Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ice Bergs, Not Antarctica

Here now is a prelude

I am heeding the words coming from the high places
And the low, buried places
As in the troughs of the dunes and the ancient ways
Where many bents of humans planted trees
Aware of rows and delineations of order
There were many who never transgressed
The cast gates of cities with their watchmen
And those esteemed who processed
Down the only allylanes where the sun would reach
Creek beds change form over silent, wise
Durations of time which never begin or end
And once there were terrific birds on the cliffs
With spans of wings like boughs of trees
And they never flew
Off of and in to the crag and draft
Many of us continue to leap with uttering and songs
Knowing not of flight but of gravity
And all that defies it

Sweep up to this height; I have made a place
In the sand where I might wait and seek you out
In a city of its own lines in the craze of night
Bend now, and bury
Meet the horizon line and with frail twins of feet, run.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On Light

Excerpts from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

"'The Greenland fjords are peculiar for the spells of completely quiet weather, when there is not enough wind to blow out a match and the water is like a sheet of glass. The kayak hunter must sit in his boat without stirring a finger so as not to scare the shy seals away...The sun, low in the sky, sends a glare into his eyes, and the landscape around moves into the realm of the unreal. The reflex from the mirror-like water hypnotizes him, he seems to be unable to move, and all of a sudden it is as if he were floating in a bottomless void, sinking, sinking, and sinking....Horror-stricken, he tries to stir, to cry out, but he cannot, he is completely paralyzed, he just falls and falls.' Some hunters are especially cursed with this panic, and bring ruin and sometimes starvation to their families."

"I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff."

Referring to Marius von Sendens's Space and Sight:

"On the other hand, many newly sighted people speak well of the world, and teach us how dull is our own vision. To one patient, a human hand, unrecognized, is 'something bright and then holes.' Shown a bunch of grapes, a boy calls out, 'It is dark, blue, and shiny...It isn't smooth, it has bumps and hollows.' A little girl visits a garden. 'She is greatly astonished, and can scarcely be persuaded to answer, stands speechless in front of the tree, which she only names on taking hold of it, and then as "the tree with the lights in it."'
"Of a patient just after her bandages were removed, her doctor writes, 'The first things to attract her attention were her own hands; she looked at them very closely, moved them repeatedly to and fro, bent and stretched the fingers, and seemed greatly astonished at the sight.' One girl was eager to tell her blind friend that 'men do not really look like trees at all,' and astounded to discover that her every visitor had an utterly different face. Finally, a twenty-two-old girl was dazzled by the world's brightness and kept her eyes shut for two weeks. When at the end of that time she opened her eyes again, she did not recognize any objects, but, 'the more she now directed her gaze upon everything about her, the more it could be seen how an expression of gratification and astonishment overspread her features; she repeatedly exclaimed, "Oh God! How beautiful!"'"