A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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If you look into this sheet of paper, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in it. Without a cloud, there can be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Inter-being” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, “to inter-be.”
Everything that has ever been in this house is alive, in you, in us. We’re going to spread that kindness — the winter fires, the rain splashing in on your bedroom curtains in July, the kitchen’s warmth, the light of the chandelier in your eyes, your moonflowers, your roses, the red in the dogwoods. I’ll give it away again and again and you do the same, you hear?
And sometimes it’s the very otherness of a stranger, someone who doesn’t belong to our ethnic or ideological or religious group, . . . that can repel us initially, but which can jerk us out of our habitual selfishness, . . . and give us intonations of that sacred otherness, which is God.
For the last seven years, my father and I have kayaked a thirty-six-mile portion of Oregon’s Rogue River each August. We run the river in an inflatable kayak, him reading the water and me providing the manpower to paddle the boat through world-class rapids.
The ultimate consequence of my time in the Seed was an overwhelming self-disgust that lingered for years. Everything seemed a mockery of itself. I fundamentally doubted the authenticity of any conviction — my own or someone else’s. I had acquiesced and adopted the Seed’s judgment for a time, and I could not easily disown it.
From my perch twenty yards beneath the cave, I’ve a perfect vantage point to watch the bats emerge at twilight, streaming out of the mouth like musical notes from a horn.
We were poor and could not afford for her the soil of easy growth. I was a young mother, I was a distracted mother. There were the other children pushing up, demanding.
To me a good poem is like a sacred mind-altering substance: you take it into your system, and it carries you beyond your ordinary ways of understanding. I call the nonconceptual elements of a poem — the rhythm, the sound, the images — the “shamanic anatomy.” Like a shaman’s drum, the beat of a poem can literally entrain the rhythms of your body: your heartbeat, your breath, even your brain waves, altering consciousness. Most poems are working on all these levels at once, not just through the rational mind.
Memory is the enemy of wonder, which abides nowhere else but in the present. This is why, unless you are a child, wonder depends on forgetting — on a process, that is, of subtraction. Ordinarily we think of drug experiences as additive. It’s often said that drugs “distort” normal perceptions and augment the data of the senses (adding hallucinations, say), but it may be that the very opposite is true — that they work by subtracting some of the filters that consciousness normally interposes between us and the world.
Dr. C. doesn’t sit, as if he won’t be staying long, but he does have information for us. He says that 75 percent of women deliver within a week of membrane rupture. He says that if they induce labor now, and Olivia is alive, we will have complete say in her care and how much we want the doctors to do to keep her alive. But if I deliver a few days from now, my daughter will be twenty-four weeks, and the hospital’s ethics board will step in to limit our choices.