Monday, August 4, 2008

Crossing the Road

Earlier this year I visited some friends in Vermont. Some from college and a friend who moved up to Brattleboro in the past year. It was partly a bit of my reconstruction of self after my horrid March and also a visit back to the old college-land. In fact I was there graduation weekend, unbeknown to any of us till Sunday night as we heard people next to us talk about graduation. I have only been back to Vermont four times in the years since graduating so many years ago and never been back to my college campus since the day after graduating. I just have no desire to go back. This seems so strange to compare to the days where I was deeply in love with my school. But now I see it as the past and better left there. I am glad that I went, for the friends I made there, and who it help make me, but my Alma Mater holds no sway over me now.

Yet when I was there it was nearly all consuming, as I assume most college experiences are. Though my school was so isolated - on top of a mountain in southern Vermont, four miles away from the nearest store (town was a much further 30 minutes away) with no TV reception and the Internet only hit in the middle of my junior year - I think it might have been a bit more all consuming than most schools. After graduating, it was beyond disorienting to burst forth into the standard world from the microcosm college was. And I think this readjustment period sort of soured me on ever going back.

One of the things that consumed me while in Vermont that did not deal with school was the desire to see a moose in the wild. It was one of those things I talked to long since forgotten high school friends about during those last few weeks of school when everyone knows 'nothing here really matters.' And while I did not run through the woods with infrared glasses looking for one, I was always on the lookout, when not studying. But in all my years on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, with many forages into deeper nowhere, nothing, no moose. Well until I was on campus the day before graduation paying my last respects and saying goodbyes to friends. After leaving everyone behind I walked alone among the small number of buildings and let the memories steep inside of me.

This was enough, I thought, so rather than going to that last party - I was a bit too melancholy - I went to my car and began to drive the 11 miles home. Down the mountain I descended, flooded with memories, when all of a sudden it hit me that I had never seen that moose I longed to see. It really flung me into a mood of despondency. All the world was in front of me, but one of my simple desires, that basically had to be done in the wilds of Vermont, was unfinished. The foreboding of this did not sit well with me.

So downward I rode, until I neared the last wind in the road, past that garden supply place and then I slammed on the breaks, stalling my car, as a 8+ ft moose slowly ambled its way about 40 ft in front of me. It's large horns catching the shine of my headlights and flicking it back to me. All I could think of was 'I'm dead, I'm dead, so dead....' as I skidded towards this immense beast. But the moose just scampered up the embankment on the opposite side of the road, like I was not even there. My car came to a stop and all I could hear was the blood rushing throughout my body as I sat there motionless. But rather than think about how close I had come to almost dying, I just sat in awe that i had finally seen the moose I longed to see.

Taking significance from random acts such as this is a fairly silly game to play, but I was convinced that this moment held great significance. I am not sure if this helped me on my path away from school. but just the experience was a great end cap to my college experience.

So in May of this year I had my second meeting of a beast on the roads of Vermont. As my two of my college friends and I traveled towards Greenfield Massachusetts, we passed a gigantic turtle who was slowly making its way across the road. We feared for its life. So we stopped and I got out to help, what turned out to be a very angry snapping turtle. It was as wide as an over sized serving platter and about half a foot tall. The thing's mouth was about double the size of the turtle, or so seemed when it stuck out its head to try and bite me. And its claws, man, they were enormous. As much as I was determined to see a moose so many years earlier, I knew I wanted to help get this turtle to safety.

So I found a stick and tried to push it from behind. It just hissed and dug those mammoth claws into the pavement. As I danced around the turtle - always keeping out of its jaw range - trying to think of what to do next, it jumped. I wish that there was a photo of my face, as my friends Megan and Becks said it was priceless. I then tried to get the thing to bite the stick, but s/he was having nothing to do with that. Megan gave me something from the car to help, I am 90% sure it was part of some blinds, but no matter, as it was equally ineffective.

All the while two cars passed, watching me make a bit of an ass of myself. This all ,likely took a little more than five minutes. And then, after much work and an ample amount of fancy foot work to help this beast of a reptile avoid getting squashed, I gave up. The turtle did not want or need my help. In fact the thing only had ten feet or so to move to get off the road when i got there, and by the time I was 'done' I had likely put it back a foot or two more. And as we drove away it quickly moved off the road and was out of harms way before it disappeared from view.

And where I tried to not take away meaning from my moose crossing, this experience was too perfect not to see the metaphors dripping off it. The obvious lesson: do not help those that do not want to be helped. Not only had I wasted the turtle's time, I wasted my own, my friends, etc... I have always valued efficiency, and this little side trip to our day was the antithesis of that. I have to sit here and think where the impetus of my initial reasoning of helping the turtle came from. And as I sit here today I am pretty sure that it was done more to make myself feel good - "I saved a turtle today!" - than to actually save the turtle. And this disturbs me. Deeply. Or maybe, I am just a bit sad from the obvious rejection from the turtle.

While I do not think the universe was communicating with me directly with these separate episodes of animal crossings, it is hard to walk away from them without letting the moments resonate. They are experiences that occurred, and to not take away something from each would be silly. And really, if they had happened inversely, would the understanding I took away from each be different? Does it always just mirror the place I am in my life right now? It is certainly is interesting to hypothesize about, but that is all I can do. After all, it is hard to argue the open ended, nearly infinite hopefulness aspect of the moose crossing had a sort of Dr Suess's Oh, The Places You'll Go! Such a perfect occasion to happen right before a graduation. While the turtle crossing seems to echo a rejection of many earlier held beliefs that just the desire to do 'good' will make the world a better place.

1 comment:

Misha said...

Great story. I wish I could visit Vermont again. Glad I found your new blog!