Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Deciduous Story

Or think of it this way, what lives under the deciduous canopy. Think of it as a story that is revised, moment to moment. Season to season. Year to year. Think of the ways the days work. How they keep coming, one after another. The earth rocking round itself, its course through space. And each day is a new day. Anything might happen. Each day, one may choose something new or at least different to do or say or be.

I think of Walt Whitman. The original vagabond. The original American poet. Who spent his life as a poet writing and revising Leaves of Grass. Revising himself. The record of himself. The song of himself. As the deciduous tree revises itself. Shedding and remaking itself seasonally, all of its life.

Shedding what has been in part destroyed and consumed by the life around it. Shedding what has become tattered and bitten. Sloughing off an essential part of the old self to make room for the new.

The earth works this way, even geologically. Architectonically. New rock pressing upward in the form of magma. Thrust upward to form mountains. Eroding over millennia to form sand that mixes with dead matter to form limestone and other forms of stone. That then gets eroded itself when stranded on land, away from its over-mantling water. To make more sand.

Think of the species, the succession of life forms. Moving through time. Changing through time. Revising their forms and their methods and their spirits through time. Life itself revising itself. Rethinking what it will be. Reformulating how it will be.

Revision as the underlying principle. Getting the words right. Getting the forms right. Moving always toward something and away from something else. Leaving something essential behind and inventing or growing or making something new that is also essential. A new essence. A new centrality. A different and perhaps more faithful expression. Rendition. Perturbation. Instantiation. Foliation. Flexion.

I think of Walt. Grandiose magnanimous magnificent quotidian Walt. Disreputable Walt. Inventing and discarding himself. Refashioning and refurbishing his song. Revising and remaking his record. Intentionally making of himself a method. A way. An emphasis. An example. American. Uniquely synthetic. Synchronic. Letting history go. Accumulating the future. Holding in mouth and mind the linguistic trove but reinvesting it for the coming millennium. A new sensibility. A different mode.

Some way, we Americans are in a cradle that Walt has helped make. Find ourselves climbing out of a cradle that Walt sings of. Discover ourselves in a way of speaking that Walt borrowed from the Bible. The cadences. The mixed mode chaos of rhetorical approach and rule and device and form and pseudo-random form. An essentially spiritual formulation of what it means to be alive. But a departure also from the specifics of the Bible’s story to write a new story. With the emphasis on new. On what’s coming. What will happen next. What might or could or be made to happen next.

Walt, full of kindness. Full of sorrow for the Civil War maimed. Full of joy and love and sadness and celebration and grief and. Possessed of an outsized spirit that his body could only with difficulty contain. Like the hummingbird. Improbable. Perhaps impossible. But incontrovertibly actual. Genuine. Impious. Frank. Flagrant. Unbuttoned. Naked before God.

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