Today In Alaska
As a child I was drawn to and horrified by the Old Testament story of Absalom. Because of the long hair. The story goes like this: King David’s son Absalom has been in hiding for years after murdering his rapist brother Amnon. After David has mourned his dead son he brings Absalom back to the kingdom. But somewhere between his call for justice and his return to David’s good graces, Absalom begins to have delusions of grandeur. From a nearby city, he rallies the Israelites to himself.
David’s men with Joab his general as their lead go out against Absalom. As they’re leaving, David begs them to treat his son kindly. I imagine the generals cast each other sidelong glances, thinking David has gone soft. Which, in a way, he has. Their glances made and their thoughts hidden from the king, the generals and their men go after the errant son.
While out riding his mule, presumably fleeing the surging army, Absalom gets his hair tangled in the limbs of an oak tree. Caught fast, Absalom is left hanging while his mule, suddenly free of its rider, ambles away.
The account makes sure to say that Absalom was a beautiful man without flaw. I suppose they mean without the flaw of usurpation. His long and glorious hair has him in a literal bind.
It seems as if Absalom has been left alone to hang. Where all his faithful Israelites are now is not stated. There’s no one to cut him down. Or maybe he prizes his hair too much for that to happen.
At this moment of suspension, one of David’s men passes by and does not a thing except run off to tell Joab what he’s seen.
Disregarding David’s plea, Joab, mad that the man has not killed Absalom straight off, goes with javelins in hand to the oak tree and spears Absalom through the heart. As if that weren’t effective enough, Joab’s men finish off Absalom completely with swords and javelins and who knows what else. There’s no doubt the beautiful, rebellious prince is dead.
When David is informed of Absalom’s death he cries out, “O Absalom, o my son Absalom. Would I have died instead of you!”
Joab reprimands the king for his lack of self-interest or appreciation of his faithful ones’ act on his behalf. But still David mourns.
And that’s the story of Absalom.
On Thursday, I learn how to mow the orchard (I’ve already learned how to ride a 4-wheeler, use the watering system, pick strawberries, collect wild spinach, find my way around town, take trash to the dump, work the riding mower at the beach cabin, operate the hose pump, pull up grass, tape and bed a room, and throw around bales of hay). To show me the proper way, Fay makes some initial passes and then gives the riding mower over to me.
Go counterclockwise. Try not to break off tree branches. Watch the steep hill. Don’t tip over. Let the cut grass collect in the bushes and around the tree trunks. Go, therefore, and mow.
It’s daunting. All those rules and Fay nearby watching me.
My first time around I make it safely up the hill, but then on the far side of the orchard I forget to duck low enough (though successfully avoiding a crash into the tree trunk) and my hair is caught.
O Absalom, Absalom.
Onward the mower goes. I’m not caught so tight to be left hanging, but I leave my hair behind me, a great tress of it torn from my head.
The hungry branches had reached around my hat to grasp at my hair. As if to entrap me. But, I’ve not murdered anyone. I’ve not plotted against a king. Why the harsh treatment?
I’m not sure how bald I’ll be but perhaps a bit of bare scalp is better than being left hanging as the mower-mule ambles on.
I don’t think Fay observes this.
On a second or third pass, I pull the incriminating mass of hair from the catching limb.
I twirl the hair into a ball and put it in my pocket to toss away at a later time.
As I ride around and around, I lament with my cry of “Absalom, O Absalom!” laughing at myself and hoping the next time I mow I do a better job and have less of a balding, catching time.