To Jane Hirshfield

The Rest-Note

The moment between the injury and the cry.
The breath taken before saying an unwelcome truth.
4 AM in a Redwood forest – even the owls are asleep.
The sound of the bell before it is struck and after its music fades.
The moment of astonishment after your hand caught the falling child.
Everything that isn’t between you on the top of Half Dome and the Merced River below.
The moment when you realize you have fallen in love.
The moment when you realize you have fallen in love with the wrong person.
The moment when the voice on the phone says, “He’s dead.”
The space between the ceiling and the roof.
A mouse when it sees the cat.
A cat when it sees the mouse.
The sound of a leaf letting go of its branch.
The moment after the pilot says, “Oh, shit.”
The moment after “I do.”
The moment before the baby’s first breath.
The moment when you flip the switch and nothing happens.
Stopping the car in the middle of highway 395 when you haven’t seen another car for an hour and the only sound is the ticking of the cooling car and the crunch of gravel that has gathered between the double yellow line as you spin slowly to see Spring daring the desert plain. Then you breathe to break the silence.
The space between the Earth and the Moon. The space between atoms in your cup of coffee.
The space between inhaling and exhaling.
The seconds between the flash and rumble and the seconds before the rain and hail pound the walls of your tent and the sound of dripping afterwards. The long pause between the drops.
The darkness when you blink and the light when you eyes are open again.
The smell of your mother’s Shalimar perfume after she’s been dead for 20 years.
The moment when you realize your wallet is missing. Your credit cards. Your journal.

Thanks to Rilke

Ich Liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden
I can’t say I LOVE the dark hours of my being. Maybe that is some existential hyperbole.
I know I am shaped – even fertilized- by that underground stuff, but, it often depresses me and leaves me with no energy to pull myself up by the bootstraps. I have wasted enough of my life in continuous  apathetic ‘what’s the point’ monologs.
I like the idea of ‘the darkness’ being a legend, a tale that I have been telling as it happens. Sometimes I am literally writing up events as they happen.
I have a photo of the Galapagos that speaks to me more and more every time I look at it.
It’s a seascape with a rough and cloudy sky with a smudge of orange on the horizon and darker, slate blue ocean. In the distance, almost indistinguishable from the sea and sky is an island – long and low – forming the horizon line. If you look closely, you can see a finger of morning fog sliding into a bay, hidden by a short peninsula. Closer, in bright black, there is a small island, maybe the tip of an ancient volcano- a rough pyramid alone in the sea.
Sometimes when I look at the picture I am looking for the fog that defines the shape of the shadowy island. I have to peer closely to make it out. There is something about that tiny detail, one that no one else would notice, that makes me happy.  I love the way the fog gives shape and depth to the hidden bay and three dimensionality to the rest of the island.
When I stand away from the picture I have a moment of loneliness. The solitary black island is alone in the vast blues and greys of the sky and sea. The island is so small and exposed there might not be any land-life on it. I can see myself cold and shivering, sitting on top of it after a disaster. I am searching for rescue and seeing the larger distant island gives me no hope because I could never swim that far.
Then, without any thought, my feeling goes from loneliness to hope. I am not quite sure how that little pyramid of blackness can be both lonely and hopeful at the same time. The hopeful bit has something to do with time and how long the ocean has been pounding – sculpting – that rock. The Galapagos are volcanic. The new lava-formed islands to the West are large and the volcanoes still quite active. The Eastern islands have been abandoned by the Earth’s volcanic machine and the sea has been able to chew them down into little nubs scattered across miles of open sea.
There is something about the amount of time it took for a large volcanic island to be reduced to the size of a small pyramid that gives me hope. How is it possible that humans can be this little speck of life sitting in the middle of the ocean, cold and shivering – waiting for rescue. The planet will continue to orbit the sun in our galaxy and our future as a species is uncertain, but, in the life of our galaxy or even the life of our planet, we are beautiful and absolutely unique. Each one of us organic life forms is the result of all this time, all this stuff coming together and falling apart for billions of years.
To the human eye everything is light.  We only see things when the light touches them. If there was no light, we would know nothing beyond what we could smell and touch and hear. The sky wouldn’t be blue, the stars wouldn’t shine, the sun would only be hot time and cold time. Maybe we would sleep during the warm time and be awake, hunting during the cold time.
Maybe there is no such thing as darkness without eyes.
The feeling of hope I feel when I look at my photograph is also tied to the beauty I see there. Tied to my feeling that I was extremely lucky to see that island and take that picture and be alive in the world at that moment.