I suppose I could construe taking pictures of weeds as a sort of practice or discipline, even a spiritual one if I could say the word without wincing. It is a peculiar grace of having lived this long that words do tend to fall away, mottled and torn with long use and misuse; I must remind myself that, for those newer to the language games, the words remain green, even photosynthetic, and that is lovely. The young should never be this weary, else babies would not be born, poems not written, blessings not uttered, the sick not tended. But, as the hymn goes, the green blade riseth, even in the surrounding deciduous riot. So it is, and so it shall be. Until is isn't.
The world goes on and will go on without me. My cat, for that matter, could outlive me, conducting its daily round of naps and meals and romps oblivious of my departure, a singular affront. This whole business of being survived by is, come to think of it, an affront, a universal affront, so the rude advice -- get over it -- is extraordinarily well-taken. It's a life's work, actually, that getting over it; or maybe it's a question of getting through it or under it or maybe even into it, it being the twin shocks of that I am and that I will no longer be.
Late fall by the river after rain, thick clouds and the waning day, atmospheres of cold and damp, decaying leaves dark and slick with water and stripped vines and branches beaded with clear drops: the stage designer has obviously studied up on Advent and knows his or her craft. The riverwalk is where I first noticed weeds: the sexual parts of switchgrass, to be specific, its feathery purple stigmas and tiny, orange-tipped stamens. Who knew that grass -- that ubiquitous green wash of the world -- flowered in such an outrageous manner ! What was this marvelous thing ?
I had found a place where I finally, completely, belonged, a sphere of unfraught reciprocity, a world where all the skies are overcast and all the hymns are in f minor and the congregation sings all seven verses without the least grumbling.
Now a bright morning is clouding over. A dog barks, cars pass. Footsteps upstairs, cat snoring on the chair behind me. Wallace Stevens would add oranges and a cockatoo; others would add incense, bread, wine, gathered humans. There are different ways through the question what is this; there are different answers to the question now what, and all (or maybe even none) are correct. One hundred bottoms on hard wooden pews; one bottom on a 30 year old zafu; boots in the mud in the woods.
With respect to matters metaphysical, the decidual option, the less is more option, has become the most attractive. Even YAHWEH, in his many moments of exasperation, was prone to bellow I hate your incense, your festivals, your solemn assemblies, your feasts ! I hate your sacrifices !
As to beauty, what can surpass the cathedral of the world ? The surprising streamers of the witch hazel in the december woods --
rosa multiflora holding on for as long as it can --
a seagull's inland exile --
a green leaf's silvery, spotted decay --
an astonishing, bilobe of yellow amidst a brown tangle --
a witchy "moon" appears behind locust thorn --
and leathery oak leaves, stippled with beautiful black mold, in leaf-fall mudras underfoot
and the much-despised knotweed, robed in rain.
If ritual is repetition, then taking pictures of weeds qualifies. Each iteration of the rite involves old and new, now and always, particle and wave. There is this one, particular dying maple leaf caught in in evergreen,
there are these five elephantine knotweed leaves like laundry on a line.
There is this moment of frozen flight,
and these stiff golden evening primrose pods that never fail to remind me of the delicate, yellow blossoms from which they derive: blossoms are blossom and pods are pods, or I am the resurrection and the life ? What shall it be ? Both ? Neither ?
The fact that I am drawn to the shadowy outskirts of the world is an accident of nature and nurture. It is neither a virtue nor a vice, although some might make it so. It is, rather, my own particular means of navigating the bright circle that leads away from then back to the clasp of darkness. Nothing more, and nothing less.
And, when I run out of words,
as I have now,
will take up