"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Art of Doing Nothing

How do I describe this winter morning… Ground fog is heavy and surrounds us in a surreal whiteout. The full moon is still high and bright in the western sky while the eastern sky is pink with the rising sun. The treetops are visible above the fog and all is still. My camera malfunctioned…..a 35mm with old school film. There were two pictures left on the roll so I snapped them of the moon and the field and the trees and the fog. When the reel is used up, it is supposed to automatically rewind and it sounded like this was what it was doing, but when I opened the film compartment, much to my chagrin, it had only rewound halfway, so the film was exposed and is now ruined.

The fog is thinning and the woods are now completely visible, the moon growing dimmer as the sun rises. A beautiful winter morning that I will now have to commit to memory. What did people used to do? They painted landscapes, whether they were any good at it or not. They wrote letters and descriptions of places and times in diaries and bibles. And because they wrote a lot, many people were quite good at it. When was the last time you got a hand-written letter in the mail? Why have I resisted buying a digital camera? There's something about the development process,the surprise of seeing what you have when you look through your photos. I’m trying to remember all that was on that roll of film . . . The turkey that had accidently hung himself in the crook of a tree down the road a pace, the pond in the sunset, the swing hanging empty from the crooked pear tree, friends and family around the snack bar . . . all lost.

A winter poem about time and place:
State of Alone
The mercury outside my window is slick with ice
Even the inside of the window is glazed.
I scrape the frost off with my nail;
it falls into the sink.
The furnace drones without pause
and the house is quiet.
My summersick dog lies on the heat.
We both feel a draft run through the house;
it sets chimes ringing and makes her nervous.

I inventory things not to do.
It’s in a book—the art of doing nothing.
Meditate and you can see things that aren’t there . . .
brandied cakes and a bottle of wine
set out on a sideboard as if for a friend.

I look behind doors and pause at the stairs
come full circle to see myself sitting there,
in the chair with the wings.
It’s a special friend. I settle for that, out of window’s black view.
I don’t like my back to a window.
Night blankets the house in a mantilla of doubt.
Only cold comes in from under the door.

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