Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A moment 

Once in a while, in a moment of inattention, I may teeter on the brink of understanding. Not head-understanding, but heart-understanding. Something unexpected lifts my mind out of its weary circles and shows me a place where the patterns of the world shape a different frame, where values and fears and goals and ever-so-important banalities are supplanted by a vision, a certainty, a rightness you always knew to be true but had forgotten. Teeter, out of balance, with the sense of a tipping point almost emerging from the chaos - but then the weight of the old balance reasserts itself. Ever-present threat; dull, numbing dread; gnawing guilt; the questions weigh in once more.

A chance meeting with a total stranger was one such moment last week; finding this poem, posted today on Panhala, is another:


Don't think just now of the trudging forward of thought,
but of the wing-drive of unquestioning affirmation.

It's summer, you never saw such a blue sky,
and here they are, those white birds with quick wings,

sweeping over the waves,
chattering and plunging,

their thin beaks snapping, their hard eyes
happy as little nails.

The years to come -- this is a promise --
will grant you ample time

to try the difficult steps in the empire of thought
where you seek for the shining proofs you think you must have.

But nothing you ever understand will be sweeter, or more binding,
than this deep affinity between your eyes and the world.

The flock thickens
over the roiling, salt brightness. Listen,

maybe such devotion, in which one holds the world
in the clasp of attention, isn't the perfect prayer,

but it must be close, for the sorrow, whose name is doubt,
is thus subdued, and not through the weaponry of reason,

but of pure submission. Tell me, what else
could beauty be for? And now the tide

is at its very crown,
the white birds sprinkle down,

gathering up the loose silver, rising
as if weightless. It isn't instruction, or a parable.

It isn't for any vanity or ambition
except for the one allowed, to stay alive.

It's only a nimble frolic
over the waves. And you find, for hours,

you cannot even remember the questions
that weigh so in your mind.

~ Mary Oliver ~

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