Monday, August 14, 2006

Time for a Walkabout

This morning I walked around my neighborhood a little after dawn, savoring air that was cool and fragrant with honeysuckle, mimosa, pine, and gardenia. Each home seemed to offer a different perfume of the owner’s favorite plants, some whispering more to the eye with extravagant rouges and blues and zanthic yellows. Mourning doves called, to each other, I know. But they seemed softly to reproach me for letting myself be so preoccupied lately with darkness and trouble.

Crossing a creekbridge shaded by towering loblolly pines and pin oaks, I caught a whiff of mud flats and boggie critters, and was suddenly transported back to childhood days spent in intent study of the society of fiddler crabs on the banks of a nearby marsh. The placid surface of the tidewater creek reflected a sky pure and unblemished by any sound but morning birdcalls; by any movement but breeze-borne spider silk.

It was a kind of intoxication, or bewitchment, that I’ve been denying myself too long.

For a spell I aim to spend a lot more time savoring my little patch, and thinking about how much beauty there is, not just in nature, but in the people who tend their gardens, and clean up their public ways when they’re done with their own yards, and still have time and energy to volunteer for the rescue squad, or shelve books at the library, or serve church dinners. Playing my fiddle for folks in hospital, sometimes for people living out their final days or hours, has been challenging, but gives me some sense that I can ease other folks’ burdens with something that might otherwise be shabby self-indulgence.

I wish I had some other folks' expansive confidence that the worst is past. But what struck finally me this morning is that whatever happens in the short term, I do share the sense that things will work out. I love that phrase: “In the fullness of time...” It conveys to me a reminder that a jaundiced view puckers our squinty eyes like blinders, making us numb to the wide world and the titanic stretch of time behind and before. Once in a while, a little injection of cosmic perspective helps to settle the mind at how small the ripples in the stream really are.

My brother planted several pine seedlings in our backyard the year my folks moved into this house, now forty-one years ago. Those have matured to rival even the most ancient of the trees, and shelter trailing vines that house birds, snakes, squirrels, frogs, cicadas, bees, ladybugs and mantids. Just a few decades, and the scars of fire and ruin can be healed by lush growth and steady human labor. Nagasaki and Hiroshima have been rebuilt, along with Dresden and Hamburg and Coventry and a thousand other cities and towns once shattered by man and nature, and their inhabitants rush about their business and have to be reminded to take an occasional day to remember...

I want to thank all you other bloggers and commenters for the time and efforts and research you’ve done and shared; for the late nights and gritty eyes and sore wrists from typing and scrolling, keeping the conversations going. It has helped me sort things out. I hope the exchange going on among the blogs has reached a few others. The thoughts, challenges, responses, but most importantly, the fundamental decency and civility of the best blogs (Belmont Club, for instance) set a very high standard for constructive debate. I pray that somewhere in some quiet alcove in Teheran, or Beijing, or in a study carel in a Pakistani madrassah, maybe someone has surreptitiously been following the conversations here or some of the other blogs, and come away with a quickening hunger to join in.


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