Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ozarks 15.6.03: Whippoorwill Calls and Rock-Walking

Here I am, beside a swift stream in the Ozarks, turgid from yesterday’s rain. A spider, gold and fat, plays games in a web at my feet. Overhead a green canopy stirred by the breeze that’s clearing the rain, a cool northerly one rather than the sultry Southern one replete with Gulf moisture from yesterday.

Green: for some, the world begins with water or wind (And the Spirit/ruah of God moved upon the face of the waters). But for me, it begins (and ends) in green, the green of all the wildness I’ve ever known.

The whippoorwill that has sounded above the cabin on the east our last two visits called loud and clear last night about 8 and again at dawn. It brought back a memory. I’m 3. It’s Mississippi. Across the railroad track from our house are cotton fields. At the verge of the woods surrounding them a whippoorwill calls at dusk.

Daddy stops and tells us to listen. He explains that the bird is calling, “Whip poor Will!” a song I take rather personally, since I’m a Will once removed.

Only someone like God has mercy enough to figure out how all the disparate strands of our lives—anyone’s life—fit together into one tapestry. I can’t with my own life. Why have I had so little mercy on my father in my memories of him?

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There’s an art to walking barefoot on stones, a practice Steve doesn’t appreciate or approve. I’ve just walked down to the creek barefoot and down the rock basin.

To get there, you walk across a carpet of bright green moss more luxuriously thick than any man-made fabric. The toes sink with delight into it.

Then you rock-walk, one by one, choosing the largest (and, you hope, the most stable) you can find. This is tricky. The lichen can slip and send you for a tumble.

Once on the solid rock bed of the creek, cold water lapping your ankles, you walk a bit like an ice skater, unconsciously pushing your body’s center of graving as low as possible, for fear of a fall. The solid sandstone streambed is so smooth and continuous in spots, it is very much like skating along, with the lichenous or algae growth covering it—I suspect the latter, though it’s brown.

I wonder if my joy at barefoot rock-walking is a throwback to ancestral pilgrimages to Celtic holy mountains such as Patrick’s purgatory . . . .

Rumi (Maryam Mafi’s translation): “That’s why when the dervish withdraws/from the world he covers all the cracks in the wall,/so the outside light cannot come through./He knows only that the inner light illuminates his world.”
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Lace-cap hydrangeas, white, in bloom all beside the stream now, with black-eyed Susan and a lilac-colored bergamot, huge clumps of it among Queen Anne’s lace as we drove in. I also picked a beautiful wild petunia, purple, cup-shaped.

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