journal page – 9/30/07
The mosquito is so small
it takes almost nothing to ruin it.
Each leaf, the same.
And the black ant, hurrying.
So many lives, so many fortunes!
Every morning, I walk softly and with forward glances
down to the ponds and through the pinewoods.
Mushrooms, even, have but a brief hour
before the slug creeps to the feast,
before the pine needles hustle down
under the bundles of harsh, beneficent rain.
How many, how many, how many
make up a world!
And then I think of that old idea: the singular
and the eternal.
One cup, in which everything is swirled
back to the color of the sea and sky.
A shining cup, surely!
In the moment in which there is no wind
over your shoulder,
you stare down into it,
and there you are,
your own darling face, your own eyes.
And then the wind, not thinking of you, just passes by,
touching the ant, the mosquito, the leaf,
and you know what else!
How blue is the sea, how blue is the sky,
how blue and tiny and redeemable everything is, even you,
even your eyes, even your imagination.
– Mary Oliver (1935 – )
journal page – 9/18/07
Lately my days slip by, spent juggling obligations and desires… five paintings by November, student papers that multiply like the loaves and fishes, closets and drawers in disarray, workshops and outings, a few pages of a book before bed, time to spend with the one I love… the tug and pull between must and want… and even when I’m tired and on the verge of being unreasonably cranky, I know that it’s all good. It’s all good.
Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks
I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .
I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .
When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .
I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .
I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .
I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .
I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .
I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .
I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .
I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .
I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .
– Jane Kenyon (1947 – )
journal page – 9/9/07
This morning, I looked over the deck just in time to see a dozen turkeys take to the air in a cacophonous flurry of flapping wings and garbled calls. After a night’s rain, they had gathered in our front garden to forage for fallen berries, and they were startled by Heidi’s bark when she spotted them. They flew into the high branches of the trees, leaving one young turkey alone on the roof of the shop at the bottom of our property. It made its way towards the edge, tentatively looking around to see where the rest of the flock had gone, clearly afraid to leave the safety of its perch. I felt like I was watching a jumper on a bridge; part of me felt sorry for its confusion and part of me wanted to see what would happen when it inevitably decided to go. When it finally took the leap, its flight was remarkably graceful, and it succeeded to reach the top of a pine tree. Later, a family of turkeys, two adults and two small ones, walked across the driveway and made their way into the woods.
The leaves have begun to come down hard with the wind and the rain, but this morning it was humid and still. Down the driveway and along the road, they fell desultorily, caght on light air currents. At one point Heidi stopped and watched as a single leaf floated in front of her. She snapped at it as it passed her nose, disappointed that it wasn’t something good to eat.
I love this time of year. I love the feeling of change, the movements of the wild creatures on our property making ready for the sparse winter, and the renewed sense of purpose I get when I think about the next ten months of structure. As much as I revel in my freely formed summer days, I welcome the challenge of setting goals and arranging priorities, and the feeling of accomplishment when I meet my expectations.
I recently heard the Mary Oliver poem below read aloud, and it touched me in way that a silent reading could not. Even so, I want to share it. It is a something of prayer… and it reminds me how important it is to “live the life you love and love the life you live.”
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver (1935 – )
Autumn approachs with a momentum that is full of saturated beauty… trees relinquishing their green to shades of amber and crimson and vermillion before sending it all down into sere brown piles along the roads and on the forest floor. It’s truly a long and grand goodbye…one that gives us enough joy to wait through the winter for the return of green.
We sit late, watching the dark slowly unfold:
No clock counts this.
When kisses are repeated and the arms hold
There is no telling where time is.
It is midsummer: the leaves hang big and still:
Behind the eye a star,
Under the silk of the wrist a sea, tell
Time is nowhere.
We stand; leaves have not timed the summer.
No clock now needs
Tell we have only what we remember:
Minutes uproaring with our heads
Like an unfortunate King’s and his Queen’s
When the senseless mob rules;
And quietly the trees casting their crowns
Into the pools.
– Ted Hughes (1930 – 1998)
Until we meet again…