‘There is more beauty than our eyes can bear…’

I love the prairie! So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing. There may have been a more wonderful first moment “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” but for all I know to the contrary, they still do sing and shout, and they certainly might well. Here on the prairie there is nothing to distract attention from the evening and the morning, nothing on the horizon to abbreviate or to delay. Mountains would seem an impertinence from that point of view.

–Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)

*   *   *

Last night when I couldn’t fall asleep, the wind chimes dangled their silvery fingers, twinkling the breeze, now & again, against each other.

Every so often the wind chimes ask the breeze to introduce them. It does, they speak softly.

This dawn comes, moving me to move. I cannot help but be moved, being moved to move.

*

I now have names for trees: the London plane (far left), the ginkgo (lower left), the magnolia (lower right), the ailanthus (upper right).

The London plane and the ailanthus have the best views by far; the ginkgo and the magnolia are children looking up.

The ailanthus is rotating on its spine, giving itself a massage.

*

The courtyard below is marked off by a brick wall. The brick wall is not lonely: spaced out at even intervals are seashells.

The koi pond to its immediate right incessantly gurgles a little, the spittle getting free from the water mouth, the air catching it & letting it out to be gurgled again someday.

*

The amber tree’s hair is sticking up this morning. Around this time, it has cabello dorado like mine.

Self-portrait: a mushroom-capped mole below the left sideburn, a scar from childhood marking the crease in the lower lip, under nostrils gnarled knuckles, smelling of earth, alluding to summer berries.

A mood: pensive, in love. Pose: hands on neck behind hair, cupping it, warming it.

*

The sounds of seagulls, mourning doves, barking dogs. Distant and airy, coo-cooing, astringent! When things die down, then wind chimes.

Things died down, now wind chimes.

*

Listening: ‘Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos. From the beginning…’

Never alone, always half-smiling thusly: earnestly, amusedly, attentively, adoringly, tenderly, graciously.

The traffic will start the day in blue.Then it will turn madder, then return to blue.  

*

Early spring. ‘What, are you wearing shorts? You are crazy.’ Liz, a Ukrainian. ‘Yes, I’m going running.’ ‘You are crazy.’ Smiles, Bach.

Runners taking themselves far too seriously. Also: traders, financiers, lawyers, gallerists, advisers. NYers. ‘You are crazy.’ Death kindly stopping.

*

This afternoon, there were geese eating below the Trump. They fed themselves on berries, ignoring the man lugging the bike down toward the river.

Years ago, the geese were eating red winter berries & shitting on the campus lawn. Amid the snow, shit. Amid the shit, ruby esculent berries.

*

Yesterday, the rain had turned the building into a mud nest. By morning, it has returned to sandpaper. Before it stands the London plane.

The daylong rain has turned the building located at 11 o’clock into a mud nest, mocha dauber brown meeting berber tan at sloping seams & peaks.

*

Un foto. In the background: an iron bridge. Off left: a small waterfall, forceful. Left foreground: a striated tree, old roots, new leaves.

Rilke. ‘Don’t you hear my voice?… Don’t you know that my prayer is growing ripe upon your vision, as upon a tree?’

Gilead. ‘There is more beauty than our eyes can bear….’

Maria: that little girl, a woman’s voice ripened with wind and roots and leaves.

*

The morning sky was turquoise, the color of Swedish eyes. Moments before nightfall, the sky is fair, reticent, a woman dressed in fall. I know them both, mother & son.

To each home a different light, a different ensemble of lights, a different shade of orange, and no orange the same shade exactly.

On being in debt up to your ears (but in a good way)

On Philosophy as the Love of Giving

“In gratitude,” the note said. Inside the box was a book by Seneca, Epistles 1-65 of the Loeb Harvard Edition. The old man Seneca is writing to his younger philosophical friend and pupil Lucius, a Roman knight and civil servant. The letters were meant both to educate Lucius in the ways of Stoic philosophy, “the stern nurse of heroes during the first century of the Empire” (ix), writes Richard Gummere, and to be essays addressed to the general reader about the art of living. (Oh but how, in each line you write, to catch the personal and impersonal both?)

My note, which said “In gratitude,” was signed by one of my conversation partners. It damn near made me cry. “A small token,” he said later. Let me share a little with you.

Letter 34. On a Promising Pupil

“I grow in spirit and leap for joy,” writes Seneca to Lucius, “and shake off my years and my blood runs warm again, whenever I understand, from your actions and your letters, how far you have outdone yourself; for as to the ordinary man, you left him in the rear long ago. [Damn straight, I add.–AT] If the farmer is pleased when his tree develops so that it bears fruit, if the shepherd takes pleasure in the increase of his flocks, if every man regards his pupil as though he discerned in him his own early manhood,–what, then, do you think are the feelings of those who have trained a mind and moulded a young idea, when they see it suddenly grown to maturity?

[…]

“You know what I mean by a good man?” Seneca continues. “One who is complete, finished,–whom no constraint or need can render bad. I see such a person in you, if only you go steadily on and bend to your task, and see to it that all your actions and words harmonize and correspond with each other and are stamped in the same mould. If a man’s acts are out of harmony, his soul is crooked. Farewell.” (241-3)

On the Joys of Always Being in Debt

The worst part of my philosophy practice is that if I’m not indebted to one conversation partner, then I’m invariably indebted to another. In revenge tragedy, payback is assumed, demanded, for an instant it’s bloody sweet, but then cosmic justice (dike) can never be restored. Where revenge tears at the fabric of being, law seeks amends. Law–pale-eyed Athena–was invented so that dues, in principle, could be repaid. Only for the one who’s wounded there’s always a hang-up: something further always remains. The law, all too human, fails to make whole, and that is its flaw. But in Christian forgiveness, the beautiful dream is that the slates shall be wiped clean. Someday, it is said.

I own a business, this philosophy practice, this one down here, but it’s clearly not a good one.  Because a good business bootstraps it from day 1, thereafter operating in the black. Well, I do and I don’t. So, mine has to be abysmal, “ass backwards,” says one conversation partner. My first thought–this, I think, being one of Zeno’s lost paradoxes–is that I’m always behind and can never catch up. Oh well.

Farewell, my friends. I’ll be leaving New York later today. Not for good. By plane.