Sunday, March 06, 2016


I am perched on a narrow balcony on the twentieth floor of a hotel on the lower east side of New York, at a little red cafe table, the sun pouring down on the back of my neck, the sound of sirens and horns, with bridges all around me. One is the Williamsburg, I think. The trees I can see are bare because it is the beginning of March, and there was snow here two days ago. Despite the sunshine, I'm in a big puffy jacket and a warm sweater, and I'm trying not to look down because it gives me a strange feeling in my bottom. My beloved is asleep on the bed next to me. I can see him through the glass window, his hands folded on his stomach, and BBC Radio Four playing from the iPhone on his chest in crisp highly-annunciated sentences. He looks happy.

I am happy. There was a moment, just two days ago, when I looked out of the window down onto the street and saw the people, bundled up and walking in the cold, and the yellow cabs, and the light, and I thought that this might be the pinnacle of happiness. You know that feeling that you get when it feels that your ego has melted away and all you feel is great, swooping, abiding, huge love for everything? That this is the moment but the moment is everything and everything is love and everything is all right? It happens so very rarely but it happened with such delicate precision, so quietly, so unexpectedly, that it made my cry. "Don't worry my darling, I'm here," he said, for he is a sweet man, a kind man, a man who cares for me. "I'm not sad," I said, "I'm happy." And then of course I realized how silly it sounded. How do you explain that? 

The same night we went to see the Terrence Malick film "Knight of Cups." Malick is a transcendentalist. His films no longer follow a narrative of any sort really, and the critics have been, with a few exceptions, somewhat 'meh' about this one. But I can't dismiss it that easily. The women in the diaphanous gowns and vertiginous heels, the portrait of Los Angeles as a character, the nothing being said. For me, all of it made absolute sense because I often walk around like that, and allow life to just wash over me. I'm like a dog, not worrying about tomorrow or yesterday, but just experiencing the things that are happening, observing them, taking them in. And then, of course, there are days when I'm not like that at all. But try Malick. But do not expect anything close to traditional. This isn't a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, unless you of course subscribe to TS Eliot's time theorem, proposed in The Four Quartets:

 In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field,, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotised. In a warm haze the sultry light
Is absorbed, not refracted, by grey stone.
The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.

This is the realm of poetry, and why, I believe, poetry plays such an important role in our lives.

People are popping out on their balconies on different floors to have a smoke, a conversation on the phone, a kiss. I'm noticing water towers all over the city, on the rooves, since C pointed them out. And sirens too, but birds, lots of birds, singing sweetly on this Sunday afternoon in NYC.


Katherine C. James said...

This was a particularly lovely post. After I read it late last night, I tried to reply, but I was not making much sense and gave up the attempt.

Those moments of rare, transcendent happiness are extraordinary. As you say later in your post, "This is the realm of poetry, and why, I believe, poetry plays such an important role in our lives." My year of selfies ("year of selfies" sounds frivolous, but that year carried depth and intense realizations still affecting me) helped me note that when I have a feeling, I search for a poem to help explicate the feeling. The experience of sudden happiness makes me think of James Wright's "break into blossom" in A Blessing; Jane Kenyon's "and you weep night and day / to know that you were not abandoned, / that happiness saved its most extreme form / for you alone," in Happiness; and Robert Bly's "I have awakened at Missoula, Montana, utterly happy," in In a Train.

You mentioned Manhattan's water towers. They are one of my favorite things about the city. The last time I was there I could see one from my West Village hotel window, and it made me happy to gaze at it. I feel their absence in much of the west. I appreciate their existence in Portland.

Eliot's Four Quartets is one of my favorite of his works. I love Eliot in general, and I love where his life of searching took him, and how he reflects on it in each of the quartets. I read from Little Gidding at my mother's interment in December. Eliot captures time's mysteries in some of the ways physicists are examining now. As a fellow wanderer who lets life wash over me, I feel his lines describe the indescribable in a miraculous way. Thank you for reminding me of the lines in East Coker. They called up for me these lines from Burnt Norton, "Or say that the end precedes the beginning, / And the end and the beginning were always there / Before the beginning and after the end. / And all is always now."

Thank you for sharing your happiness.

LPC said...

Yes I know those moments and I am so chuffed that you are having them. xox.

António Je. Batalha said...

Estou alegre por encontrar blogs como o seu, ao ler algumas coisas,
reparei que tem aqui um bom blog, feito com carinho,
Posso dizer que gostei do que li e desde já quero dar-lhe os parabéns,
decerto que virei aqui mais vezes.
Sou António Batalha.
Que lhe deseja muitas felicidade e saúde em toda a sua casa.
PS.Se desejar visite O Peregrino E Servo, e se o desejar
siga, mas só se gostar, eu vou retribuir seguindo também o seu.