How Comes the Dawn

'The Blue Hour,' by Dave Toussaint on Flickr.com

[Image: “The Blue Hour,” by Dave Toussaint. (Found on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license.) Toussaint reports that this shot of Yosemite Falls was taken roughly 45 minutes before sunrise. If you’re viewing this on a sufficiently large screen, click on the image to see it in the photographer’s preferred original size of 1140 x 754.]

From whiskey river:

Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. Sleep lingers all our lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glitter. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. Ghostlike we glide through nature, and should not know our place again. Did our birth fall in some fit of indigence and frugality in nature, that she was so sparing of her fire and so liberal of her earth, that it appears to us that we lack the affirmative principle, and though we have health and reason, yet we have no superfluity of spirit for new creation? We have enough to live and bring the year about, but not an ounce to impart or to invest. Ah that our Genius were a little more of a genius!

(Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: Second Series [source])

and:

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

(W. S. Merwin [source])

and:

The Tongue Says Loneliness

The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,
but does not feel them.

As Monday cannot feel Tuesday,
nor Thursday
reach back to Wednesday
as a mother reaches out for her found child.

As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Not a bell,
but the sound of the bell in the bell-shape,
lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron.

(Jane Hirshfield [source])

Not from whiskey river:

Five Yellow Roses

What stopped her bawling was the doorbell
ringing, and a man standing there with five
yellow roses, bulked up with green fronds
and tied in a dinky knot with olive twine.

There was no card to say who the flowers
came from. The man’s uniform was blue
with a brown insignia of a spider on his right
top pocket that she saw he kept unbuttoned.

As he waltzed down the path to the gate
the Siamese cat that frequented the garden
raised its back and hissed. The man laughed
and flounced out to his waiting white van.

Oh, the shit-faced side streets of life! OK,
she’d been born in Madras, in a flowery tea shop
while an albino conjurer magicked a hare
to leap from his heavily-ringed brown fingers.

Five yellow roses? Enough to encourage her
to cook saffron rice, with turmeric-tinged prawns
and sautéed yellow courgettes. She didn’t play
the Ry Cooder where yellow roses say goodbye.*

(Matthew Sweeney [source])

…and:

In like manner, geologists will sometimes use the calendar year as a unit to represent the time scale, and in such terms the Precambrian runs from New Year’s Day until well after Halloween. Dinosaurs appear in the middle of December and are gone the day after Christmas. The last ice sheet melts on December 31st at one minute before midnight, and the Roman Empire lasts five seconds. With your arms spread wide again to represent all time on earth, look at one hand with its line of life. The Cambrian begins at the wrist, and the Permian Extinction is at the outer end of the palm. All of the Cenozoic is in a fingerprint, and in a single stroke with a medium-grained nail file you could eradicate human history…

The human consciousness may have begun to leap and boil some sunny day in the Pleistocene, but the race by and large has retained the essence of its animal sense of time. People think in five generations—two ahead, two behind—with heavy concentration on the one in the middle. Possibly that is tragic, possibly there is no choice. The human mind may not have evolved enough to be able to comprehend deep time. It may only be able to measure it. At least, that is what geologists wonder sometimes, and they have imparted the questions to me. They wonder to what extent they truly sense the passage of millions of years. They wonder to what extent it is possible to absorb a set of facts and move with them, in a sensory manner, beyond the recording intellect and into the abyssal eons. Primordial inhibitions may stand in the way. One the geologic time scale, a human lifetime is reduced to a brevity that is too inhibiting to think about. The mind blocks the information. Geologists, dealing always with deep time, find that it seeps into their beings and affects them in various ways. They see the unbelievable swiftness with which one evolving species on the earth has learned to reach into the dirt of some tropical island and fling 747s into the skies. They see the thin band in which are the all but indiscernible stratifications of Cro-Magnon, Moses, Leonardo, and now. Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.

(John McPhee [source])

________________

* This line refers to this song (intro’d in that video by a steel-guitar master named James Kerr, then segueing into Cooder’s own version).

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