Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Indeed it is appreciation—to appreciate and to think critically about what we are doing before we lose what we have:
I stood outside this morning with our blue teacup poodle, Jetta—blue, the poodle people say, because white curly flecks marble her otherwise black coat—when I noticed the sunlight refracting violet, red, yellow and green through the dewdrops onto the grass. My mind sailed back to Ship Bottom, New Jersey, where, when I was a child, my mother took my brother and me to spend a few days visiting relatives. Everywhere yards were covered in gravel, no grass, gravel—cream, apricot and ochre, the small, flat stones marbled with brown flecks—glaring in the hot August sun, digging into the souls of my bare feet. We slept on iron cots in the big attic room, the pungent smell of wood beams and walls baking and drying under the heat.
The poignancy in the light of the moment this morning refracted a spectrum of such memories across my mind. I revisited the crystal clarity of my uncluttered childhood psyche where I experienced many such momentary phenomena, like watching the particles of dust lit up and dancing in a shaft of sunlight playing through the windowpane diagonally down across the room to my grandparents’ living room rug where I tended my dolls. As an adult, I experience far fewer of these mesmerizing moments.
This morning I recalled that I often observed the beauty and sensuality surrounding me as a child living outside Philadelphia: simply kneeling on the studio couch and looking out my bedroom window, as a four-year-old, up at the deep blue sky with the stray, wispy white clouds; examining a green fluffy caterpillar and noticing that its excrement is green and wondering what it eats to make it green; wandering the fields and woods with my black and tan shepherd/collie, Butch; standing on the hill with my brother and waving down across the field of high brown weeds to the engineer of the steam engine puffing black smoke out over the line of freight cars it pulled along the B&O tracks. As an adult, when I worked at the farm stand in Naples, Florida, during a lull I’d study the legions of lizards, noticing that they hiss when they fight and that they fight like cats; and that tree frogs when they get into the refrigerator, lodge on a plastic orange juice bottle and get cold, stretch flat out and become lethargic, but when you peel them off and put them on a fence in the sun, in twenty minutes they plump back up, draw their legs back under them and hop away. It takes twenty minutes every time. There was even my simple experience of standing in the radiant Southern California sunshine, with my luggage cart stacked with picnic coolers, selling sandwiches to office workers and outside the warehouse where we got the sandwiches, in the parking lot, chatting with coworkers.
My experience this morning tapped me on the shoulder and spun me around to look at the past and remind me how much I love being outdoors and that I am constantly striving for that experience—pursuing my landscape photography, and my many trips to Mammoth Lakes, California, Yosemite and the High Sierra, there spotting a spring spewing from a crack in a granite rock or rounding a bend in a steep mountain path, suddenly coming upon a waterfall; and to the Grand Canyon and Southern Arizona wandering the back country, maybe trails where Geronimo tread; my hours spent walking the beach, padding along the edge of the foamy, sunlit surf—Atlantic or Pacific; or exploring the fields and woods; or just standing in the sun anywhere and feeling warmed.
In the wink of a moment this morning I realized why certain people touch me so deeply—it is my love of the intelligent mind, oneness of mind with another, my love of the sensuality of nature and of being outdoors—exploring and respecting what is given us on this beautiful and rare planet: “gathering the many questions the outdoors provides,” one biology teacher told me; gathering the many questions any subject provides.
It is the curiosity of a child, the seeking of a greater truth, a truth that may reveal itself in its awesome beauty as contradictory. Leo Tolstoy said the truth is contradictory. I travel in my mystical journey; as in a train carriage to stations along a railroad line, from one experience I come to another, unsidetracked. These thoughts and experiences ring for me, like Russian church bells—true yet cacophonous.
The instant I set foot at Monticello I fell in love with Thomas Jefferson. If ever I could have a conversation with him—I felt his presence so strongly and sensually there, as if he were standing in front of me in the room, watching and sensing my thoughts. –-Speaking to me? Maybe he’d speak in a soft, thoughtful, drawn out, Charlottesville accent, but not a drawl; and the conversation itself—the refracting of the one mind into many ideas: philosophy, science, nature, architecture, cities and farming, people, government, laws, intriguing and enjoyable discoveries in other cultures and civilizations—such as macaroni and cheese in Paris—and planning for the future and the history.
These poignant moments are my Marble Angel, the marble angel the sculptor, who was covered in white powdery dust as if he’d just crawled out of a sack of flour, walked me up the long hill on the ochre dirt path and showed me. There the flat, white angel lay in a wooden box of straw in the back of his studio high on the edge of a cliff overlooking the copper mine pit in Jerome, Arizona—my peak experience; the marble angel of Thomas Wolfe’s novel, Look Homeward, Angel: “…a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.” I had just read the novel.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,” said Michelangelo.
To hear that certain voice over the phone, to see that face, to look deep into those eyes, to share thoughts deep in the mind; sometimes it comes with the music they compose or play, or the stories they write or speak; sometimes a musical or prose voice reaching down across the centuries—I was blown away when I heard on CD nineteenth-century Russian composer Alexander Scriabin playing his own music, music he’d made on piano roll in 1910.
These experiences are mystical. Like Jude (the mason) and Sue (his cousin) in Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure, they exist for me as that soul realization, that oneness; what comes spontaneously:
I saw the sunlight refracted through the dewdrops this morning. I was teleported to a childhood moment in Ship Bottom and I knew the connection—all in an instant: setting one’s own angel free.
As I age, I feel like a relic. So, I slow down, I observe, I appreciate. And I feel alone, especially in today’s world where the race is on and series of phenomena blur, engineless, as they speed past the windows of my mind, or like a watercolor carelessly left out on the lawn on a foggy night—the details run and smear. But it is seeing the sunlight refracted through the dewdrops on the grass. That is what it is all about.
I think it most significant to slow down, stop a moment and pay heed to oneself and one’s surroundings, to allow one’s mind time to perceive, relate things one to another, organize, make sense of it all. It is the wink of a dewdrop turning and bending the sun’s rays into all the details of the rainbow, passing from one medium and bending into another, a key struck on a piano, a string plucked on a cello, an instant, whether noticed or not, that reverberates through the empyrean spheres.
Wednesday, August 1
I saw the dewdrops on the grass again this morning and as I stood and gazed and marveled at the rainbow colors in the refracted sunlight, I flashed on walking on the Palos Verdes, California, bridle path with my Siberian husky, Kolia, black with blue eyes—and the red and yellow California poppies: the puppy and the poppies.
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