Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Psalm of Nature

Monday night after a hectic work-related weekend and post-mortem with the boss. Need to decompress. It’s the 8th of October and still pushing 80 degrees as the sun sets over the far hill. Good time for a kayak ride. Work the stress out. I crank it up away from the dock and around the near shore for about a mile. That’s my routine – work hard going out and up wind, coast home. There’s merely a breath of wind tonight and all the motor boats are gone. Imagine that! Hot night, calm waters, no motor boats – perfect.

By the time I get back in front of my dock I am illegal. It is dusk and I have no lights. But there are no boats, so I don’t care. I turn to the west and drift, pull out a pre-filled pipe and light up. A flight of geese goes over, squawking in confusion over the summer night in October. Joni Mitchell comes into my head – “See the geese in chevron flight, flappin’ and a-racin’ on before the snow…”

Ahead of me is a canvas of color. The sun is gone, but her memory is in the smudgy orange around the low-lying charcoal clouds and in the few that still hint of white higher in the sky. The modernist brush strokes of nature in my own gallery. There is Jupiter, and another point of light to my right. I resolve to stay out until there are too many stars to count. Two.

The canvas is repeated in the water below, but it is kinetic. The occasional breath of air is too weak to unflatten the water, but it creates a dappled rippling effect – the brush strokes of the pointillist – a contradiction of stillness and motion. And the cross-genre painting is framed, not with the conventional frame that surrounds the work, but cuts it in two precisely at the middle – the hills that are now black, punctuated by the occasional sparkle of a house or street light in subtly varying colors – blue, orange, yellow dots where the water meets the land, reflecting like candles.

Look up again – five stars. Is there any more exquisite hedonism than resting on a still body of water, smoking a pipe and counting stars, surrounded by a painting of nature? The charcoal clouds are nearly black now, the ones overhead have disappeared. An occasional bat flutters by. Here and there a fish surfaces briefly with a plunk – one less fly for the bats.

Seven now – no, eight. I wouldn’t have seen the last one except that it is nearby to a brighter one, and that off-the-center of the eye thing brought it to me. Up on my porch where the light is on, I can see my cat Scarface observing me from the window sill – still and eternal as the sphinx.

I think of parallel universes. The one above me and the one reflected below me – everything in mirror image, but through an imperfect mirror – similar, but different. I cannot see myself in the parallel universe and I wonder if I’m there. Or Scarface.

Twelve. They are coming faster now. There is no sunlight left, the clouds have blended into what remains of the navy blue to the west. I feather lightly with the paddle and rotate slowly in a circle – my gallery is 360 degrees. I see many more stars, but I return to face west and restrict my counting to that hemisphere. Eighteen – no, that’s an airplane – seventeen.

A shooting star! Doesn’t count, but it doesn’t hurt the painting at all. Gone in a moment, but leaving a memory. Just like the stress – only a memory. All is serenity, peace, quiet. I look toward the dock; I have not left a light on. Scarface stares back at me from up on the porch. It is time. I look up again. I have missed the moment – there are thousands. This is the Psalm of Nature.

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