Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Man On The Rock \ Approaching Equinox

Alan: One of my favorite books as a child was Wee Gillis by Monroe Leaf with drawings by Robert Lawson.  I hadn’t thought of it in decades when it floated back to the surface carrying a new meaning alongside recollected pleasures. 

The Man On The Rock

The image came to me of a large man sitting on a rock,
head bowed, disconsolate –
a man as knobby and rough as his tweeds,
in a landscape sloping and barren but for boulders and thistles.
Beside him, a huge leather sack and some sticks at odd angles –
the biggest bagpipes in all Scotland –
for which he had not the lungs.

I remembered then the story of Wee Gillis,
how in childhood he spent his summers in the Highlands
stalking the stags for his thin uncle and his winters in the Lowlands
calling the cows for his stout uncle,
and who just now comes into view, 
halfway between the Highlands and the Lowlands,
at that time in his life when he has to choose.

Wee Gillis ponders.  The uncles follow behind, then
stand nearby, reasoning, arguing, shouting, jumping up and down
and finally giving up and sitting, each on his boulder, silent.
Wee Gillis has by now lungs that can hold the breath long, long, long
while stalking the stags, and that can call the cows
loud, loud, loud through the densest mist, lungs and a voice
that can make the glens ring dizzy and the becks run uphill.

The uncles attempt the bagpipes, fail, and sit back down defeated.
Wee Gillis looks at them and keeps looking until the man asks would he like to try?
Wee Gillis takes hold of the biggest bagpipes in all Scotland, fills his immense
lungs, and blows such a blast as knocks both uncles and the large man
off their boulders backwards and he has found his calling.

As a child I thought this story was about Wee Gillis
and that I, too, would some day find my calling
and a way to assuage the feuding parties in my life,
but now I think it was about the large despondent man
who had tried a thing too great for his abilities,
and who, hearing that terrible sound,
teaches Wee Gillis to tame it into tunes,
and is never heard from again.

Nancy: The equinox, coming today with a new moon, marks the beginning (again) of a letting go, another chance to practice that drawn-out sigh...

Approaching Equinox

A friend came in, said
    ice on the windshield this morning.
I said
No when I meant to say, Ah.
A word of acceptance,
    and I know again
how unlike a holy hermit I am,
    that I would look at the last bag
of rice, the ice on the cliff
    and say No.

All these years and
    I still fail in equanimity
fail to grasp the power
    of Ah.

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