As a kid I spent hours, days, and years exiled to a sandbox a few miles south of Clovis, New Mexico. A drought eventually forced us off the land because we didn’t have the money for an irrigation well.
Indoors, Mom was baking chocolate-chip cookies. I wanted to be indoors, but she said I had to stay outside, or I’d become a girl. Boys needed sunshine, she said. The irony of sitting in a sandbox in a land of sand (not enchantment, as the license plate used to boast) didn’t occur to me until I was over fifty.
My New Mexico is not the mystical place of D.H. Lawrence or C.G. Jung. My eschatology is conditioned by the repeated experience of exile from the source of nourishment controlled by female hands and door latches. This kind of exile prepared me well for the dawn of feminism, because it taught me that the ultimate sources of real power were never male. Males controlled work, cigar smoke, and money. And money was not good for anything but buying chocolate chips for cookies.
I’ve been waiting ever since to be let in the door.
Before I was ten I learned that we are always going wait for something, which, if you got it at all, was probably going to be doled out in measured bits and pieces. Getting everything you wanted was bad for your health. Whatever you got for waiting impatiently in the sandbox was going to be just enough to whet your appetite to wait in the sandbox.
When I read Waiting for Godot, I immediately understood it.
Waiting in the sandbox, there wasn’t much to do. The bee martins overhead would divebomb my head in the spring if they had young in the nest above. Sitting under one of the three trees within several square miles, you had lots of time to contemplate the horizon. If you looked at the horizon around Clovis, you knew that nothing ever happened there. You longed for the future, because there was nothing much in the present, at least not here. You couldn’t imagine that anything was ever coming over the horizon. The horizon never approached you. It was always receding.
Once I strapped on a couple of army surplus canteens and set out to hike to the horizon; someone had taught me the word. I got as far as the paved road four miles away and had to borrow a farmer’s phone to call home for someone to come get me.
Future-orientedness in whatever form (millenarianism, progressivism, eschatology) is an illness. There is nothing whatever to be gained by longing for or anticipating a future event. It’s like the eastern New Mexico horizon. You never get there.
At one time the temporal crux was 1999-2000, the turn of the millennium. A historian colleague explained the vagaries, politics, and waywardness of the Gregorian calendar. The turn of the millennium was not at the end of 1999.
Before the election of Biden in 2020, liberal political scientists told me that their world ended with the 2016 election. I was almost a believer.
But what the hell? I still wait for cookies. Now they come in the shape of MAGA hats. If nothing else, they make great dream fodder.
The presidential race came to a head in Georgia. I am still a desert rat. I mistrust water, although I long for it. I married a water woman. She used to plunge into Lake Ontario in the coldest of weather, her pale blue lips grinning in ecstasy.
Not me. If I must meet the end, let it be hot as hell. I’d rather do it in the desert with my trusty army surplus canteens at my side.
Let the rich Trumpites gather on the beach, where a flood might at any moment make another Atlantis of those wealthy golf players.
I have trouble walking when I walk, shitting when I shit, eating when I eat. I am always off in the future looking for a better job, tastier food, or a more centered self. This searching, even if you imagine the end is just a quarter inch in front of your nose, is an illness. My only remedy—which isn’t much of one—is to breathe regularly and deeply and try to remember that there is no place like this one and no time like this one.
I say there is nothing special about the election or turn of the millennium in the same breath that I say that chocolate cookies are not good for your health. Trying to utter two things at the same time with the same breath presents certain obvious problems.
Giving in to the urge for chocolate cookies is sick. Denying the craving is sick too. So the only way to prepare for the dawning of a civil war is to sit in whatever sandbox you’re in and hope the bee martins don’t peck your head.
If the Great Mother really should unlatch the door in November of 2024, I will be the first to rush in, hoping to make a six-course meal of chocolate-chip cookies.