Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunday Afternoon

Hammocked. In my adult cradle, rocking gently from moment to moment. Metronomic. Metonymic. I look up into the deciduous canopy. The delicious panoply. The precocious and riotous greenery of the woods that stand on a hill over the back of my house. Here, nearby, over and above me also, are the several Rose-of-Sharon bushes with their dozens. Oh. Maybe hundreds of blooms. Red. Semi-flame-shaped. Variously opening and burning and closing and falling. At once. Simultaneous. Moment to moment.

Rose-of-Sharon. Endless flower. Native to China and India. Not so much the flower in the Bible because that may be a lily or a crocus of some sort, one recalls. More the flower from Korea. More an oriental rather than an Old Testament allusion. Importation. But. How to say. Still there is this residual meaning because of the name. The name that marries the Mideast to east and now both to me here in the Midwest. Through time. Through hammock swings. On the deck of a home in the burbs. In America. In the modern cradle of western civilization. As I try to hold together in mind. Oh. More ideas than I can know or say. More history and thought and life and experience and time in the language I’ve inherited than I can possibly parse or explicate or sufficiently articulate.

And here. Here. Here is a hummingbird. Feeding at the rose of Sharon blossoms. Ontologically suspect, it is so light. So fast. So odd, really, sipping flower nectar. Backing up. Hovering. Suddenly here and gone and here again. Murmuring softly as a spirit its small subliminal cheep. Cheep. Odd. It might be as much spiritual as corporeal. Suddenly here. Beautiful. Red-throated and iridescently green. Other-worldly, with its metallic sheen and its. Well. Its complete maneuverability. Its blur of motion where its wings should be. Its ability to appear and disappear at will. In the time it takes to say, for example, Oh!

So remarkably delicate. Exquisite. American. Native to the western hemisphere. (A misnomer, really. More where east meets west. Remember Columbus and his Indians. The theory of the migration across the Bering land bridge.) Summers here. Perhaps travels here from Mexico, one reads. If so, flies over the Gulf. Eight hundred miles. Eight hundred miles! This little thing. A few grams is all. Without food or rest. A feat that suggests the supremacy in it of the spiritual, don’t you think? I mean, really? How is there enough matter there to fire an engine at 60 Hertz for what is it? Days, maybe. Wing-beats at 60 times per second for.

Well, let’s do the arithmetic, shall we? Let’s say 30 miles per hour and a direct line, for the sake of argument. That makes it 27 hours, give or take. And that’s what? Is this right: 216,000 wing-beats per hour? Or a total of 5,832,000 wing-beats over the 27 hour period. Give or take.

Six million or so wing-beats! In a little over 24 hours! Incredible. Isn’t it? From something that weighs a few grams. Wouldn’t it simply expire? Wouldn’t the mechanics fail? Wouldn’t its stores of energy give out? How is this creature possible?

Improbable. Remarkable. This little bit of feather, beak, and bone. A spirit as large as. Oh. I don’t know. An angel, maybe. An angel with ruby neck and emerald back. Come from all that way away to sip on the beautiful here where east meets west and my hammock cradle rocks. And the leaves profuse. And the blossoms profess. And my leisure holds everything endlessly in mind as I swing slightly, thinking of Walt Whitman and his poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” and as I remember W.D. Snodgrass reading that poem in such a way one starry night that I thought I would weep. And as I remember this reading, this listening, this moistness around the window-shades, I also remember a poet friend of those very same days who thought. Back then. That the reason we see wildlife. Birdlife, for example. An eagle. A red-tailed hawk. A ruby-throated hummingbird. Is that the particular bird in question wants to be seen. Wants you to see it. Has selected you. To see it for everything it is.

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