Friday, October 17, 2003

Down By The Old Mill Stream

The Charles WAS a mill stream; a mill river, at least. And the part of the path near here where I've been walking was where a dyeworks was decades ago. I went there again today, on my way home from a trip to the ATM on River Street. It felt wonderful to be walking in the bright, cool day. I decided to return by way of the bike path. It's odd, well maybe not, how jumpy I am around cars since my smash-up. They seem malevolent, hell-bent on me. I can envision even more catastrophes than I could before the wreck. That's a lotta catastophizing.

On the dirty white bridge that goes over the Chrles just past the old Jimenez Auto Body shop, I was in full daydream mode. I was gazing across the street at a neatly dressed, very dignified older woman. "A nun," I thought, remembering the nuns who drove me around in the rain at the Merton retreat, and then promptly tangled my feet in some autumnal detritus and crashed to the sidewalk. (Try keeping track of YOUR feet wearing bifocals and an aspen collar.)

"This is probably EXACTLY what someone with osteoporosis and a broken neck shouldn't be doing," I thought on my way down, deeply embarrassed, scrambling to my feet lest some samaritan rush to my aid and deepen my embarrassment. Ten yards of limping brought me to the entrance of the path. With great relief, I ducked into the woods to lick my wounds. Which are, thank God, minimal: lumpy bruise under left patella, twinges here and there.

So it was a beautiful walk. I stopped to gaze at a welter of branches and weed stalks, clumps of asters, clusters of berries. One twig looked so pale and translucent that I thought of my own bones, my poor old vitamin-D starved skeleton, and felt a sudden stark kinship that nearly brought me to tears. And to my knees. As if my whole body wanted to express what I was feeling. Prostration. The bow of bows. One-ness, humility, gratitude.

This is incarnation, I thought, all of this. A cruciform telephone pole rose behind some low white pines. Behind it, blinding sunshine.

I ducked into a small footpath that leads right to the river bank, the one criss crossed by python-sized roots, picking my way carefully over them. The pathside was strewn with several pieces of clothing -- a sweatshirt, a jacket, something that looked like a demolished back pack. And there, on a little bushy outcropping, almost hidden from view, I saw a tent. Old, blue, dirty, domed.

Someone's living here. Suddenly I felt like an intruder, and quietly left. Speculating seems a violation.

It was noon. Sext. Speculate comes from seeing. Nothing is more visible than a crucifixion at high noon. Noon: the hour of incarnation. No wonder darkness fell.

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