Statistically, the probability of any one of us being here is so small that you’d think the mere fact of existing would keep us all in a contented dazzlement of surprise. We are alive against the stupendous odds of genetics, infinitely outnumbered by all the alternatives who might, except for luck, be in our places…
We violate probability, by our nature. To be able to do this systematically, and in such wild varieties of form, from viruses to whales, is extremely unlikely; to have sustained the effort successfully for several billion years of our existence, without drifting back into randomness, was nearly a mathematical impossibility.
Add to this the biological improbability that makes each member of our own species unique. Everyone is one in 3 billion at the moment, which describes the odds. Each of us is a self contained, free-standing individual, labeled by specific protein configurations at the surfaces of cells, identifiable by whorls of fingertip skin, maybe even by special medleys of fragrance. You’d think we’d never stop dancing.
I hear the wind blow,
And I feel that it was worth being born
just to hear the wind blow.
~ Fernando Pessoa, from “Uncollected Poems”
Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
There’s a difference.
When your bones hurt,
And when they’re just tired.
When they are looking to heal,
and when they are looking to get set down.
These Bones are aching, to get set down.
The week’s reflections as I ride up I-95.
They light warm fires of gratitude.
Yes, Mary. It is the work.
Work that I’ve made for myself.
Work that I’ve chosen to claim my life.
My adult life.
And then, a final spark,
who has brought me Home,
and to my handsome life.
I don’t mean it’s easy or assured, there are the stubborn stumps of shame, grief that remains unsolvable after all the years, a bag of stones that goes with one wherever one goes and however the hour may call for dancing and for light feet. But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness and, because more interesting, more alleviating. And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe – that is to say, having chosen to claim my life, I have made for myself, out of work and love, a handsome life.
– Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
I wish to raise my hand. Well, I raise it. But who raises it? Who is the “I” who raises my hand? Certainly it is not exclusively the “I” who is standing here talking, the “I” who signs the checks and has a history behind him, because I do not have the faintest idea how my hand was raised. All I know is that I expressed a wish for my hand to be raised, whereupon something within myself set to work, pulled the switches of a most elaborate nervous system, and made thirty or forty muscles — some of which contract and some of which relax at the same instant — function in perfect harmony so as to produce this extremely simple gesture. And of course, when we ask ourselves, how does my heart beat? how do we breathe? how do I digest my food? — we do not have the faintest idea.
~ Aldous Huxley, The Divine Within
Post title inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Friday morning. July 17th. 77° F. 8:10 am.
Traffic? A lava flow.
I’m in the center lane between two tractor trailers. Behemoths. Wall to wall.
The Mind, a Raccoon, ever searching, digging, anxious.
Its beady eyes darting.
Its sharp claws twitching, digging in sh*t they shouldn’t be digging in.
Shiny tinsel flashes from the morning readings.
Fulghum: The examined life is no picnic.
Remarque: The less a man thinks of himself the better he is.
And on cue, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds strum their guitars to open Dancing Nancies.
Could I have been / A parking lot attendant
Could I have been / Lost Somewhere in Paris
Could I have been / Anyone other than me
A parking lot attendant? First job. Gas station attendant.
Paris? I’ll take just being in Paris, just once, lost or found.
And, ‘Could I have been / anyone other than me?’
Now, that is a question.
A copper colored Tesla jams his nose in the wee gap in front of me. I close the gap, with my nose within inches of his door panel. The mini cameras on the bumper trigger the sensors: Warning. Too Close. Too Close. He turns left to see my grill, and me, feeling the blast of natural heat. Oh, you know what you’re doing Friend. Save electricity with your Tesla. Burn me up. [Read more…]
[…] The room is dark,
and the light is on her (Dr. Wendy Fried’s) face.
I see her eyes, moving around,
like she’s panicking.
I felt the blood draining out of my face.
My lips got cold.
“I’m so sorry, Eleni,” she said. […]
I barely got my words out, asking,
“What do you mean?”
She came over and she held my hand. […]
~ Eleni Michailidis
Read entire article here: A Silent Delivery Room
Photography: Eric Rose
I breathe in the soft, saturated exhalations of cedar trees and salmonberry bushes, fireweed and wood fern, marsh hawks and meadow voles, marten and harbor seal and blacktail deer. I breathe in the same particles of air that made songs in the throats of hermit thrushes and gave voices to humpback whales, the same particles of air that lifted the wings of bald eagles and buzzed in the flight of hummingbirds, the same particles of air that rushed over the sea in storms, whirled in high mountain snows, whistled across the poles, and whispered through lush equatorial gardens . . . air that has passed continually through life on earth. I breathe it in, pass it on, share it in equal measure with billions of other living things, endlessly, infinitely.
~ Richard Nelson, The Island Within
But now it is four in the morning and she is still awake while her husband breathes regularly and sweetly beside her. When she tires of listening to him breathe, which takes a long time because he sounds like a child and it is beautiful to hear, she comes into the other room and looks out her window uptown and at the lights on the river. Now and then opening a can of tuna fish and thinking this fish in this room on 112th Street was originally swimming in the deep Atlantic and now it is here on the thirteenth floor. What a miracle, although not for the fish. Still. You can appreciate things at four in the morning that would go right past you during the day.
~ Abigail Thomas, She has had insomnia. Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life
Kent Haruf died on November 30, 2014 at the age of 71. He finished this novel shortly before he died and it was published posthumously. The story is based in a fictional small town of Holt, Colorado, the home of his award winning Trilogy: Plainsong (1999), Eventide (2004) and Benediction (2013). Ursula Le Guin’s book review beautifully captures the feeling of this novel:
Ursula K Le Guin: “I don’t think there’s a false word in Kent Haruf’s final novel, Our Souls in the Night. Nor, for all the colloquial ease and transparency of the prose and the apparent simplicity of the story, is there a glib word, or a predictable one. Ordinarily the circumstances of the writing of a novel aren’t of much interest to me as a reader, but in this case, I am moved, even awed, to consider that the book was written while the author was dying. It is a report from the edge of darkness, made in the consciousness of responsibility. Haruf is bearing witness. Having gone farther than we have, he wants to tell us what matters there. His knowledge of his situation, and my knowledge of it as I read the book, made me appreciate the rare privilege of being with a person who is past the need to say anything but what needs to be said. The voice is quiet. All the darkness is there, but we’re looking at the light. A lamp in a bedroom in a small town in Colorado.
Wingate Packard: A remarkably simple invitation sets things in motion. Addie Moore, a widow, asks Louis Waters, a widower and neighbor, to sleep with her. “Sleep” means both more and less than you might first think for these septuagenarians (in their 70’s).
After dark one night they walked over to the grade school playground and Louis pushed Addie on the big chain swing and she rode up and back in the cool fresh night air of late summer with the hem of her skirt fluttering over her knees. Afterward they went back to bed in her upstairs front room and lay beside each other naked in the summer air coming in from the open windows.
~ Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night: A novel
Kent Haruf’s Our Souls in the Night: Highly recommended.