Miracle. All of it. (perfect in a way we aren’t)


Fred is 15 years old and 80 pounds, and since my parents adopted him two years ago, he has never left this yard. When he is dozing in the shade, the old shower trees outside the picket fence that surrounds the yard rain their pink and yellow petals down on him…Fred has nowhere to go and nothing to do, and my parents expect nothing from him.

Every morning, Fred must be fed: a mixture of timothy hay, romaine and protein-rich kibble, which is spread across a baking tray so he can see it easily…Some five hours later, lunch must be provided. Then, at around 6 in the evening, someone has to check that Fred has put himself to bed in his wooden house, where he spends at least 20 minutes bumping and scraping against the walls and the floor: the sulcata, which is native to sub-Saharan Africa, is like most tortoises a burrower by nature; in those arid climates, tortoises will dig deep tunnels in order to access damper, cooler earth. My parents’ neighborhood is humid — it rains every morning and every evening, a light, brief mist that makes the air smell loamy and slightly feral — but Fred is conditioned to dig regardless, his stumpy back legs chafing against the flagstones beneath his house. By 8 p.m., he is silent, sluggish; like all reptiles, Fred is coldblooded, and he will remain in his house until the morning and the return of the sun and its heat…

When the occasional passer-by looks over the fence and sees Fred marching across the yard, his legs churning with the same steady, hardy energy of a toddler delighting in his newfound ability to walk, they are always startled. The surprise is attributable to his size, as well as his shape and color; at first glance, you might mistake him for a large rock, only to then realize that the rock is moving…

To be in the company of a tortoise is to be reminded — instantly, inarticulably — of the oldness of the world and the newness of us (humans, specifically, but also mammals in general). Nature has created thousands of creatures, but most of us have been redrawn over the millenniums: Our heads have grown larger, our teeth smaller, our legs longer, our jaws weaker. But tortoises, some varieties of which are 300 million years old, older than the dinosaurs, are a rough draft that was never refined, because they never needed to be. They are proof of nature’s genius and of our own imperfection, our fragility and brevity in a world that existed long before us and will exist long after we’re gone. They are older than we are in all ways, as a tribe and as individuals — they can live 150 years (and can grow to be 200 pounds). As such, you cannot help feeling a sort of humility around them: They may be slow and ungainly and lumpily fashioned, but they are, in their durability and unchangeability, perfect in a way we aren’t. It is all this that makes them unique and unsettling animals to live with, for to be around them is to be reminded, incessantly, of our own vulnerability…

Fred doesn’t actually need company, or water, or even food; were he at home in Sudan, he would be eating (dry grasses; shrubbery) only every few days…A tortoise knows how to wait. It is another piece of wisdom that comes from being a member of a species that is so very old.

He was, I always thought, an unattractive animal: his eyes might kindly be called beady, his mouth a puckered seam — the writer Jane Gardam once described a tortoise as having “an old man’s mean little mouth” — but over my summer with my parents, I also realized that I was mesmerized by him — even that I respected him. How could I not? An animal that demands so little and craves even less? An animal so unlike the animal I am, one with such a developed sense of self-possession? What secret did Fred know that I did not?

…I liked to sit on the porch steps and watch Fred trundle across the lawn. A few weeks into my stay, we’d grown familiar enough that he would toddle right up to me and stretch out his neck, its skin sagging into crepey pleats, and let me pat his head, closing his little black eyes as I did. In those moments, I found myself talking to him, usually about banal things: asking if he’d enjoyed the hibiscus flowers I’d snapped off a neighbor’s bush; if he could feel the myna birds that occasionally perched on his back. This time, though, I asked him something else, something more intimate, something about what it was like to be the creature he was, what it was like to live without a sense of obligation or pity or guilt — all the things that make being a human so sad and so mysterious and so wondrously rich.

He didn’t answer, of course. But for a moment, he held his position, his head motionless beneath my hand, a short pause in his very long life. And then he moved on — and I stood and watched him go

~ Tanya Yanagihara, excerpts from A Pet Tortoise Who Will Outlive Us All (NY Times, May 17, 2017)


Notes:

  • 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.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Miracle. All of It.

montana-sunset

What would you do
if your sun told you
it was moving on to another galaxy,
a brighter one,
that it will still shine on you but only in secret bursts?

 


Notes:

Miracle. All of It.

elephant-city

If you were an elephant living wild in a western city…

  • You’d have one two-fingered hand swinging from your face – a hand as sensitive as tumescent genitals, but which could smash a wall or pick a cherry. With that hand you’d explore your best friends’ mouths, just for the sake of friendship.
  • you’d smell water two miles away and the flowers at your feet
  • Grumbles from trucks and cabs would shudder through the toxic ground, tickle the lamellar corpuscles in your feet and ricochet up your bones…You’d hear with your feet, and your femurs would be microphones
  • As you walked 10 miles for your breakfast you’d chatter with your friends in 10 octaves
  • You’d have the happiest kind of political system, run by wise old women, appointed for their knowledge of the world and their judgment, uninterested in hierarchy for hierarchy’s sake, and seeking the greatest good for the greatest number.
  • Elephants know, from distances well beyond the reach of ordinary senses, that other elephants were on the way…from 50 miles away
  • Why do elephants seek out other elephants?…because they like other elephants.
  • When a bereaved elephant mother carries her dead baby round on her tusks, or trails miserably behind the herd for weeks, her head hanging down, she’s grieving. When other elephants sit for hours around the body of a dead elephant, they’re mourning. When they cover an elephant corpse with soil or vegetation, or move elephant bones, they’re being reverential. When they cover a dead human, or build a protective wall of sticks around a wounded human, they’re showing an empathic acknowledgment of our shared destiny that we’d do well to learn.
  • You’re a city elephant. You’ll inhabit the city much more intensely and satisfactorily than most of its human denizens. All your senses will be turned fully on. You won’t, like most woefully unsensual humans, using only your eyes.
  • If they’re people, they’re embarrassingly better people than we are. They build better communities; they live at peace with themselves and aren’t, unlike us, actively psychopathic towards other species.
  • Be careful, though. You’re likely to end up dead because someone wants a couple of your teeth.

~ Charles Foster, excerpts from “If You Were An Elephant” in The Guardian (Jan 19, 2017)


Notes:

  • Digital Art Image Credit: Larger than Life by H3NDRIX121
  • 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.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

sleep-tired-fatigue-monday-morning-stephen-shore

“Insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.’

That’s writing poetry, but hey, it’s also getting out of bed every morning.”

Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey, Collected Lectures


Notes: Mary Ruefle Quote: Austin Kleon. Insanity Quote – Albert Einstein. Photograph: Stephen ShoreUncommon Places via this isn’t happiness

 

Pass through my body with a jolt

hand-light-greg-ponthus
I remember when I was a child at Coolin or Sagle or Talache, walking into the woods by myself and feeling the solitude around me build like electricity and pass through my body with a jolt that made my hair prickle. I remember kneeling by a creek that spilled and pooled among rocks and fallen trees with the unspeakably tender growth of small trees already sprouting from their backs, and thinking, there is only one thing wrong here, which is my own presence, and that is the slightest imaginable intrusion—feeling that my solitude, my loneliness, made me almost acceptable in so sacred a place. [….]

 Marilynne Robinson,  When I Was A Child I Read Books: Essays


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.”


Notes:

 

Miracle? All of it. (Feel Me)

hands-dan-stockholm-red-clay

We think of hot and cold, or of textures, silk and cotton. But some of the most important sensing we do with our fingers is to register incredibly minute differences in pressure, of the kinds that are necessary to perform tasks, which we grasp in a microsecond from the feel of the outer shell of the thing. We know instantly, just by touching, whether to gently squeeze the toothpaste or crush the can. […]

Computer chess looks intelligent, but it’s under-the-hood stupid. Reaching and elegantly picking up the right chess piece fluidly and having it land in the right place in an uncontrolled environment—that’s hard. Haptic intelligence is an almost irreproducible miracle! Because people are so good at that, they don’t appreciate it. Machines are good at finding the next move, but moving in the world still baffles them. […]

Our bodies are membranes in the world, with sensation and meaning passing seamlessly through them. Our experience of our bodies—the things they feel, the moves they make, and the textures and the people they touch—is our primary experience of our minds. “The brain is just simply part of our bodies” is how the philosopher Alva Noë often puts it. The truer cartoon, in a sense, would be “Outside In,” with the emotions produced by people bumping against one another. A key to being embodied in this way is tactile experience—what we touch, whom we touch, how many we touch, and why we find them touching. Grasping, hugging, striking, playing, caressing, reaching, scratching backs, and rubbing rears: these are not primitive forms of communication. They are the fabric of being conscious. The work of the world is done by handling it. We live by feel. […]

Later, in a café near the square, Keltner has a cappuccino and, sitting at the counter, watches the variety of human touch as it reveals itself in that unending theatre: fingers flying on the keyboard, hands darting out to make a point, heads turning to underline a joke, bodies slouching and primping and jostling and soliciting attention. An intensity of feeling combines, in our tactile lives, with a plurality of kinds.

Perhaps the reason that touch has no art form is that its supremacy makes it hard to escape. We can shut our eyes and cover our ears, but it’s our hands that do it when we do. We can’t shut off our skins. It is the obscurity of the other senses that makes us enliven them with art: touch is too important to be elaborated or distilled. It just is. What we see we long for; what we hear we interpret; what we touch we are. The art we aspire to is a remote sensation, always out of reach. Life is the itch we are still trying to scratch.

~ Adam Gopnik, excerpts from Feel Me. What the Science of Touch Says About Us


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.”


Image: “By Hand” – Red Clay Sculpture by Dan Stockholm

 

Miracle? All of it. 


Sound of wings.  Let’s just say: Wow!


Notes:

  • Source: Your Eyes Blaze Out
  • 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.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle? All of it.

 

Miracle? All of it. 

lucy-barton-elizabeth-strout

At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn. A view of the horizon, the whole entire circle of it, if you turned, the sun setting behind you, the sky in front becoming pink and soft, then slightly blue again, as though it could not stop going on in its beauty, then the land closest to the setting sun would get dark, almost black against the orange line of horizon, but if you turn around, the land is still available to the eye with such softness, the few trees, the quiet fields of cover crops already turned, and the sky lingering, lingering, then finally dark. As though the soul can be quiet for those moments.

All life amazes me.

~ Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel


Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge.  Her new book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, was selected as An Amazon Best Book of January 2016.  The excerpt above is not representative of the storyline but Strout is a master at story telling.  “My Name is Lucy Barton” is highly recommended.

Check out the book reviews:


Notes:

  • Related Posts: Miracle? All of it.
  • 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.”

Miracle? All of it. 

birds-sun-light

Whirring notes of a varied thrush soak in through the walls of sleep.  Gradually ascending toward consciousness, I struggle to remember where we are, then realize what shore these songs ring out across. As the sky pales toward sunrise, I awaken to a world of dreams.

More varied thrushes join the first, until the woods and thickets chime like a chorus of bells. Other birds blend into the medley: fox sparrow, robin, hermit thrush, winter wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, Townsend’s warbler. Their sounds are trapped and magnified in the forest, made rich and deep in the saturated air – ribbons and lacework of song, shadows and flickers of song, splinters and shards of song, and the whispered secrets of unfamiliar song.

The cove fills up with bird voices, until even the noise of surf fades to irrelevance. And what of the songs beyond this patch of shore? If we hiked down the beach or back through the woods, we would hear the same chorus, repeated endlessly, permeating the air with sweet, mingled phrases. I wonder how many thousands of birds are singing at this moment on the island alone? How many millions along the north Pacific shore? And how many billions in the curved shadow of dawn that lies along the continent’s western flank? Throughout this vast expanse the land breathes with song and pours an anthem of morning into the sky. In the flow of a summer sunrise, the living continent sings.

~ Richard Nelson,  The Island Within


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.”


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. Miracle? All of it. 

gif-driving-illustration

7 am.
Clear. 50° F. Blue skies.
I’m flowing down I-95 S.
I lower the windows and rest my arm on the door frame.
The gusts fill the cabin. November chill.

70s on 7 is spinning Neil Sedaka and Bad Blood.
Doo-ron, doo-ron, di di, dit, do-ron-ron

To hell with these nonsensical lyrics. I plug my own.

I do what I want to do.
I hear want I want to hear.
I See. Thank God I can See.
Good Blood. Good Blood. Good Blood.

And the brain train starts to pull,
the steel couplers snap between the rail cars,
the words begin to slide down the rails.
And here they come. [Read more…]

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