Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Six Wild Turkeys

I suppose I should call it my pilgrim experience. On weekdays I live in the city near the spot where that light plane crashed into the high rise apartment building, reminding me of my vulnerability and that of all New Yorkers, including my new grand-daughter who also lives near the scene of the accident. I had forgotten that light planes were still allowed to use the city’s airspace over the East River despite 9/11. It was yet another instance of the stunning failure of this government on the issue of national security. New York never seemed more crowded, vulnerable or confusing, and the street traffic was more than a nightmare. One couldn’t leave the apartment without facing my fellow city folks with their cell phones glued to their ears, smiling, scowling, and chattering away like so many maniacs, rushing to places they didn’t want to go to in order to support a life they didn’t much enjoy. The mayor had just made a statement of elitist stupidity about the right of private planes to fly over the East River, in spite of the potential for future tragedies. Once again we heard that useless argument about “more people are killed in auto accidents than in light planes” – the same argument that some have made for the high casualty numbers of our soldiers in Iraq. Knowing that New York’s billionaire Mayor is a frequent flyer on his own private plane, it reminded me once again of the difference between us poor mortals and our ruling elite. At the end of the day the “screw-you” factor was hidden under the discourse, and we heard that the privileges of the powerful must be protected against all common sense, even by a shrewd political moderate like Bloomberg. Later, the government would have second thoughts about light aircraft over the city, but on that day it seemed that nothing would be done.

So I retreated to the Litchfield Hills, where I sometimes go for the weekend, vowing to my wife that I would not look at the Sunday New York Times, my three hours of news reading which were guaranteed to ruin the best of Sundays by bringing the world and its woes into my home. No “Meet the Press” for me. I wanted to leave North Korea and our failed nuclear control policy behind me, put the contemptible Joe Lieberman and his Republican backed candidacy out of mind, forget about all those Congressmen who had put the con in conservative, let Bush speak to the nation in his fakest, most desperate western twang without my getting his verbal cactus in my ears, and just spend the weekend reading a history book or a biography that had nothing to do with contemporary life. Something about the lives of the Tudors would do.

This was the leaf peeping season when tourists drive up to see the changing color of the autumn leaves, about the best time in the year to be in rural Northwestern Connecticut. Our local small town library was having its annual book sale, a big event in my book hungry life and I felt lucky to be in this place at this time. It was so damned beautiful. There are times when it’s great to escape into a time warp and this was one of them.

Sunday morning my Abyssinian cat Byron was seated on a window ledge looking out at the lawn that fronted our house near the Litchfield Hills. He arched his long neck, his bat ears twitched, and I was sure that his territorial instincts were offended by the sight of some ferile intruder cat. I rose from my chair and looked out the window and saw what had seized Byron’s attention. Wow! There, crossing the lawn were six, count ‘em, six wild turkeys. In the many years I have lived in Connecticut I have never seen wild turkeys like this brood, a proud family out for a Sunday morning, a gaggle of beauty striding forth in all their pride and innocence, and just for that moment of their passing into view, the world was reborn. We are amazing creatures. How little it takes to remind us that this world can be a good and beautiful place. I savored the moment, and then, alas, the turkeys walked into the nearby woods out of sight, and a few minutes later I got in my ancient Volvo, drove down to the village drugstore and like the news addict I am, bought the Sunday paper.