It may seem strange (even improbable) but on sunny days, I feel as if the wind offers me wings cut from the furthest edges of the sky and when I slip them on, all that blue above stretches my spine until I’m sure I’m on my way to stars, pulled way past the tops of trees. On stormy days, however, when blue skies are layered deep in grey, I am compressed, rolled into the earth. I feel in danger of short circuiting, blowing necessary fuses . . . fortunately for me, I guess, I have discovered in this new non-fuse virtual world of motherboards and cloud computing, fused circuitry is easily replaced with the imaginary.
So let the fuses blow. As the rain draws in the details of otherwise dusty trees, washes clean the stones beneath, I fold into my heart, restart the dream.
That doesn’t mean I use rainy days as excuses to curl up under piles of blankets. When the rain came, I was up early and out early, anxious to discover some of those focused shadows, made more visible by changed light and the close quarters of a newly shuttered world. Like Francis Bacon who wrote in Novum Organinum that knowledge is built usefully from observable detail, I seek detail, knowing those details as representative of emotional states, collective decisions, that are at first invisible or insecure to the observer, but I never enter into a day certain as to what that day will offer me. I cherish that insecurity and what it yield, and here I part from Bacon and his belief that If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. I share his interest in doubt but have little interest in certainty.
Indeed, I have never encountered it.
On this day of rain, I was hoping for surprises – spiders descending suddenly from rain-sogged pine boughs, shiny stalks of mushrooms pushing through previously dry soil, inexplicable blooms of earth and stone that might recall those pitch black airy explosions that happen on the hot bottoms of ovens when yams burst and drip sugar-sweet orange flesh onto metal. Of course, I found none of that. What I did find was detail revealing a much larger picture. Imagine, for example, spying the spoke of the wheel belonging to a chariot so huge, so fast and powerful that it might erase the distance between earth and sun in less than the amount of time than it takes for a poppy to unfold ts petals. I found distant views brought close, great trees bowed down, cities compacted by roiling clouds, light collapsed by dark. That kind of detail.
Sometimes it is very necessary to see small bits of the larger picture up close – especially in these times when the world seems to have lost all reason. How can it even be possible, for example, that Newt Gingrich is even being considered as remotely presidential? Now there's a detail that troubles me.
There he sits, beefy red, a detail focused by the fog, a festering sore on the body politic, a man who declares (and believes) that he “articulates the deepest felt values” of American voters. I certainly hope not, but as someone who understands how specific detail can reveal the larger picture, how a flower speaks the spring, how a tree etched into a rain-swept sky can outline the days of drought it has endured, I tremble. I hope this boorish man is not representative of American thought and deed.
The Devil may well be in the details, but I have to believe that an awareness of those details and the larger picture that they represent can build useful knowledge, even wisdom, something that some might call salvation. I believe that to look closely is to remember well, making bold revision possible.