Monday, April 25, 2016

April 25: Fish-Scale and Star, Good News, Best Friends

A rosy, complex light fills my kitchen at the end of these lengthening June days.  From an explosion on a nearby star eight minutes ago, the light zips through space, particle-waves, strikes the planet, angles on the continent, and filters through a mesh of land dust:  clay bits, sod bits, tiny wind-borne insects, bacteria, shreds of wing and leg, gravel dust, grits of carbon, and dried cells of grass, bark, and leaves.  Reddened, the light inclines into this valley over the green western mountains; it sifts between pine needles on northern slopes, and through all the mountain black-jack oak and haw, whose leaves are unclenching, one by one, and making an intricate, toothed and lobed haze.  The light crosses the valley, threads through the screen on my open kitchen window, and gilds the painted wall.  A plank of brightness bends from the wall and extends over the goldfish bowl on the table where I sit.  The goldfish's side catches the light and bats it my way; I've an eyeful of fish-scale and star.

This paragraph is one of my absolute favorites in A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  It's Annie Dillard at her best--connecting the cosmic to the domestic.  Exploding star to goldfish.  When reading Dillard, I often wonder if she always thinks this way.  If she sits down to eat breakfast--a bowl of Raisin Bran--and stares into her spoon, at the shriveled grape floating in the milk, and is suddenly transported into supernovas and dark matter and California vineyards and immigrant labor.  I think to myself that every day must be an adventure of thought for her.

I wish I cultivated that perspective more in my daily life.  I think I spend more of my time walking around like a blindered horse, only looking ahead at my destination.  No time to stop and take in the cosmic narrative unfolding around me.  Because my days are like this, I'm afraid that I miss a lot of important things--things that Dillard would take note of, write down, turn into essays about divine breath and baloney sandwiches.  Something like that.

I got a text from one of my best friends as I was leaving work this afternoon.  He's a Methodist pastor and, even though we don't communicate on a daily or weekly (sometimes monthly) basis, he's never far from my thoughts.  The last time I saw him was about a year ago.  I was on a trip with my family, and we met up with him to have lunch.  I hadn't spoken with him in almost a year, and yet, when he walked into the restaurant, we started talking as if we had just seen each other that morning.  We didn't miss a beat.

Anyway, my pastor friend is my son's godfather, and my son is making his First Communion in May.  My friend has arranged to come for the occasion.  He's driving up on a Friday, spending the weekend, and attending the Mass on Sunday afternoon.  When I read that text this afternoon, I sort of felt like that goldfish in Dillard's goldfish bowl.  The sunlight was striking me, filling the world with fish-scale and star.

It is a good night for me, full of happiness.  As a morose poet, I don't have too many moments like this.  I tend to dwell on dark things.  If I'm contemplating a goldfish in a bowl, that fish is usually floating belly-up, bloated and stiff.  So, I'm going to revel a little in this feeling.

I'm sitting in my office at the university at the moment.  Outside my door, I can hear grad students laughing and swearing.  They're having a great time, full of naive, youthful hope.  They all think they're going to go out, change the world in some big way.

Saint Marty's just going to sit in his office, quietly, and think about text messages, best friends, sons, godfathers, rain, sun, the solar system, cosmic winds, the mind of God.

This Monday hasn't been so bad . . .

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