Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day three hundred and eighty nine ... Salt of the earth.

It's everywhere.

Well, it's everywhere snow is.

Salt, of course.

Big, crystalized, whitish, gray and opaque pebbles furious with destruction.

Salt is hungry, but it is also patient. It hangs on after its localized work is done, until it is picked up by an unsuspecting boot or an animal's footpads. It travels well, this resilient and undaunted elemental hitchhiker.

But salt's placement in our world is not to destroy but to keep us safe. 

It is spread by man woman and child in front of every doorstep and down every walkway anywhere the earth is apt to freeze. It coats the streets and sidewalk. It lingers, loiters, and leaves litter on every curbside. It squats in the vacant spaces amidst our carpet fibers. It marinates our hardwood floors. It shellacs our mud rooms and patios. It seasons each step in every stairwell. And its fine silt sleeps in late with us between our organic cotton sheets. 

It feasts on our cars. In fact, it's eating precious time off of all of our vehicles as I type these words. There's no way to fully stop it short of moving to a warm climate. And I have no intention of letting a more temperate environment cause me to long for that which I do not have. Because I--where I am--have it all, as do you. 

Nonetheless, it is an epidemic, this salt plague. We bring it upon ourselves every year. We go out and buy it in bags and buckets. We keep it next to our doorway or in the hall. We pay taxes enabling giant dump trucks to season our streets. And we feel even safer stuck strapped inside a forward moving vehicle behind a phalanx of these armed crusaders, these anonymous soldiers of prevention, clad in mud muckled orange ... the very color of caution.

And as we drive behind the sirens of safety we reflexively grasp the steering wheel a little less firmly. We ease up. We inexplicably feel safer on the same road that is littered with spun-out cars because, thankfully (and due in part to the salt), we are still moving under our own tenuous intention. We put our faith in the natural act of salt reacting with frozen water. And all the while as we feel incrementally safer we are giving up microscopic but very real layers of surrounding metal from the oxidation that complements our terrain with a measurable discharge of orange rust ... a gravy that mixes in with the ground rock, dirt, plants, trash, and acid that lie in the boot-level basin underfoot.   

But we allow it--nay, we embrace it--every winter just as every summer we throw caution to the sun, bending with our backs to walk boxes half our weight to the ledge of an open window, praying that the tightly folded freon filled grenade doesn't fall out onto the street, wondering less and less every day why our backs hurt so much, daring and dreading at once the arrival of a heightened electric bill--our personal best, as it were--to coerce us to care any more than we already do about the general health of the world.

Because the benefits outweigh the risks.

We are gamblers, all of us.

Every day we wake up and face the day we are taking a chance.

Lately, I find myself developing a slight case of preventative paranoia. That is to say, as I go about my day I am realizing that everything that hasn't reached its peak is falling apart. And as I make such observations--that a painting has been finished, or a new song's last chord is agreed upon--a few mice (very real ones) are birthed somewhere in a hole in the wall the size of a fist. And now, their job is to grow until they start to fall apart, get stepped on, or eat the wrong glob of peanut butter. Neither is more beautiful--mouse or musician--because both are temporary, and both have the capacity to evoke emotions untold. From the listener who hears a line in a new tune which hits home so hard he almost faints, to the unsuspecting Yob who nearly has a heart attack upon a low-light close encounter with an unsuspecting rodent while sitting on the toilet. He--for a few brief seconds--is reduced to the size of his reflection in our little friend's cornea. Meanwhile, only one of them can run, and does so.

We shower and brush our teeth. We comb our hair and try to look as respectable as our conscience allows. We put on freshly laundered clothes and make sure we have everything we need for whatever we have to do. We lean against the wall, standing, and throw one foot over a bent knee tugging the criss cross cables tight and safe. We tie a bow--two even--and then we do the other foot. We put a hat on our head and gloves on our hands. We open the door, and as the wind hits our face our eyelids shield us with a tight squint.

And we go out in the world--to the safe sand and salt--and we fall a little apart. We have to. We have things to do before we die.

And somewhere, a mouse is warm, full of food, and content to sit and sleep on the salty floor.

To each his own.

Thanks for reading.


No comments: