Saturday, January 14, 2023

January 14: "Stebbin's Gulch," Ordinary Saturday, Beauty

Mary Oliver, beauty, and perfection . . . 

Stebbin's Gulch

by:  Mary Oliver

by the randomness
of the way
the rocks tumbled
ages ago

the water pours 
it pours 
it pours
ever along the slant

of downgrade
dashing its silver thumbs
against the rocks
or pausing to carve

a sudden curled space
where the flashing fish
splash or drowse
while the kingfisher overhead

rattles and stares
and so it continues for miles
this bolt of light,
its only industry

to descend 
and to be beautiful
while it does so,
as for purpose

there is none,
it is simply
one of those gorgeous things
that was made

to do what it does perfectly
and to last,
as almost nothing does,
almost forever.

One thing, among many, that Mary Oliver is good at is recognizing everyday beautiful things.  Like pouring water and silver fish in silver pools and a kingfisher gliding and diving in a blue sky, being as perfect as it can be for as long as it can.

I had a pretty ordinary Saturday.  I practiced music at three churches.  Ran a few errands.  Picked up some prescriptions at the pharmacy.  Read some poetry.  Went to the 4 p.m. Mass and made some noise on the pipe organ.  Then had pizza and a game night with my family.  Like I said, completely ordinary.  Almost perfect.

The sun made an appearance today, and the world sort of turned to water a little.  Icicles dripped and got shorter and flashed with light.  And it was beautiful.  I just stood in my backyard this afternoon, listened to snow melt.  Most people don't realize that melting snow makes noise.  Probably because most people don't or won't take the time to notice.  Snow snaps and sort of sighs when it melts, like it's tired of being so cold all the time and is letting its defenses down.  You know how, when you sit in one place for a long time and finally get up and move, your body cracks and groans?  That's the best way I can describe it.

And that noise was beautiful this afternoon, along with all the tree branches shifting and dropping clumps of white.  There were birds.  I'm not sure what kind of birds they were, but they sat up high in a pine and keened at me with high piccolo notes.  And that was beautiful, too.

As I said, every day is filled with moments like this.  It's just a matter of slowing down long enough to let the world catch up with you.  Of course, as Mary Oliver notes, beauty and perfection can't last forever, not matter how much you want them to.  And there is no purpose in beauty.  It simply is . . . beautiful.  

So, I hold on to this afternoon, with its melting snow and snapping light.  Eating pizza and playing silly games with my family.  And then writing this blog post to try to make it all last forever.

Saint Marty had a beautiful, ordinary, perfect day.

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