Friday, December 16, 2016

December 16: The Gaps, Leftover Pizza, Breaking Through

Ezekiel excoriates false prophets as those who have "not gone up into the gaps."  The gaps are the thing.  The gaps are the spirit's one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself for the first time like a once-blind man unbound.  The gaps are the clifts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery.  Go up into the gaps.  If you can find them; they shift and vanish too.  Stalk the gaps.  Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock--more than a maple- a universe.  This is how you spend this afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon.  Spend the afternoon.  You can't take it with you.

That's quite the challenge that Dillard outlines.  Basically, she's telling us to go seek out God.  Find those spaces where the infinite can be glimpsed, if only for a moment and from behind.  That, for her, is a good way to spend an afternoon.  Stalking grace, just like she stalks muskrats in the summer.

I have just spent the entire day scanning medical records and assembling patient charts.  It was more than a little tedious.  Not much opportunity to go into the gaps.  The closest I got to the gaps was when I ate a couple of pieces of leftover pizza at lunch.  It was really good pizza, and I was really hungry.

I suppose the point is that you can go into the mountains, the valleys between the mountains, searching out the back parts of God, as Dillard says.  However, sometimes those gaps are smaller, closer to home.  For instance, last night at my poetry reading, I shared my latest Christmas essay.  As I approached the last line, I looked out at the audience.  One of my best friends was in the second row, and I could tell that she was crying.  That did it for me.  I had to stop reading for a moment.

I was struck by the power of words.  How stringing together nouns and verbs in a certain way can evoke such strong emotional responses.  When I am writing, I am not in control sometimes.  I slog and push through the swamp of my mind, and then, for a few brief moments, I see a path.  It's clear and absolutely right.  I think that Dillard and Ezekiel might call that path going into the gaps.

It took me a several seconds to recover last night.  I stood there, knowing the last five words that I had to speak, but I couldn't do it, didn't want to.  I wanted to hang on to that moment of breaking through.  Of grace.  Eventually, I managed to finish.

It's those kind of moments that keep me writing.  All the struggle and frustration and sleepless nights are worth those ten of fifteen seconds of grace.  Pick up a pen.  Go into the gaps.

Please vote for Saint Marty (Martin Achatz)

Voting for next Poet Laureate of the U. P.

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