Sunday 30 July 2006
Today marks my fourth week in this grassy glen. What of today? What difference does it make? There are no butterflies. No bumblebees tour the clover. The clouds are moving south to north, unusual for a summer's day. The lake moves, in waves, tiny lines of white and dark, onto my shore. I am covered up today, with a sweater and closed shoes. Still I have goose bumps when the wind blows. The crows are in the treetops, not in the grasses as they've been before. One of my tulip trees is yellowing, as if some bright light were shining up its trunk and catching random leaves.
A lot of return visitors today. Clinton came back to say hello. We talked about lake swimming. He says you can swim on your back to the center of the lake without ever turning to see your line, just by watching the sky.
Larry and Barbara came inquiringly by, desiring a poem. They read from my Crab Creek Review. Larry suggested a feature article on the project. He wants to bring me a poem for review, about trying to pick up a woman in Barnes & Noble. "That was before me," notes Barbara. "But it was about you, Barbara," I want to add.
The lovely wooded knoll to starboard stern, the bald pate, the convention of the crows, is calling. My Sherwood of spruce and pine and fir. The whorls of pliant green on the pine. The silver-gray branches of my fir bend in waxen loops. The spruce's scarred twigs radiating short sharp needles. My green antiques.
Mid-morning counter (10:37 – 10:38am): In one minute 8 walkers, 3 joggers and 1 dog pass. 12 moving bodies pass my stationary glen.
Two helpful women pick my glittering letters up out of the lawn. The letters (p-o-e-t) are catching the wind and blowing off of their nails. Perhaps flat head tacks instead of nails.
The wind adores my water birch. Is it a birch? Or an aspen or poplar, just to the right of my willow, at the shore? Two slim trunks, tall as the willow, with long lines and simple branches, carry tiny ovate leaves into the air. When the willow is steady, the birch flutters and flashes. While the willow weeps, it sways to and fro. The length of its trunk rocks, making circles in the air. Like a cloud of aggravated bees, its leaves hover and tremble and rise. The sound it makes is nothing like the traffic slush. It is neither science nor religion, but simple defiance.
Today is a day for faces. Human faces and the faces of flowers and the round face of the lake. All turn to the light. When the clouds pass and the light catches the ripples and streaks the lake silver.
First Joel. Then Bruce. Then Nancy. Then Rob and Ronald. The six of us engaged in a spirited conversation on T. S. Eliot and Seinfeld, on Jenny Holzer and the mass media. The role of art and culture in structuring knowledge. Our common culture. The surface of things.
Joel is suspicious of the moment. The moment fails in passing. When you call the picture of yesterday into the glass of today, you find a comedy. An illusion. Yesterday meant success. Yesterday found a role. Gravity applied to me. Joel, you must apply yourself to something. The moment is for living. There is no choice. The moment owes itself to the moment. Memory can only fail or better that, but does nothing to alter it. The moment does not change. The body rarely lies. In the body, we learn to go and grow. The body offers grace. Yesterday is a distortion. Yesterday inflates and deflates to the mood of today. Our images and heroes, what once seemed large dwindles away. The most vivid colors fade.
Bruce brought his drawings and poetry today. Trained as an architect, his notebooks are full of renderings of structures. Many I could identify. Then there were the buildings with upward and downward wings. Buildings that exist in his mind. These were the most interesting. He draws trees too, with a balance of heavy and light. Watermarked trunks and ghostly heads. Leaves in dashed suggestion. The poem he shared addresses our practice of circling the lake. The way in which the lake is both void and force. Push and pull.
But this lake, this glacial pool, now petrifying and begging to die, is no axis of the cosmos. There are no gompas to address. We do not drink the water or take spiritual baths here. It takes a Tibetan pilgrim 20 days to move around his most sacred lake. We run this loop in 20 minutes. What is to be gained from this kind of pilgrimage?
Perhaps when the rains set in, I shall take to Sherwood Forest as Robin Hood did. My Nottinghamshire is only 20 trees long, but that's plenty for me. "To range in the wood with bold Robin Hood. And hear the sweet nightingall sing."
No Major Oak centers my wood and all the trees are conifers, but I can play its timber and game. I can dwell with the vert and venison. I am not employed by the crown. John Keats, lead me in, "That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, /And with thee fade away into the forest dim."
It is 12:57 and raining lightly. The bells are ringing clear with the wind in their favor. I have my new found umbrella over my desk and myself, my notebook in my lap. I suppose I could seek shelter under my White Pine. A couple and their two sons are there now, their bicycles propped against the trunk, lying comfortably in the grass.
I need to think about the impending rain. The October rain. About a curtain for my desk, into which I can fit my legs and feet, to keep my body warm. An extension for my umbrella to keep my hands free. A coat of lacquer to protect my desk. Waterproof pouches for my books. The weather will turn. It will most definitely turn.
Now that the rain has stopped, the swallows have come. Racing and swooping onto the lawn, into the clouds of gnats. There is a gathering darkness behind my willow tree. Blackbirds move in the branches and follow the bicyclists with their eyes before swooping into the woods.
Fancy, my mangy squirrel, knows when I have bread. I have olive bread. Fancy, if you do not go away, I will recite you a poem. I've got Roethke's "The Waking" memorized.
Rebecca is sitting on the lawn with Joe. I read her Steven's "Metropolitan Melancholy" and "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle." Rebecca is a dancer and a sketch artist, laid off and looking for work. John just bicycled by and played his harmonica. So many new friends.
I spoke to 24 people today. Service techs and nonfiction writers. Boatyard workers and architects. Eight women and twelve men. Evan, at eleven, was the youngest. A basketball player. We talked about poetry, about the poet's place in society. He was receptive and considerate. What a surprise, to have an eleven year old approach me of his own curiosity.