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When the World Turns Against You

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on the Scenic Route

It’s Memorial Day afternoon. The sun bejewels the world, glinting on newly-arrived raindrops arrayed like strands of diamonds along the stems of golden thread and wild roses. Wild strawberries are blooming. New candles on the firs shine lime green in the aqueous light.

The rain began an hour ago with a pitter-patter and evolved into a roaring downpour I’m sure negated two hours of careful and deliberate weed spraying I have debated the wisdom of for five years and finished 30 seconds before the pitter began to patter. 

The sun now shines cheerfully, as if trying to make amends. I tell it to go jump in the lake, happy damned thing that it is. All it has to do is keep shining. Come down here and be a human for a while. See what it’s like, you glowing, grinning idiot. 

Not that I’m angry, you understand.

Last Thursday, for the last time, I tried unsuccessfully to start our recalcitrant riding lawnmower. I thought I might mow the lawn—before it got as high as an elephant’s eye. As has often been the case in the past decade, the lawnmower declined to crank over, and this time, something snapped in me. I resolved I was done fighting with that piece of—ummm—junk, and that I would replace it at first opportunity. 

Opportunity arrived right soon. The local riding lawnmower outlet offered $500 off and no interest for a year. I purchased a brand-new, never-been-driven, virgin, shiny, freshly-oiled, ready-to-rock, bright red riding lawnmower. 

The lawnmower store delivered. They even took the old one away. 

I was so excited, I read the owner’s manual. No, really. 

I checked the oil, which was clear as water. I put in the proper type of fuel, making sure it was fresh fuel, as recommended. I started the new mower and did the preliminary steps listed in the manual as necessary to building a successful relationship with said machine, a relationship I crave after fighting with the other for ten years. I finally engaged the mower blades and joyfully went about beheading dandelions and guillotining hawkweed. I mowed my mom’s lawn. I was very pleased with the new mower. 

I parked and went off to other endeavors, saving the experience of mowing of my own lawn—non-angst-ridden—for later in the day. When I returned, I climbed confidently aboard, made sure that everything was just right (seated, with the brake on, in neutral, with the mower blades disengaged) and turned the key. 


I reassessed the requirements. All systems go.


My heart sank. I’d just saved $500 to have the very same experience I could have had without saving $500. 

Precious hours, several phone calls and an assortment of expletives later, it was concluded that a.) the new mower was broken; b.) it (probably) wasn’t my fault; and c.) someone would bring me another new mower—in the morning. 

Somehow, the joy of a new lawnmower was gone. 

The weekend was like that. Smacked myself in the shin with a hammer. Hard. Next it was my thumb. Misplaced my keys and spent two hours looking for them. Discovered that the building material I thought I had plenty of is not near enough. Finally talked myself into nuking the hawkweed I’ve been fighting by hand for years, only to have it rain like it was time to lift the Ark the minute I finished hours of cautious application in perfect weather. I could go on. 

This sort of experience kicks the living enthusiasm out of me. It is as if the Universe has lined up the cogs of coincidence in such a manner that when they begin to mesh they pinch me where it hurts most. I find myself going slower and slower and finally grinding to a halt, afraid to move for fear of setting the next set of cogs into motion. 

The only thing significant accomplished on the home front this Memorial Day weekend is survival. Everything I’ve turned my hand to seems to have turned against me. 

That, of course, is not completely true. It just seems like it is right now. Sometime in the next twenty-five years I will realize I was mistaken to feel that way. 

The sun is shining, after all. Temporarily. I’m sorry for calling it an idiot, not that it cares one whit what I think of it. Tomorrow, I will go to town and find out my friends still love me. And, in the next few days the hawkweed will begin shriveling up, for which I am grateful and somewhat guilty. I can release the brake and let the crazy, continuing set of circumstances that my life seems to be some days start rolling again. 

Look out world. 

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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

Tagged as:

The Scenic Route, misfortune

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