Bitter cold remains the order of the day in the North Country. Temperatures and wind-chill factors in the negative numbers confine us indoors, so we read and dream of warmer days and outside ways.
I continue reading Thoreau. Alternating between re-readingWalden and working through his Journals. He remains a constant revelation… a voice as uniquely “American” as any.
Today a few quotes from his journal on Native Americans, destiny, and interconnectedness.
March 19. Saturday. When I walk in the fields of Concord and meditate on the destiny of this prosperous slip of the Saxon family, the unexhausted energies of this new country, I forget that this which is now Concord was once Musketaquid, and that the American race has had its destiny also. I find it good to remember the eternity behind me as well as the eternity before. Wherever I go, I tread in the tracks of the Indian. I pick up the bolt which he has but just dropped at my feet. And if I consider destiny I am on his trail.
Nature has her russet hues as well as green. Indeed, our eye splits on every object, and we can as well take one path as the other. If I consider its history, it is old; if its destiny, it is new. I may see a part of an object, or the whole. I will not be imposed on and think Nature is old because the season is advanced. I will study the botany of the mosses and fungi on the decayed wood, and remember that decayed wood is not old, but has just begun to be what it is.
* * * * * * * * *
March 20. How simple is the natural connection of events. We complain greatly of the want of flow and sequence in books, but if the journalist only move himself from Boston to New York, and speak as before, there is link enough. Is not my life riveted together? Has not it sequence? Do not my breathings follow each other naturally?
As a poet, Denise Levertov’s work consistently reflects her interests in politics and religion. Her style shows her willingness to push boundaries, to demand space in literature for things of “ultimate concern.” It is this that I have always most admired about her… and would most like to emulate.
In her early career, she was very influenced by William Carlos Williams. I fancy at times that I can see that influence… not so much in theme and style as in a certain core sensibility, a way of seeing things.
Most of all what shines through in her poetry is her essential “Catholicness” (she converted to Roman Catholicism late in her life). By that I mean, her way of seeing the world is above all sacramental.
I did not begin reading Levertov seriously until I was in my late thirties, probably around the time of her death. It was a Donald Hall essay, I think, that led me to look again at her poetry. I wish I would have been reading her more seriously earlier.
“Aware” is not my favorite Levertov poem… but probably since I have been thinking of mindfulness of late, it was the first one that came to my mind this morning flipping through a volume of her poems. It shows well, I think, the “sacramentalness” of her work and her wonderful command of language.
When I found the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I’ll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop