Driving home from the dentist today, I was speeding into the sun. The green tips of trees were that glossy shade you see in springtime, shiny and new. Promising. My skin felt electric with the warmth of the sun – wake up time. I hadn’t left the house for three days, which is nothing unusual, but while I was working the earth seemed to have shifted that little tiny bit, leaving the last bits of winter well and truly behind. I spread my fingers wide and drove with my thumbs, so that my fingertips looked see-through with the sun sparkling behind them, that soft sun of spring, so different from the sickening Southwest sun I grew up with.
I’d been feeling a little set adrift, missing my sweetheart, who I won’t get to see for almost three more weeks. If he was home we would be enjoying this magic season. We’d walk around our yard and talk about flowers to plant, taste the little herb shoots sprouting up. Enjoy our house. But he is so rarely home, and by myself I really just make endless to do lists and drive myself crazy completing them, no matter how silly the tasks are. When he is home I feel something in me uncoiling, some pressure taken away. By myself all I want is achievement. Something to show for this life we have chosen, with all of its drawbacks.
But the sweet sun on my face and flower buds rushing past my window had just about erased these thoughts.
None of this really matters. I am just using up space so I don’t have to write about what else happened on the way home. I saw a turtle in the middle of the road. The road I was on is surrounded by wetlands. Not a small turtle, something medium-sized, the size of an old rotary telephone. Somehow it had made it into the center lane, a mind-blowing feat considering cars were zooming past at 55 mph and it was, well, a turtle.
Turtles. Have I ever even seen one, up close, in real life, not in a zoo? I don’t think so. Not really. It lifted its head just exactly like the little papier-mâché trinkets we always buy on Kauai to ride in the car with us, loose-necked so they bobble with the motion of the car. It had a handsome shell and was calmly beginning another step when a big truck came by and sliced it cleanly in half.
OK. I grew up in the animal rights world, but I always pride myself on how successfully I have hardened my heart to the facts of life in relation to dead animals. Of course, the cruelty and death we inflict on animals so that we can have a certain lifestyle (the typical modern lifestyle) is not my preferred way of living, but every deep down softhearted person who lives in the political realm realizes that you can’t focus on anything. I am not starting a campaign to stop roadkill.
Most of the time, an admirable percentage of the time, in fact, I’m a pretty sturdy broad. I’ve done some good work to overcome an initial oversensitivity to the universe, and these days I think I toe the line pretty well. I’m not fragile. I can deal. I’m a fighter. Blah blah.
But once in a while something slices cleanly through all that. I’ve learned my limits – no violent movies, no scary articles or lectures. Have Jacob screen every issue of Adbusters for upsetting photos before passing it on. It’s a lot of work to keep the penetrating, deep-down horribleness of America™ out of my heart, but I know that I will spiral into deep sadnesses if I let too much of the world into my life. I do my political work, I try to do my little bits to stave off the apocalypse for another day, but I refuse to look at pictures of bodies in Iraq or animals being anally electrocuted for fur coats.
In truth, this inability to function in the sadosociety is what drove me underground, into my own world. I function so well in this world. I don’t have to shave my legs or talk to meat eaters. I am creative and driven. And happy. Resistance.
A truck, a busy road, a turtle. The metaphor is so trite.
I pulled over, got out of the car, and threw up.
How often do you watch something die?
I slowly walked back to the turtle, cars rushing past me. It was just as I thought – the turtle was actually in two pieces. I couldn’t believe this was affecting me so much, but I sat down on the side of the road and let the simplistic sadness of it – I am sad because something innocent died because of our need to rush everywhere and build roads right in the middle of cute-animal habitats yet if this cute animal had been 5 feet over to the side I probably would have run over it myself in my own Iraqi-blood-guzzling-deathmobile – wash over me.
On either side of the road was a pretty little steam, all calm water and lily pads. I walked over and just let myself cry it out.