Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances.”

17 November 2010

Letters from the Outside, #29

Dark comes quickly now, the Sun not rising that high over the horizon to begin with these days, like the Moon just rolling east to west barely bridging the hogbacks that frame my wide ribbon of sky. Shadow congeals in the leaf litter, draws out of the trees their more cryptic qualities, night breezes bringing that sleepy hollow clatter of imagined phalanges, but the air over the creek to Avalon is cool and sweet, and I stand at the rise of the road between the lea and the grove and am hopeful, and unafraid. To think its almost december again without you.

The wind is strong but almost warm through the valley pulling clotted cloud cover over our heads. The black dog flushes doves from the high willow scrub and my mind is blank as a page, empty as sky between branches. I stand for awhile with the last of the hickory leaves telling their secrets, the tall dry creek grass singing the bardos, just listening. Lavender buds for the walnut tree, for the bone of the doe mouldering down into the bank, preserved in the dough of the road, exploded by the last pass of the tractor that mows. Deer bones and goldenrod burls and only just opening Asclepias with their perfectly filed fishscale seeds that turn to birds in the open air. I salute the knowing of each thing to differentiate seed from feather and release in order to grow.

November has been so gentle with us, these days like May, dry and bright, but today a do not resuscitate called in, clouds like dirty batting between us and the Sun and into the thousand browns of November ive got that call to wander, so we walk farther afield, over the crossroads, and take photos of old hollyhock and empty seedheads and the folks up ahead dont always keep their dogs tied so we turn around, standing for a long while with a white pine I collect soft dense resin from for smudging. I am so desperate for the woods today I stand up against the posted signs like a bowsprit and dream my way up these hills and over these boulders and through the trees over the sweet dry leaves to somewhere there are no cars or x-ray machines, to somewhere that doesnt ask questions it doesnt really want to know. A little clearing in the trees in any season where there is always something new to smell and hear and feel and see, that accepts you as you are, as part of itself indeed.

Ive been collecting more lately, sticks and twigs and stones and feathers, leaves and bones and I discovered that oak galls rattle like dry beans. To go farther, deeper in, I look more closely. The elegant script of grapevine, an eggshell buried under leaves. Burls and branches and mushrooms and moss are gentle professors of a lesson it will take me lifetimes to learn. Running the same route every day and its different from minute to minute I send my spirit out into the world and see what returns in reflection, how my life aligns with the the day, the season, the year.
Rain late in the day and into the evening, rain and buttercake and early to bed, the morning muddy and cold, my hands cramped from damp winds moaning and whistling in the chimney, an aeolian harp of ghosts that begs my listening. I may just go out even today, all the more ruddy and alive in the dim decline after the ides of november unties her knots and releases the flaying winds that blow us into december.

Fell this morning in the slick of mud where the dogs turn the corner to torment passersby and grateful for these cosmic wake-up calls, mercifully gentle reminders of enormous invisible forces that rule us all, Inertia and Friction and Gravity, all the Old Gods we clothe in robes of words so we may see them, apprehend their outline, set them like marble statues of ewer bearing toga models in the victorian boxwood gardens of our ignorance. We share 70% of our genetic material with a sea sponge, and the mud on my clogs is the same as me, after the last fire, mixed with a little rain thats been raining here since before our pioneering ancestrals set naked toes into tall grass.

Enclosed please find a photograph of the red cedar tree I stop at sometimes, to collect a branch for smudging, or smile at the wild vine that twines, spirals and scrolls in simple curves and flourishes, the purple black foxgrapes, their leaves broad and veined and pinked along the edges. I imagine your happy return, wreathed in a chaplet of this ancient symbol of plenty and joy, contented and smiling, Bacchus among gentle maenads. For now the openfaced base of a branch cut away from the tree to help remind you of all the Love and folk who wait through the interminable winter of your absence evergreen with hope and prayer for the ecstatic springtime of your return. 

"And if the question were asked: What is more real, the mundane or the sublime? most would hesitate before they gave an answer. On the one side, details: say, the aftermath of a breakfast, dirty chipped plates in the sink, their rims encrusted with egg yolk. Against this, the unnameable: small aching heart with boasts, what can you know? Outside the cage of everything we ever heard or saw, beyond, outside, above, there lies the real, hiding as long as we shall live, there stretch and trail the millions of names of God burning across the eons. When all through this our end will come before we even know the names of us.

For many the egg yolk prevails." -L.M.

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."

"The perfection of the Absolute where all Becoming stops and pure Being, immutable, timeless, unchanging, hangs forever like a ripe peach upon the bough." -E.A.

"...and the whole incident was incredibly frazzling and angst-rod and filled almost a whole mead notebook and is here recounted in only its barest psycho-skeletal outline." -D.F.W.

"At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards." -H.S.T.

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." -D.T.
"Cometh a voice: My children, hear; From the crowded street and the close-packed mart I call you back with my message clear, back to my lap and my loving heart. Long have ye left me, journeying on by range and river and grassy plain, to the teeming towns where the rest have gone - come back, come back to my arms again. So shall ye lose the foolish needs that gnaw your souls; and my touch shall serve to heal the fretted nerve. Treading the turf that ye once loved well, instead of the stones of the city's street, ye shall hear nor din nor drunken yell, but the wind that croons in the ripening wheat. I that am old have seen long since ruin of palaces made with hands for the soldier-king and the priest and prince whose cities crumble in desert sands. But still the furrow in many a clime yields softly under the ploughman's feet; still there is seeding and harvest time, and the wind still croons in the ripening wheat. The works of man are but little worth; for a time they stand, for a space endure; but turn once more to your mother - Earth, my gifts are gracious, my works are sure. Instead of the strife and pain I give you peace, with its blessing sweet. Come back, come back to my arms again, for the wind still croons in the ripening wheat."
-John Sandes, The Earth-Mother (excerpt, 1918)