Saturday, June 14, 2014

mine enemies: collaboration #5

 perennial blue flax

In the middle of June, we rode out up onto the mountain on loud machines, my parents and I, Fritz and the boys. The sky was blue.  The soft sage-brush foothills were full of wildflowers.  Though you could look at a hillside and not see anything but dust and brush unless you stopped a moment and stood or knelt to see what's there.

Consider my meditation, pleads David the King.
And I do consider.

Or like today, reconsider.

wild western rose

Because frankly there's just so much Destroy thou them, O God, so much thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly -- that I'm getting a bad taste in my mouth, the taste of blood.  There's this kind of bitter boasting virtue I just can't swallow.  Five days in, and I'm already revisiting that distaste for the psalms I drank in before ever actually tasting the psalms, just from reading Jane Eyre:
 "And the Psalms? I hope you like them?"
    "No, sir."
    "No? oh, shocking! I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather have, a gingerbread-nut to eat or a verse of a Psalm to learn, he says: 'Oh! the verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in recompense for his infant piety."
    "Psalms are not interesting," I remarked.
    "That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
Like Jane, I was more than a little suspicious of that infant piety so effectively played upon a credulous parent.  Psalms seemed the songs of a hypocrite smugness, inextricably wedded to a canny ability to double the ginger-nut pay-out.

I am considering and reconsidering this project, these psalms I've read each morning for three cycles now as I mount the ATV my father has prepared for me and follow my parents up into the hills.

wild onion
Luckily, though it seems unlucky, one of the loud machines we're on gets its engine flooded and we have to stop and sit and wait before we can ride back down.  Which means I have lots of time to take pictures of flowers. And to consider.

Once I get off my machine there are more flowers than I had realized.  And even more as I bend lower and look more closely still.

I love the meditation that is kneeling down in the dirt, looking into the heart of flowers, trying to capture their singing, the life they live in the sun, how they transform light into life.

"My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up."
beardstongue, Western penstemon

I love how small these wildflowers are, and yet  how the more you look at them, the bigger a presence they have.  How they invite you to look down and look in, like a microscope into another layer of existence, a fractal snail-spiral of complexity.

The feathery detail of stamen and pistil.
The glimmering iridescent scales of a petal.

Every year they've been growing here in their stubborn delicacy.  And not far below on the interstate, year after year, anyone could zoom past in a bubble of canned music and air-conditioning, yawning at the miles of dry and desert.

And they do.

mountain larkspur

Consider the lilies of the field, advises Jesus the carpenter's son.   Even Solomon  - that kingly son of King David - even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 
So, though these psalms of righteous indignation are not easy for me or lovely to wear, I have put them on and, wearing them throughout the day, I have looked in my sometimes stony heart, asking:  Who is my enemy then? 

My daily oppositions are not with anyone I would care to see with cheekbones smitten or broken teeth.  Cross and peevish dear ones at the dinner table.  Sleep-deprived beloveds with whom I trade a low-grade corrosive irritation.  And the not-so-near but still dear enough with whom I can't see eye-to-eye.  Or whose decisions, demands or personal crises unnecessarily complicate mine.   I may wish one would not cut me off mid-sentence.  That another would not feel the need to argue so then I have to argue back. That this functionary would stop standing in my way just for the pleasure of saying no.

But none of these are my enemies.

Indian paintbrush and blue penstemon

There are others, groups of others, who seem to hate the groups I am grown up in.  Bodies who would dance to see my city walls topple, who would shout to see my temples burn.  Bodies who would not hesitate to hurt the bodies that I love.  Are these my enemies?

My heart tells me it is not useful to think of them that way.  That there is a sickness in wishing pain on any body.  And that I would hurt what I love by distorting my life into a battle.  Reading Connie Willis' Black Out and All Clear about time-travelers trapped in the London Blitz, I realize I may feel differently if actually under attack, crouching and trembling underground as all my world above were being blasted from the sky, emerging to see splattered remains of my ordinary neighbors and burnt body parts of children.  No doubt in the moment I would feel very differently - violently and overwhelmingly different.  Wouldn't I call out then for every kind of destruction on the planes and pilots and politicians that did me damage?  I would I fear, but maybe I would not.  Wanting even then to safeguard what I love most - which is beyond just physical survival.

And what of the rulers who wage their war in the aisles of our stores.  How about Proctor & Gamble?  Nestle? Kraft? Monsanto? Those greedy maws who have gnawed through the bonds of  merely human ethics.  Who  bite and chew into our land and water, our children's health, our independence from debt, who have swallowed up our traditions of neighborliness and the covenant care of others on which true democracy depends, all while they sing into our ears about the things we think we need and how hopeless it is to stand against the acquisitive tide.

But the arch-enemy who lets these enemies break in is in my own heart, where hedonism lunches with lethargy and cynicism serves them both with double lattes.

blue penstemon
Here are my enemies:  My own self-regard. My easy despair.  My gluttonies.  My many varieties of sloth.  My quickness to anger.  My sense of entitlement. And all the rest of that busy sisterhood who flatter my ear and fill my heart with their weedy roots: Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.

1 comment:

NWG said...

Yes! I have realized as I read the Psalms that the enemies that I want to see with broken teeth are envy, greed, covetousness, lust, etc. not individuals but the enemy that captivates them.

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