Signs & Small Wonders

When I am on my knees at the water’s edge …

I go down to the river with my camera.

The water is slowing to ice but the shoreline is still wet, the grass flecked with drops like diamonds.  Maybe tears.  I get down on my knees and part the dead rushes, brown tufts, looking for green.

I am thinking of a certain kindred spirit, who has been gone a long time now from this place.  You wouldn’t think we two would understand each other — we couldn’t be more different, he and I — but I still hear his words muttering in every green place and am lovestruck or foolish enough to think I know what they mean:

A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child?  I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

–Walt Whitman

This is what I am doing, I guess.  Kneeling here with wet knees, parting the grass, looking for a name — Whose?

There are so few things we can be sure of.

This much I know:  we don’t begin with the answer, but with the question.

 

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