Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

July 7, 2013

On Poetry: Giving thanks for life, possibilities

The air this morning is sparkling, in the 70s, and dry. We’re not at the lake yet, but out my window there are birds going at it, and trees, fully green now. I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad to have finished my long round of chemo and radiation and am looking forward to a summer of repair, of resting a lot, spending time with our children and grandchildren, and swimming and kayaking as much as I can. I especially appreciate this poem by Dick Allen, about the quality of our appreciation.

The speaker in the poem notices the birdsongs closely enough to work at thinking what to compare them to, to get the sound right. He honors them in that way, by finding the right images to help us to hear them.

He’s aware that even the cat’s “primitive head” is “a cave of possibility.” He’s paying attention to the elemental, the nitty-gritty of the world, which is telling him something about itself: maybe the world can be happy. Everything is possibility.

The speaker obviously knows something about quantum mechanics. He knows that the “double-slit experiment” demonstrates that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles. He knows that they may be either, both, or neither. He’s ready to see that mystery. He’s not only open to the birdsong, he’s open to what he can’t really know. He knows the universe is made of accidents.

He has great ambitions for himself. He wants to have patience enough to stay with all this awareness. Patience enough to keep track of the shifting leaves, even keep track of his thoughts like a good Zen practitioner, to see the world in all its beautiful intricacy and mystery.

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