Friday, November 16, 2012

Wild things

So often, what I think I need is to be safe, secure, sure of things. Would a greater reassurance come, though, in simply observing and enjoying the infinite what-is, heedless of explication? In looking, marveling, and somehow accepting, instead of analyzing, what I cannot protect or keep?

“Look at the birds of the air,” Jesus said, “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them.”

I like to think that to live heedless of explication—and without anxiety—would be to live something like Dash, my tuxedo cat, who is currently recovering from a feline issue that, if it occurs again (and it very well could), will likely require putting him down. But he's not mentally practicing this heartbreaking possibility like I am. Instead, he's watching a squirrel in the yard, and when I walk home from the bus stop later I will spy him on the sill again, attending closely to the still life through the window. He probably knows squirrels, and the whole yard, much better than me.

I want to know this kind of focus, this way of living as though a sense of security or certitude is really beside the point. Something like what Wendell Berry calls “the peace of wild things, who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.”

It comes with no guarantees, of course. To live heedless of explication is also to live like Smoky, who was my dad‘s dog when he was young. Sometimes Smoky tagged along on his evening paper route, and once in a while he‘d wander off, out of sight. But soon enough the dog would grow tired of his solo adventure and, spotting his owner and friend again, would race, devoted, back to his side.

One day Smoky trailed off for too long, and my father had to cross a busy street without him in order to finish his deliveries. He waited and waited for the dog to reappear, but then finally crossed Fourth Avenue. After all, Smoky always returned home eventually.

Only that‘s when Smoky spotted him and barked, and my father turned to see his friend leap, unhesitating and loyal, into the middle of heavy traffic. 

Some say we're never given more than we can handle, more than we can bear. But I anticipate more. It will come. Life, or god, “stuns you by degrees,” Dickinson says, “prepares your brittle nature for the ethereal blow.”