She gazes over her shoulder once too often,
catching her reflection in the rear-view mirror,
And she can’t decide if she, herself is the cause of the unrest
or if it’s simply her-in-present-time that maddens.
Nevertheless she drives, and drives often,
trying to escape the past, the future,
the feeling that somehow memories aren’t temporary;
that they will not succeed in overwhelming
the only stability she knows:
that of a mind fixated on rote lines
and what science calls facts
and they keep her safe,
or so she thinks;
and they keep her sane,
or what passes as lucid
and she prays to a God she no longer believes in
but the alternative is, like the image in the mirror,
far too unabridged to contemplate.
I wish more of us sought to understand what we fear, instead of seeking to eliminate the causes of our distress. I’ve lived long enough to know that if we remove our triggers, new ones will invariably appear. It’s like those little pop-up figures in a shooting gallery: as we knock them down, they simply return, again and again, to bedevil us. Pema Chodron is a great teacher of sitting with discomfort rather than fleeing from it; certainly rather than attempting to do harm to what we find repellent.
Though I find it irrational, many are terrorized by things that creep and crawl and especially slither. And though my eldest sister used to place butterflies and big juicy green grasshoppers atop my frightened head as a child, I overcame that initial repulsion and grew up in wonderment at all of earth’s creatures.
Recently West Hawaii Today ran an AP story detailing the aerial release of thousands of poisoned mice proposed to eliminate snakes that seem to be overrunning Guam. Heaven forbid these reptiles might wriggle into a tight cargo space on a plane headed for Hawaii – we can only imagine what might befall our population of already-endangered birds; indeed, a valid concern. Recent history embarrasses, however, with the profusion of mongoose, originally brought in to eliminate rats escaped from the ships of early explorers. (Feel free to conjure up images of a host of lean and shivering European rodents, fleeing Captain Cook’s ship, kissing the fertile island ground strewn with the carcasses of rotting fruit wherever they went!) These weasel-cunning critters were quite out of luck on that intended score, however, as rats are nocturnal and mongoose – well – let’s just say they sleep peacefully at night so that they might awaken anew to decimate any bird, egg or smallish hapless creature in their path. (So much for human ingenuity and intervention.) Few snakes would stand a chance in their presence.
I don’t know where the answers lie anymore. I used to think I understood a few, but now realize I must have been delusional. Now I question everything: the wisdom in sacrificing thousands of innocent rodents intended to kill further numbers of essentially nonvenemous snakes; the assertion that we are more highly evolved than most other species; the endless blood for oil shed ‘round the world; the miraculous human mind. Considering what it requires to silence my own at will, I often wonder if it’s a greater adversary than ally. Though I might well be mistaken.