On This Umbilical Earth

Gratitude and I had an argument, then went walking together, that morning when I felt a kinship with those turtles sunning themselves on a log.

The wisdom of not being industrious truly belongs to them, but I picked up a strand of it as if by osmosis or magnetism.

To cast aside all that seems necessary at a given time – a choice not to be confused with squandering.

Given, as is all our time.  Every scrap of it a shining gift, a new blessing, another last chance to take up a little space, to take up some room

on this umbilical earth.

 

Above Taughannock Falls

Viewed from the sky, the circle in which you expedite your daily life is a speck on the surface of the planet. But that doesn’t mean you’re any less the center of the universe than anything else. We are all whiling away the What Has Been, the What Is, and the What Is To Be, hurtling forward through our small lives with all their small details.

Maybe that’s why I was so relieved when, the other day, you coaxed me out of the car to walk through a tropical downpour, the defibrillator of thunder charging my arrhythmia back to life. How does apprehension unfold into exhilaration so seamlessly?

If given the chance, it can, and it will.

I followed you to the rain-ripened creek and we sank in, the seam of the water rising to meet our throats. You sang a lullaby, siren-like, and I – half drunk sailor – was caught by it. We held each other beneath the soft water and the rain left us. The sun returned, its dazzle commanding our attention as steam rose from stones. A billowing thunderhead shifted against the blue, reminding you of New Mexico’s big sky.

Emerging, we drip-dried below whispering treetops. A rustling wind made friends with us then, a wind whose kind voice suggested I view all things with sleepy eyes. Standing there with you, I thought I might be riding some sort of stationary current, aware of external motion from the vantage point of perfect stillness.

Standing there with you, I leapt from the fire of doing into the cradle of not-doing, the two places rubbing together and making sparks.

 

Cliff Walk

There is a path in Newport, Rhode Island, named the Cliff Walk.  It stretches for three miles between rocky seashore and a string of grand mansions – architectural remnants of the city’s gilded age.

The mansions were of little interest to me.

What did interest me was the invisible stack of sandstone beneath my feet, neighbor to granite studded with pink crystals, and the view once had by wealthy aristocrats in their alcohol-drenched stupors, and staring dumbly at the sea, at a wave that came walking down its watery aisle like a bride before breaking like a pearl containing clouds.

A pair of children, speaking French, skipped to the edge of the cliff’s crown, seized the railing and fell silent, and at the same moment I noticed a small brown mouse, dead alongside the path.

 

These Rising Rivers

My heart moves so fast that it almost has me scrambling after it.  But no, we are connected – it can only run so far before it’s left with no choice but to wait for me, jerked to a halt, a dog reaching the end of its leash.

That said, once I’d seen you off safely and on time, I went back to the bed you slept in, still warm with the aliveness of your body, and I wept and wept.

The whole history of my life stood before me: a spiral, a cathedral, dirt road, river.  A sacred calendar, its entirety known only to me, only thought of as sacred by me.

I can withstand the sun and wind, I thought to myself.  I can withstand the intangible, the horror, the splendor.  But not this rain, these rising rivers – Oh Transcendent Energy, haven’t I seen enough rain?

 

Listless

Every day I make a list of things that need to be done, things that might slip through the fine mesh net of short-term memory.

Today, the list contained more items than I could possibly accomplish.  So I did what you might expect – I pushed it down into the folds of my left-hand pocket, tightened up my shoes and went walking instead, to space out and observe a planet that happens to be a perfect distance from this particular sun in order for life to exist and thrive.  I took along a pen and paper, because when you’re panning for gold, you never know what you might find.

Later, when I empty my pockets for the day, I’ll look over the list again, to see what must be transferred to tomorrow’s list.  Some items might no longer ring with such importance, and will simply be discarded.  And of course I’ll need to consider what standing I’m in with the relatives I failed to call, friends I didn’t message, professional contacts I never emailed, bills I didn’t pay, appointments I missed.

Then I’ll go outside and watch the last strands of milky light recede beyond the treetops, revealing steadfast Jupiter like a celestial anchor.  And a little ways over in the sky, the ember of Mars rocking in a luminous cradle.

And then, as if that isn’t enough, the fireflies will come out with their earthbound constellation of flashing lamps, and I’ll hear the neighbor cooking dinner through her open kitchen window.