Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Early Morning with Novalis - some sort of ideal

It was a fine storm—evening light,  lots of rain but no big branches down. We stood together on the front stoop, partially protected by the overhang, enjoying the cool spray while we watched the water descend in sheets. It will be good for the grass.

I went out this morning at 6 to pick up the stray leaf clusters and happened to meet our newspaper delivery man for the first time.

"How's it going?"

"Looks like you've got a little clean-up to do."

The smell of moist vegetation filled the air and I knew it was time to head down to Bassett Creek to test the water clarity. It had been reading 100+ during the dry spell, but after the runoff from a storm like this it might drop down to 40 or even 30. I was sure the DNR would like to know.

As I headed down the street my neighbor Angie was just leaving the house on her way to work, and we exchanged greetings. By a lucky chance, the CD I had in the player was perfectly suited to the morning—soprano Emma Kirky singing an angelic duet with an oboeist (who wasn't actually singing, though his instrument was "singing"). Weichet nur, Betrubte Schatten (Yield now, troubling shadows).

Down near the bridge over the creek I spotted a man I'd seen there before carrying a camera and a tripod.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"Dragonflies," he replied. "What's that tube for? Are you measuring the depth of the water?"

"Water clarity," I said. "I just jot down the number every so often and send in the data at the end of the summer. It's a nice excuse to get outside."

"Same with me," he laughed.

The flow in the creek was heavy, though the water level had merely returned to "normal." I lowered my plastic bucket into the creek from the bridge with a rope, hoisted some water, poured it into the tube, and pulled the string until the black and white disc suspended in the water disappeared. reading: 44.

  *   *   *
But now the sun has come out and the day's heating up. Sitting on the deck in mid-morning ( a cooper's hawk just flew by fifty feet overhead), drinking coffee, listening to the goldfinches chatter, and watching a bee hunt in vain for the last remaining flower on the dogwood bushes a few feet away. The line of emerging sunlight creeps across the deck toward my shady spot here against the dining room wall. The sky is a pale blue, the wind is rustling in the trees, the coffee has grown cold, and I'm reading Novalis, The Novices of Sais, where he writes:
"The capriciousness of nature seems of itself to fall within the idea of human personality, which is apparently best grasped in the form of a human creature. That is why poetry has been the favorite instrument of true friends of nature, and the spirit of nature has shown most radiantly in poems. When we read and hear true poems, we feel the movement of nature's inner reason and, like its celestial embodiment, we dwell in it and hover over it at once."
A few pages on, Novalis puts this speech into the mouth of one of his characters:
"To everything that man undertakes he must give his undivided attention, his self; once he has done this, miraculously thoughts arise,  or new kinds of perceptions, which appear to be nothing more than delicate, abrupt movements of a colored pencil, or strange contractions and figurations of an elastic liquid. From the point where he has transfixed the impression, they spread in all directions with a living mobility and carry his self with them."
At this point Novalis heads off down a path that scholars might consider an elaboration (or criticism) of Fichte's thought, but I have neither the background nor an interest in such things.   
"Often he can stop this movement at the onset by dividing his attention or letting it wander at random, for thoughts seem to be nothing other than emanations and effects which the self induces all around it in that elastic medium, or the refractions of the self in that medium, or in general a strange game that the waves of this ocean play with the rigidity of concentration. Strange to say, it is only though this play that man becomes aware of his uniqueness, his specific freedom; it seems to him then as though he were waking from a deep sleep, as though he had just begun to be at home in the universe, as though the light of day had just broken in upon his inner world."
Now a small white butterfly flutters by, the size of a quarter. I've gone inside to get a hat—the sunlight will soon be upon me. The goldfinches have vanished, the chickadees have arrived. A red-bellied woodpecker shrieks from nearby. Always cardinals. Now a house finch!

And now a train whistle, of all things.

I'll be heading out soon to a meeting. But now I see a tiny fly, the size of a piece of rice, on the back of the chair here beside the one I'm sitting on. Its abdomen glistens a deep turquoise, inlaid with rings of gold.  

No comments: