One Tiny Beautiful Thing

Paying attention to what is happening in Washington is a form of self-torment so reality altering that it should be regulated as a Schedule IV drug. I pay attention because that’s what responsible people do, but I sometimes wonder how much longer I can continue to follow the national news and not descend into a kind of despair that might as well be called madness. Already there are days when I’m one click away from becoming Lear on the heath, raging into the storm. There are days when it feels like the apocalypse is already here.

Except it isn’t, not really. Not yet. One day when the relentless rains let up for a bit, I went to the park an hour before sunset to walk on the muddy trails and take a break from the bad news. The woods were as lovely as they ever are after a rain: the creeks full of rushing water, the gray bark of the fallen trees slick with moss. Above the trail, the limbs of the living trees creaked in the rising wind, the kind of sound that makes your heart ache for reasons too far beyond words to explain. Though the forest understory is already beginning to green up, weeks too soon, the towhees scratching for insects stirring in what’s left of last fall’s leaves were not in any way sorry about the early arrival of spring.

A few hundred yards on, my eyes caught on a tree I hadn’t noticed when I was walking in the other direction. About seven feet up the trunk was a knothole, a place where a limb had long ago broken off and let water in to rot the wood. Perhaps a woodpecker had helped to deepen it, too, and given the water more purchase over time. The hole was small, a dark grotto in the thickly grooved bark of the stalwart oak, a hiding place that reached far into the mass of that old tree, and the failing light deepened its darkness. Who knows how many miniature woodland creatures have crept into its crevice over the years to nest, to shelter from the wind and rain, to hide from predators — or to wait for prey.

But a creature lurking inside it is not what singled this knothole out among the hundreds, even thousands, I had passed on the path as night came on. What caught my eye was a cluster of tiny seedlings colored the bright new green of springtime, so bright it seemed to glow in the gloaming. The tender plants were growing in the loam inside the knothole. Far above the ground, a hole made by decay in a living tree had become a cold frame, a natural greenhouse that lets in light and keeps out frost. Life in death in life…

Instead of giving up something for Lent, I’m planning to make a heartfelt offering. In times like these, it makes more sense to seek out daily causes for praise than daily reminders of lack. So here is my resolution: to find as many ordinary miracles as a waterlogged winter can put forth, as many resurrections as an eerily early springtime will allow. Tiny beautiful things are bursting forth in the darkest places, in the smallest nooks and deepest cracks of the hidden world, and I am going to keep looking every single day until I find one.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “One Tiny Beautiful Thing” (NY Times, Feb 23, 2020)


Photo: Mohan Bhat

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Outside I could hear a spring robin, a melancholy sound more searching than song to me.

~ Jessica Francis Kane, Rules for Visiting 


Photo: Robin singing

“It was just a good day.”


Notes:

Sunday Morning

I don’t believe in religion, but the aesthetics of Catholicism have stuck with me. I love the way church incense coats my hair and skin. It is a safe smell, like a blanket… I envy the faithful. There are shrines dotted around the hillsides here in Ireland, places where saints have supposedly appeared and healed the sick. There are wells of holy water and statues in the rocks, huts filled with prayer cards and gardens filled with painted stones in memory of loved ones who have passed away. I like to visit them occasionally. I sit in the stillness and observe people crying and praying and I close my eyes and try to let some of their hope get carried on the air and through my pores. I would like to believe that everything is accounted for, that there is life after this one, and that all of our decisions hold some kind of significance or moral worth. There is weight in religion. It is an anchor of sorts.

~ Jessica Andrews, Saltwater: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 14, 2020)


Notes: Photo: Patryk Sadowski with Church of Ireland

Saturday Morning

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning…

~ W. S. Merwin, from “To the New Year” from Present Company


Photo: Ian Cowe (Perthshire, Scotland)

Oh, I get it.

A superb painter let me take a brush to a canvas that she said she was abandoning. I tried to continue a simple black stroke that she had started. The contrast between the controlled pressure of her touch and my flaccid smear shocked me, physically. It was like shaking hands with a small person who flips you across a room.

~ Peter Schjeldahl, The Art of Dying (The New Yorker, December 16, 2019)


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly

“Thinking about daylight and artificial light I have to admit that daylight, the light on things, is so moving to me that I feel it almost as a spiritual quality. When the sun comes up in the morning – which I always find so marvelous, absolutely fantastic the way it comes back every morning – and casts its light on things, it doesn’t feel as if it quite belongs in this world. I don’t understand light. It gives me the feeling there’s something beyond me, something beyond all understanding.”

Peter Zumthor, Atmospheres


Notes:

  • Photo: Stephen Carroll FotoFiction (via Mennyfox55). Quote via noosphe
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Guess.What.Day.It.Is? (12 sec)


Notes:

  • Camel Farming (like for milk, not for eating Sawsan! Horrors!)
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

 

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call: Up!


Source: “My pupper Louise Billy-Fawn June…Some say she’s still flying to this day” via imgur

Driving I-95 S. With Kerouac.

Yesterday, Sunday afternoon.

No rush hour traffic. No meetings. No conference calls. No deadlines to hit. No work tomorrow.

No lower back pain. No shoulder pain. No bite from cervical spondylosis. Body at peace.

I exit down the ramp onto I-95 South and head home from running an errand.

I’m driving directly into the sunset.  It is of such indescribable beauty that it triggers Mind to think of God. And then, No God. And then, Heaven. And then, no Heaven. And then, my late Brother.  At which point, I kill the heat and lower the window to let the late winter chill fill the cabin. Need to feel alive.

Lori introduced me to “e·phem·er·al” (adj.) /əˈfem(ə)rəl/. Lasting for a very short time. Fleeting. Passing. Short-lived.

And to “e·the·re·al” (adj) /əˈTHirēəl/. Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world. Beautiful. Graceful. Delicate.

And I reflect on how few of these moments, I have. Not chasing. Not rushing. Not anxious. Not obsessed by Next.

And Lori again, this time with “epiph·​a·​ny” (n) /i-ˈpi-fə-nē/.  An illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.

Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have understood what Kerouac meant.  It wouldn’t have registered. But here it is, slowly seeping in.

Bless and sit down…and you will realize you’re already in heaven now. That’s the story. That’s the message.”


Notes:

  • Photo: I-95 S. near Exit 10. Feb 16, 2020. My shot.
  • Post Inspiration: “I used to think it was great to disregard happiness, to press on to a high goal…But now I see that there is nothing so great as to be capable of happiness; to pluck it out of “each moment and whatever happens.” ~ Anne Gilchrist, The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman (Source: Brainpickings)
  • Post Inspiration:  “To love beauty is to see light.” — Victor Hugo
  • Kerouac quote: Thank you Whiskey River.

 

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