Monday, July 8, 2013

Pathetic Fallacy

Britannica Online describes Pathetic Fallacy as "poetic practice of attributing human emotion or responses to nature, objects, or animals. It is a form of personification as old as poetry, in which it is common to find dancing flowers, angry winds, brooding mountains, or happy larks." 

We were driving back from a long, complicated weekend, and an even longer, sort of bizarre day.

It was a day of contradictions. People wearing wool suits in 90 degree weather.  Driving miles without pause and then getting caught for an hour in a parking lot. Watching battle reenactments while trying not to stage one yourself.

We had gone to the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was hot and humid and unbearably sunny. I must have gone through five bottles of water and I was still thirsty, but had eaten practically nothing all day and had no desire for food. We were exhausted and grumpy and burnt to a crisp, sweating like pigs and not smelling much better. A 150-year-old battle was being fought before our eyes, all loud booms and smoke rings and napalm-esque stink.

One among our number asked out loud in a way that annoyed another, "when is this going to be over?"

And then the last shot was fired, and within two minutes, the hot and steaming sun vanished, and Gettysburg was enveloped in a raging thunderstorm.

People ran for cover or their cars. We got soaked to the bone, squelching through mud, suddenly freezing where we had only minutes before been sweating. We got separated from each other and lost. Eventually we found the car, but by then we were soaked past clothes and hair and into skin and organs. It took us half an hour to get out of the parking lot, the traffic was so bad (I was later told that another car took over three hours. Phew.).

But then we were out on the highway, whizzing through the storm, until we pulled over at some crappy rest stop to change into dry clothes and warm up with hot cocoa. An hour earlier, we had been begging for snow cones. I had no clean shirts, so I borrowed a friend's extra one.

And then we were driving again. The songs on our driver's playlist turned to ones I hadn't heard since high school or my year in Israel, ones that ranged from unbearably angsty to bizarre and melancholy. Even though I hadn't listened to any of them in years, I found myself singing along, the old lyrics coming back to me.

And then suddenly, the sky was no longer gray, but orange. And the open sky before us displayed the most vibrant, dazzling rainbow. Next to it, a faded second one. We leaned forward and out windows to take pictures. None of them even came close to doing the sight any justice.

And then, clouds gathered above the rainbow, and the sky burst open with webs of cracks of furious lightning. The rainbow and lightning came and went for most of the hours-long drive. All the while, we spoke and sang and joked about how with such a display, the sky must really want some attention.

Eventually, the sun set and the lights of New York appeared, and the drive was coming to a close. And I felt like if I tried, I could replay my whole life in a movie before my own eyes. It felt like the end of some pretentious indie flick. No answers, just a long drive, and pathetic fallacy.

I described the scene later to a friend, realizing as I spoke that I could have made it up to describe exactly what's been going on inside my head and heart lately. I don't care to attach the details of battle reenactments, hot cocoa, and Gorillaz songs to my own experiences in the past year, except for that sky. Because at the core of our conversation, my friend asked me, "How are you feeling now?"

And I thought of that sky as we drove. All wild colors, rainbows, and dangerous lightning storms. On the one hand, we looked like we could be struck dead at any moment, or witness a forest fire or falling tree. On the other, if we looked straight ahead, it looked like we could drive right into that rainbow.

So I told him, I don't know. Right now, I could be driving into either a storm, a sunset, or a beacon of promises fulfilled. All I can say for sure is, I'm definitely moving toward something.

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