow, falling silently, until one is buried to the neck and unable to do anything at all. So I don’t complain about the blizzard outside because it will melt eventually. And I don’t complain about world events because no amount of complaining on my part would change them either. It is useless to complain. It is a sin. That suffering which I can’t abate or alter I must offer up to a power that might. I recognize my impotence and insignificance.

So for today, I am free. Or I am yearning to be. I finished P.D. Ouspensky’s In Search Of The Miraculous. It wasn’t so much a revelation as a confirmation of things I’ve come to realize are true; some through conversations with Celia, some through concerted self-study, some cascading from sitting in traffic on a Tuesday afternoon years ago, asking myself why it bothered me so that another driver had honked at me. It was a glimpse of myself that was unflattering. And it led to many more glimpses that helped me realize how my reactions were a prison of my own making. Whatever it was that inspired me to ask in the first place, I am beholden to it.

What lies ahead? What’s next? The removal of obstacles, and the placement of others that will force me to remember myself. It would be so much easier to remain asleep. To be lulled by hypothermia into a peaceful death, buried under the snow, not ever having really lived. But that is not possible anymore. The processes of awakening are much like the experiences of desert monsoons. No matter how devastating they can be, you nevertheless learn to crave them.

I’m reminded tonight of a ghost who haunts my memory. It is not melancholy I feel though. Just a smile at how lucky I was to have experienced this memory at all. After all, in a pandemic one must be grateful for all the events that came before which ameliorate the current state of imposed solitude. I am so very grateful.

An excerpt from my journal:

December 9, 2019
A brief interruption and then we will return to regularly scheduled programming.

This is The Israeli. He doesn’t look like this anymore. That was when he was younger and just a musician and not yet who he is now. But, yeah, this is how I would order my Cabbage Patch Kid if I could customize it.

I spoke plainly this morning. I was confident and pretty self-assured. I can do that only because my stock is through the roof right now.

He’s sitting there, the actual him, so casual and cool on my floor pillows, smoking a cigarette out the window and drinking a Stella that some other dude brought to my apartment for me. 

And I say, “You and I both know you enjoy torturing me. There’s no need to pretend.”

Instead of responding to what I said directly, this cat goes all parable on me. He tells me a story he read about Stalin. He once had an underling with a weak bladder. Stalin knew this and could read it on his face at meetings. He’d watch from across a giant table as the man’s face grew more and more tense. It was Stalin’s cue to slow his speech down. When Stalin saw the look of relief on this dude’s face, he’d return to business as usual. Stalin ended up renaming a mountain after this guy. Because he liked him. 

Which is all to say that *this* is how the Israeli responds to *every single question* I ask. I’d be exasperated if I wasn’t so…let’s just say…amused.

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