Pagan in a Muscle Car

Rental Car Agent: “So let’s put you in a Mustang, that will be fun!”

Me: “Ummmmm…., what?”

Sometimes I wonder how rental car companies stay in business.  Our needs were simple; my girlfriend and I would be in Seattle for a few days attending (and helping to set up) her niece’s wedding.  With a month to spare, I had reserved a mid-size car, something simple and economical to get us around town with enough room to do some light moving or shopping.  With confirmation number in hand, we arrived at the rental desk only to be told that they didn’t have ‘that’ car on hand.

I suspect we have very different definitions of the word “reserved”.

What they did have was a Mustang.  We couldn’t really argue because they were offering us this vehicle at the original rate despite it being equipped with all the bells and whistles that we had previously opted out of to save money.  We shrugged, signed the paperwork and ventured downstairs into the parking garage to find the car.

There we stood just gazing at it.  The thing was huge and red and low to the ground.  It was very much like looking at the concept cars at an auto show, only this time there was no spokesmodel in a sparkly dress standing next to it and the keys were in my hand.

To my surprise, no one tried to stop us as we pulled out of the garage.

You should understand that I am not a “car-guy”.  I know how they work and I can even fix them in a pinch.  I typically do as little driving as I can, except on vacation when I tend to pick vehicles based on comfort and economy.  This was a different animal altogether and driving it made me very self-conscious.

For one thing: when I see a guy my age driving a shiny red Mustang my first thought is typically either, “He’s compensating for something” or “Make way for Mr. Midlife Crisis!”  That may not be fair but it’s true.  I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging harshly.  Hello karma, my old friend.

There was also the expectation that we’d be pulled over by the police any moment.  I was driving a bright red sports car, the universal sign for “point your radar gun at me.”  This would not normally have been a problem except that the car wanted to go fast.

Yes, I said, “wanted.”

I am not just a Polytheist, I am also an Animist.  I believe that most of the world around us has a spiritual element beyond the mere physicality of the object.  These spirits may be more or less aware (or animate) and sometimes they may speak to us.

This car was built with a single purpose and desire: to go fast.  I could hear its voice below the throb of the engine trying to seduce me.  I found myself leaning on that pedal and making tighter corners than I might normally have done.  We are drawn to power and sometimes when we get a taste of something different it turns our heads a little.

Come the morning of the wedding I was arranging chairs and tables on a rocky private beach where the ceremony would be held later in the day.  After an hour or so of lugging stuff around I was ready for a break.  Making my excuses to the mother of the bride I wandered down to the water’s edge following the steady call of breaking waves.  It had been many years since I last visited the Pacific and I felt the need to re-acquaint myself.

Stepping gingerly past globs of seaweed and scattered bird droppings, I crouched down and put my hands into the surf as it rushed in from the Puget Sound.

The sea is an engine like no other.  Constantly in motion, it throbs with a power and life that covers most of the globe.  To touch it is to do more than simply dip your hands into water.  It is very much like putting your hands on the hood of an idling car.  You can feel the power moving through you, ready to spill forth at any moment, if only someone would press that pedal down and put it into gear.

The difference is that if a car has a spirit it must be a small one, while the spirit of the sea is older and more powerful than we can truly comprehend.  To feel that power is to tap into the energy that flows through the tides, currents, winds and waves; through the living and dying of countless beings from great whales to microbes; across the eons of time and the wide expanse of the globe.

The next day I turned the car back in to the rental company and we boarded the plane for home.  As I sat belted into my seat looking out over the clouds it was not the throb of a high-performance engine I could still feel moving through me.

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Filed under Modern Life, Nature, Spiritual Journey

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