I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.
Last October, driving north on Interstate 89, my wife Didi was behind the wheel. I was in the passenger seat, commenting on the vibrant red and orange leaves of the maples and oaks. Vermont was in the throes of one of its famed leaf peeping seasons, a phrase that always has me chuckle a bit. On its descent below the horizon, the autumnal sun peaked in and out of passing trees. Above us in the sky was this blazing fragment of a rainbow, a massive prism of color framed by surrounding clouds. I was startled; seeing it a second later, Didi audibly gasped.
Were I living in centuries past, I might have read the image in the sky as some sort of wizardry, some magic or sign, engineered and visited upon us by some divine spirit. However, living in the 21st century, of course, I almost reached for my phone to Google; but, you know what? I stopped short, and just let myself marvel, we both simply gazed up, mouths agape, speechless.
Isn’t it a pleasure sometimes to simply live in the ineffable? I have noticed lately that running to retrieve my phone to source answers short-circuits one of my favorite feelings in life: the evocative experience of being awed, encountering something vast and grand. I looked at Didi and she looked back at me, and in that moment, the magic of sunlight refracting ice crystals in the atmosphere mediated something deeper. We bore witness to each other’s reactions to the sublime and took in the fullness of each other’s beings.
A breathtaking experience like that can circle us back to the primary awe of being alive. Journeying through the unknown. It underscores that question: How is it possible that we are here, all of us together, at this moment in our lives, among those we love, with our hungers and our desires, our rage and our sorrows?
Today’s poem is full of the music of wonder and the miracle that makes itself visible to us in both the extraordinary and the ordinary.
by Heid E. Erdrich
Loves How I love you How you How we hang on words How eaten with need How we need to eat How weevils sift the wheat How cold it is How thick with hoarfrost ice slick sleet freeze How wintry the mix How full of angst How gut sick How blue lipped How we drink How we drink a health How we care How easy over as eggs How it all slides How absurd How yet tender we all How wrapped in a thick coat How battered How slender the flesh How we wrap ourselves How many selves we all How I miss you many How I see you How your eyes warm mine How tiny am I inside How enormous my need How you open an old-fashioned satchel How deep it yawns How bleak this need How like winter How it yet catches the light How brilliant the sun dogs parhelion moon dogs paraselene phenomenon optic How fetching your spectacles How my thumbs might fit alongside the slope of your nose How my own glasses slide down my thin bridge How ridiculous the theory of the bridge How inane the bibble babble How we grew to be friends How we grew thumbs How opposable we all How we grew sparks How we blew up a fire How angry How incensed How we resist How we bead up drops How water will not run How we distract How loud the dog snores How loudly How noisy the snow grows How many degrees below How we fret How again How we all came here How did we come How did we How loves How did we come to this
“How” by Heid E. Erdrich from LITTLE BIG BULLY, © 2020 Heid E. Erdrich. Used by permission of Penguin Random House.