Sunday, April 20, 2008


On a Sunday morning, the Man Without Shoes wonders when he will hear bells from the nearby church. The buds on the maple trees are as red as a soldier's cloak, as large as nail heads, though up close their saffron tendrils wriggle in the breeze like toddlers heading to a party. Yesterday a hawk sailed high overhead, hunting, on unfelt thermals that nevertheless moved him. In the chicken hut, a tiny egg was found, no larger than a newborn's fist.

He remembered the first time he heard a certain type of cloud - long, narrow, gently curling - referred to as a "mare's tail." He paid close attention to the lilac bushes outside the window. Last summer he had trimmed them dramatically - thinned was hardly the word for such aggressive culling - and was worried they wouldn't blossom. Yet the tiny buds on the sparse gray limbs were there, opening at last, like little green parasols. He'd seen what was possibly a bear track the day before, though the absence of others nearby made him wonder. Nor could he muster hatred for the many hornets, floating lazily in warm sunlight near the porch, their legs trailing behind them like unused apostrophe's.

He felt, in all these observations (and others, too, that slipped by without recounting, like unremembered dreams), that the world was less a known place then it had it been previously (and where the line of demarcation - the previous world, now this new world - was he could not say nor, in truth, care much about finding). There was a sense of blessing somehow, the presence of a continual sacrament, or it had always been this way and only now was he able to see it. Had thick silver scales fallen from his eyes? Had some dense and coarse veil been lifted? This wasn't Eden - he was no longer the puer he had so long been, not at all (and when, exactly, had that happened?) - but a loveliness that comes after the fabled garden, after the deluge, and remains, and is maybe lovely precisely (or in part (but what part?)) because it was after the fall, and all the fall's legends, and so it could take its deceptions more playfully.

Yes, the world now rushed him like a desert saint whose prayers had led him out of his cave and back into the village he had left those many years ago, shouting "it is all an altar it is all an altar!"

This awareness - a perception that in his deepest, shoeless, scabbed, ruined but still mellifluous heart he believed did not include G-D but in fact was G-D (the naming of which (of whom?) seemed simultaneously ridiculous and of utmost importance)) - was not troubling, or not only troubling. He trembled at moments, felt his heart might take its own wing, his throat burn in a fierce green fire. It was as if someone had thrown open the doors to a large zoo, or an over-full asylum, and now the many inhabitants (wild, deranged, exotic, in love in other words) now roamed freely, and their joy - which was the joy of at last knowing the world unbounded - fed the air like the bouquet from a split ripe melon.

This was Sunday for the Man Without Shoes, about one hour before he set out walking.

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