Silly, Speculative, Not Unkind

A summer night that seemed to belong to someone else, though I always struggle against the inevitable feeling that I’m only or always a guest here.  The far trees blurred with heat, fat moon rising the color of seething coals.

Thinking often these days of Mary Oliver, that line somewhere about horses eating clover, as so often I find myself staring at those huge jaws ripping sweet greenery from the earth.  A toss of the head, a soft tearing sound, then the contented crunching.  It is helpful sometimes to study ourselves through the eyes of certain animals – dogs, horses, trout.  We look silly, speculative, not unkind.

I watched a crayfish scooch in and out of his silty castle the other morning.  Everyone feeding ducks or splashing in cool water while I readied the canoe.  I love crayfish, their inclination to stillness, the sudden flash backwards at the slightest sign of trouble.  That poof of dust that means you missed them.  As a child I hunted them with delight, little brown and blue lobsters, sometimes roasting them over open flames, but now it pleases me simply to know they’re there.  As if we have a secret, we two.  Or maybe I’m just getting off on choosing not to ruin their day.

Meditation, says Thomas Merton, has to be rooted in life.  Otherwise it produces nothing but “the ashen fruits of disgust.”  The real risk (it seems) to me being self-satisfaction, spiritual smugness.  The quietest, fullest moment yesterday was watching a spider over the kitchen sink wrap a fly in its velvety web.  Sophia, Chrisoula and I transfixed.  Later, walking through the house at 4 a.m. listening to the neighbor’s steer bellow in his raspy voice, only weeks left between that lovely field of his and a cold freezer.  Is that why he complains?  Does he feel somewhere in his bones the inevitable end?  Write it, a voice in my head whispers, and I do, nearly always.

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