Wednesday, December 23, 2009
by Jack Gilbert
I light the lamp and look at my watch.
Four-thirty. Tap out my shoes
because of the scorpions, and go out
into the field. Such a sweet night.
No moon, but urgent stars. Go back inside
and make hot chocolate on my butane burner.
I search around with the radio through
the skirl of the Levant. "Tea for Two"
in German. Finally, Cleveland playing
the Rams in the rain. It makes me feel
acutely here and everybody somewhere else.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Maybe it's the snow. Maybe it is because the snow, more than any recollection, reminds me of the solitude of my childhood. When school and home were too overwhelming for my delicate sensibilities, I would retreat into the woods behind our house, and I would sit on a hill beside the stream. I imagined myself a monk, I suppose, communing with nature. It was calming to be in the presence of something that did not want. As if this cloister were not peaceful enough, there was winter. The snow did there what it does up here. It mutes the insect buzz of the world. It forces you not to listen, but to watch. Watch the water flow beneath the ice ten feet below. Watch the bird alight on a branch, shaking free a puff of snow. Once you get seeing down, only then can you start to listen. Align yourself with the stillness and you will hear what is not to be heard. That secret water sounds like whispering. That snow likes to mimic the wind through hollow oak. All of this built in me a foundation of stillness that helped me through it all. It sharpened the senses we don't think much about. However, sensitivity has its cons. I haven't harmonized with that environment for over twenty five years, and yet I still often find myself overwhelmed by even the most simple of urban life. It is unsettling to think I trained myself out of being functional in the world.
So the snow is here, and there's more on the way. It knows its work. It stands for an elusive stillness. It recalls troubled times. It is the nagging reminder that I have always felt ill-prepared for what I entered the day I left it all behind.