Lovers in Time

A triptych.

In the land where time is a circle, I meet you again and again, always with a rush of recognition–– the lilting wave that beckons hello, stranger. It seems I have known you before, and each time I lose you, it is with the shocking pain of the first cut.

In the land where time is water, a tiny rivulet of this becoming will sometimes turn backstream, and any creatures, debris, soil, falling branches, or conversations will find themselves suddenly in the past.  In this world, we know even after our most recent reunion, of the loss that comes next, because we learned this when we lived in the land where time was a circle.

In another world, two times exist concurrently. One is mechanical, its form a massive pendulum of iron, back and forth. The other is of the body, bodies, the body of the living planet and its teeming forms. It squirms, wiggles . . .  makes its mind up as it goes along. Most reject one or the other form of time. But the worlds have a way of colliding. The collision tends to create a desperate state, because everybody knows that you can make a world in one or another time but not both. This is because each time is true, but the truths are not the same.

***

This morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew, I was delighted to discover Einstein’s Dreams, a slim novel by Alan Lightman, hiding in plain sight on a bookshelf. Although I do not remember buying this book, it is easy for me to imagine why I would have wanted to, upon learning that the premise is based on a series of dreams that the young scientist had before arriving at his theories of relativity.  I wrote today’s post while reading the opening twenty pages of the book, using three of the worlds Lightman describes. Italicized phrases are Lightman’s.

Aftermath

In the dark between destruction and rebirth.

After the promise, before the fallen fruit, love was so loud that what followed might be called nature’s reproach. We suspected it was. But our memories of watercolor flights stayed anyway between water and sky, and us gliding in wide-winged pelican formations­­––long after their welcome, ignoring the new signs warning against the trespass of our breath.

After the storm, our eyes fall into these empty hands and roll across the wreckage around us until they are soaked in the sludge of charred remains. 

Only this silent plea between us now, strong and invisible; and time no longer ours, and in the dark hours before dawn, it may echo an inquiring trinity, Love, will you make the world here again? and then Hear, again and Love, here.

Nets

To catch and release, in good company.

Imagination loves a circle, perhaps because these are hooped like fishing nets for catching the galaxies swimming ever wider, above and below us. 

Friend, help me remember to let whatever knowns I manage to forage keep company with the wildly proliferating abundance of unnamed and undiscovered worlds suspended like invisible solutes in this glass and scattered like weeds along the walkway and around the floor like loose socks and cat fur, and in the back of cabinets like forgotten condiments long past their moment, so that I might continue to discover that behind the bright surfaces of the best I have found, these underbellies still dark with silence. 

It will be good to walk together and return them, tossing wide arcs into the turbulent waters of these sacramental tides everlasting though ordinary time, that each temporary finding may rediscover it’s secret affinities in those depths. What a process, to bear a human heart from its bottomless nowhere to its forever paths, each crashing an infinity with the next wave––out, out, out.

Magnificat

Song for the unseen.

Let’s remember to hold one another in this moment, reveling in the possibility that what really is, is still invisible. And may we never forget––our dead, our not yet living, and the true purpose of these wild hearts. To celebrate what seems utterly worthless in this world, including everyone bearing witness to the unseen, those other dreamers and the lonely and those crazy fools on the corner––and in the next room, and in the mirror, and all the tiny creatures underfoot and hanging on in the distance. The strongmen and the celebrated seem to hold the world in their fists, but they will lose and be lost amid those who have nothing. Let us remember this always, to remain empty, seeking home with others, hands open and ready to receive what comes––yesterday, today, and tomorrow––not to keep and hold

but to give it away

that we might remain

forever vacant

and ready to receive

the opening notes

of its next

arrival.

***

German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Magnificat (from the Gospel of Luke 1:46-55, when Mary greets Elizabeth) “the most passionate, wildest . . . most revolutionary hymn ever sung.” He was executed by the Nazis. This morning, I learned that these verses were considered so subversive that they were banned from public recitation in several countries, including Guatemala, Argentina, and India. Naturally, I was moved to revisit the text. I am also reminded back to a comment by artist Mariko Mori, on Botticelli’s iconic painting of the meeting of these women (The Annunciation), that they appear to her “like two Buddhas bowing.” 

Stranger Still

Through a glass darkly.

In love with an unknown intimate briefly glimpsed, the stranger moved so steadily towards the source of longing that he became transparent with time. Suspended in its liquid, the desert salts of his waking form dissolved in her waters until he knew himself at once known in the shadow of the apocalyptic cherub.

I am surveyed, he admitted, but it was good to be untethered from the demand to be any sort of self in any of the atomic cities, to join the games with no winners, to keep company instead with a chorus of loss, its abundant ache seeded in the silence of this elsewhere when the voices that will be heard choose themselves

***

Inspired by various morning readings, including Thomas Merton by way of Richard Rohr. Italicized phrases above come from Thomas Merton’s “Day of the Stranger,” first published in The Hudson Review, summer 1967.

A Love Supreme

With John Coltrane.

I want to talk about you, your ascension, the promise I wish I knew, too beautiful.

Say it.

Say more for the lovers, please.

Weaver of dreams, dripping stardust, you answered time after time, then I’ll be tired; still, insisting, love thy neighbor.

But how deep is the ocean after the rain? 

An acknowledgement. Help me to be––compassion. Love.

An acknowledgement: Consequences.

Help me to be––serenity. Dearly beloved, I am a dreamer.

Dearly beloved, something I dreamed last night––

It was sometime around midnight, just after another take of something straight, no chaser, and all of us gathered like someone in love, alternating our so whats with melancholic meditations like someday my prince. It was soft lights and slow dance, and you leave me breathless on a misty night to hear a rhapsody. Lover, come back to me. I Cry! 

Tender, it’s a fire waltz, a minor disturbance. It’s this chronic blues, a love supreme.

Call me by my rightful name, I’m old fashioned. I can’t get started. I’m too young to go––

Steady. But it’s all or nothing at all.

Dearly beloved, this is an acknowledgement. 

Beloved, this is a song of praise 

I wish I knew.

***

Inspired by the serendipitous appearance of A Love Supreme on last night’s random shuffle, the above is assembled almost entirely from the titles of John Coltrane songs. And, of course, by love.

Shepherd

The real work of preserving life.

Protect her but know this. Only by doing so in earnest can humility be learned. Some are inclined to believe that the charge begins and ends with what the lost believe is the sole triumph of her sex, forgetting that it is not her womb but how she sat with the creatures in the yard, soothed the sick and the dying, welcomed and fed strangers, and traveled long distances to meet the ones in prison. Some would claim to defend life while they abandon her to her grief, and to all the rest of her work.

Not all of her children are living, but they all have names, and it would be a mistake for anyone outside the limits of her skin to presume to know them––or her, the contents of her heart or the will of her womb. 

There are reasons why the Liberator––who so many seem to prefer in infant form––preferred, as a man, the laying on of hands. There are reasons why he knew to send her attackers away, forgoing either law or personal insult, saying only this: let he who is clean of living cast the first stone. Another time, he asked Simon, in the company of another supposed criminal, Do you see this woman? Weeping and extravagant in her devotion, others would dismiss her on legal grounds, citing purity codes. He knew her by her tears. Later, when he met the women on the road of sorrows he said to them, Weep not for me, but for yourselves, because the day will come. 

To ignore the grief of this moment is to fall asleep again in the garden, when all that was asked was vigilance over one who is persecuted and afraid.

Becoming Shelter

Remaining human in wartime.

At first, it was the usual set of former pets in wartime––cats and dogs. She stayed with them as the shelling continued. The ground was shaking, she says, of her arrival. The dogs were tearing holes in the fence with their teeth.

Later, it became clear that there was no one else to watch the turtles, the peacocks––and who would feed the lion? They left a land mine near his cage. She tried bribes. They detonated. The lion lived. They locked her in a room, killed her dog.  She buried Jina under a tree. When they locked her in a room, they told her she would die if she tried to leave. She left the room. It was time to feed the animals. It is always time, she says. Always.

It haunts her, to imagine the noises the horses made, neighing in the burning stables she could not reach. The shelling continues, and she continues here. It doesn’t matter who you protect, she says. You rescue what you can to remain human when war would make you forget.

***

On the work of Asya Serpinska, a seventy-seven-year-old Ukranian woman sheltering over 700 animals in Hostomel, roughly twenty miles northwest of Kyiv.

First Sight

Notes of a witness.

For a lover, pure and simple, beguiled every step, it may be a long journey. Bloom time in the lowlands, there were weeks and months uncounted, sun-drenched in lark song before the painted hills. Progress slow, I wandered enchanted.

Then came the peaks, massive light forms suggesting the walls of a celestial city. Crystal rocks and aspen glow, the irised spray of waterfalls; all that may perish is vanishing quickly. Listen, ancient glaciers now sing river song, and at temple of the valley floor, a congregation of glowing rock faces to welcome the storm like the lambs. 

In the distance, I heard the thunder of the fall, and before me the whale-back masses of granite crowning and rising, alone and in snug groups. Breaking tranquility, I followed the plunging river down. This wild scene I tell you was never safe, my fate hinged on an idle wind.

Nerves shaken, drenched, bathed in moonlit spray, I hoped. All were in bloom.

The air was shining. I counted, noticing the noon-gray clouds.

I slept and woke, and the winds sung too, in throbbing chorus with the fall, and it was a song I tell you, pleading notice.

Do you think there is a choice now? I saw none but this cry, and I did.

***

In honor of the birthday of Scottish-American naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir (1838-1914) (also known as John of the Mountains), today’s post is composed of found words and phrases from an 1890 essay he published in The Century Magazine, “The Treasures of the Yosemite.”

Between Whales

Song over distance.

In the event

that one of us

should slip from

the range of

contact, I want

to tell you that I 

did not know if 

my voice was 

made of sound,

or if that was just

an idea, possibly

unsound, until

you answered.

I still don’t have

a word for the 

color of that 

last note, but

now I think this

is more likely

about the limits

of any language

seeded 

in isolation

than it is about

a problem with 

my eyes.