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.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dear Fonzie Arises from an Accidental Era of Hiatus to Talk about Dapple

Dear Fonzie,

It's hard to capture dapple. When I'm back at the rock with nothing but the idea "push against the rock" and the rock doesn't move and neither to I, I find out a lot about equal and opposite forces. When I'm back at the rock and I push with the intent of moving, I suppose, it doesn't move but I do. So there you have it: In the middle of this portion of your life, you find yourself confused about direction, in a bright woods.

The dapple hits the ground layer of leaves and moss which is up-buttressed by a skeleton of branches. It is pretty and hypnotizes. You are a bit cold. You miss the medications you used to use, but the wind shudders the trees and the dapple on the forest floor begins to shimmer and quiver, a bright shivering, and it calms you down.

You look up, the leaves dapple against the blue sky, with the sun slapping everything around. There are worse situations, as we love to point out at all times that we are not pointing out that there are better situations. Embrace the face of it though: You are lost in these bright woods and it is chilly.

I mention all of this because I haven't posted in a good long while, wiling away my wiles against quiet, and people, and other paper, other spaces. Today though, I have reappeared with little or no planning or intention, just a decision to channel you some straight babble, like a talkative Visigoth, following out from the word "dapple," to which my thoughts of late have been continually returning, like someone in a dream or coma half-remembering what they need to remember in order to wake up or whatever. Dapple.

I've been trying to photograph it. As above noted, it isn't at all casually doable. The intensity of actual sunlight against actual deep shadow can't be flatly done or anywise is not usually doublable. Attempts prove that what looks like dapple in real life, leaf shadows on leafy ground and fences, doesn't look as dapply as leaves against a blue sky, which in real life is only dapple with a bit of human will helping to splay the sunlight through the trees.

Anyway, I think dapple might be effective as an elevated mood stabilizer.