Ice crystal showers and no exact matches between them, foot after foot, later to water, then vapor. I love the story of Wilson Alwyn Bentley, dubbed Snowflake Bentley, who caught them on camera, against black velvet before they melted. He did it so well that no one else bothered for most of the next century. Ice flowers, he called them.
I remember making igloos big enough for one child to crawl in, belly-flat, and crouching, once inside, in the center room, looking out like a mole, surrounded by the display of the most recent storm, kneeling. How I would wait, taking it in, cupping tiny piles to my mouth, sneaking bites of pure winter, the quickening of my chest as it melted through me. I would repeat this ritual over and again, trying to hold it, holding still in the igloo, knowing it wouldn’t last.
I wanted to fall to my knees, Bentley said, of his first witness to what he called those tiny miracles, through his lens. Instead, he kept at it. He wanted others to be able to see, too.
Which is more common, sense or the mysteries around it?
Not everyone is sold on the idea that plants have any, which makes it difficult to explain how trees harmonize, not to mention what mushrooms are doing without it. It’s generally accepted as a feature of humans, hence so many references to basic sensibilities, to sensible and senseless behaviors, and comparisons on varying levels of sensitivities. There’s plenty to be studied on an anatomical level––communications between organs, organisms, within and across regions, species, and time––most of which serves to reinforce a foundational understanding, however paradoxical, about the layers of mystery we’re dealing with.
These are challenging regions to chart: the matter of spirit, realities of imagination, bodies of mind, to say nothing of the minds of bodies. Which of these oversees sense, and which is to blame when it goes missing? And when we refer to that which is presumed common, is it one of these, or that which evades such reduction? There is reason to believe that these questions will linger as we continue to explore unmapped spatial, spiritual, and imaginative terrains. No sooner do we begin to chart a territory when another opens.
I suppose if there were fewer unknowns it might be easier to treat senselessness, to say as with a child’s skinned knee, show me where it is, to clean and bandage the wound, and say gently, there we go. All better! Which raises two questions: can a creature adapted to mystery survive when plucked from its depths? And, when this perception becomes the coin of the realm, what is lost?
Inspired by the work of Carl Jung.
Start in the dark. Notice what is moving there, and how. Dance with it. Conversation follows, but you’ve talked enough. The shadows have plenty to say now. Listen. In the silence that follows, consider the abundance of shadow, multiplied for each known and unknown. From this infinite mystery, learn. What follows will make a fool out of you, and then you will be on your way.
Commonplace reminders on being.
Golden yarrow, fledgling web, congregations of clover refusing to quit. These dishes again, and the pot left soaking overnight. Pan, too. Basket of laundry, ever renewing, and this list. This ache in my temples to remind me what I took for granted just last week, like the fluttering chest and sore neck. Sleeping cat in the chair, beside a small collection of beach rocks, at least one of which is concrete, gathered how many years ago? By still-dimpled hands, with calm assurance reaching up, saying Here. Hawk on streetlight, coyote in yard, dog panting on rug, legs splayed forward and back, trail of pawprints between the door and where she is now, looking up. This trio of men at the park in boxing gloves and sweatpants and the youngest must be at least sixty-eight. They run in circles, punch pads and one another’s gloves, punch trees and the trees hold still. One among them is the coach and when he’s not cussing a blue streak he’s shouting, C’mon, that don’t matter! Whaddya doin?! No, look! Up, up, up!
Considering the movement in these moments.
You’ve been a cane-wielding cartoon old man, white beard down to your knees; a bloody tyrant, horned and masked, coming to ravage every beloved. Then, in the next scene, a healer: white linen, salves, and herbs, sometimes in the costume of a nurse of the first influenza, the first world war. The bard posed you with a scythe, the dark reaper poised, and had his lovers profess refusal to be your fool.
Then you’re a river. We build our settlements near you, travel over washing, reviving, bathing, and blessing one another by your body. Then, when the great storms come, you rinse us away––and yet, when we come to, there we are, still within and among your waters, carrying their currents in our cells. Someone suggests you are an illusion, maybe they meant elusive, but the idea adds much to our sense of the scope and reach of what we touch and then create, our tools one part memory and another part dream, and the last must be need. But for what? Is this nourishment you bring, or is it more like shelter against what we are not ready for––yet?
If you are long like a ribbon or a road, why can’t we know this about you in a moment? There’s no duration in the present, but we’ll measure rest as well as motion, our now both a beginning and an end, and in your holy geography we continue to meet, dancing in the second line with the saints, and we the once and future ancients, spinning the rhythms of your forever reception.
An imagined monologue in the voice of Johannes Kepler, born this day in 1571.
Okay, so my starting point was not data in the sterile manner so often preferred, but faith in harmony, the trinity’s perfection: here center, here a spherical surface, here the intermediary space, but who can separate one from the other without immersion in the deadly lie of separation? I took its unity for granted as a starting point. Poor method, some would argue, but you have to start somewhere, and I think too many scientists underestimate the value of our natural inheritance. I challenge anyone to notice the rhythm of these forms and tell me they aren’t true. There is symmetry through a quantity established at the start, first in Creation and then in the mind’s capacity to bear witness to its vast shape, these shapes our elements, these elements our incarnation, just beyond what we can fully know, and yet. Look, I say. Look!
A contemporary of Galileo, Kepler was among the first to publicly validate Galileo’s theory of a heliocentric model of the universe. What strikes me about Kepler is the strong aesthetic and theological bent of his interests, which seem inseparable from his science.
Kepler’s A Priori Copernicanism in his Mysterium Cosmographicum in: M. A. Granada / E. Mehl (eds.), Nouveau ciel, Nouvelle terre. L’astronomie copernicienne dans l’Allemagne de la Réforme (1530–1630), Paris, Belles Lettres, 2009 [collection l’Âne d’Or], pp. 283–317.
“We will Laugh at The Extraordinary Stupidity: Galileo to Kepler” in Science Backyard.
“An Astronomer’s Astronomer: Kepler’s Revolutionary Achievements. . .” in Scientific American.
Scratching toward the surface of an unknown.
An expansion of the universe invisible to the eyes, someone called it. Here is something to wonder about, scratching the surface of an itch to know about other life, other lives. But we haven’t even scratched it yet, someone is always saying, regarding the surface of knowing. Good point, considering how it’s piled thick with questions and hardware: scopes, coronagraphs, spectrometers, and I don’t know the names for the odds and ends you can hang off any of the little hooks and Velcro patches: soil samplers, wave detectors, and whatever that thing is that measures the acceleration of entropy or the relative distance between stars. Both of these are apparently on the increase, but so is the rate at which we can proliferate tools, such that it’s hard not to wonder if the question of the moment doesn’t have at least something to do with finding some limits, the way children looking for structure will push and push, looking for the moment when someone comes in to say, No, that’s enough, which is code, in certain contexts, for You’re safe. Stop here. Set those down. Rest.
What happened when the light changed.
The ants were marching one by two, hurrah, and from a chrysalis came particles of light. The old light waved from the shores we had left, and there was no going back. Clocks melted in these new sands at our tentative feet and soon after, the bodies on canvas began to separate from themselves and from any of the forms we thought we knew. It became possible to be neither in or out of being, but both at once, and above it as with dreams. The ants were going somewhere but here was another unknown among the unseen worlds, now in catch of our breaths.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and––
Show me a straight line in nature. And yet, this insistence on the fastest means from point A to point B. Not to mention, the idea of this continuum: Then, Now, Tomorrow. As if.
Well, there is the horizon, as seen from anywhere on water.
Come to think, it was the seafaring people, wasn’t it, who so ardently embraced the linear alphabets and syllogisms and systems for organizing space?
True. Inland, its all curves and oases, mountains and arabesques, and everywhere space fracturing into its heavens and black holes, not to mention time and alphabets, and when the temple veil tears the shelter from the old masters, so do notions of antiquity shift away from what is solidly past to include what also was dreamed and may yet be, and there we are in it, singularities before our own consciousness and the moment among us, these mortals chanting to our own heartbeats and also to the the origins of time, insisting at each beginning, World without end.