Friday, November 19, 2010

A Nut

A while back I saw a Charlie Rose episode with a bunch of neurologists talking about brains, and one guy said that our spectacular ones are the direct result of movement, of the fact that we move around.

Trees, he said, don't have brains and don't move around. All our insanely complicating thinking was, in its primary development, all about the body doing things.

This is a photograph I took of a squirrel on a tree. It is an unusual squirrel, in that it has chosen to hang upside-down, belly to the trunk of the tree, and from that entirely perpendicular-to-the-ground stance, eat a nut and look at me, your poet at large.

What I want us to do is to run our hands around the trunk of the tree and feel the rough organic of its room-temperature surface and the unyielding rock of its inside strength. It's big. It's quiet except for the susurration of its leaves above us. Now our hands circle the trunk and arrive at the squirrel, who in this mental visit behaves as if he's been paid. Squirrel is warm and soft, nothing like the long brown-grey column to which he somehow clings.

Now, our hands still on the squirrel, we catch the wee beast's eye. It is a wonderful way to concentrate the mind.

I just saw a recent interview with Christopher Hitchens who is suffering stage 4 cancer and his interlocutor asked, "Are you up to this? To a long conversation on life, death, and the universe, and all the big questions?" (as remembered) and Hitchens said, "Oh, yes. It's what I love to do. And, in fact, it is a wonderful way to concentrate the mind."

So here is the squirrel, a tiny long brown-grey column exhibiting physical warmth, hunger, and whimsey. Some time later, the poet at small sits at her desk and contemplates the photograph and everything not in the photograph, the inverted squirrel world. It is a beauty and remarkably cruel, with all its stages, from 3 and 4 to 1 and 2.

What do we for the moment conclude? The mind is made of movement. The moving mind is unconcentrated. The tree is mindless and concentrated. The dare-devil squirrel is resting and arresting. The mind arrested is a desperately needed rest. Not everyone is best off staying still by staying still. The mind, which is movement, concentrates and stays still, for some, in conversation with the world. Miserable? Shattered? Sad for a good man's bad news? Describe something carefully. The conversation's movement is the natural home and place of concentration of the mind.


William said...

"It's quiet except for the susurration of its leaves above us. "

Although I did not consciously spot the unfamiliar "susurration" until the second reading, I was able comprehend the expression during the initial reading. Now that is some well written prose.

Thank you.

adobehead said...

nice blog.

thinbegin said...

god. that was wonderful. do it again!