Saturday, September 7, 2013

Vision Quest

Sometimes the evening or night skies seem to crack open with flashes of that sudden, extraordinary force known as lightning.  Often, the lightning appears with a growl of thunder.  You stand transfixed, telling the cosmos it has got your attention, and you cannot help but revert to that selfish aspect of individuality where you wonder what the cosmos is trying to show you or, perhaps, what it wants of you.

Moments later, after you have wondered these questions, you return to being the tiny drop of water, recognizing the ocean.

This is the only productive posture.  You believe that individuals who see themselves larger than the cosmos and larger than they are run the risk of becoming an unintended protagonist in a humorous story.  A salient quality of humor is to show such persons being reduced to proper, human size.

In your travels to the interiors of your inner landscape or the perimeters of your external neighborhoods, the goal is to collect and store images you will later attempt to collect.  Being a citizen on this planet has responsibilities.  The least you can do is take the time to look for beauty, to make decisions, to try to understand how some of the many things about you work, to know if the birds in the estuary are ducks or loons, perhaps even to understand the difference between a rabbit and a hare.  

This is not mere rhetoric or hyperbole.  One of the most beautiful lines of poetry you ever heard is to be found in a poem by John Keats, in The Eve of St. Agnes.   He is telling us how bloody awful cold it is.  "And numb the herdsman's fingers as his rosary he told." You can see those chapped, cold hands, telling the beads.  Then comes the line you so love:  "The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass."  

As you gloss over these images you've found, listening to their stories--or listening to the stories they tell you, because images are just as capable of telling lies as people are--you enjoy trying to fit them into stories of your own.

You've seen any number of lightning flashes in numerous parts of the world where you've visited.  From a course you took in astronomy, you recall that there are three essential types of lightning, those within a cloud, those from cloud to cloud, and the kind that hit you, lightning from cloud to earth.

Of course the lightning that hit you was not the from-cloud-to-earth kind, rather the splendid force between the things you visit and see and save, each packed away in its own energy, each sufficient as it is, in a way like those ecosystems in a bottle you were used to making in grammar school.  A pleasant looking jug or large jar, sever fish, some sand, rock, plants.  Suddenly a small world, able to support the fish, provide air and yes, even interest for the fish.  One of the earliest things you can remember writing was which you thought was more important, an ecosystem with fish, or an ant farm.

At the time you wrote it, you thought it was difficult to get too excited about either ants or fish, but since you had to make a choice, you thought you'd rather a fish for a pet than a bunch of ants.

From time to time, when a line of ants appears outside your back door, you recall this sentiment and realize you may have shorted the ants when you were in grammar school.  These ants outside your door do not seem to want entry into your kitchen.  Perhaps this is a judgment.  Ants seem to have a social genome that is strong on agenda.  You pause to watch these ants, wondering whence they came, where they will go, what agenda of theirs, hidden to you, is no secret to them?

You are struck by the lightning of secret connections between things, by the mysteries of whether the ducks in the estuary are mallards or teals or pin tails or maybe loons.

You are struck by the heartbreakingly beautiful way a person walks or the sudden playful impulse of a smile.  Why does your cat spend so much time on the top shelf of your bathroom, amidst your shaving cream, lotion, brush?  Does a spider, which has eight legs, sound like two horses walking toward you

What mysterious attractions are out in the world and why, when they connect for you, do they create lightning strikes that char your whiskers and brows, cause your skin to tingle, affect your breathing, and keep you up nights, writing so quickly you have scarce time to get the words spelled correctly?

Is this the lightning of love?

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