I guess the weight of it all is what keeps us longing for some hour of grace, she said. The subject was an idea that one of us was floating, of a truth big enough to shatter the ends of us whole again. We were tired, but she said we would lose the fight if we knew what was before us. Then a strong wind blew, and we were lost again, only now we knew this better than we had before.
Now we’re getting somewhere, she rasped, and we looked up again, hoping she would elaborate, but she was doubled over, laughing through her tears.
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.
When it came time to hide in the cellars again, in that dark damp we all feared, some would not go. One of the grandmothers said, I’d rather die in my perfectly decorated flat. Whatever moves in the dirty basement she will not enter, it does not scamper like the mice in the attic. What moves here is slow like the drips from the faucet. There are candles, flashlights. Faces glow against the screens before them. Some close their eyes, try to sleep.
Do they dream? Fitfully. The cellar dreamer knows that the walls of the cellar are buried walls, with the entire earth behind them. Tell me, where is the fear that does not become exaggerated? The cellar becomes buried madness, walled-in tragedy. When they say take shelter, we wait.
The grandmother’s protest is a reference to Nika Melkozerova’s recent guest essay in the New York Times. Other italicized lines are from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space.