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It's Nelly's World

Into the Fire

alec vanderboom

Why does the brain hide things? It sometimes acts like the mice in my house lately. I put my foot into my shoe, and--heck! This feels funny. Whatever is in here?

Nuts!

No, I mean really: nuts are in there, hidden in the toes of my shoes. (Also in the dirt of the houseplants, and among the logs in the stack by the fireplace.) The mice have been busy in advance of the hard season. How difficult it must be, even if it is hardwired behavior: Time to get busy! A fretful, anticipatory feeling. And so I have deep misgivings on taking one of these nuts and tossing it outdoors; this is a future meal, counted on. Something in me gets deeply distressed, in particular, when I envision anyone's disappointment. It screws itself into my gut; I hate it. A vestigial memory from the childish past, of course: I have spent plenty of time in therapy, after all.

Notwithstanding the fact that I ought to be considering just where the acorn-sized holes are in the foundation of my house, I am instead thinking about the passage of time. Here we are again, time to mark the pagan hope that we will make it through the winter, just like the mice. This got translated, through the eons, into people like me squirreling away wrapped presents throughout the house. (Ironically, these are at the moment not exactly in my shoes, since they won't fit, but they are on my shoes, in the closet; please don't tell my child, as he still believes in Santa Claus. For myself, I believe in Santa Clause, as I saw it written on a firehouse signboard this morning.)

As swiftly as time is moving these days, it is fitting that it now rockets even faster through my imagination. Yesterday, I swear to god, driving through an ice-hard landscape of sparkly lights and absurd blown-up holiday figures quivering in small yards, a profoundly soul-crushing sight, I felt a premonitory wash of springtime. The smell of wet earth; the time-lapse opening of a flower bud into wide-open petals, in the space of thirty seconds.

The nuts that are hidden in my brain (no comment) are made of knowledge. Someone asks a simple question, "So, how are things going?"
And then, issuing from my own mouth, is the truth that I had not been able to grasp for a long time now: "I have been trying to see around corners, know what is there before I have gotten to it. But corners are simply not to be seen through, are they? They have rocks, buildings, or trees in the way. I should not have expected myself to know what is in a place I haven't come to yet." It had been killing me, the insistence on trying to see the unseeable on the road ahead.

"Being in the present moment is difficult," replied the questioner, my yoga teacher.

Yes. Yes, it is.

Time takes away, but it leaves lessons behind, like Santa eating your cookies but leaving the gifts. (Santa as perfect life metaphor--ha! But think. We must learn to ask directly if we want something. And For everything that is taken, something is given. A child's hopeful fiction, yet--of course--full of difficult truths.)

My lessons this week include:

1. Converse; it will help you to uncover all sorts of valuable nuts that have been socked away in your mind.
2. That fizzy anticipation in your stomach? Yes, Melissa, there is a Santa, and ever will be, in your perpetual youth.
3. Men suffer silently, and women wonder why they aren't doing what they are supposed to (catering to women); each sex lives in a separate cultural and emotional paradigm, but I have come to believe that women don't appreciate this fact at all; are in fact insensible to it. Therefore they have no idea what men are up against. I have been gathering evidence lately, from a very small sample. The people I know.
4. My bikes, out in the garage, unprepared for winter storage because of my denial of the actuality of time, can make me feel very guilty. As much so as the mice, whose food I have removed from my shoes.
5. In the night I wake, and when I go into the bathroom I am arrested by an otherworldly green light pulsing from inside the garage, in the exact rhythm of a heartbeat. At first I am confused, startled. But when I shake my sleepy head and realize what it is, a new battery charger--a birthday gift of uncommon goodness--connected to the Guzzi, then I know. It is indeed a heartbeat.

Time, and much else, has been surprising me. And on it comes.