Two trees, one real enough to be seen, another seen well enough to last the length of a dream. But neither can ever become real. This from Hannah Arendt, and now the alarm can’t wake me.
The sun is visible one moment and then less so in another but indicates nothing of sorrow or regret. It offers shadow. We see by the shadows. We measure them. Once, someone considered their lengths, prone to stretch and collapse, and asked, what do they mean? A decision was made. These mean Time.
Numbers were assigned to the lengths, etcetera, etcetera–– but some of us here, so often delayed as measured against a standard pace, retain some skepticism about these systems. Of their presumed inviolability, a separate matter from their usefulness.
Trees cast long shadows and are associated with knowledge and wisdom, and yet standard practice rejects the idea of arboreal sentience. In a world bent on speed, stillness so often gets mistaken for stupidity.
But only in stillness do certain questions show up. What is the length of the water on a face, bearing witness to the beginning or the end of a life? And the volume of this shadow of the solitary pilgrim on the long road in late afternoon?
I still don’t know. But speech is an act of making concessions. Consider the first lessons of any language not inherited. Standard practice begins with the basics for moving through a landscape: Hello. My name is. What time is it? It is an o’clock. How are you?
The last of these is the least amenable to explanatory language, wanting only touch and smell and song.
I came across Arendt’s words in an epigraph to Ann Lauterbach’s Spell. My italicized presentation in the opening lines is a paraphrase.
A video reading of this post appears here.