Monday, November 17, 2008

Still Life

As it is still hot and smoky in Los Angeles (we are reminded with every breath the fires that burn around the basin) I'm brought back to the east coast by the wonderful Verlyn Klinkenborg (the only person that makes my name seem run-of-the-mill):

Every now and then I feel as though I’ve woken up in a Rembrandt etching — a tangled thicket of pen-strokes from which a landscape emerges. It’s not just that the sky has taken on the tint of 17th-century drawing paper or that the world has lost color. It has more to do with the balance of time. Nature seems to have paused. There is a numb overcast overhead, with little drift to it. Wood smoke slides down the roof and onto the road. The wild apples are waiting to fall.

I imagine being the human in one of Rembrandt’s landscapes — that small figure standing in front of what looks like either a house or a haystack. He is resting from something, perhaps looking out from his garden at the artist working in the distance. It took no more ink to draw that figure than it would to write out a simple equation. And yet there’s no mistaking his posture or the moment he’s given himself to rest, though that moment has now lasted since 1645.

That’s how it felt this morning, as if time had stopped. A crow, an extremely precise ink blot, had paused in the pasture. I counted 15 immobile mourning doves resting on a power line. The leaves that were going to fall had fallen, and the oaks were not about to relinquish theirs. I heard what sounded like a small dog barking in the distance and realized it was a flock of geese beyond the treeline. They never came into view.

Before long the breeze will stir, and rain will fall. The silent anticipation hidden in such a quiet morning will be forgotten. The cry of a red-tailed hawk will unsettle the mourning doves, and one by one those wild apples will become windfall. And as the weather changes and the clock resumes its ticking, I will have to free myself from the artist’s ink before it dries, stepping outside and walking over the hill toward the sound of distant geese.

-- Verlyn Klinkenborg, 11/09/08, NY Times

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