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

22 February 2011

Letters from the Outside, #34

Cold and I listen to Pascal Comelade. low pressure system fills the house with smoke, everything smoulders, im looking forward to cured stovewood burning hot and bright and clean. I walk to the post office in arctic sunlight, stew in the slowcooker, bread rising on the woodstove. I send tithonia, calendula and delphinium seeds to my friend Zuzu. Cowboy and I are looking forward to this years garden. Each year its a new adventure in the Old Earth. Spring is coming in, the moon waxes. Four face cords and ive been stacking and even an hour of it makes my hands weak and faraway, a roving bite along the high hogback of my pelvic bone. The mud is coming, blood of Spring. My offering, my utmost Equanimity in this house of four-leggeds and shoes. The fingers itch for digging, the salt smell of the Waking Earth. Peas foraged, the heady gift for weeding beneath the lavender and sage. Speckled early lettuce. One fine radish, with salt and butter. The flowers. The sitting in the shade of the steady maple, watching the flowers and the butterflies and the birds. The sibilance of those tall cottonwoods, or whatever they are, my treehouse dreams. Bare feet in the grass. I understand a temperate climate. The faithful changes Life Death Rebirth brings. A wheel turning behind a painted veil. Knitting that rabbit, but I can sense the waxing year turning my comfort and industry toward the Earth.

Amid eggshells and wooden spoons I eat the bits of pear that didnt make it into the nutmeg muffins at the moment baking behind me while I read about the JFK inauguration ball in Vanity Fair. Entirely readable and lots of little portals like I like...”Arthur Krock – the Times columnist who had first come to Washington to cover the administration of William Howard Taft – had persuaded an adventurer in a Volkswagen to drive up onto the sidewalk and drive him a short distance to the Metropolitan Club.” A centerfold spread of black-and-white candid photos of Tony Curtis, Milton Berle, Frank Sinatra putting on his socks, later embracing Ella Fitzgerald in her gold ring and cloche. Jimmy Durante. A very smooth Nat King Cole. So theres dishes to do. The day goes. Nonetheless this false thaw, one little bird venturing a few sweet sliding notes, the sound of the creek rushing, the hum of the pump. I adhere rather loosely to the idea of eating in season, and try never to eat a tomato I dont grow, but this 37 degree heatwave has me craving something you cant exhume from a root cellar. Friday was fifty and as many miles an hour the wind would blow, roaring around the houses and pushing us toward the centerline, fierce weather on the full moon, wise and gentle bend of the oaks, and the maple held. The plowed fields dark and saturated in their first exposure. Saturday morning five new inches of snow on the woodpile. I find a blue marble in the doorway of the laundromat where I went to wash the counterpane and encounter the man who helped ferry folk across the creekbed at our wedding. He talks horses. We are both wearing gumboots and dirty jeans, funny hats crafted from natural fibers. I see my first mink, sleek and lithe on the ice of the boatlaunch.

 Most of us, I believe, view the world, and our lives in it, through one dominant lens. For the ferryman, its Time. For me, its Space. Its more Where, than When. Pearl Street, The White House, The Farm. I wanted to study how geography affects religion when I got into college. What does it say that my Wish is the Woods? Blue light and night rising up from the floor, the stones and moss and water and the one scent that has always carried with it the key to my only fleeting peace. Evergreen and loam and creekwater. Apparitions on the gullyrises. Birdsong. Being out in the world is always an adventure I manage best in little chapters, Cowboy and I and the sincere heart and the schtick of it all, being honest about the inanity, and discovering that there can be times when you ask a quiet room full of strangers “is this diana ross?” and someone answers “its gloria gaynor.” I put myself down three times in that little room that seemed like some Delphic lair with the hypnotic incantations and the shifting lenses and three remarkably palpable silences met my denials with a sort of sledge effect, making it clear that the nature of those remarks would meet with no purchase, an impenetrable deflection. This was a quantum leap on the road to my recovery. And this is why the World of Man is only digestible for me in little bites, each one dense as the moon, each interior its own culture, each person the product of infinite historical variables, emitting and absorbing Illumination, each one a messenger, a reflection, and this significance carries a weight, grainsacks or kindling to be ported, sorted, and brought through to bread, or fire.
"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)