WHILE WRITING IN PUTNAM VALLEY
Eve. Odilon Redon. 1904. Musée D'Orsay. Paris.
When I arrived in Putnam Valley last week, it was already dark. The dark had its treasures, all wet and black and creaking with night sounds. But that first morning, to wake to sweet cool air, still fuzzy with heavy sleep, to see a gray thread of mist and a freckled fawn drift together across clover and grass, to feel bare feet on cool deck planks slick with rain, to hear leaves rustle like creek water on rocks. To try, just for a moment, to be careful enough and still enough, to stop long enough, to really experience the first moments of that first morning.
Later that day I walked in the woods and found this series of stone walls. My wise companion, with the bodhisattva head and heart, told me that these walls are the ones that Frost referred to when he wrote:
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'
Mending Wall (excerpt), Robert Frost
Wonder is the beginning of wisdom. Greek Proverb
There is a deep wisdom in the ferns and stones and poplars of Putnam Valley. A wisdom that can be experienced but not known. A kind of evergreen wisdom that heals what it touches. And though I struggle now to capture it in words, perhaps I can simply point to it and you will see it, too -- without my naming it.
Over the past four years my face has changed. I see it mirrored back to me daily. Age has played most liberally upon it -- but that does not quite capture what has transformed it. At times, my face is the face of Eve, the face of Eve at the moment her teeth broke the skin of the apple, at the precise moment she was shattered with knowledge. That moment and that face. That's where I'm pointing.
Then last week there was a moment at twilight, while wrapped up against the cool damp in a man's sweater, while marveling at the azure and coral in the spaces left by green black poplar leaves. There was a moment when someone mirrored back to me, "I look at your face now and I can see the child you must have been." That moment and that face. That's where I'm pointing.