Adrift in Oceans of Time

Image: Illustration by W. Heath Robinson from Rudyard Kipling's 'A Song of the English' (1909)

[Image: Illustration by W. Heath Robinson, from Rudyard Kipling’s A Song of the English (1909). (Found it at the Internet Archive.)]

From whiskey river:

Afterlife

There is no life after death. Why
should there be. What on

earth would have us believe this.
Heaven is not the American

highway, blackened chicken alfredo
from Applebee’s nor the

clown sundae from Friendly’s. Our
life, this is the afterdeath,

when we blink open, peeled and
ready to ache. Years ago

my aunt banged on the steering, she
insisted there had to be a

God, a heaven. We were on our
way to a wedding. I would

have to sit at the same table as the
man who saw no heaven

in me. Today I am thinking about
Mozart, of all people, who

died at 35 mysteriously, perhaps of
strep. What a strange cloth

it is to live. But that we came from
death and return to it, made

different by form, shaped again back
into anti-, anti-. On my run,

I think of Jack Gilbert, who said we
must insist while there is still

time, but insist toward what. Why we
must fill the void with light—

isn’t that our human insistence? But
we drift into a distance of

distance until proximity fails, our
name lifts away with any

future concerns, the past a flattened
coin that cannot spin. I am

matter spun from death’s wool—and
I bewilder the itch, I who am

I am just so happy to go.

(Natalie Eilbert [source])

and:

Often we feel time to be linear, inexorable, suffocating. At other moments we find it oceanic. We kind of swim in it. We expect physicists to come up with an explanation, but we don’t find one, and come back to our intuitive use of the concept. But there are also moments when time appears to be, to say it in one way, both vertical and horizontal, both “single-minded,” monotonous, unalterable, and multi-dimensional, infinite. When a few people come together, I often have wondered if each person’s amount of years was not being added to the amount of years of all the others, so that we were representing together much more than our single self. And if you add up the simultaneous ages of people, animals, plants, objects, the age of celestial bodies and so on, you realize that we are living in the unfolding of the infinite. But why bother? I think because we need to keep in mind the immensity of being, in spite of our fragility and mortality.

(Etel Adnan [no canonical source])

…and:

Apologia Pro Vita Sua
III
(excerpt)

It’s good to know certain things:
What’s departed, in order to know what’s left to come;
That water’s immeasurable and incomprehensible

And blows in the air
Where all that’s fallen and silent becomes invisible;
That fire’s the light our names are carved in.

That shame is a garment of sorrow;
That time is the Adversary, and stays sleepless and wants for nothing;
That clouds are unequal and words are.

(Charles Wright [source])

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Windsightings

Lantern slide: Japanese god of wind, Fujin

[Image: Lantern slide (undated) in the digital collection of Oregon State University. This hand-tinted photograph depicts the Japanese god of wind, Fujin; the photo’s subject is a statue of the god, found in the Iyemitsu Temple, Nikko, Japan. (Found on Flickr, and used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!) That thing slung across his shoulders is not a giant sausage but a bag of wind. For another photograph, see this page of illustrations in a travel guide by one Joseph Ignatius Constantine Clarke (!), published in 1918.]

From whiskey river:

Utopia

Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

(Wislawa Szymborska [source])

and:

Epithalamion

The elm weaves the field’s late light, this hill
hanging from the tree’s roots like the moon
From its shadow and the whole
world beneath suspended.

Roots knead the earth’s thick sorrow.
Still, leaves from this.
From this unshackling, birdsong.

I am a blade of corn where you kneel,
wind and quaking stalk.
The elm’s body a vase of poured sky.

The tree will die.
Someday, the tree will die.

For now, this axis—
what we choose to compass by.

(Hannah Fries [source])

and:

And I would be the wind, whispering through the tangled woods, running airy fingers over the island’s face, tingling in the chill of concealed places, sighing secrets in the dawn. And I would be the light, flinging over the island, covering it with flash and shadow, shining on rocks and pools, softening to a touch in the glow of dusk. If I were the rain and wind and light, I would encircle the island like the sky surrounding earth, flood through it like a heart driven pulse, shine from inside it like a star in flames, burn away to blackness in the closed eyes of its night.

(Richard Nelson [source (not canonical)])

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“The Sparks of Their Soul Come Out and Cling to You”

Image: 'So Many Grains of Sand,' by Rick Schwartz on Flickr

[Image: “Like So Many Grains of Sand,” by Rick Schwartz; it apparently captures a moment on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, this past January. (Found it on Flickr; used here under a Creative Commons license — thank you!) In a blog post featuring this photo, the photographer muses, “Just trying to fathom the grains of sand on this one beach is futile to say nothing for the number of stars in the universe… So, for me, the only thing left to do is turn away from the beach and eat a bowl of soup. That’s the one thing I can handle.”]

From whiskey river (in slightly different words):

In the forty minutes I watched [the muskrat], he never saw me, smelled me, or heard me at all. When he was in full view of course I never moved except to breathe. My eyes would move, too, following his, but he never noticed… Only once, when he was feeding from the opposite bank about eight feet away from me, did he suddenly rise upright, all alert—and then he immediately resumed foraging. But he never knew I was there.

I never knew I was there, either. For that forty minutes last night I was as purely sensitive and mute as a photographic plate; I received impressions, but I did not print out captions. My own self-awareness had disappeared; it seems now almost as though, had I been wired to electrodes, my EEG would have been flat. I have done this sort of thing so often that I have lost self-consciousness about moving slowly and halting suddenly; it is second nature to me now. And I have often noticed that even a few minutes of this self-forgetfulness is tremendously invigorating. I wonder if we do not waste most of our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves. Martin Buber quotes an old Hasid master who said, “When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you.”

(Annie Dillard [source])

and:

The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble — to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.

(Philip Connors [source])

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