Tuesday, August 14, 2007
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing-- human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
E.E. Cummings, from XAIPE, 1950
This is one of my favorite poems. It goes at least part of the way toward describing the enormity that I feel when I'm faced with the sheer, giant beauty of the natural world. And many of Cummings' poems express the way I see the universal nature of our world, our country, our communities.
It's a little like this: I'm sure there has been a moment in your life when you wished there existed a stronger word for 'love'-- when you had to say to someone, "No, I mean it, I really love you," and then even that sentiment wasn't enough. In my reading, Cummings' unconventional wordings and punctuations try to extend our language, to help the words make the kind of sense that punches you in the gut. (For instance, don't trees "leap... greenly" up to the sky?)
As I stood at the top of the town of Vezelay in France's Burgundy region and prepared to take the photo above, the sun came from behind a cloud and illuminated only part of the valley below. And I could believe that the sun was born again that day and that moment, both through the clouds and around the planet, as it is every day somewhere. We looked at the line where the sky disappears around the curve of the land, and I thought of this poem.
It happens often. I mean, how many leaves are on the tree outside your window? Can you even count them all? At the beach, how many grains of sand do you touch as you build a sandcastle? And how many cells make up your body? It's all around us, and it's infinite. The world. And your life.
As Julia Child said famously, "Life itself is the proper binge." There's too much: too much to see, too much to do, too much to feel on this earth for us to stumble through, unwitting. So open the ears of your ears and the eyes of your eyes to the world all around you.
(I'm not sure I expressed myself as clearly as I would have liked to do-- and this is perhaps where you start making fun of me and my naive optimism and wide-eyed innocence. But, dear Reader, you must forgive me-- I was (clearly!) an English major.)