Photo by Becky Jaffe
Long Afternoon at the
Edge of Little Sister Pond
As for life,
I’m without words
sufficient to say
how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,
and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen –
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.
Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort –
along with human love,
dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about
stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,
and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,
~ Mary Oliver ~
The great Great Egret is like a white question mark in the dark, a punctuation point for the riddle of existence. With her whole body she quizzes the shoreline on the vast ontological mystery. The weeds lean in to offer up their mute answer, practiced in the pedagogy of silence. Photo by Becky Jaffe
“Sometimes I am that madcap person clapping my hands and singing; and sometimes I am that quiet person down on my knees.” — Mary Oliver
Insects wear their hard parts on the outside, unlike people. They must shed their rigid, protective exterior in order to grow, just like people.
This Orthopteran has just emerged from her old shell, called an exuvium. Her wings are wet, folded, and translucent at this stage. She will spend the next hour or so drying her wings, pumping fluid into them to stiffen them, and gaining color.
During the molting process she is especially vulnerable to predation, which is why she wisely undertakes this process at night, taking cover under a leaf that shields her from birds patrolling overhead. She will transform herself five to seven times in her life.
Here’s what I want to know: Is consciousness continuous throughout these convulsive changes?
This grasshopper has a few simple questions:
1. What is the relationship between spirit and matter?
2. Is it that A) spirit gives rise to matter; or B) matter gives rise to spirit; or C) it’s a cyclical relationship, wherein spirit gives rise to matter, which in turn gives rise to spirit, which gives rise to matter infinitely like the mythical serpent eating its own tail?
3. Who has a soul, and who doesn’t? We might readily concede that a kangaroo has a soul, but what about jellyfish? I strongly suspect that grasshoppers have souls, but what about lilies? Do bacteria have souls? And viruses? What about the sun? And the wind?
4. How the body? Why the body?
5. How the soul? Why the soul?
6. What the soul?
7. WTF the soul?!
8. Is having a soul the same thing as having a conscience, or mere amoral sentience?
9. Do spirits get recycled, inhabiting different material forms? Is there some sort of spirit flea market in which formless souls choose among bodies, trying them on and shedding them again in an eternal rummage sale of hand-me-down flesh?
10. Or is “spirit” an emergent property of matter, a synergistic serendipity of infinite molecular permutation, a happy (and occasionally not-so-happy) coincidence?
11. How long does the soul live? Is existence permanent or temporary?
12. What is the tenor of the relationship between spirit and matter? Is it an epic love affair or more like a one-night stand?
13. If the relationship between the two is symbiotic, which type of symbiosis is it? Mutualism? Parasitism? Commensalism?
14. Can a soul live without a body?
15. Can a body live without a soul?
16. Do I have a soul? Do you?
Please provide clear, detailed, and omniscient answers in the comment section. Thank you.