by Hayden Carruth
Well, it's still the loveliest meadow in all Vermont.
I believe that truly, yet for years have hardly
seen it, I think, having lived too long with it -
until I went to clean up the mess of firewood
left by the rural electric co-op when they cut
my clump of soft maples "threatening" the lines,
this morning, the last day of September. My maple leaves
were spilled in the grass, deep crimson. I worked
with axe and chainsaw, and when I was done I sat
on my rock that had housed my fox before the state
executed him on suspicion of rabies, and then
I looked at my meadow. I saw how it lies between
the little road and the little brook, how its borders
are birch and hemlock, popple and elm and ash,
white, green, red, brown, and gray, and how my grass
is composed in smooth serenity. Yet I have hankered
for six years after that meadow I saw in Texas
near Camp Wood because I discovered an armadillo
there and saw two long-tailed flycatchers
at their fantastic mating dance in the air.
Now I saw my meadow. And I called myself all kinds
of a blind Yankee fool - not so much for hankering,
more for the quality of my looking that could make me
see in my mind what I could not see in my meadow.
However, I saw my serviceberry tree at the edge
of the grass where little pied asters, called Farewell-
to-Summer, made a hedge, my serviceberry still limping
from last winter's storms, and I went
and trimmed it. The small waxy pointed leaves
were delicate with the colors of coral and mallow
and the hesitating blush of the sky at dawn.
When I finished I stepped over my old fence
and sat by my brook on moss sodden from last night's
rain and got the seat of my britches wet.
I looked at my brook. It curled over my stones
that looked back at me again with the pathos
of their Paleozoic eyes. I thought of my
discontents. The brook, curled in its reflections
of ferns and asters and bright leaves, was whispering
something that made no sense. Then I closed my eyes
and heard my brook inside my head. It told me -
and I saw a distant inner light like a flash
of a waterdrop on a turning leaf - it told me
maybe I have lived too long with the world.
I want to make a T-shirt (I'm looking at you, friends with screen-printing supplies) that says: Imagination can save a life!
I talk about imagination a lot, but it's important to me - I guess because imagination, and humor, and seeing beyond the confines of the apparent world - dreaming up scenarios that feel better to me, and then making them happen - all feel like safety zones. More than that, they feel like vitamins, like giant nourishing soul injections. They feel like the point of living, to me.
And Hayden Carruth says all this so much better than I say it.
Last night, I walked down to the Poudre River in town and sat on its noisy banks. The moon will be full on Friday, and it cast its soft, pre-dark light over the cooling prairies and gargantuan trees, reminding me of ancient landscape paintings, the light soft and lush and beyond my normal eyes.
I sat listening to the water bubble over the rocks and thought: this is here all the time. When I am at home, bored and over-heated, when I am squabbling with my ideas for the future, when I am watching a movie inside on the couch - this water is here burbling over the rocky bottom of its bed, rushing forward, whispering and singing like this.
It's kind of a small miracle to stop and listen to water and trees, and watch tiny black birds flip and turn like kamikaze acrobats over dark water. There is so much sanity in the world - it is just a lot bigger than the human mind. And it takes a little bowing to, to reap it.
My husband and I once watched The Onion Movie, which is hilarious and ridiculous and offensive, as you might imagine. A few sketches from the movie have stuck with us - most notable the alcoholic who returns from rehab with a "Nightmarish Addiction to Life," which has him ecstatically sniffing flowers and running through sunny fields with his arms open wide. Tim teases: this is me, all the time.
But, um, do you know how fun it can be to ecstatically sniff flowers?
In other news, I have just finished Jeaneatte Winterson's divine book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? All you writers and language-obsessed loves out there...I don't even know where to begin! Read it. Read it, I say. It's dark and funny and powerful and gorgeous. Most of all, it is a testament to how hardship can drive us back into the corner of ourselves, stitching us forever into what matters to us.
A little taste:
"So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say how it is.
"It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place."
Finally, I want to confess my adoration for Mark Duplass, an actor and writer (and director?) and former band-member, who has been in two recent movies: Your Sister's Sister, and Safety Not Guaranteed. We watched Safety Not Guaranteed on Sunday night and it charmed my little heart right into its lush rainy Washington state-setting. Hooray for indie films, Seattle-obsessed film-makers, and the rainy season (which I know nothing about in Colorado. Sigh).
Love to all, keep playing!
Also just saw "Safety Not Guaranteed"--and I think ending on that is a nice tie back to your opener of "Imagination Can Save a Life!" I dare say that was one of its primary themes. Definitely lots of good stuff happening in indie cinema at the moment! Have you seen "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"? I think it also plays on that theme of the importance of vision/imagination, but in a very real and courageous way. (OH! And "Beasts of the Southern Wild"---which isn't exactly about that... it's more mythological existential meditation...but it's a stunning *stunning* MUST SEE if you haven't already.)ReplyDelete
Meanwhile, I will put your "Why Be Happy..." book in my queue. (How is your Proust coming? I struggled with it to the extent that I left it home to be revisited in mid-September--is it like running when once you get past a certain point you start to think "ohh... this isn't so trying as I first thought...in fact, I'm starting to relish this..."??)
There *is* so much sanity in the world. And your line about the black birds took me to that river & let me smell the water into which they were hurdling. We could make an indie doc short about that xx
You have gone and done it now - you called my Proust bluff! Alas, it does get easier as you go on, but I have stalled around page 86. I dove into your Martha Beck book (sweet and fresh) and then, what can I say, summer overtook my soul and made me feel like I was in the middle of a long, hot, never-ending Proustian sentence.
Thank you for asking this question - and incidentally keeping me honest! I am off to the mountains with nothing but Proust and - that logical pairing - Susie Orman. :)
"A tough life needs a tough language - and that is what poetry is." I love this so much. Reminds me of a--yep, you guessed it--episode of On Being about poetry. Here's the blurb: "Poetry is something many of us seem to be hungry for these days. We're hungry for fresh ways to tell hard truths and redemptive stories, for language that would elevate and embolden rather than demean and alienate. Elizabeth Alexander shares her sense of what poetry works in us — and in our children — and why it may become more relevant, not less so, in hard and complicated times."ReplyDelete
It's a really, really great listen.
In other news, I wanna read that book!!!
OH and the ep. is called "Words that Shimmer."ReplyDelete
You're welcome! ;)
I'm doin it. We have a ton of apples that need to be made into something. Pies, Poetry, Podcasting - here I comeDelete
hahaha! Thank you - I guess? :)ReplyDelete