It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness. With sadness there is something to rub against, a wound to tend with lotion and cloth. When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up, something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats. It doesn’t need you to hold it down. It doesn’t need anything. Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing, and disappears when it wants to. You are happy either way. Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house and now live over a quarry of noise and dust cannot make you unhappy. Everything has a life of its own, it too could wake up filled with possibilities of coffee cake and ripe peaches, and love even the floor which needs to be swept, the soiled linens and scratched records . . .
Since there is no place large enough to contain so much happiness, you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you into everything you touch. You are not responsible. You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it, and in that way, be known
1.Each year when winter came, the old men enteredthe woods to gather the moss that grewon the north side of certain junipers.It was slow work, taking many days, though thesewere short days because the light was waning,and when their packs were full, painfullythey made their way home, moss being heavy to carry.The wives fermented these mosses, a time-consuming projectespecially for people so oldthey had been born in another century.But they had patience, these elderly men and women,such as you and I can hardly imagine,and when the moss was cured, it was with wild mustards and sturdy herbspacked between the halves of ciabattine, and weighted like pan bagnat,after which the thing was done: an "invigorating winter sandwich"it was called, but no one saidit was good to eat; it was what you atewhen there was nothing else, like matzoh in the desert, whichour parents called the bread of affliction— Some yearsan old man would not return from the woods, and then his wife would needa new life, as a nurse's helper, or to supervisethe young people who did the heavy work, or to sellthe sandwiches in the open market as the snow fell, wrappedin wax paper— The book containsonly recipes for winter, when life is hard. In spring,anyone can make a fine meal.2.Of the moss, the prettiest was savedfor bonsai, for whicha small room had been designated,though few of us had the gift,and even then a long apprenticeshipwas necessary, the rules being complicated.A bright light shone on the specimen being pruned,never into animal shapes, which were frowned on,only into those shapesnatural to the species— Those of us who watchedsometimes chose the container, in my casea porcelain bowl, given me by my grandmother.The wind grew harsher around us.Under the bright light, my friendwho was shaping the tree set down her shears.The tree seemed beautiful to me,not finished perhaps, still it was beautiful, the mossdraped around its roots— I was notpermitted to prune it but I held the bowl in my hands,a pine blowing in high windlike man in the universe.3.As I said, the work was hard—not simply caring for the little treesbut caring for ourselves as well,feeding ourselves, cleaning the public rooms—But the trees were everything.And how sad we were when one died,and they do die, despite having beenremoved from nature; all things die eventually.I minded most with the ones who lost their leaves,which would pile up on the moss and stones—The trees were miniature, as I have said,but there is no such thing as death in miniature.Shadows passing over snow,steps approaching and going away.The dead leaves lay on the stones;there was no wind to lift them.4.It was as dark as it would ever bebut then I knew to expect this,the month being December, the month of darkness.It was early morning. I was walkingfrom my room to the arboretum; for obvious reasons,we were encouraged never to be alone,but exceptions were made—I could seethe arboretum glowing across the snow;the trees had been hung with tiny lights,I remember thinking how they must bevisible from far away, not that we went, mainly,far away—Everything was still.In the kitchen, sandwiches were being wrapped for market.My friend used to do this work.Huli songli, our instructor called her,giver of care. I rememberwatching her: inside the door,procedures written on a card in Chinese characterstranslated as the same things in the same order,and underneath: We have deprived them of their origins,they have come to need us now
But having braked all the way to the floor of the valleyit dawned on us the slope we'd have to climband it was night, you on the back of my bikewe'd passed the place that burned down—the peoplerich enough to continue to produce some kindof banquet, placing candles and dishes, in the ashesbeyond roof—so you said let's go home, but lookthe hill we came down is as steep as the hill ahead of us
First having read the book of myths, and loaded the camera, and checked the edge of the knife-blade, I put on the body-armor of black rubber the absurd flippers the grave and awkward mask. I am having to do this not like Cousteau with his assiduous team aboard the sun-flooded schooner but here alone.
There is a ladder. The ladder is always there hanging innocently close to the side of the schooner. We know what it is for, we who have used it. Otherwise it is a piece of maritime floss some sundry equipment.
I go down. Rung after rung and still the oxygen immerses me the blue light the clear atoms of our human air. I go down. My flippers cripple me, I crawl like an insect down the ladder and there is no one to tell me when the ocean will begin.
First the air is blue and then it is bluer and then green and then black I am blacking out and yet my mask is powerful it pumps my blood with power the sea is another story the sea is not a question of power I have to learn alone to turn my body without force in the deep element.
And now: it is easy to forget what I came for among so many who have always lived here swaying their crenellated fans between the reefs and besides you breathe differently down here.
I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail. I stroke the beam of my lamp slowly along the flank of something more permanent than fish or weed
the thing I came for: the wreck and not the story of the wreck the thing itself and not the myth the drowned face always staring toward the sun the evidence of damage worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty the ribs of the disaster curving their assertion among the tentative haunters.
This is the place. And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair streams black, the merman in his armored body. We circle silently about the wreck we dive into the hold. I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes whose breasts still bear the stress whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies obscurely inside barrels half-wedged and left to rot we are the half-destroyed instruments that once held to a course the water-eaten log the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are by cowardice or courage the one who find our way back to this scene carrying a knife, a camera a book of myths in which our names do not appear
And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air, Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin, Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance, Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten, I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard, Nature without check with original energy.
This is a continuation of the previous post of collages created during first half of March, 2022. This is part of a 100-day project of creative practice beginning from Winter Solstice in 2021 through Spring Equinox, in 2022. This chronicles the second half of March, 2022 - #87 - #100.