Week III: Text-only version
The great sea has sent me adrift.
It moves me like a reed in a great river.
Earth and the great wind move me,
have carried me away, and moved
my inner parts with joy. Uvavnuk,
an Iglulik Eskimo woman, 19th c.
Walking the World: Making the Image Whole
Every mechanically reproduced image of a natural world, whether it be
the photograph of a flower, or the recording of a violin, must to a certain
extent be recomposed by the viewer or listener in order to bring it back to life.
The truer the reproduction, the less we will have to do this.
In a way, this is rather like healing the image, which of course constitutes
a profound reversal of how, in the thousands of years we have walked the land
as a species, the sights and sounds of Nature have generally, without any
special effort on our part, soothed and comforted us.
This largely unconscious ability to 'make the image whole' does however
presuppose a long-standing intimate relationship with the original, or at least
a certain familiarity with, for example, actual plants or real acoustic instruments.
Tragically, children who are for whatever reason denied this primary relationship
with things natural can only with great difficulty recreate pictures or sounds
in this way. Theirs has become in part a 2nd-hand world of ghost images
projected on the proverbial walls of a high-tech cave.
even trees notice
there's a fence
Small, quiet pond with
roundwater drop of leaf,
no need of stem.
See it rise...
into lance, feather,
perfected heart-shaped form.
Oak leaves, white, black,
red to scarlet and bur --
to prickly bristles
bringing out the myriad accents
and turns of a phrase.
Perhaps leaves fall simply
to carry away all that we
thought we needed to say.
And perhaps trees in this
way purify themselves each
year knowing that there is
no thought so large that it
cannot be written on
the smooth, plain surface
of but a single
In both natural space and time, the most difficult of all tasks
is to find and know the living centers. (Click on image to enlarge)
The Revolving Door
A man and a women meet, the
edge of two worlds, the north and south
faces of a revolving door.
The transparency of the glass
makes it clear to them both the need
for complementary intentions,
the necessity of moving
together -- his in is her out,
as the dance completes itself, of
itself, and the revolving door,
now empty, swings round its middle,
as faces turn and eyes meet, once more.
A Gathering Place
In a far
opaque and crusty with old manure,
the messy backyard
of the barn's windowsill. Dark. Still,
a gathering place
of the preterite,
empty, broken accessories,
of a farmer's life;
cleaning time, a place
a bit out of reach,
but still too close, to put out of
For a Friend and a Crow
Mid-morning, sitting in new
snow with an old friend.
An eagle flies by with a crow
on its tail.
Above, below -- with two begins
the movement of our world.
Per un Amico e una Cornacchia
Tarda mattina, seduto sulla
neve fresca con un vecchio amico.
Un aquila vola con una cornacchia
Sopra e basso -- due cose, inizia
cosi il movimento del nostro mondo.
(This is an occasional poem,
composed upon the request of a good friend,
and translated together with him.
At the time, I was on a solo traverse
of the south ridge of the Italian Alps.)
Waystations (Urbi et Orbi)
Empty, there's no one here...
Signs of former empire, the simple
stations of a pilgrim's life;
A painting on the back wall flaking
...a powerful robed man
with a staff, child on his
shoulders, crosses the river,
images, names, the sounds of immense
bells slowly fading into the distant past...
An iron cross stands guard over
rows of melted candles;
A lock and chain keep the dogs
out at night.
Watching the fall rain turn to
snow, thinking about the state
of the world.
(Gran Paradiso, the Alps, at 1300 meters:
a seven week journey from Rome.)
To the side of a cascade of little waterfalls,
the yellow-golden leaves of a mountain ash
drop one by one into the clear pool where the
water gathers itself together and rests a while.
A hermit might build a hut here simply
to count the numbers of their passage.
Sitting, watching, working out the intricacies
of a lute's tablature, pondering how the
turning, tuning downwards of but a single string
shifts our gaze from the steady rise of soaring
birds and blue skies to the sound of a minor
key's slow, continuous descent into earth.
Falling, everything falling. After a sharp
freeze, the avalanche alders of the north-facing
slopes give up their dry, dark brown leaves in
but a single day. Branches growing along
the ground, then steeply rising like a strung bow,
they're ready to disappear under six feet of winter snow.
Along the path where no one has been for weeks,
the sweet, rusty fragrance of the alpine rose brings
a muted echo of solstice pink. Without a trace of wind
or even a nutcracker about, the needles of the larch
forest tumble round and around themselves in slow motion,
falling to the mossy floor below. November, that time of year
when the lost, longed for strophes of verses naturally
rise within us on the sound of low plucked strings.
What chord might give back the movement of the
black lichen's meticulous growth on its granite rock?
The farmer leaves the kids home with the pumpkins and goes
with his wife on weekend trips to Paris and New York to
buy chestnuts and find out, while the professor takes over the hogs
in the barn, chews on lean bacon and asks the same question.
Two old crows, always the same couple, one with
a few feathers missing from its left wing, fly the
same trajectory every day, slightly right of center
valley, West then East;
They gave up trying to figure out the fingering
to the song long ago. The furry marmot watches
and blinks his eyes for the last time from his lookout
rock before retreating into his winter hole, as an eagle,
wings tightly closed, rests, far above on its cliff.
A single car, lost perhaps, shifts gears along the one
lane road that feels its way up the misty mountain, all listening,
listening for the sound of that chord which forever falls.
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