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Photo by Derek Chan
Reflection by Jim Crissman

Not long ago, there were snow flurries flying outside my home office window. Now, finally, the nearly forgotten sun is peeking out from behind the thick, gray, all-day, wall-to-wall cloud, just in time for it to drop over the edge, also just in time to cast slanted golden rays of lush evening light on what? a flock? a swarm? a swat team? What is the word for a beach ball-sized wad of hundreds of mosquitoes bouncing in the air on the other side of this glass? We weren’t given even a day of transition between shoveling and swatting. It was just one fell swoop: one minute you’re pasty white and itchy, the next you’re pasty white, itchy, and sprinkled with even itchier red bumps. There’s still a little snow in the woods, and Jellybean still wants her doggy coat, but she’s already got to be on heartworm meds. The grass isn’t even green yet. (About this I should not complain, I could be out there mowing and swatting.) Two weeks ago exposed skin was at risk for frostbite, now I have to protect it from exsanguination. We went from “wind chill factor” to “kill that f%@&er!” faster than Bush Republicans turned into deficit hawks. Winter in the Michigan can seem interminable, like a windowless office with a pile of grunt work, a slow internet connection, and a hovering boss. Don’t we deserve a nice warm green interlude before the vernal invasion of flying hypodermics? Wouldn’t a little spring break be in order?

But I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had the, “Hey! What just happened?!” feeling lately. Even if you never go outside or you live in a perpetually sunny climate (no, you can’t have our water), the daily news of downsizings, mergers, and the rich getting richer has wrecked a lot of plans with little warning. For most of us, the days of living like there’s no tomorrow are clearly over; 401Ks have turned to 201Ks, and lots of us can see that it will be more years than we hoped before we limp and wheel ourselves into the eternal cocktail lounge of retirement. All these changing plans and evaporating dreams can be hard on a person.

Aging has been defined as the loss of ability to respond and adapt to change, but I doubt that hard times are hitting subgeezers like me any harder than the newly minted grads who need a first job in this economy. The last presidential election was all about change: change for America, change you can believe in. The more recent one was about dissatisfaction with what still hasn’t changed. Now it’s change for a cup of coffee, change that itches. Buddy, can you spare me some DEET?

© James W. Crissman, 2011