Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nothing a Thousand Times

You can walk a long time in the forest without hearing a single bird and then suddenly the forest in filled with music. At 5:20 a.m. (I estimate) an owl cried out almost practically on top of my shoulder and I stumbled and my heart raced and you could imagine the whole forest laughing. The lesson lately being very much about not forgetting to bring my body. Deer prints in the mud, and near the slope to the pond, a single turkey feather wavering in a light breeze.

When I talk, I am happy, as when I write I am happy, but what I say - what I mean with what I say - is not so important to me, or even especially interesting, which is why so many of my worldly obligations founder and drift. Please forgive my idolatry and my love of my own voice - is that what I need to say? Discussing blue jays with E. the other day I thought suddenly: somebody better come along and help me or this lifetime is going to pass like all the others. I mean coastal monasteries in medieval Ireland, the bellies of tigers, and those dreary northern pilgrimages in which I learned nothing a thousand times.

Her letter - oddly subdued, given her customary intensity - neatly framed the dilemma: would you rather be right or at peace? One storms off in search of forsythia bushes, one kicks the same rock for a good half mile up the road to the cemetery. One begins to realize at last the price and wonders - perhaps for the last time - whether they can pay it. I remember a while in my twenties refusing summits, literally stopping a hundred feet shy, which annoyed my fellow hikers no end, but it was a principled stand, a spiritual one, and I am doing it now but differently and is that what I want?

The barn window broke - again - and we worked quickly in the bouncing beams of flashlights to repair it. How I love mathematicians and how sad I am that they so rarely love me back! C. buys me recipe books - old ones written by women who knew no space between God and food and feeding others - when she wants me to know she loves me. Gestures matter in the sense that they throw wide - however briefly - the veil that obscures the light.

One can't study the dogwood blossoms comfortably because it alienates the birds at the feeder. I am terrified of injuries to my teeth, and of going without water, and insist on various hardships (mostly regarding sleep and shoes) as a way of preparing myself, of proving there is nothing I can't handle. People forget how sociable Emily Dickinson was, and how ecstatic and devoted Jonathan Edwards was, and how nice a fire smells, and how the world opens when you study bird songs and animal tracks. Holiness abounding in the welter we call home.

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