Take the red pill

The air finally warms. Smells of spring waft in through open windows. Dandelions. Newly mown grass. Golden sweet blossoms of honeysuckle. Exhaust from an ATV chugging up the rocky desert hill.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll watch mountains waken in glorious shades of olive and gold. The moors of Peavine. The meadows of Truckee.

The grass on UNR’s Quad is my favorite shade of lush, back-East green. Near Manzanita Lake, nine—I counted twice—wildly fluffy goslings nip at grass, attended closely by Mom and Pop. Canada geese set a fine example of parenting. No putting the kids to sleep in front of some mind-morphing Disney movie, though it is a Bambi time of year. The adjective “twitterpated” comes to mind as students stroll across campus hand-in-hand, spooning on the lawn, toying with one another’s tongue and lip piercings underneath the spreading boughs of a tree.

It’s enough to make my sinuses tighten and my eyes itch. My nostrils tingle then drip then gob up like a Republican on learning the results of Election 2008.

April is the cruelest 30-day stretch. It’s when I say hello to spring and to my annual purchase of over-the-counter allergy drugs in economy-size packages. I’ve tried nasal steroids and prescription drugs. Not bad. But I enjoy most the scarlet tabs of the generic version of Sudafed, even now in their post-pseudoephedrine incarnation.

In The Matrix, Neo takes a red pill to step outside the farce of existence and enter into the Real. I can’t decide if my reaction to 20 milligrams of phenylephrine HCI is psychosomatic, but the air feels crisper, colors brighter and lines of hill against horizon more sharply defined after ingesting two pills and chasing them with the carbs and caffeine of a 20-ounce vanilla latte. Sheer decadence.

Drugs, drugs. Any urgency that resistance is imperative, that revolution is needed, slips away in the sunshine.

A few weeks ago, I planted seeds in peat containers with my 15-year-old son, Jesse. Now our south-facing windows are bursting with green things—pumpkins, pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, peppers and pansies.

Each morning, I water the plantlings, talking to them as if they’re children, urging them to grow, setting off what feels to me like yet another dopamine rush. Any desire I once had—to write about third parties or rising gas prices or community or erosion of our civil liberties—dissipates.

Flights of fancy come and go. In my dreams, the politicians controlling all three branches of our government voluntarily turn over a portion of power to diverse voices. We stop fighting over who is “right” in order to better address the decline of our planet and of the many lives that depend on its health.

Control is a tricky paradoxical thing.

“If you want to become whole,” wrote Lao-tzu, “let yourself be partial. … If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be given everything, give everything up.”

Protests proliferate in spring—there’ll be marches on behalf of immigrants, soldiers in Iraq, test site explosions and child abduction in Uganda. There’ll be awareness campaigns, benefit dinners, nests with eggs, funerals, dahlias and decay.

I can’t remember what battles require fighting today. I want to sink into the earth, not rise above it. At home, I dig outside my house. No gloves, just fingers shoved deep into the dirt, sifting out rocks. Today, I will buy worms. Summer lurks around the next snowy curve in the road, and my soil’s not prepared.

In this moment, life smells delicious. Stand at its center and inhale.

If you feel congested, I recommend a red pill.