Walking. With a sound we do not hear that lifts the birds off the water.

I know it’s them. It has to be them. They’re back. The geese that I followed last year.  The Female that nested on the dock. The Male the hovered nearby offering ongoing protection.

I scan through old posts to find that it’s been almost one year to the day, April 11, 2021: “Nest. Where you make it.”

I pull into the park, my eyes hungrily seek them again. It’s been a week now since I’ve spotted them. There’s no nest on the platform. But they swim, quietly, alone, together.  Waiting, I would guess, for the Moment.

Their Moment. Bigger than the madness in Ukraine. Or the toxicity of Washington. Or the gang shootings in Sacramento.

And it’s Ilya Kaminsky from “That Map of Bone and Opened Valves” that seemed to capture how I felt as I stared down at them:

It’s the air.
Something in the air wants us too much.
The earth is still…
On the fourth day I touch the walls,
feel the pulse of the house and I
stare up wordless and do not know why I am alive…
a sound we do not hear
lifts the birds off the water.


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly

Drifting, what am I like?

A gull between earth and sky.

—  Du Fu, (712- 770). “Thoughts While Traveling At Night”, trans. by Vikram Seth, in Three Chinese Poets: Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu


Notes:

  • Photo – DK @ Cove Island Park on March 21, 2022. Quote via antigonick
  • 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.”

Miracle. All of It.

For the purposes of the book, Robin, who desperately believes in the sanctity of life beyond himself, begs his father for these nighttime, bedtime stories, and Theo gives him easy travel to other planets. Father and son going to a new planet based on the kinds of planets that Theo’s science is turning up and asking this question, what would life look like if it was able to get started here? And what would that change in our sense of who we are and where we’ve been dropped down?

And they make this journey across the universe through all kinds of incubators, all kinds of petri dishes for life and the possibilities of life. And rather than answer the question — so where is everybody? — it keeps deferring the question, it keeps making that question more subtle and stranger. And I wasn’t sure where I would go with this ultimately in the book. And one thing I kept thinking about that didn’t make it into the final book but exists as a kind of parallel story in my own head is the father and son on some very distant planet in some very distant star, many light years from here, playing that same game. And the father saying, OK, now imagine a world that’s just the right size, and it has plate tectonics, and it has water, and it has a nearby moon to stabilize its rotation, and it has incredible security and safety from asteroids because of other large planets in the solar system.

Imagine that everything happens just right so that every square inch of this place is colonized by new forms of experiments, new kinds of life. And the father trying to entertain his son with the story of this remarkable place in the sun just stopping him and saying, Dad, come on, that’s asking too much. Get real, that’s science fiction. That’s the vision that I had when I finished the book, an absolutely limitless sense of just how lucky we’ve had it here.

— Richard Powers, from Ezra Klein’s Podcast Interview titled “This Conversation With Richard Powers Is a Gift.” (September, 28, 2021, The New York Times)


Notes: (1) The podcast and/or transcript is long but worthy.  (2) 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. (3) Photo Credit

Miracle. All of It.

Stop. If you’re inside, go to a window. Throw it open and turn your face to the sky. All that empty space, the deep vastness of the air, the heavens wide above you. The sky is full of insects, and all of them are going somewhere. Every day, above and around us, the collective voyage of billions of beings.

…There are other worlds around us. Too often, we pass through them unknowing, seeing but blind, hearing but deaf, touching but not feeling, contained by the limits of our senses, the banality of our imaginations, our Ptolemaic certitudes. […]

They had heard about the butterflies, gnats, water striders, leaf bugs, booklice, and katydids sighted hundreds of miles out on the open ocean; about the aphids that Captain William Parry had encountered on ice floes during his polar expedition of 1828; and about those other aphids that, in 1925, made the 800-mile journey across the frigid, windswept Barents Sea between the Kola Peninsula, in Russia, and Spitsbergen, off Norway, in just twenty-four hours. Still, they were taken aback by the enormous quantities of animals they were discovering in the air above Louisiana and unashamedly astonished by the heights at which they found them. All of a sudden, it seemed, the heavens had opened.

Unmoored, they turned to the ocean, began talking about the “aeroplankton” drifting in the vastness of the open skies. They told each other about tiny insects, some of them wingless, all with large surface-area-to-weight ratios, plucked from their earthly tethers by a sharp gust of wind, picked up on air currents and thrust high into the convection streams without volition or capacity for resistance, some terrible accident, carried great distances across oceans and continents, then dropped with the same fateful arbitrariness in a downdraft on some distant mountaintop or valley plain. […]

On August 10, 1926, a Stinson Detroiter SM-1 six-seater monoplane took off from the rudimentary airstrip at Tallulah, Louisiana. […] [O]ver the next five years, the researchers flew more than 1,300 sorties from the Louisiana airstrip […].

They estimated that at any given time on any given day throughout the year, the air column rising from 50 to 14,000 feet above one square mile of Louisiana countryside contained an average of 25 million insects and perhaps as many as 36 million. [Read more…]

that which you hold holds you

She wondered how the moon, two hundred and thirty-nine thousand miles above the roof, could affect her as profoundly as it did. Being four times larger than the moon, the earth appeared to dominate. Caught in the earth’s gravitational web, the moon moved around the earth and could never get away. Yet, as any half-awake materialist well knows, that which you hold holds you. Neither could the earth escape the moon.

—  Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker: A Novel (Bantam; June 17, 2003)

 


DK with Crescent Moon. Waxing Crescent Phase. 7:38 pm, September 11, 2021. 71° F. (@dkct25 on Instagram)

Sunday Morning

In a May 1952 paper for her religion class, “Religion as I See It,” Plath laid out her “basic tenets”: man was “born without purpose in a neutral universe,” without inherent morals, and was responsible for his own destiny. There was no afterlife. “His mind may live on, as it were, in books, his flesh may continue in his children. That is all.” God was not to blame for man’s evils or triumphs. Plath claimed that she could “never find my faith through the avenue of manmade institutions,” and called herself an “agnostic humanist.” She happily admitted she was a pantheist at heart: “For my security, I resort not to the church, but to the earth. The impersonal world of sun, rocks, sea and sky gives me a strange courage.” For her, the vital world was earthly and present.

— Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf; October 27, 2020)


Notes:

  • Plath was 19 years old in May 1952.
  • Photographs: DK @ Daybreak. Jan 10, 2021. 6:43 to 7:20 am. 28° F, feels like 18° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT. More photos from this morning here.

Lightly Child, Lightly

Life should carry more meaning than the facts would bear. Which facts were these: we occupied a tiny corner of the universe, minor planet orbiting a minor star, in an even tinier corner of cosmological time. Still we wanted all of it, the sun and the moon and the firmament that held them, to be about us. This want had been bred into humanity, selected by nature, so it must have served some purpose once, but it had long outlived its usefulness… What was needed now was to know.

— Christopher Beha, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts: A Novel (Tin House Books, May 5, 2020)


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It was over, he said. It was too late, we had dithered too long. Our society had already become too fragmented and dysfunctional for us to fix, in time, the calamitous mistakes we had made. And, in any case, people’s attention remained elusive. Neither season after season of extreme weather events nor the risk of extinction for a million animal species around the world could push environmental destruction to the top of our country’s list of concerns. And how sad, he said, to see so many among the most creative and best-educated classes, those from whom we might have hoped for inventive solutions, instead embracing personal therapies and pseudo-religious practices that promoted detachment, a focus on the moment, acceptance of one’s surroundings as they were, equanimity in the face of worldly cares. (This world is but a shadow, it is a carcass, it is nothing, this world is not real, do not mistake this hallucination for the real world.) Self-care, relieving one’s own everyday anxieties, avoiding stress: these had become some of our society’s highest goals, he said—higher, apparently, than the salvation of society itself. The mindfulness rage was just another distraction, he said. Of course we should be stressed, he said. We should be utterly consumed with dread. Mindful meditation might help a person face drowning with equanimity, but it would do absolutely nothing to right the Titanic, he said. It wasn’t individual efforts to achieve inner peace, it wasn’t a compassionate attitude toward others that might have led to timely preventative action, but rather a collective, fanatical, over-the-top obsession with impending doom. It was useless, the man said, to deny that suffering of immense magnitude lay ahead, or that there’d be any escaping it. How, then, should we live?

Sigrid Nunez, What Are You Going Through: A Novel (Riverhead Books, September 8, 2020)


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I want to reinstate a respect for soil. We must touch the soil. How many times do we touch our mobile phone every day? Maybe 100 times. How many times do we touch the soil? Hardly ever. We must give dignity to peasants, farmers and gardeners. We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.

Satish Kumar, from “The Link Between Soil, Soul and Society” (The Guardian)


Notes: Quote via Liquid Light and Running Trees. Photo – Soil by Alexandra

Sunday Morning

“Mansfield’s last note, from an unfinished story, ends with an observation that only the dying Mansfield would make: “It was an exquisite day. It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.”

~ Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life


Photo: “Clear Day” by Zoo Human

She always bats 1.000

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.”

Do not mess with Mother Nature.

Thomas L. FriedmanWith the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature  (NY Times, March 31, 2020)


Photo: Economic Times

Sunday Morning

No opera, no gilded columns, no wine-dark seats…
no altos, no basses
and violins sobbing as one; no opera house,
no museum, no actual theatre, no civic center–
and what else? Only the huge doors of clouds
with the setting disc through which we leave and enter…
No masterpieces in huge frames to worship,
on such banalities has life been spent
in brightness, and yet there are the days
when every street corner rounds itself into
a sunlit surprise, a painting or a phrase,
canoes drawn up by the market, the harbour’s blue…
So much to do still, all of it praise.

~ Derek Walcott, from “No Opera” in White Egrets


Notes:

  • Poem Source – Cha Journal Blog. Image: Via Mennyfox55
  • Excerpt from “‘White Egrets” book review by Tom Payne in The Telegraph: “But some poems startle with their directness and truth; the images connect, and the ebbing tide leaves some real treasure on the beach. Among a handful of pearls is a love letter to his home, modest as Ithaca, with resonances of the poet’s life.”

Sunday Morning

Recognizing the dignity of each living thing, mobile or fixed, insect, animal, tree, or mushroom, has broadened my love for this world and diminished my need for a god in heaven. We have multitudes of gods on Earth.

Terry Tempest WilliamsErosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Photo Credit

Lightly child, lightly

This is the bleached-bone veritas of the Colorado Plateau. We stand on the edge of an erosional landscape looking out. The curvature of the Earth becomes our home range. The silence before us is time. We feel how small we are in the embrace of geologic relief… Watching light captured and held within the pastel pinnacles of Bryce Canyon in shades of pink, orange, and yellow—all these weathered places show us we are merely humans, soft, humble, and temporary.

~ Terry Tempest WilliamsErosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Notes:

  • Photo: Colorado Plateau by tlswan2
  • 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.”

Miracle. All of it.


Notes:

  • An astronaut onboard the @ISS captured this last February, focusing the camera on the 100 mile (160 kilometer) wide Irrawaddy river delta — the largest river in Burma (Myanmar) and one of the country’s most important transportation arteries. (NASA on Instagram via this isn’t happiness)
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: 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.”

Riding Metro North. A Voyeur.

6:25 pm train home. Tuesday. It’s been a very long day.

I’m 8 minutes early. I find my aisle seat, set my bag down, remove my coat and place it on the luggage rack overhead. I close my eyes, and pause. My right hand clutches my iPhone – activity is frantic inside the device. News. iMessages. Emails. Work. All churning forward. Just let it be for a moment. Rest. Let it be.

My eyes remain closed. Thoughts flicker, and latch onto Jack Kornfield’s “Your Mind: Friend or Foe” as he passes a cautionary road sign, “Your own tedious thoughts the next 200 miles.

I hear footsteps. She settles one seat up and to my left. She slouches in her seat, knees up against the seat in front of her.

She scratches items on a yellow note pad with a 2H pencil, her to-do list for tomorrow.
List fills, too far away for me to see details. Neat, on the lines. Cursive.

She then grabs her smartphone. Pans through a long list of emails. Then text messages. Then back to emails. Then back to her yellow note pad, to jot down another to-do.

She puts down her phone, and stares out the window. Hair, shoulder length, rests on a light, Patagonia windbreaker.  Clean, white sneakers, must have a long walk from the office to the train. Her heels tucked in her bag.

She lifts her phone, and scans more emails. Sends a few more text messages. Flicks through a few web sites. For some reason, you can’t take your eyes off this woman, her show, her frenetic activity in her private space. A peeping voyeur. [Read more…]

Smell the earth

Starting a novel is opening a door on a misty landscape;

you can still see very little but you can smell the earth

and feel the wind blowing.

~ Iris Murdoch, from her debut novel: Under the Net


Notes: Quote via punlovsinPhoto by Arend Ruizendaal with Reading.

 

Sunday Morning

the mist
moved slowly across
the field held down
by stones, stitch of trees
what colour was the mist
x-ray grey
how still was it
the iv drip before it falls…

I stopped the car to watch it cross the field
black earth breathing its winter breath…

the field disappeared in the mist
still the bison stood

life can become so still

the iv drip
before it falls

earth of the body
where a life grows

the stillness between silence
and muteness…

– Anne Michaels, from “Bison” in All We Saw: Poems


Notes: Poem from Whiskey River. Photo: Winter Morning Mist by Sébastien Mamy

Miracle. All of it. (This Year on Earth)

In 2018,

  • Earth picked up about 40,000 metric tons of interplanetary material, mostly dust, much of it from comets.
  • Earth lost around 96,250 metric tons of hydrogen and helium, the lightest elements, which escaped to outer space.
  • Roughly 505,000 cubic kilometers of water fell on Earth’s surface as rain, snow, or other types of precipitation.
  • Bristlecone pines, which can live for millennia, each gained perhaps a hundredth of an inch in diameter.
  • Countless mayflies came and went.
  • More than one hundred thirty-six million people were born in 2018, and more than fifty-seven million died.
  • Tidal interactions are very slowly increasing the distance between Earth and the moon, which ended 2018 about 3.8 centimeters further apart than they were at the beginning. As a consequence, Earth is now rotating slightly more slowly; the day is a tiny fraction of a second longer.
  • Earth and the sun are also creeping apart, by around 1.5 centimeters per year. Most of the change is due to changes in the sun’s gravitational pull as it converts some of its mass into energy by nuclear fusion.
  • The entire solar system traveled roughly 7.25 billion kilometers in its orbit about the center of the Milky Way. This vast distance, however, is only about 1/230,000,000th of the entire orbit.
  • There were two lunar eclipses and three partial solar eclipses, each a step in the long gravitational dance making up the roughly 18-year saros cycle. During one saros cycle, eclipses with particular characteristics (partial, total, annular) and a specific Earth–Moon–Sun geometry occur in a predictable sequence; at the end, the whole thing starts again. This pattern has been repeating for much longer than humans have been around to see it.

I like knowing these bits of cosmic context because they link me to a larger world. I can echo the words of Ptolemy: “Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.”

Mary Hrovat, from “This Year on Earth” (3 Quarks Daily, December 24, 2018)

Don’t miss the rest of her essay here: This Year on Earth


Notes:

  • Photo: Phys.org.
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: 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.

Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and beauty of the world.  And it’s breathtaking…

Ever since we discovered that Earth is round and turns like a mad spinning-top, we have understood that reality is not as it appears to us…

We are made up of the same atoms and the same light signals as are exchanged between pine trees in the mountains and stars in the galaxies…

What are we, in this boundless and glowing world?

We have a hundred billion neurons in our brains, as many as there are stars in a galaxy, with an even more astronomical number of links and potential combinations through which they can interact. We are not conscious of all of this. “We” are the process formed by this entire intricacy, not just by the little of it of which we are conscious…

Lucretius expresses this, wonderfully: . . . we are all born from the same celestial seed; all of us have the same father, from which the earth, the mother who feeds us, receives clear drops of rain, producing from them bright wheat and lush trees, and the human race, and the species of beasts, offering up the foods with which all bodies are nourished, to lead a sweet life and generate offspring . . .

Life is precious to us because it is ephemeral…

~ Carlo Rovelli, excertps from Seven Brief Lessons on Physics


Notes:

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