It All Comes Back To The Simpsons

Friday, September 16, 2005

"It's Awful...It Looks Like Wisconsin!"

For the past few weekends, our family has been traveling the state of Wisconsin, visiting brothers and sisters and state parks. We've gone through hilly country, cranberry bogs, pine forests, prairies, and beautiful old cities like Madison and Stevens Point. It's a beautiful time of year, the trees are still in full foliage, with the leaves just starting to turn colors, and the oppressive heat and humidity of summer are waning significantly. There is, however,a gruesome exhibition decorating our state's highways.

You would not believe the carnage...oppossums, deer, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, cats, skunks, not sure but I think it might have been either an alien or a badger, chipmunks, birds and greasy, grimey gopher guts are strewn across our roads, smeared, in some cases, a good hundred feet or so. It's hard to get worked up about the beautiful scenery with the cold face of Death around every turn. There are limbs sticking out at impossible angles, rotting flesh and bloated corpses everywhere. In some cases, you can, over the course of a quarter mile, witness a mommy raccoon, one baby, two babies, three, four, and sometimes even the daddy, and you wonder: was it one car that did all this? Or did they, in their animal grief, take their own lives, rather facing the sting of hot steel than to face a day without their family? Or are they just stupid? Hard to say, really.

These morbid highways have been a part of life in Wisconsin ever since they cut the budget for the WI Department of Natural Resources a few years ago, and the dead animal pick-up service was eliminated. The idea was that the scavengers would take care of the corpses, and that the dead bodies would serve as warnings for drivers, as well as other animals. Good theory, but the animals don't seem to pay heed to the "warning cadavers", and the dead animals are piling up at a staggering rate. It has been good for the scavengers, though, including Bald Eagles, which have made a big comeback in our area lately. They're not so majestic when hunched over a dead rabbit on the side of the road, but last month Sy and I saw one swoop down out of the air and catch a fish at the lake by our house, and that was one of the most awesome things I've ever witnessed.

There is a practice in Buddhism where you are supposed to meditate over a dead body to contemplate your own mortality in direct terms; sort of like the Biblical quote "You came from dust and to dust you shall return" (not sure of the exact quote, I'm sure there's probably a "thou" or a "cometh" or a "shite" in there somewhere). I think a drive across Wisconsin in the summer should at least qualify you for the title "Dali Bratwurst Rinpoche" (or something like that...). Or at least get you free tickets to Nirvana.

Of course, you'd have to be pretty stupid to buy Nirvana tickets...


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