I occasionally get fed up with the day’s news, the day’s politics, and the idiocy layered there within that all too often bubbles to the surface and causes one to wish that another (preferably uninhabited) planet was available for immediate transport. Today is a good example of all of the above coming together at the same time, as in (1) the recent mass shooting in Orlando and the terrorist attack on Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, (2) Donald Trump, and (3) Donald Trump. Unfortunately, no other planet is available; that sad reality both forces the few of us with functioning minds to remain here, even though the consequences usually are terribly painful, to say the least.
There is, however, a potential remedy, one that simply requires a look back to another time, another situation where idiocy seemed to be totally in charge. A good one for me is 2004, back when the daily turmoil consisted of (1) the Iraq war, (2) George W. Bush, and (3) George W. Bush. During that entire span of political trash, I found that the greatest comfort available was to dismiss the moment in its entirety and wander, instead, to and through those other worlds that are dominated not by idiots, but instead by poets, by nature itself, and by the merge of both verbal and visual ideas — “Songs” — from both sources. I hope the following Soliloquy — a single brief narrative, a traverse through that other world — might serve to relieve the pain of today’s political silliness. Maybe it will also inspire readers to seek — and find — their own refuge from stupidity.
Below a photo-poetic essay, a reiteration of calming moments garnered in days past; 2004, to be exact. Photos are, each and all, my own — from Arizona’s majestic Sonoran Desert, a place of solace, a corner of that Younger World which, once discovered, forever beckons.
◆Songs From the Younger World◆
The poetry of earth is never dead.
(John Keats; 1817)
In his famous environmental treatise A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold proposed that “Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.” Jack London, in The Call of the Wild referred to that same howl as “A song of the younger world.” Today, amidst the din and clang of modern life in the modern city, many seem to have lost – or perhaps have never found at all – that sense of melody, that voice which is the song of the untrammeled world.
And, too, how to describe the bugling elk, or the creak of the crow’s wings as they pound through the silent forest air? And the rustle of the wildflower in a soft breeze – is that in itself the flower’s song, or is there more? John Muir spoke of the Ponderosa when he wrote, “Of all the pines, this one gives forth the finest music to the winds.” Few who have listened closely enough to genuinely hear that melody will dare to argue.
William Blake began his Auguries of Innocence with a scant twenty-nine words which reveal both his vision and insight:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.
One might surmise that Blake understood, that he had heard the song even as he watched the orchestra perform. In that regard he was, indeed, a most uniquely fortunate man.
In his Ode on Intimations of Immortality William Wordsworth noted his abiding concern for the natural world and man’s impact thereupon when he wrote:
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
Wordsworth also noted that
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Or perhaps those things are still there to see, for those who care to look? Emily Dickinson once described death as that moment when “I could not see to see”; perchance this ‘glory’ which has ‘past away’ is not of the earth itself but is, rather, more a failure of the observer ? a manifest of a myopic inability or unwillingness to look, to listen, to See?
While it’s probably true that nothing we know to do can capture the entire of even the briefest spot of time, perhaps even the effort can offer an encouragement for others to leave behind, for the moment, the commonality of the human foible which pretends to fuel life’s engine and substitute, instead, a reason to look and listen for the Song of that world far younger than ours, to hear those erstwhile Voices in the Wind. They are, after all and to the attentive mind and heart, part and parcel to the Sum of Life.
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
And almost as if in answer, William Cullen Bryant proclaims:
To him who, in the love of Nature, holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language . . .
Listen. Hear. See. Enjoy. And remember, always, these words by John Keats in 1817 . . .
◆The poetry of earth is ceasing never.◆
And now, brace yourself. Today’s world awaits. Breathlessly.
See below: proof that . . .
◆The poetry of earth is ceasing.◆