Green Vibrations

I am thinking over a phrase of Annie Dillard's this morning, encountered in her collection of meditations on writing, appropriately titled The Writing Life. "There is no shortage of good days," she writes. "It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading -- that is a good life."

It's an uncomfortably wise insight. Although I have never confused sensation-seeking with writerly preparation, it has nevertheless been an underlying motivator in many things I have done. I always feel an anxiety about missing things, or allowing experiences to remain undiscovered. In Jackson, it is some mythical canyon that haunts me: somehow obscure and crystalline; a field of wildflowers where no one is walking; a view from so high, that as I wrote once, "I can feel the cold on my eyes." Other places, it is about the potential of art, the potential of hitting just the right point of intoxication on food or wine, the potential that some person hides behind one of many turned shoulders, and that person has keys to unlock any number of things. It's what leaves me hungrily scanning the walls of cathedrals, looking for the original, homely paintwork, obsessed with even the humblest joints of the ceilings. I'd hate to think I missed it.

I think my assumption has always been that these moments of beauty will accrete, one layer of sand to the next, to make my soul altogether something fine and glittering, honed carefully and curated as I go. And yet, I often write so little of it. Why, I wonder.

Summer is upon us now, with its exquisite songbirds and trails, cleared at last of snow. In mid-May, it seemed that all the aspens and cottonwoods turned green at once. I thought of it as a susurration of some kind, completely undetectable to human ears, but nevertheless communicating spring through the groves, vibrating the landscape into a new incarnation of being. The green was so new; the operation itself so delicate. A miracle was gifted in a day, but a quotidian miracle, too, happening each May in a sudden sweep. And then summer. And then the sun and the obstinate eggshell blue.

It is a time of golden water in the evenings, and green trees etched in gold around it. The yellow of balsamroot flowers and the sentinels of violet lupine and monk's hood. Baby elk, tremulous on newly-jointed legs; a rather fat and pleased-with-himself marmot, like a caricature of an English friar; a miniscule duck who fed at the edge of a quiet stream, buoyantly bobbing up after each quarry.

A hard thing it is, to revise, when all of this is happening outside. The outdoors are a constant imprecation to leave the room and abandon the work. That mythical canyon taunts like a mirage. But ho hum,  another chance to gather strength and plug along anyway. To remember the life of the spirit. So many moments of muster, and then finally, I write about this color of green at last, and let go of that last nagging sensation, returning concentration to where it ought to be.