The Pleasures in Plain Sight
“A truly good book attracts very little favor to itself.
It is so true that it teaches me better than to read it.
I must soon lay it down and commence living on its hint.”
— Henry David Thoreau, from his journal for Feb. 19, 1841
On a bench facing a concrete plaza
I alternate reading and spectating.
In this sun the pages repel like ice.
My elliptical concentration
seems appropriate to the leaping prose
of Robert Bly’s Morning-Glory Poems.
The lines flow like the people in this park —
a beauty passing every few minutes.
(“How weird the goalies seem in their African masks!”)
But so many of the images spark
without making connection. I know, I know,
the original sin was linear thought.
A cottonwood fluff floats by. Shall I think
“The spirit blowing where it will,” or
“The seed’s strictly orthodox intelligence”?
It’s hard work, this being spontaneous.
A honey bee lands beside me on the bench,
sides aquiver, as though it were out of breath.
What a nice vest! Its favorite color,
velvety pollen yellow. It lifts off
and, after some hovering indecision,
checks out the shrub behind the bench,
a prickly bush that could use some pruning —
its new growth shaggy as Einstein’s mane.
Laying the book aside I squirm around
to keep tabs on the bee, which bobs up, zips
out of sight. Gingerly, I grab a branch,
pick apart inch-long ellipsoid leaves
to pluck a tiny, lime-green kernel,
a little coincidence I dandle —
it’s the exact same shape, nearly the color
of the sake bottle my potter sister praised
on our recent tour of the Johnson Museum.
Her exuberant awe boomeranged
to despair — such a perfectly simple pot
required hands at one with a mind-spirit
stripped to Being’s bare essential grace,
graspable everywhere in nature, but
difficult, beyond saying, to create.
How many years of a life, how many
centuries of a culture does that pot
represent? How many eons of earth-time
this seed I drop into my pocket?
(The next letter my sister gets from me
will convey a palpably cryptic P.S.)
I close my eyes and lift them to the sun,
thinking of Thoreau, whose Walden I’ve looked into
again this spring, that passage where he says
he had to leave off hoeing his beanfield
sometimes and just let everything — even
his own meddlesome mind — just let everything be.