Sunday, August 16, 2009

Distant Stars

Waking up this morning in good spirits made me suspicious at first, perhaps a throwback to the times when waking up without a hangover was sufficient reason to rejoice. Those earlier times were times when Friday nights and Saturday nights frequently drew me to places where, primarily, music was played, either by friends or by individuals whose musical expertise I'd come to value. When you're doing something as focused and necessary as listening to music being played and where your admission is built on the consumption of alcohol, you sometimes blurred the thought of what consumption of alcohol would do to you, or perhaps for you. In effect, you didn't drink to forget anything, you drank because you forgot to remember.

These more recent times, waking up in good spirits has, as so many things do in life, a polarity: You wake in good spirits because of something you did, or because of something you did not do, all the while the universe unfolding itself around you as though on a huge loom tended to by an obsessive/compulsive Navajo weaver, her fingers fairly flying over the guide strings. I wake in good spirits if I have the previous day put in some effective work on a project dear to me, the effective meaning I have become immersed in the project in a way that transcends thought, connects two or more dots whirling about my own universe.

After several minutes of feeling good and thinking how much better still I would feel with the smell of espresso forte or Garuda blend wafting through the kitchen, I rose and stumbled forth to cope with my good spirits, aware now of their source of origin. Getting the coffee from the freezer and setting the espresso maker into working condition, I realized I was riding the high of having defined to my satisfaction "over three hundred-fifty words, phrases, and concepts," that quoted part being a portion of the subtitle for my latest work. Now you can see my cause for suspicion. Having defined three-hundred fifty words, phrases, and concepts is likely to give a man a false sense of security, a sense that he knows something.

Standing in a relatively non-urban spot, say the Summerland, CA Greenwell Preserve on a clear Summery night, one can see a myriad of stars, including some he knows from having been shown them or having discovered them by using some helpful template. They are remote stars, so remote that the light emanating from them and traveling to him, even at a speed in excess of Fed-Ex next-day-delivery, has left the star before one had appeared on this planet.

The man seeing light from distant stars is in awed fascination about the immensity about him; the man reading a book or writing a book or teaching others how to interpret the words in that book is equally in the face of immensity. Words have intent as well as meaning. "May I help you?" can be read by an actor in so many ways, depending on the awareness of one's own intent and the relative closeness or distance occupied by another person.

I am a hunter and gatherer, a forager, following the migration paths of roaming words and stories as they make their way through the landscape. Sometimes the going has been difficult, leading me into uncharted terrain. Sometimes I have been forced by circumstances to indulge in agriculture, at which I am not notably skilled, trying to nurture seeds and nuts into some productive form.

Some mornings, I wake in good spirits, until I remind myself of the feel of standing in unalloyed wonder under the myriad of stars, so remote, sending messages of light.

John Keats. Read him and reap:


Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,

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