Dark Skies, Stark Uncertainties

'Dark Clouds,' by user Never Edit on Flickr

[Image: “Dark Clouds,” by “Never Edit.” (Found it on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license.) No details about this photo are provided by the pseudonymous street photographer (other than the data captured by the automatic camera). Her profile says, “Never Edit — no real name given because I don’t want my nosey neighbours checking on me — means I like the street as it is and don’t want to turn my photos into digital paintings. Therefore I hardly crop or edit the photos in any way.”]

From whiskey river:

Genesis

Oh, I said, this is going to be.
And it was.
Oh, I said, this will never happen.
But it did.
And a purple fog descended upon the land.
The roots of trees curled up.
The world was divided into two countries.
Every photograph taken in the first was of people.
Every photograph taken in the second showed none.
All of the girl children were named And.
All of the boy children named Then.

(Mary Ruefle [source])

and:

Below Zero

We are at a feast which doesn’t love us. At last the feast sheds its mask and shows itself for what it really is: a switchyard, cold colossi sit on rails in the mist. A piece of chalk has scribbled on the freight car doors.

It mustn’t be said, but there is much suppressed violence here. That’s why the features are so heavy. And why it’s so hard to see that other thing which also exists: a mirrored glare of sun which moves across the house wall and glides through the unknowing forest of flickering faces, a Bible text never written down: “Come to me, for I am laden with contradictions like you yourself.”

Tomorrow I’m working in another city. I whizz there through the morning hour which is a blue-black cylinder. Orion hovers above the frozen ground. Children stand in a silent crowd, waiting for the school bus, children for whom no one prays. The light grows slowly like our hair.

(Tomas Tranströmer [source])

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Interstices

'Interstices 2' (one of several), by user 'runlevel0' (Enric Martinez) on Flickr

[Image: “Interstices 2” (one of several sharing the same title), by user ‘runlevel0’ (Enric Martinez) on Flickr.]

From whiskey river:

But there is all this time between when the cracks start to open up and when we finally fall apart. And it’s only in that time that we can see one another, because we see out of ourselves through our cracks and into others through theirs. When did we see each other face-to-face? Not until you saw into my cracks and I saw into yours. Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.

(John Green [source])

and:

The Almanac of Last Things

From the almanac of last things
I choose the spider lily
for the grace of its brief
blossom, though I myself
fear brevity,

but I choose The Song of Songs
because the flesh
of those pomegranates
has survived
all the frost of dogma.

I choose January with its chill
lessons of patience and despair – and
August, too sun-struck for lessons.
I choose a thimbleful of red wine
to make my heart race,

then another to help me
sleep. From the almanac
of last things I choose you,
as I have done before.
And I choose evening

because the light clinging
to the window
is at its most reflective
just as it is ready
to go out.

(Linda Pastan [source])

and:

The division of one day from the next must be one of the most profound peculiarities of life on this planet. We are not condemned to sustained flights of being, but are constantly refreshed by little holidays from ourselves. We are intermittent creatures, always falling to little ends and rising to new beginnings. Our soon-tired consciousness is meted out in chapters, and that the world will look quite different tomorrow is, both for our comfort and our discomfort, usually true. How marvelously too night matches sleep, sweet image of it, so nearly apportioned to our need. Angels must wonder at these beings who fall so regularly out of awareness into a fantasm-infested dark. How our frail identities survive these chasms no philosopher has ever been able to explain.

(Iris Murdoch [source])

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One Small Heart

[Video: “One Small Heart,” by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Lyrics here.]

From whiskey river:

Heart
(excerpt)

You watch a dream pause
over a pool in a forest
under a breeze rippling its
surface reflections of inverted
branches & a patch of sky where
one bird flies by, upside-down.
Let it slow down.
Down.

[…]

Gone. Wing-flap. Birdsong, tree-song, floated, tilted,
moving away on its own scrap of independent energy
where everything lives, however briefly,
beating its one small heart…

(Maurice Scully [source])

and:

There’s actually no such thing as an adult. That word is a placeholder. We never grow up. We’re not supposed to. We’re born and that’s it. We get bigger. We live through great storms. We get soaked to the bone. We realize we’re waterproof. We strive for calm. We discover what makes us feel good. We do those things over and over. We learn what doesn’t feel good. We avoid those things at all cost. Sometimes we come together: huge groups in agreement. Sometimes we clap and dance. Sometimes we look like a migration of birds. We need to remind ourselves — each other – that we’re mere breaths. But, and this is important, sometimes we can be magnificent, to one person, even for a short time, like the perfect touch — the first time you see the ocean from the middle. Like every time you see the low, full moon. We keep on eating: chewing, pretending we know what’s going on. The secret is that we don’t. We don’t, and don’t, and don’t. Each day we’re infants: plucking flower petals, full of wonder.

(Micah Ling, hobart pulp)

and:

The Heart Remembers Everything It Loved

Everything remembers something. The rock, its fiery bed,
cooling and fissuring into cracked pieces, the rub
of watery fingers along its edge.

The cloud remembers being elephant, camel, giraffe,
remembers being a veil over the face of the sun,
gathering itself together for the fall.

The turtle remembers the sea, sliding over and under
its belly, remembers legs like wings, escaping down
the sand under the beaks of savage birds.

The tree remembers the story of each ring, the years
of drought, the floods, the way things came
walking slowly towards it long ago.

And the skin remembers its scars, and the bone aches
where it was broken. The feet remember the dance,
and the arms remember lifting up the child.

The heart remembers everything it loved and gave away,
everything it lost and found again, and everyone
it loved, the heart cannot forget.

(Joyce Sutphen)

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Far and Widely, Near and Narrowly

Image: 'Starmageddon,' by Bill Gracey on Flickr

[Image: “Starmageddon,” by Bill Gracey on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license.) Read about the happy accidents which brought this photo together at Flickr itself.]

From whiskey river:

Autumn

The passion
Is still flourishing in the branches
Yellow funny and daring red
The sun warms even in the days
Where the fog
Stubbornly in the morning
From a distance
A woodpecker knocks
Impermanence
Is the enemy of beauty

(Kristian Goldmund Auman [unsourced; possibly here])

and:

The lucidity, the clarity of light that afternoon was sufficient to itself; perfect transparency must be impenetrable, these vertical bars of brass-colored distillation of light coming down from sulphur-yellow interstices in a sky hunkered with grey clouds that bulge with more rain. It struck the wood with nicotine-stained fingers, the leaves glittered. A cold day of late October, when the withered blackberries dangled like their own dour spooks on the discolored brambles. There were crisp husks of beechmast and cast acorn cups underfoot in the russet slime of the dead bracken where the rains of the equinox had so soaked the earth that the cold oozed up through the soles of the shoes, lancinating cold of the approaching winter that grips hold of your belly and squeezed it tight. Now the stark elders have an anorexic look; there is not much in the autumn wood to make you smile but it is not yet, not quite yet, the saddest time of the year. Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself. Introspective weather, a sickroom hush.

(Angela Carter [source])

and:

October

The leaves fall from my fingers
Cornflowers scattered across the field like stars,
like smoke stars,
By the train tracks, the leaves in a drift

Under the slow clouds
and the nine steps to heaven,
The light falling in great sheets through the trees,
Sheets almost tangible.

The transfiguration will start like this, I think,
breathless,
Quick blade through the trees,
Something with red colors falling away from my hands,

The air beginning to go cold…
And when it does
I’ll rise from this tired body, a blood-knot of light,
Ready to take the darkness in.

—Or for the wind to come
And carry me, bone by bone, through the sky,
Its wafer a burn on my tongue,
its wine deep forgetfulness.

(Charles Wright [source])

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Making a World (Over and Over)

'Calvin and Hobbes,' final panels (1995-12-31), by Bill Watterson

[Image: Final panels from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip (December 31, 1995), by Bill Watterson — by my reckoning, still the best remaking of the world ever expressed in pen-and-ink-drawing form]

From whiskey river:

One can only know what occurs within the mind, which is the instrument or tool of conscious experience. There is no such thing as “out there.” There is only our perception as inbound data. Everything is registered, just as it is. It is only via the mind that a selective representation of the data is created. Thoughts are objects in the mind as things are objects in the world. The mind and the world are two separate dimensions, overlapping during the waking state. When you can so readily create a world when you dream, why do you believe the impossibility of your creating another world when you are awake?

(Wu Hsin, translated by Roy Melvyn [source])

…and:

Suzuki Roshi had a stick — and he would hit you — and when Suzuki Roshi hit you, everything disappeared — everything — there was no up or down — there was no forward or back — there were no thoughts — no feelings — you couldn’t even say there was something or nothing. It was really quite remarkable. And then, often times you would think “Well, wait a minute — where’s reality — how was I doing that? Wait a minute! There must be some way to put these things together so that it seems like there’s a world and there’s people and there’s me. Where are they?” Then you would see if you could get some sense of reality back again.

(Edward Espe Brown [source])

…and:

When you fall asleep, your body enters a state of slumber, but it nonetheless keeps ticking, its life continues, ready to resume where it left off. Your consciousness, however, vanishes completely. In no sense does it keep ticking. You, as we say, pass out. And when you emerge again, either in a dream or when you finally resume waking life, you emerge from nothing — but the very same you that you were before.

The fact of your self bootstrapping itself back into existence is such a familiar happening that you may not be as astonished by it as you should be. Nonetheless, you can scarcely fail to notice what goes on. And it could well provide an essential plank in your reasoning about immortality. Such a proven capacity for endless resurrection out of nothing is the one thing that proves everlasting existence — or at any rate re-existence — for your individual Ego.

(Nicholas Humphrey [source])

…and:

There are ways in, journeys to the center of life, through time, through air, matter, dream, and thought. The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.

(Linda Hogan [source])

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Just Enough World, Just Enough Time

'Boro'd Time (We have all the Time in the World),' by Lucy Portsmouth (user magpieslaundry on Flickr.com)

[Image: “Boro’d Time (We have all the Time in the World),” textile art by Lucy Portsmouth (magpieslaundry), found at Flickr.com. (Used under a Creative Commons license; click image to enlarge.)]

First, something a little different for a Friday here: a musical intro…

I’ve always liked Gustav Mahler’s “Titan” Symphony, No. 1 in D Major. The first movement drew me right in the first time I heard it, and for decades it’s been one of my favorite accompaniments during writing sessions. The title of that movement is Wie ein Naturlaut, that is, like a sound of nature. Mahler felt so strongly about how this should be played that he wrote to conductor Franz Schalk, “The introduction to the first movement sounds of nature, not music!” I love that instruction.

From whiskey river:

The world is a thing of utter inordinate complexity and richness and strangeness that is absolutely awesome. I mean the idea that such complexity can arise not only out of such simplicity, but probably absolutely out of nothing, is the most fabulous extraordinary idea. And once you get some kind of inkling of how that might have happened, it’s just wonderful. And… the opportunity to spend 70 or 80 years of your life in such a universe is time well spent as far as I am concerned.

(Douglas Adams [source])

and:

Trees seem to do their feats so effortlessly. Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn’t make one. A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.

(Annie Dillard [source])

…and:

Day follows day in endless succession, and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.

(Chaim Stern [source])

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Summoning the World, Sending It Away

'Domain Field' (sculpture/installation), by Antony Gormley

[Image: Domain Field (2003), by Antony Gormley. (Click to enlarge.) See the note below for more information.]

From whiskey river:

A Valley Like This

Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this,
and suddenly the air is filled with snow.
That is the way the whole world happened —
there was nothing, and then…

But maybe some time you will look out and even
the mountains are gone, the world become nothing
again. What can a person do to help
bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully
save it, like a bubble that can disappear
if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breathe on the world.
Hold out your hand to it. When mornings and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is

(William Stafford [source])

and:

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us

(Maya Angelou [source])

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Not Grasping, Only Groping Towards

'The Amityville Handheld,' by user v1ctory_1s_m1ne on Flickr

[Image: “The Amityville Handheld,” by user v1ctory_1s_m1ne on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license; click to enlarge.) This seemed to me to embody the spirit of today’s theme, without explicitly stating it: it gropes in the right direction.]

From whiskey river:

What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names—
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.

(Linda Pastan [source])

and:

We say to the confused, Know thyself, as if knowing yourself was not the fifth and most difficult of human arithmetical operations, we say to the apathetic, Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as if the brute realities of the world did not amuse themselves each day by turning that phrase on its head, we say to the indecisive, Begin at the beginning, as if the beginning were the clearly visible point of a loosely wound thread and all we had to do was to keep pulling until we reached the other end, and as if, between the former and the latter, we had held in our hands a smooth, continuous thread with no knots to untie, no snarls to untangle, a complete impossibility in the life of a skein, or indeed, if we may be permitted one more stock phrase, in the skein of life.

(José Saramago [source])

and:

But if you knew you might not be able to see it again tomorrow, everything would suddenly become special and precious, wouldn’t it?

(Haruki Murakami [source])

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Writing in the Night Sky

'Storyteller,' by user fobach on Flickr.com

[Image: “Storyteller,” by user fobach (Pieterjan Hanselaer) on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons license; click to enlarge.) The Dutch text says (per the English translation) “I followed the trail of my uncles. From the forest, at the edge of the Makokibatan Lake, the morning sounds arose.” No other information seems to be available for this mysterious image. For what it’s worth, though, you can find a lake by that name in Ontario, Canada.]

From whiskey river:

Food, fire, walks, dreams, cold, sleep, love, slowness, time, quiet, books, seasons — all these things, which are not really things, but moments of life — take on a different quality at night-time, where the moon reflects the light of the sun, and we have time to reflect what life is to us, knowing that it passes, and that every bit of it, in its change and its difference, is the here and now of what we have.

Life is too short to be all daylight. Night is not less; it’s more.

(Jeanette Winterson [source])

and:

Rereading Frost

Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.
I also try to convince myself

that the smallest note of the smallest
instrument in the band,
the triangle for instance,
is important to the conductor

who stands there, pointing his finger
in the direction of the percussions,
demanding that one silvery ping.
And I decide not to stop trying,

at least not for a while, though in truth
I’d rather just sit here reading
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.

(Linda Pastan [source])

and:

Stars were the first text, the first instance of gabbiness; connecting the stars, making a pattern out of them, was the first story, sacred to storytellers. But the moon was the first poem, in the lyric sense, an entity complete in itself, recognizable at a glance, one that played upon the emotions so strongly that the context of time and place hardly seemed to matter.

(Mary Ruefle [source])

and:

(from) Body and Soul
(for Coleman Hawkins)

I used to think the power of words was inexhaustible,
That how we said the world
was how it was, and how it would be.
I used to imagine that word-sway and word-thunder
Would silence the Silence and all that,
That worlds were the Word,
That language could lead us inexplicably to grace,
As though it were geographical.
I used to think these things when I was young.
I still do.

(Charles Wright [source (the whole poem)*])

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Far, Near — No Matter

'november twenty two,' by user farrahsanjari on Flickr

[Image: “november twenty two,” by farrahsanjari on Flickr. (Used under a Creative Commons License.)]

From whiskey river:

If you think of this idea of nothingness as mere blankness, and you hold onto this idea of blankness, you haven’t understood it. Nothingness is really like the nothingness of space, which contains the whole universe. All the suns, moons and stars, and the mountains and rivers, and the good men and bad men, and the animals and the insects, the whole bit — all are contained in the void. So out of this void comes everything and you are it. What else could you be?

(Alan Watts [source])

and (also used previously at RAMH, here):

The search of reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh.

We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.

Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath.

(Abraham Joshua Heschel [source])

and (from whiskey river’s commonplace book):

In This Season of Waiting

Under certain conditions,
when the moon in the western sky
seems frozen there, for instance

even as the sun is rising in the east,
so that soon two sides of the coin
will be facing each other;

or when the snow
which is a stranger here
fills our trees with its cold flowers;

when the single
bluejay at the feeder
is so still

it could be enameled there,
then the earth becomes an emblem
for whatever we believe.

(Linda Pastan [source])

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