Sunshine and Rotting Pansies

It is one of those rare days of late autumn- cloudless, balmy, peaceful. It is a day to be savored…

But I’ve seen the forecast. I know what is coming. Tonight that slight breeze turns treacherous and the temperature drops 30 degrees. And when the sun rises in the east, the temperature will not follow.

I recently moved to downtown Frederick, a remote and fairly affluent suburb of Washington DC. I love my new home. There is a little pedestrian mall just a block from my house where I like to go to write, on days like today. Charming boutique shops and upscale restaurants bracket both sides of a wide brick walkway that lines a picturesque channel known as Carroll Creek.

This completely manufactured waterway is bisected by artful bridges, be speckled by a cornucopia of potted aquatic fauna, and injected with the sonorous symphony of numerous artificial waterfalls. It is clean, peaceful and beautiful. However, even the diligence of the public works department cannot completely hide the inevitable. Leaves give up their hold and fall onto the brick pathways, increasingly cold nights continue to erode the color from the numerous flower beds. Everywhere death encroaches on life and the struggle against that eventuality grows increasingly futile.

As I sit here watching the ebb and flow of privileged humanity- joggers fighting their own autumns, couples holding hands with desperate adoration, shoppers engaged in that most important of civic responsibilities- it is tempting to ignore the waning season. It is tempting to believe that this will last. I am comfortable. I see happy and prosperous people stroll contentedly by. I know happy hour is just minutes away.

But if I look around the corner I can see the homeless man who only cares about his next fix. If I breath deeply I can just get a whiff of the organic dank of vegetation beginning to rot. And if I listen very carefully I can hear the first rustling of that cold gale moving this way.

The young couple strolling by, cheeks still flushed from their make-out session under the bridge, are oblivious to it. The pack of businessmen bustling by are too busy posturing for each other to sense it. The frazzled, overweight mother is too harried by her familial realities to notice much of anything. And that homeless man is too fixated on his need to care.

But it strikes me that the people streaming by are actually me, and you. Don’t we, particularly here in America, walk through our manicured lives, and shopping centers, ignoring the signs of what is coming; of what has already come in other parts of the world?

The news channels try to tell us. Calamity is everywhere. Famine, war and pestilence are so normal that they threaten to interrupt my Geico commercials. Kim Kardashian tweeted a new picture of her stupidity, but I missed it because of some virus that is wiping out a country that I can’t find on the map.

I see the faces on TV- demonstrating incredibly bad hygiene and an incredible misunderstanding of what Ayn Rand meant- starving masses living under tarps and drinking water that collects in ditches- and I think to myself- why can’t Monday Night Football come on earlier?

On Sunday Pastor Randy will tell us that we are the hands of God, sent to help those in need. He will say that when God returns he will ask what we did with our abilities, resources, and time. He will talk too directly and make me begin to squirm in my seat. He will say that the clock is running out and just saying that you’re a Christian doesn’t make it so.

But, right now, thank God and praise Jesus, it is happy hour.

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