Sunday, August 28, 2011
Yesterday we got the outer edges of the hurricane Irene, 200 miles to the east of us. The winds were steady all day, but not a problem right here. Still, this morning, what a relief for plants, trees, birds, creatures, and people that Irene had gone on her way. Here's a photo of the zinnias from my garden that I picked the night before, in case the zinnias were ruined. But they are doing well. The day, mostly indoors, did make me think about interruptions, and I dug out a poem I wrote during an ice storm in January 1988 in Saxapahaw. Enjoy.
A VILLAGE THAT FELT LIKE HOME I. January 2, 1988
These interruptions come: ice on the
twigs and branches or on the electric
wires has caused a power outage.
The village, though it’s still light,
deals with darkness. The houses
were not built to let in light, but
they can do without electricity.
The log in the woodstove still hums
and cracks, putting out heat, if not
light. The gas range warms toast
and a tea-kettle. The woodstove will
keep the tea warm. At nightfall
there are candles, the flashlight,
and a kerosene lamp. All strong
enough to read by, as is the daylight
right beside the door, but I will use
this time to savor the moment any
Perhaps life is just that:
interruption. The divine interruption of
the gods, if we have the wits to see it
for what it is.
The interruption itself
gives us only a temporary dislocation,
a brief reminder of what we do and do not
have. Then the lights return, and we
experience relief. Creatures of routine
that we are, we welcome back the evidence
that things are back to normal. The refrigerator
resumes its hum; the page of the book
is easy to see again. The kerosene lamp
is now extraneous. But something lingers
in the consciousness. We almost feel like
turning out the light to recreate that
darkness we saw something else by. The glow
from the wood fire was more potent then;
even the tea in its red kettle held more meaning.
To eat toast in the dusk of late afternoon,
to suspend the usual; to allow in the new,
the unprecedented thought was pleasurable,
nourished our spirit some way we do not quite
understand now that we are back to the way
a book turned down at the place, a red teapot
sitting on a black woodstove, the next pine
log on the stove mat, and the sooty shovel handy
for rearranging an occasionally irrepressible
fire–have their ordinary look back.
Outside the trees are iced; twigs, pine
fronds, the webbed juniper; individual grass
blades; the leaves of turnips and spinach;
stalks of green onion; wild privet bent
to the ground.
Everything is still ordinary;
still its same grey or green or brown self.
Except that down from the sky came ice,
and rain that iced what it touched. Drops froze
under the eaves and coated the steps. I took
the dog her food, and saw the grey-white look
the deeper woods have, and are likely to have
tomorrow when the light returns. Full light,
when it comes, will cause a radiance among
all those iced limbs. An iridescent momentary
beauty. Not quite natural; beyond routine; yet
given, inexplicably, when seen; or missed
because of the preoccupied condition of the mind
accustomed to things that stay put and are,
in some sense, known, or at least, familiar.
It is the unfamiliar I am learning to
have courage about; the moments not
easily shrugged off. Another point of view
would call them epiphanies, find them
sacred, even these dark ones, and even
when no place can be found for them
in a just order of things.
But I wonder
if the gods don’t laugh at us when,
time after time, they cause us a small but
significant interruption, and all we can
think about is getting the lights back on.