It is Monday. See, now, I’ve kept my word: an update every week or so. I couldn’t do it on the weekend. I was too busy.
I like Thanksgiving, definitely not least because it gets me out of school. A two-day week. Well, if they took out those two days, I guess Thanksgiving break would be on par with Christmas break, and we have to keep these things in perspective. Sometimes schools can be really dumb. Frequently, actually. Coming home today, I heard a girl on academic team (sorry, I’m horrendous with names) telling of how she went to elementary school at St Vivian’s up the street. She says she once lost her recesses for a week for wiggling a loose tooth, and another girl (Lauren?) lost her recesses for a week for watching her wiggle her loose tooth. Also, if you had your homework in your locker there, but not physically with you, you would get a detention even though your locker might be less than one foot from your desk. Zero tolerance makes things really simple, but all too often the result is just nonsense. mp3 players are an example. Our school has a rule: no mp3 players are allowed out anytime. This is a good policy in dealing with academic classes, where they impair the ability of students to focus. But in study hall, enforcement of the policy is plainly dumb, because quite frequently there’s nothing for a student to do, and filling the space with music hurts no one and keeps the student from wacking out. To the credit of Mr Nichols, the study hall teacher – no, “teacher” is much too strong a word, let’s try “supervisor” – he doesn’t penalize us for it, or maybe he’s just spectacularly unobservant, because I haven’t seen anyone get in trouble for a violation. But my brother got his mp3 player, Houston, confiscated for at least a month because he had it out in the lunchroom. See what I’m talking about, America? I’m sorry. I won’t address questions to “America” anymore. That’s Bernie Mac’s domain.
For Thanksgiving break we the family went up to West Virginia to meet up with other parts of the family. Every year we have a big family reunion for Thanksgiving. Of 65 people there this year (we counted off), I knew maybe ten. I have to take their word that these people are related to me. One guy was clearly Oriental, but I suppose he could have been related by marriage. It’s held in a weird room. It’s part of a church. It has office-style carpeting; there are gym mats lining the wall and a basketball hoop at one end, and at the other end there’s a window let into the next room, a kitchen, so food can be passed through. On the wall above that window there’s a reproduction of The Last Supper and another painting of Jesus, and on one of the other walls there are flags of various countries and States: West Virginia, Ohio, Russia, Uganda, and others. I have no idea how all these people know to congregate here. They’re the backwoods type; I can’t see them opening up an e-mailed invitation. I also don’t know who would take the time to write a paper invitation to each of them and mailing them. My best theory is that either they say when it’ll be the following year each year (easy for Thanksgiving, but I don’t recall ever hearing when the other reunion – the one each year in the summer – is scheduled for the following year), or they have some sort of hillbilly Shining. “I’m picking up a vibe, Beth. It feels like Jim and Jackie. They – they’re in trouble. They’re stuck in the snow – no – no, wait – no, that’s just static – Beth, turn off the TV. There we go. Jim and Jackie say the reunion is on June 15th at 3:00.”
After the reunion, we stayed over at Nana & Papaw’s (they’re Jackie and Jim, respectively) for a couple of days, with Aunt Tami and her kids Travis and Small Jackie. Uncle Mike had work. Dad, Travis, Micah, and I hunted deer. Nana & Papaw have a big hill to their name – I think they said something like 20 or 40 acres – and each year we hunt on it. This year Dad took me and Travis on Friday morning at maybe 0730. It was still below freezing out, and I wore gloves. Dad lent me his 30-30, and had me stick around at a tree growing on a mound. I had an expansive view of the hillside of the next hill over. The sun hadn’t yet come up from behind it. I sat silently. The forest was more noisy. As the sun started coming up, I heard a noise of thousands of acorns falling into the leaf litter. They gradually became more frequent. It took me until I saw a water drop fall to the ground a few feet from me to realize that what I was really hearing was the forest melting as the temperature rose above 32. Then I started seeing: drops of water falling everywhere, catching the new light. It really is something terrific, you know. I didn’t see any deer. In fact, after the sun came up sufficiently, which was by 0830, the entire hillside view I had was rendered hazy by a screen of light bouncing off the tree branches there, though I still kept watching intently. I heard noises – mice skittering around under the underbrush next to me, squirrels yelling things at other squirrels, and obviously birds on all sides. The most elegant symphony in quadraphonic sound still doesn’t have that spark: something you can only get when you’re outside in the middle of a giant space engulfing you on all three dimensions in, pretty simply put, life. Getting away from austere quadrilateral geometry and back to a place we all used to know. We all still do know it, I think, but most of us aren’t aware that we do. It’s like having a pen pal you never write to. It infused me with sanity and fresh air, and I feel recharged. I can take on stuff now. I can finish those bleeding college applications.
Dad got a deer. Now, having just finished reading my praise of the forest, you might expect me to come up with some sort of sentiment about the sadness of it, taking a life. No, because I know that death is inextricably woven into the tapestry of the ecosystem. I don’t feel more remorse killing a deer than a wolf does: well, actually, I do. I’m remembering the Indians who after all their kills would thank the spirit of the animal for providing them with their sustenance. That’s something akin to what I’m doing. And I say that any meal prepared from this venison is both physically and ethically superior to beef, because the deer didn’t have any constraints and was free to go, eat, and do whatever it wanted while it lived. I won’t stop eating beef, now, in case you were jumping to some sort of conclusion like that, but the food that had a real life is better. Incidentally, Dad made a meatloaf out of some of it last night, and it was very good, but I could have done without the chopped-up sausage he added, which was kind of a weird touch.
[Note from 2017: lopped off some boring stuff from the end. It didn’t have a more conclusive ending than the one already here.]