From the congregation of stones.
Against the disposable, away from the technofix, certain questions emerge. They are about relearning our being in the world. I heard these from a scientist poet, although she didn’t call herself this. Asked to describe her work, she said listening. She said delight. She called it the work of waiting.
For what, I wondered. She said, consider the reverence of the speechless stone. What would they ask of us, she wondered back, that would allow our admission into their holy communion, and how would we hear them? Perhaps by these skeletons, our marrow singing like well-tuned bowls.
Nothing is single here, she said, and nothing goes one way. I want to wait with her, to learn the reverence of these silent-seeming stones, until their language hymns my bones.
Inspired by, and with borrowed phrases and images from Ursula K. Leguin’s Keynote address, “Deep in Admiration,” from Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, from the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, a gem curated by David Naimon in the beautiful ecosystem he’s created around his Between the Covers podcast.
I once was lost, but now this.
From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money.
It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.
I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?
I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them.
Smiles from the threshold.
After the body, winking branches point to cloud faces and birdsong heralds their parade. Here is a frame for the living, and in it, more seeds than there are numbers.
Far from immaterial, this breathes syllables of flesh and leaf, spore and wing; limbs and their memory, and without these containers it would be everything all at once like water to a fish, synonymous with life’s self, but we are creatures bent on naming.
We make nests of words to offer as a frame for warming the babies, so that when the known perimeter breaks––by degrees and then completely, they might recognize in our heat, the beginning of something, and stay.
Speaking of the universes inside us now, of silenced griefs, do you wonder if this new fear has come to meet our weak refusals to acknowledge its magnitude? An inherited idea: us as defenders of the first official bodies of an emerging something––and yet, we couldn’t see it, not all the way. We missed the point, didn’t we, when we called it safe.
They gave it borders and called it done. Who could blame them? Had I known better, I might have done the same with my own form when I could, but even a broken body can learn, when it comes time for offerings, to be one.
You can hear the official mandates all around: ours, ours, no trespassing, but try claiming something from a body whose primary substance is the fluid it sends and receives, through these acres of unknowns, and eventually we challenged them to go ahead, see if they could find a place to plant their flag. This took no words; just as well when these were the first to flee.
Inspiration: On March 6, 2022, Krista Tippett, whose excellent On Being Project I have long followed, tweeted: “There is a universe inside each of us now of unarticulated fear and unmarked grief.” As with many of her observations, this one resonated a particular truth of this moment.
And of course, the images we all know by heart now, and in our bones, of mothers in wartime.
A mycelium-inspired montage.
Be the hero, we say to one another, of your own life. The logic encourages these rampant proliferating fantasies, each body the focal point of motion. It’s something else to assume a body like a riverbed. One logic trains heroes for noble departures from known worlds across manufactured thresholds, through theme park underworlds and back again, and in the retelling a people can learn to take as given idea of the world as something to travel through––in order to finish on top. It would be another choreography entirely if the crossing in question was over forbidden mountain ranges of the calcified remains that stagnate between the origin of music and the sound of a single voice, bereft of chorus, learning to hear again, a call across hemispheres of knowing, waiting to respond until fully immersed in the dirt, each limb stretching from self into selves into another body entirely, vast and webbed across acres of time, humming Here.
What we stash to save beyond selves.
This morning, I read that chickadees make it through the winter by eating through a stash of eighty-thousand seeds they hide during warmer months, and if I put my keys anywhere but on the ledge by the door I will be at a loss and probably late.
There are different categories of memory, say cognitive ecologists, and this one is spatial. What is mine, then? It’s not spatial, nor is it numbers. I rarely have the right fact at the right time. Impressions, I have plenty. I remember the images, sounds, and sudden sensations that stopped me. The lilting laughs and mannerisms of departed loves, near-strangers included, the dimples in a former toddler’s chubby hand. I return to these only to be stopped again and again. From a lens of individual survival, this penchant toward becoming increasingly porous with each piercing recollection seems the opposite of useful.
It’s no effort at all to harvest cache upon cache of opportunities to grieve, to return to what is lost, and I’m hardly alone in this. Perhaps this is the best adaptation of our species, this enforced stoppage, this innate entanglement.
We make music after death to sustain the living, our elegies like bridges reaching for the land of the dead, so that we are never fully in ourselves, but always reaching, from and to how many points? None of which seems essential for any one of us, and all of which complicate and tighten the weave of this larger forever netting, holding us, somewhere beyond the spatial Here to hear something else.
Because of this, any one of us can say to another, Remember This, and by this sacrament maintain some subtle evasion beyond death’s inevitable hand. It will get us each when the last winter comes, but not before we go around stashing parts of ourselves away in the living, remember.