Thursday, February 25, 2010
Rushing Water Under Ice
After telling stories at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Pinkham Notch Center for supper, lodging and a bit o' bread, I read Mary Oliver poems by the fire late into the night. In and out of reverie... Her collection "White Pine" is like hearing a deep inner voice and the natural elements she loves and tries to enter in her work create a joyous hymn to our perception of nature. I was halted by this particular poem:
How necessary it is to have opinions! I think the spotted trout
lilies are satisfied, standing a few inches above the earth. I
think serenity is not something you just find in the world,
like a plum tree, holding up its white petals.
The violets, along the river, are opening their blue faces, like
small dark lanterns.
The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.
How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out
Yes! No! The
swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.
~ Mary Oliver
The snow fell silently all through that night. The next day I hiked the short AMC trail up to Cascade Falls, walking sideways in my street shoes to keep from cascading down the trail myself. I stopped still so many times along the way just to listen - to listen. The pines were heavy and close with their white burden. The silence that snow makes is soft and sure, like a deep knit muffler. There is a reason we say that the snow "blankets" the land. It was that blanket full and enveloping today and the rushing river was silenced under its sure hand. Only two roundish holes near the bridge revealed its hidden hurry and excitement. I kept Mary Oliver's poem before me. She was saying something profound about our interaction with nature. Something I also feel.
It IS important that we listen and observe ... but then we need to take it a step or many steps further. Drink it in ~ BE the consciousness, the witness and - as in the case of her poem - the imagination that finds the meaning and the deep connection with this wild world. That is a form of love and that is never in vain.
Standing at last at the ledge to see Cascade Falls. The water fell headlong, rushing down. As it fell, fingers of ice, blue winter ice, edged in from the side to enclose it. The snow and that icy hand seemed to be loving things to death under its cold blanket. That was as far as I could come in thought today. It may seem harsh what I came to, but then my observations are were just a work in progress. What was more important was that today I was challenging my ability to see and to feel. Finding a way to enter into communion through image.
I try to follow the same road with my stories of nature. Why do I so deeply feel we should embrace the natural world with stories of origin from ancient times, stories and myths told at just the particular times of seasonal change. I call down those corridors to the past and because there is resonance, because there is a deep echo, I wrestle with these tales. Every search for meaning is Right.