Karma, Death, Dust

Redrocks on a cloudy day.

A new study has show that Covid-19 is indifferent to right-wing invective about masks, social distancing, and personal freedom. This study, the September 26th Rose Garden ceremony for the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, showed that if you seat 150 sycophants shoulder to shoulder, most without masks to flatter a reckless narcissist, many of them will contract the virus and spread it. Even the idiot in charge. The virus does not cater to ideology. It does not need to be believed, it only needs to feed.

As news and the virus spread, the word “karma” began trending online. If only karma were real. Sadly, Trump is likely to survive. The November 3 election will likely end in chaos as Coronavirus deaths rise with colder weather. As I write, the United States faces the possibility of election violence and the Republican party’s refusal to cede power. A recent article in Politico claims that 18 percent of Americans strongly favor authoritarianism and another 23 percent are disposed to supporting an authoritarian leader if that support is cultivated. Those of us on the Left must be ready with an organized response.

I’ve taken to walking Max at Redrocks this fall, a dramatically wooded park with high cliffs that define the northeast edge of Shelburne Bay before it merges with Lake Champlain. The wide paths wind through the park, shrouded by evergreens, beech, and maples. At the southern end, a vista looks down onto the bay. On this particular morning, the spot was unoccupied, the bay’s surface unusually placid. Heavy gray clouds hung in bunches like genetically engineered grapes. A hot bag of dog poo in my left hand, leash in my right, I took it all in, appreciating that my freelance schedule allowed for such soothing walks. I remembered telling my partner that someday, she would spread my ashes in the bay.

Having spent many wonderful moments here with friends and family. I know the trails surrounding the bay by memory and have spent many afternoons and sunsets on its waters, sailing on a friend’s boat. What better natural landmark to pollute with my carbon?

Reflecting on death need not be morbid. I have a few decades left, most likely. As a foil, death brings perspective, sharpens your focus about you past and all that you have left to do.

Consider this part of my will then. If I die in summer and the water has warmed up, would someone please dive into the water with me in a waterproof bag, burned to a fine powder? They should dive down to where the water turns colder. Their ears will feel the changing pressure. They should open their eyes and see their hands reflecting the sunlight against the algae green of the deep water below. They will feel and hear only water as they undo the bag and turn its contents out into the bay, watching the cloud that was me darken and dirty the water, drifting to the bottom so that another life form can use me, perpetuating this strange affair. When they cannot hold their breath for any longer, they should float up, following bubbles to the surface where they will take in a giant breath of air and do something wonderful with it.

Looking west from the top of Shelburne Bay
Looking west from the top of Shelburne Bay

If I die in winter, the overlook in Redrocks will do. This version requires small paper bags, the type you might find in a candy shop. My ashes could be divided up so that anyone who turns up could play a part. I would be flattered. Of course, this might be a single case worker who drew the short straw. Please have on hand a sling, the kind Palestinian youth use to hurl stones at Israeli tanks. You might have to add a stone to each bag. Place me in the sling and spin me round and round. Launch me into the air and watch me break the surface 20 meters below. Wait until the ripples disappear, then look to the south, where I’m from.

I think I know who will be there. I will have considered myself lucky that each of you were in my life. For our relationships are what matter, more than the ever-changing combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that make us physical. We are each a shared collection of memories, intentions, and emotions, an open inheritance that needs no executor, only connection. The collection is portable and weightless.  The dust you can leave at the bottom of the lake.