Survival Gear and the End of the World and Stuff
When I get stressed, I buy plastic water bottles, which means I own about 653 already. A few weeks ago I bought number 654, a neon green, small mouth Nalgene. I bought it because it's the color of the spring's first leaf buds, and I get thirsty for that color in the winter months. Besides, water bottles are like urban canteens. They help you survive national disasters.
When I hit the "grande" level of stress, I start to look at shoes. I don't tend to impulse buy there, because shoes are more expensive, but "when despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound," nervous about my kids, or my checking account, or the future of education in America, or Kim Jong Un, I'll find myself staring intensely into the Zappos website reading about arch supports, or streamlined toes that reduce wind resistance, or ergonomic lacing systems, or memory foam cushioning that makes living on planet earth not hurt so much.
Shoes make a barrier between me and the world, so I get a knot in my throat thinking about boots hand made in Spain, because somewhere out there exists a little street shop with wooden handled tools, and the owner's wife is soft and happy. She has flour on her hands, and she wears an apron, and the sunlight always falls yellow through the windows, and the shop always smells like leather, and 1938, and corn cakes.
When I'm stressed at the "venti" level, I'm looking at jackets, because jackets are armor. In the jacket stage I'm rolling around phrases like, "wind resistant" or "rain proof" thinking, "Rain proof! Hallelujah! The elements can't get in, and besides, there are seven pockets (pockets!) where I can stash my survival gear (like water bottles), and also my phone so I won't be lonely."
At the top end of jacket level stress I think thoughts like, "I want a jacket with a solar panel on the back. A solar panel that charges a micro USB charger so if society breaks down into chaos, I can still access my edible plants app."
You can laugh at that if you want, but come Armageddon, you're going to want to borrow some voltage.
And I'm mostly exaggerating there, but kind of not, because because the truth is, no matter how ready I've ever been, disasters have slipped up on me like that time my cat got the nervous squirts on the way to the vet, and I only had five Wendy's napkins in the glove compartment, so I tried to have my seven-year-old daughter hold poo poo kitty at arm's length while I pulled up to the do-it-yourself carwash and dropped a quarter in the power washer, and aimed that high pressure nozzle right into the back of the plastic carrier and pulled the trigger without shutting my mouth first. I learned more about the angle of reflection that day than anybody should ever have to learn by experience.
That's more of how disasters come. There's no prep time. No room to make a better decision. There's just a super slow-mo 1/18th of a second realization that no, this isn't going to turn out well. But there ain't nothing for it, Mr. Frodo, you just have to figure it out from there.
I'm a literature teacher, foreshadowing is one of my favorite devices, mostly because I hate surprises. I like to be able to see what's coming and be ready for it. If an author won't give me that, I get on Schmoop and look for spoilers so I won't get my feelings hurt when the sad part comes.
But there's no Shmoop for life, so I'm stuck buying Nalgene bottles, and rain proof jackets... or what I bought last week, which is trenta level... the apotheosis of survival gear.
I've wanted what I bought for five years, maybe more. Carhartt quilted overalls for women. $39, and they're normally $110. I'm pumped.
I grew up in rural Kentucky where every Christmas people bought men fancy warm utility socks, and insulated gloves, and overalls, but the women got towels and potholders, which never made sense to me, because women are the ones who tend to be cold all the time.
Anyway, I'm waiting for my overalls to get here, and it's exciting. I'm feeling like I did when I was seven and had my first pair of Wonder Woman Underoos. (Man, those were amazing... running through the living room, jumping on the couch cushions, "Ta-da!")
I have no idea where I'll wear these overalls if they do fit. Church is probably out of the question. At least I'd have to switch to the contemporary service. We don't have casual Fridays at work.
But hey, I can go play in the snow with the eight-year-old this winter, or if the house is as cold this year as it was last, I might wear them in the kitchen while making chicken noodle soup.
No matter how great they are, though, they won't be the mithril I'm looking for.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but I spend a lot of life flinching, and worrying, and that doesn't make any sense when I know the God I do.
People talk about idols as if they were hunks of wood carved into moo-haha ebony faces with yellow bone teeth and wild feathers coming out the tops of the heads, and everybody acts like humanity has grown out of its superstitions, like it no longer carries around lucky monkey feet and tiger bone dust. We go pshaw on all that tribal stuff primitive people did when they were dancing naked around fires trying to appease the curse.
But here we are, owners of a pasteboard battle helmet, and a sword made out of a Christmas paper cardboard tube, and too many canteens, and quilted overalls, and gadgets, and philosophies, and systems, and iphone apps.
But nothing is safe enough, and there are times when despite all our lesser glories and strainings, we are brought to our knees and fall, and as much as it hurts, it's also a classroom.
King David used to pray "Answer us when we call!" but somehow we devolved to the point that we've got to pray one more prayer before praying that one. "Remind us to call for help in the first place," is what we have to ask, which is a brave prayer, the sort that rumbles the tectonic plates.