Saturday, March 12, 2016

March 12: Mental Ramble, Being a Pilgrim, Jonathan Johnson, "To Whoever May Care for me Dying"

I am sitting under a sycamore by Tinker Creek.  It is early spring, the day after I patted the puppy.  I have come to the creek--the backyard stretch of the creek--in the middle of the day, to feel the delicate gathering of heat, real sun's heat, in the air, and to watch new water come down the creek.  Don't expect more than this, and a mental ramble.  I'm in the market for some present tense; I'm on the lookout, shopping around, more so every year.  It's a seller's market--do you think I won't sell all that I have to buy it?  Thomas Merton wrote, in a light passage in one of his Gethsemane journals:  "Suggested emendation in the Lord's Prayer:  Take out 'Thy Kingdom come' and substitute "Give us time!'"  But time is the one thing we have been given, and we have been given to time.  Time gives us a whirl.  We keep waking from a dream we can't recall, looking around in surprise, and lapsing back, for years on end.  All I want to do is stay awake, keep my head up, prop my eyes open, with toothpicks, with trees.  (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pp. 85-86)

I love that Annie Dillard simply warns in this paragraph "[d]on't expect more than this, and a mental ramble."  In some ways, I view her book as a pre-blog blog.  It is her, writing about her daily life at Tinker Creek.  A year-in-the-life of a pilgrim.  And I love that she calls herself a pilgrim, as if she is heading toward some holy shrine, is on her way to Canterbury.  And, along the way, she tells stories, lets her mind wander and ramble, like the creek.

I have nothing earth-shattering to discuss this morning.  My family is gone for a few days.  I am living a solitary existence, like Dillard.  Unlike Dillard, however, I don't expect to come to any epiphanies about myself or the world.  Epiphanies take time, journeys across deserts on camels.  I still have shit I have to get done.  Papers to grade.  Bathrooms to clean.  Pipe organs to play for church.  I am a pilgrim, but I'm not on my way to any particular shrine. 

It is almost 60 degrees today in my little corner of the Upper Peninsula.  An unheard-of temperature for this time of the year.  Usually, we don't get this warm until around May.  This whole winter, aside from a few strange snowstorms and polar vortexes, has been incredibly temperate.  You can't convince me that global warming is not a real phenomenon, despite what Donald Trump or any Republicans want me to believe.

But, I will enjoy the sun of this day.  Daylight Savings Time begins tonight.  That means that I lose an hour of sleep.  It also means that the days remain brighter longer.  The world is tilting toward light instead of darkness.  And I welcome that.  I will enjoy the smell of the mud, the drip of the melt.  The Earth doing its spring cleaning.

I have spoken about fifteen words total this morning.  Five to order my breakfast, a "thanks" to the person at the cash register, and then nine more to my sister when she called my cell phone.  Silence is not a bad state to be in.  Silence allows us to see things, like Dillard propping her eyes open with trees.  For instance, I just noticed that there's a light fixture beside me, a fairly large one.  And it is vibrating, shaking gently, as if in a mild, barely-felt earthquake.  It's strange.  I have no explanation for it.

I have time today that I normally do not have.  In that time, I see things, hear things, like Dillard.  Because I am not feeling rushed, my thoughts seem clearer, easier to communicate.  It's kind of amazing.  I basically started typing this post, and my fingers have not stopped, have not had to rely on the backspace key at all.

This is my mental ramble, my present tense, my gathering of the sun's heat.  I have no idea what other surprises this day holds for me, what other light fixtures quaking like aspen leaves I will see.  I just need to prop my eyes open and watch.

Saint Marty needs to find some evergreens for his eyelids.

And now, a poem from a poet who knows a thing or two about time, the present tense . . .

To Whoever May Care for Me Dying

by:  Jonathan Johnson

Do what you must.
Swab the raw places
as delicately as you can,
but go on and swab them.
If I wince, I would be clean.
Such work befits those
who can see so little left
between skull and skin
and not think them.
You needn’t imagine
if I say I lived once
on the sea, in the wind
and sun. You’re not yet born,
I hope, so what’s this world?
If there’s nothing for the pain
there’s nothing. Thank you
anyway for the morphine
dripped from the eyedropper
onto my tongue like communion,
for the pink, wet sponge
small on its plastic stick
and dabbed on my lips,
if that’s where we’re at.
Thank you for the clean cotton,
for the comb and buttons
for as long as that was possible.
Step outside when you can
to look at light on things.
From this far I don’t know
what else may be required
but if there’s a rose
somewhere in the room
won’t you bring it to me?
Press its deep, open folds
right up to my nose.
And whatever song you might sing,
please, sing to me.

I'm the center of my universe, for the time being . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment