Tuesday, June 26, 2012


And your silence continues, unexplained. No echos returned, but having gone to bed with bats, the evening of the shortest night, this morning I awoke with birds, a fascination of birds, a din of birds, and the need to be up, out, before dawn.

For the record, I usually sleep till nine or ten unless something wakes me up first. As with my father before me, sleep for me appears to be a heavy thing, so that if you charted my sleep habitats on the face of a clock you could see my bedtime and my waking both grow later, finally centering my sleep across the very bottom of the clock, my personal midnight, six AM. Sometimes, however, I do the unusual thing, and saver a dawn.

My husband would laugh; he doesn't see how I can claim to be a morning person, since I have trouble being awake in the morning, but when I am awake in the early morning, I really like it. I always have--I love the liminal, and also the elfin softness of the dawn. I remember, too, certain mornings when I was a child when I would wake, full to delight with the possibility of...something. I could never quite figure out what I anticipated, or, later whether the anticipated thing had actually happened. What, exactly, was I so hopeful that I could get? I never knew, so I couldn't search for it, except by getting up, getting into the day. It still happens that way sometimes, though remembering all the other mornings when the hope faded with no clear resolution dampens the feeling somewhat.

But I wanted to go out and hear the birds properly, not dimmed by the trailer walls and my husband's gentle breathing. I wanted, not to ID them, but to hear them, count how many voices I heard, untangle the skein of chatter and hear them one by one. I grabbed a blanket and ran out.

I couldn't do it, of course; there were too many. I could locate three or four voices, but then over in the trees was just a clump of chirpy sound. I walked towards the trees to hear better, and the voices just dispersed, dampened within the canopy, replaced in my attention by the vegetable details of trees and an ant. It was a very big, black ant, and I followed it for a while, to see what its ant business was.  I don't have the requisite obsession to develop the aural discrimination I need. I do have other kinds of obsession, however. I know all the trees here, and many of the flowers out in the meadow beyond the trees out by the river and the mud bank where swallows nest and strafe the invisible clouds of insects to get their daily bread. Grasses will be next. I'm becoming sensitized to grasses, seeing dozens and dozens of kinds when I used to notice only grass. I'm starting to learn them, feeding that lovely obsession.  These clumps of fine, flowering grasses that look like clots of cloud from a distance are, close up, caught pink and crystalline with droplets of dew, they look like the costume jewelry of a little, princess-preoccupied girl, such as my sister was. They ought to be scented with rose-water, my sister's first perfume, but they are not. And I will look these grasses up.

So, worst case scenario; you don't respond, don't answer my electronic calls. What would that mean? It would mean you could not answer, not that you wouldn't, certainly. It would mean you are sick, absent, or perhaps preoccupied by unending duties with which I cannot compete. And what would that mean? I shall not resolve the mystery of where you are in these pages, as whatever is going on is probably private--my bringing up a question I don't intend to answer probably counts as a cheap trick from the perspective of our readers, but that's the way it is. I won't give away confidences that are not mine to give. But I shall answer the secondary question, what it would mean to me if you didn't answer.

I would be disappointed, hurt, almost regardless of why, as a child can be disappointed by an adult's failings, a disappointment beyond excuses, beyond reasons, even if the adult has fallen short through no fault of his or her own, even if the adult's failing is only to have died. No child past weaning, of course, can avoid such a disappointment, for no human love but milk can ever be everything that we really, in our innocence, need it to be. So we learn to need less, we learn to be reasonable, not to expect anyone to be less fallible than we ourselves are. "So Eden bows to grief, so dawn goes down to day," as the poet says.

But there is a dawn every day. Every day the swallows wake and the grass shines pink like fairy chandeliers--

---Wait, that's not quite what I mean--I don't mean a renewed innocence, a willingness to start over believing that this time another human being won't disappoint. That way lies wreckage. What I mean is, rather, a secondary innocence, secondary in the medical, or perhaps the ecological sense, I can't think of a good example....What I mean is that there is a time before one knows one can be hurt, and we call that innocence, and after that there is a time of wounded caution, of knowing. But after that, maybe, there is a forest grown up again after harvest or fire, a secondary forest, a secondary innocence that comes from the knowledge that not only can we be hurt by other people but we will be hurt by other people, just as we have and will hurt others. Within human possibility is the ability to love boldly in the light of that knowledge, to let each other and ourselves permanently off the hook. 

And in that light, in the trees of that forest, sing the chattering birds of dawn.

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